Wednesday, March 31, 2004

After a three-week, 17-state Bush-Cheney ad campaign outlining the deplorable record of John Kerry on national defense and intelligence, the latest USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll revealed that the 28-point lead (63-35) Mr. Kerry enjoyed in mid-February in those 17 battleground states had disappeared. Today, Mr. Bush leads by six points (51-45) in those states. If that is how the electorate responds to what Mr. Kerry’s Republican opponents say about him, imagine how voters would react to the objections hurled by Mr. Kerry’s fellow Democrats.

Consider, for example, the national security and intelligence implications of an amendment (No. 1452) to a supplemental appropriations bill that Mr. Kerry offered in February 1994. The Senate debated Mr. Kerry’s amendment less than a year after terrorists first bombed the World Trade Center and just months before American pilots led a NATO air strike against Serbs attacking Bosnian Muslims.

Mr. Kerry’s amendment would have chopped an additional $4 billion from 1994 defense spending, which had already been slashed by $18 billion. It would have cut nearly $25 billion from defense over five years. It also would have sliced an additional $1 billion from 1994 intelligence funding, whose inflation-adjusted spending had already been reduced by more than 13 percent since 1989, according to Dennis DeConcini, the Democratic chairman of the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence. Over the next five years, Mr. DeConcini complained, Mr. Kerry’s amendment would have cut an additional $5 billion from intelligence activities. In an unmistakable reference to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, Mr. DeConcini observed, “We no longer seem immune from acts of terrorism in the United States.” Arguing against Mr. Kerry’s amendment, Mr. DeConcini warned his colleagues: “We have to stay ready. It makes no sense for us to close our eyes to developments around the world which could ultimately save U.S. lives and resources.”

Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye, chairman of the Senate’s defense appropriations subcommittee, was even more harsh. Foreshadowing the eventual 75-20 vote against Mr. Kerry’s amendment, which even 70 percent of Democrats opposed, including Sen. Ted Kennedy, Mr. Inouye asserted that Mr. Kerry’s proposed $4 billion defense cut was “simply unsupportable.”

Citing no less than the support of Bill Clinton, Mr. Inouye rebuked Mr. Kerry for his attempt to unilaterally eliminate the Trident D-5 submarine-missile program. On the Senate floor, Mr. Inouye charged Mr. Kerry with being shortsighted by cutting the Titan 4 missile-launch system, which was “the only system that can launch, for example, MILSTAR satellites, defense support program satellites and certain classified payloads.”

Echoing Mr. DeConcini, Mr. Inouye asserted that Mr. Kerry’s attempt to cut $1 billion from the intelligence budget “would severely hamper the intelligence community’s ability to provide decision-makers and policy-makers with information on matters of vital concern to this country.”

Prophetically, Mr. Inouye cited “nuclear proliferation by North Korea” and the seemingly imminent air strikes against Serbia. Regarding North Korea, it’s worth noting that seven years later, in March 2001, Mr. Kerry himself rushed to the Senate floor to lambaste the Bush administration and to commend North Korea for having taken “some remarkable steps, heretofore unimaginable steps” under a nonproliferation agreement negotiated in 1994. The world now knows that North Korea obliterated that agreement by secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. Anticipating war with Serbia, Mr. Inouye rightly worried about the consequences of evisceratingsatellite-launch capabilities and intelligence spending. “At a time like this, is it prudent to reduce funds for the very intelligence programs which we need to identify these [Serbian] targets? This amendment would do that. It would blind our pilots. Is this the time to cut the satellite programs that give our forces warning of attacks?” he asked. Even more pointedly and more prophetically, Mr. Inouye concluded his argument against Mr. Kerry’s amendment thusly: “As long as we are confronted with madmen, terrorists and countries with strained agendas, I think it would be prudent on the part of the United States to maintain a ready force of men and women who are willing to stand in harm’s way.” Seventy percent of Senate Democrats agreed. John Kerry did not.

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