- The Washington Times - Monday, September 6, 2004

Georgia Democratic Sen. Zell Miller’s electrifying speech at the Republican Convention may overshadow the fact that another well-known Democrat — former New York’s former mayor, Ed Koch — has also crossed party lines to support and campaign for President George W. Bush.

Never a shrinking violet, Mr. Koch says he disagrees with Mr. Bush on virtually all domestic issues, but that the overriding issue of our time is the war on terrorism — and that his own Democratic Party doesn’t have the “stomach” (Mr. Koch’s word) for the fight. Mayor Koch understands that if we don’t win the war on terrorism, nothing else will matter.

Supporters of both political parties, as well as independent voters, all need to understand what Ed Koch understands: This election is about life and death, in an age when nuclear weapons can be developed and sold to terrorists.

This election is not even about who will be in the White House the next four years. It is about a war that must be fought for more years than any given president will occupy the White House.

Just one weak administration can make the job harder for the administrations that follow — and disastrous for the country.

No small part of the audacity of those who attacked this country on September 11, 2001, resulted from the weakness of the Clinton years, when there were only token responses to acts of terrorism against Americans at home and abroad.

When the World Trade Center was first attacked, during the Clinton administration, that terrorist bombing by Islamic extremists was treated as a simple criminal matter and swept under the rug. Mr. Clinton similarly swept under the rug the bombing of our embassies abroad and bought off the North Koreans by helping them with their nuclear program, in exchange for promises that they never kept.

It was all about getting bad news off the front page and passing along the hard underlying problems to his successors. But the problem goes deeper than Bill Clinton.

Since 1972, when the far left took control of the Democratic Party, congressional Democrats have regularly voted against military spending and against spending for the intelligence services. For nearly two decades, John Kerry has voted consistently against military preparedness and against money for the very intelligence agencies he now so loudly criticizes.

When the Soviets put nuclear missiles in Eastern Europe, pointed at Western Europe, Ronald Reagan countered by putting American nuclear missiles in Western Europe, pointed at the Soviet Union. John Kerry advocated a “nuclear freeze” instead. In other words, freeze the Soviet advantage in place.

Some media pundits say Mr. Kerry’s poor showing in polls is due to his following the wrong political strategy in this campaign. They say he overemphasized his Vietnam War record.

But what else did he to emphasize?

Can you run for office during a war on terrorism by citing a voting record that includes being antimilitary for decades? Can you even rely on a Senate record in favor of welfare state spending, at a time when handing out goodies takes a back seat to national security?

What was left for Mr. Kerry, except trying to resurrect Vietnam, with his own spin on it, and making big promises for the future? Moreover, with the media on his side — 12 to 1 inside the Beltway — he had little to fear from that quarter.

How could Mr. Kerry know the Swift boat men who served with him in Vietnam would suddenly emerge to challenge his version of events there? Or that two prominent members of his own party would become so disgusted with him that they would throw their support to Mr. Bush?

The media have made such a bugaboo about “negative” statements or “attacks” you might think political campaigns are supposed to be nothing but happy talk. But which is worse, that some unpleasant facts come out during a campaign or someone is allowed to lie his way into the White House, with all our lives in his hands, on the basis of image and spin?

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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