Sunday, May 16, 2004

To hear John Kerry tell it to the Wall Street Journal, his comment about “Benedict Arnold CEOs” who betrayed America by “shipping jobs overseas” was all just a big mistake. Not his, of course, but that of some overzealous speechwriter. In fact, the entire incident represents yet another example of Mr. Kerry’s propensity to prevaricate.

Asked about outsourcing and his use of the “Benedict Arnold” epithet, Mr. Kerry replied: “The Benedict Arnold line applied, you know, I called a couple of times to overzealous speechwriters and said, ‘Look, that’s not what I’m saying.’ Benedict Arnold does not refer to somebody who in the normal course of business is going to go overseas and take jobs overseas. That happens. I support that. I understand that. I was referring to the people who take advantage of non-economic transactions purely for tax purposes — sham transactions — and give up American citizenship. That’s a Benedict Arnold. You give up your American citizenship but you want to continue to do business and deduct and do everything else. That’s what I’m referring to.”

Mr. Kerry’s revisionist explanation is completely untrue. In fact, Mr. Kerry repeatedly attacked CEOs as “Benedict Arnolds” for relocating American jobs overseas. There never was a misunderstanding. Mr. Kerry repeatedly made the charge over a period of more than three months.

The first reference to “Benedict Arnold CEOs” on Mr. Kerry’s Web site appeared in a speech prepared for his delivery on Nov. 15 at the Iowa Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner. Mr. Kerry promised “a real deal that stands up to the powerful interests” by “clos[ing] every loophole for the Benedict Arnold companies that ship jobs overseas.” On Jan. 19, Mr. Kerry declared in his Iowa caucuses victory speech: “We are not going to give one benefit or one reward to any Benedict Arnold company or CEO who take the jobs and money overseas and stick you with the bill. That’s over.”

Based on transcripts of speeches Mr. Kerry actually delivered (as opposed to “remarks prepared for delivery” by his speechwriters), Mr. Kerry made virtually identical charges on Jan. 27, Feb. 3, Feb. 10 and Feb. 16, mostly following primary victories. Mr. Kerry leveled the charge in at least two Democratic debates in South Carolina in late January and at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington on Feb. 19.

In none of the speeches does Mr. Kerry talk about giving up citizenship, a crucial ingredient for becoming a Benedict Arnold CEO in the revision he offered to the Journal. Moreover, while he assured that newspaper that he “understand” and “support” decisions by CEOs who, in “the normal course of business [are] going to go overseas and take jobs overseas,” he never made such a distinction in his numerous victory speeches and debates.

Quite the opposite: Regardless of the reason for locating facilities overseas, in his speeches he branded all such CEOs and companies as “Benedict Arnolds.” Once again, Mr. Kerry has demonstrated that he has no credibility.

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