- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 2, 2004

In the midst of an international war on terrorists who have already claimed 3,000 lives on the home front, can America afford the potentially disastrous consequences of four years of on-the-job training for John Kerry? Despite repeatedly asserting throughout his presidential campaign that he brings to the race “35 years of experience in national security, foreign affairs and military affairs,” Mr. Kerry has in fact compiled an abysmal record replete with poor judgments and deeply flawed policy recommendations.

Mr. Kerry first emerged on the national scene in April 1971, when, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he issued a blanket indictment against U.S. soldiers serving in Vietnam for “war crimes committed in Southeast Asia — not isolated incidents — but [war] crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.”

Running as a candidate for the House of Representatives in 1972, Mr. Kerry declared in an interview with the Harvard Crimson: “I’m an internationalist. I would like to see our troops disperse through the world only at the directive of the United Nations.” Recently confronted with those remarks by Tim Russert on “Meet the Press,” Mr. Kerry disavowed them, claiming they were “one of those stupid things a 27-year-old kid says.” At the time, Mr. Kerry was a Yale-educated Vietnam veteran whose earlier testimony in the Senate had established him as a national leader and spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Mr. Kerry ran for the Senate in 1984. That spring was at the height of the Cold War — less than six months after the United States deployed 108 nuclear-tipped Pershing 2 ballistic missiles in West Germany and nearly 500 ground-launched Tomahawk nuclear cruise missiles across Western Europe. Mr. Kerry, who at the time was Massachusetts lieutenant governor serving under Michael Dukakis, recommended chopping more than $50 billion, or nearly 20 percent, from the 1985 defense budget proposed by President Reagan and $200 billion over four years. Mr. Kerry’s plan would have unilaterally canceled long-overdue upgrades in all three legs of the strategic nuclear triad, including the land-based MX missile; the Trident submarine and Trident missile system; and the B-1 bomber and B-2 stealth bomber. He would have canceled more than 20 other weapons systems, including the Patriot air-defense system, the Pershing 2 missile, the Aegis air-defense cruiser, the Navy’s top-of-the-line F-14 fighter aircraft, the Air Force’s premier F-15 fighter aircraft and the AH-64 Apache helicopter. His plan would have reduced 18 other systems, including the versatile Tomahawk cruise missile (which could be deployed as a conventional or nuclear weapon in air-, sea- and ground-launched modes); the Bradley Fighter Vehicle; the M1 Abrams tank; and the F-16 fighter aircraft. It is worth noting that virtually all of these conventional systems —Aegis, sea-launched cruise missiles (from both submarines and surface ships), F-14, F-15, F-16, Abrams, Bradley, Apache and Patriot — played critical roles in Afghanistan and/or Iraq (both in 1991 and today). The B-1 and B-2 strategic intercontinental bombers played vital roles flying conventional missions.

In 1984, Mr. Kerry also would have unilaterally canceled Mr. Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). No less than former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has attested to the fact that it was Mr. Reagan’s refusal to bargain away SDI at the 1986 Reykjavik summit that precipitated the Soviet Union’s eventual collapse five years later, having bankrupted itself attempting to compete with American technology.

In a candid interview last year with the Boston Globe, Mr. Kerry belatedly acknowledged that some of his 1984 positions (and subsequent Senate votes) were “ill-advised, and I think some of them are stupid in the context of the world we find ourselves in right now and the things that I’ve learned since then.” Fortunately, his views rarely prevailed. But now he wants to be commander in chief.

Moreover, notwithstanding Mr. Gorbachev’s telling judgment about SDI, Mr. Kerry still insisted to the Globe that his pledge to try to unilaterally cancel SDI was sound. As recently as 1995, he voted to freeze defense spending for seven years. (His judgment was rejected on a bipartisan 71-28 vote.) And in October 2003, he voted to deny $87 billion to fund military operations andreconstructionin Afghanistan and Iraq; only a month earlier, he had declared: “I don’t think any United States senator is going to abandon our troops and recklessly leave Iraq to whatever follows as a result of simply cutting and running. That’s irresponsible.” Yes, it is. And that’s John Kerry. This time Mr. Kerry was on the losing side of an 87-12 vote.

Regarding what history has shown (and Mr. Kerry himself has explicitly acknowledged) to have been horrendous judgments in 1984 on a wide array of national-security-related issues, Mr. Kerry offers a by-now-familiar lame excuse. “I’m not ashamed of that,” he told the Globe last year. “I was [40] years old, running for the United States Senate for the first time.”

How many free passes does the Boston Brahmin feel he is entitled to receive? How much longer must Mr. Kerry insist on having it both ways? Despite his repeated claim to have “35 years of experience in national security, foreign affairs and military affairs,” he demands the right to disassociate himself from his irresponsible views from 1972 and 1984 as if they were the idle musings of a confused child. Today, he wants to be commander in chief. His “35 years of experience” disqualify him.

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