- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 23, 2004

Teresa Heinz Kerry says that only an idiot would oppose her husband’s health proposals. What does that make someone who thinks that lowering Medicare premiums is more important than getting rid of Saddam Hussein?

It is not too far off the mark to state that Sen. John Kerry’s exit strategy is reduce our involvement in Iraq in order to reduce Medicare premiums at home. Listen to the Kerry Doctrine in all its glory: “$200 billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can’t afford health care for our veterans…We’re spending $200 billion in Iraq while the costs of health care have gone through the roof and we’re told we don’t have the resources to make health care affordable and available for all Americans. They’re charging 17 percent more for Medicare while making America pay $200 billion for a go-it-alone policy in Iraq. That’s the wrong choice; that’s the wrong direction; and that’s the wrong leadership for America.” That’s it.

In fact, President Bush has done plenty on health care: Veterans health-care spending has increased more under Mr. Bush than it did under Bill Clinton. The Medicare premium increase, which comes to $30 a year, finally — thanks to Mr. Bush — pays for a whole array of new services. And you can get them for free under managed care plans that Medicare offers. That doesn’t include Mr. Bush’s program of drug discounts and $500 billion to pay for prescription drugs and premiums that Mr. Kerry voted against. Mr. Kerry opposes Bush health-care reforms that would cut the cost of premiums for many working Americans in half.

But Mr. Kerry has finally arrived at an overarching foreign policy position that has little to do with what Mr. Bush is doing on health care and everything to do with Democrat beliefs in the value of government intervention. Hence, promoting stability in Iraq or getting rid of Saddam is less important than, say, filling the so-called Medicare prescription drug donut hole (the part of the cost of drugs some seniors will have to pay under the new program.) Mr. Kerry hasn’t had a consistent Iraq policy until now because he hadn’t figured out how to subordinate it to the Democrat domestic policy agenda in a coherent fashion. Health care — and Medicare in particular — was the missing link.

The Kerry doctrine reflects a belief that American greatness flows from the expansion of government programs and regulation here at home. Faced with an international conflict, Mr. Kerry will figure out how to get the French and Germans to pay for it before going to war because health-care spending is more important. When faced with French reluctance, Mr. Kerry will spend less or limited time and money abroad in order to have government spend more on health care programs at home. If that means leaving a Saddam in power or leaving Iraq unstable, so be it. How can you talk about national security when Medicare premiums are increasing by $30 a year!

The Kerry doctrine has its roots in the worldview of another military veteran who was a Democrat nominee for president. That candidate also believed that bringing troops home was the prelude to providing a system of national health insurance so that a worker can afford decent health care for himself and his family. He too complained about defense spending “starving other areas of national life” and health care spending increased at record rates.

When this candidate, George McGovern, implored “Come home America,” it was not to the traditional Democrat values established by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who believed that promoting American supremacy abroad and capitalism at home were not incompatible. It was a transformation of the idea of national security to “include the health of our families as much as the size of our bombs, the safety of our streets, and the condition of our cities, and not just the engines of war.” One was just as important as the other to Mr. McGovern.

The Kerry doctrine takes McGovernism to its logical conclusion: The delegitimization of national security and American supremacy in foreign policy matters by making the expansion of Medicare and other federal programs the true measure of national will and progress. Everything else is truly subordinate. To Mr. Kerry, pulling troops out of Iraq is not only important because Medicare premiums are too high, but it is the reason that American interests will be contracted out before we take action. After all, only an idiot wouldn’t understand that filling the Medicare donut hole is more critical to our future than a secure and stable Iraq.

Robert Goldberg is director of the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Medical Progress.

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