Sunday, May 9, 2004

Sen. John Kerry has begun a $25 million advertising campaign by portraying himself as a long-standing fiscal conservative whom Americans can trust as their next commander in chief. In Mr. Kerry’s case, however, the roles of fiscal conservative and commander in chief are mutually exclusive, if the past two decades are any guide.

Mr. Kerry, who was first elected to the Senate on a platform to eviscerate the defense budget at the height of the Cold War, now brags about his 1985 vote in favor of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-reduction plan. Today, Mr. Kerry claims that he courageously bolted his party to cast a “fiscally responsible” vote. On the Senate floor in October 1985 when debating the merits of Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, however, Mr. Kerry revealed his real priority: “I want to be sure that when we consider programs for cuts everything will be considered equally — the full budget, in all functions, including 050, will be weighed for reductions.”

The 050 category represented national defense, and Mr. Kerry was determined to make certain that the Department of Defense would in no way be immune from the budget cuts that might be needed to meet the bill’s prescribed deficit target.

Never mind that in 1985 that the defense budget comprised a quarter of federal spending, compared to 50 percent in the early (pre-Vietnam) 1960s. Never mind that the Soviet Union for more than a decade had been engaged in a massive military buildup (conventional and nuclear), and its modernized first-strike intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) dwarfed America’s aging ICBM capabilities. None of that mattered to Mr. Kerry, who only wanted to make certain that Massachusetts’ discretionary pork spending and America’s nuclear deterrent, including the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), would be weighed equally for budget cuts. As Gramm-Rudman-Hollings began to be implemented during the budget-resolution process the following year, Mr. Kerry took to the floor to “commend the Budget Committee” for “demonstrat[ing] that the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings climate has begun to put a cap on military spending.”

The same Kerry ad, referring to Bill Clinton’s tax-increasing 1993 budget plan, claims that he cast a “decisive” vote that “created 20 million new jobs.” He told the Wall Street Journal last week that he “was one of those who pushed hard for the [1993] deficit-reduction act.” Shortly after he cast his vote, however, he told the Boston Globe that he seriously considered voting against the bill. Why? Four days later, on the Senate floor, he explained that he voted for the bill “with great ambivalence,” complaining that “this measure does not authorize the kind of major shift toward investment that we so urgently need.” The word “investment,” of course, is liberal Democratic propaganda-speak for domestic spending. As for “the major shift” in spending Mr. Kerry envisioned, he told the Globe that he had an $85 billion list of additional cuts, including, of course, SDI and other defense programs, which he vowed to pursue during the appropriations process.

In short, his primary objection to the 1993 deficit-reduction plan was that it did not raise domestic spending enough and did not slash defense sufficiently. In Mr. Kerry’s world, fiscal prudence and military responsibility are incompatible.

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