Monday, April 19, 2004

On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. John Kerry refused to back down from his claim that he had met with and been endorsed by numerous foreign leaders. His handling of that claim invites further conversation, since it goes to an issue at the heart of this campaign.

Questions about the credibility of Mr. Kerry’s March statement, “I’ve met with foreign leaders who can’t go out and say this publicly, but boy, they look at you and say ‘You’ve got to win this, you’ve got to beat this guy, we need a new policy, things like that,’” were first raised in a column opposite this page. Subsequently, an extensive analysis of Mr. Kerry’s travel schedule by reporters of The Washington Times revealed that Mr. Kerry had not taken any official trips abroad since the beginning of last year and has had only one chance to connect in person with foreign leaders inside the United States. A week after that story appeared, Mr. Kerry renounced all endorsements by foreign leaders — but not his original statement.

When NBC’s Tim Russert raised the issue, Mr. Kerry replied, “You can go to New York City and you can be in a restaurant and you can meet a foreign leader … I would be stupid if I were to sit here and start saying, ‘Well, so-and-so told me this,’ because they have private dealings with the administration … I invite you, I invite The Washington Times editorial, go to European, go to foreign capitals, travel the world. Talk to any American businessman who has been abroad, talk to any of our colleagues who’ve traveled abroad, and the conversations they’ve had. Never has the United States of America been held in as low a regard internationally — and polls have shown this — as we are today.”

There’s little doubt that the French are more likely to embrace those who surrender to their positions on international affairs than American cowboys who advance other approaches. But the question of which foreign leaders might prefer a Kerry presidency to the continuation of Mr. Bush’s tenure is secondary. The key issue is credibility.

Mr. Kerry has repeatedly attacked Mr. Bush for having a “credibility gap.” Again on Sunday, Mr. Kerry told Mr. Russert, “It may well be that we need a new president … to re-establish credibility with the rest of the world.” It’s difficult to square that assertion with Mr. Kerry’s questionable claim of personal endorsements by foreign leaders whom he will not name.

While we normally issue private invitations for editorial boards, we would be delighted to host Mr. Kerry for a face-to-face meeting to discuss this issue and any others of concern. His on-the-record comments here might add context to his statements and may clear up some of the mysteries still surrounding the story. Having met the press on Sunday, we hope Mr. Kerry will take time to meet with us.

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