Thursday, August 26, 2004

“Just shut up, gays, women, environmentalists. You’ll get everything you want after the election. But just for the meantime, shut up so that we can win.” — Rep. Peter H. Kostmayer, Pennsylvania Democrat, at the 1988 Democratic National Convention.

“I call it the Stepford convention. Everybody is going by the script because they are so afraid that Bush will get in. But behind the scenes, it’s like don’t worry, wink, wink; we’ll take care of you.” — Robin Tyler of, quoted in the July 30 Detroit Free Press.

Call it deja vu all over again, but just as in 1988 when Mr. Kostmayer committed jaw-dropping political candor, the Democratic Party is again seeking desperately to muzzle its dominant extreme left wing, at least through Nov. 2.

Democrats are again attempting to pull one over on the electorate, this time by persuading voters that Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry is a centrist, his 19 years of Senate roll-call votes to the contrary notwithstanding.

Ironically, it was the 1988 Democratic convention at which Mr. Kostmayer let the party’s electoral strategy slip that nominated another Massachusetts liberal, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis. And who was Mr. Dukakis’ lieutenant governor from 1982 to 1984? None other than Mr. Kerry. Talk about coming full circle.

It is because of his indefensible, ultraliberal voting record during nearly two decades in the Senate that Mr. Kerry has so desperately sought to make his presidential campaign about his four months in Vietnam 35 years ago, rather than his last 20 years in the Senate. It’s not unlike how, when Toto exposed him to be something other than what he claimed to be, the Wizard of Oz thundered: “Ignore that man behind the curtain.”

If Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign theme song was Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow),” Mr. Kerry’s theme now could well be jazz guitarist George Benson’s “This Masquerade.”

Mr. Clinton was able to pull off his centrist charade because he didn’t have the lengthy paper trail as governor of Arkansas that Mr. Kerry has. (And, yes, Mr. Clinton was a liberal, as I chronicled in “69 Reasons Clinton Was No Centrist” on National Review Online shortly after he left office.)

But unless President Bush allows Mr. Kerry to get away with this masquerade by continuing with mostly warm-and-fuzzy campaign themes (the latest being something Mr. Bush is calling “the ownership society”), rather than hammering away on the Senate votes that earned Mr. Kerry the National Journal’s ranking as the most liberal member of the Senate, Mr. Kerry can run from his record, but he won’t be able to hide.

To believe that Mr. Kerry is a born-again centrist is to believe that he has had a Damascus Road (Pennsylvania Avenue?) conversion. But if so, it’s a conversion that would likely last only until about Jan. 20, when he was inaugurated — or about as long as that of pornographer Larry Flynt, who was supposedly converted to Christianity in 1977 by President Carter’s sister, evangelist Ruth Carter Stapleton, only to renounce it the following March.

Just as the first President Bush wiped out Mr. Dukakis’ early lead in the polls and went on to a landslide victory by seizing on the Democratic nominee’s proud membership in the American Civil Liberties Union and support for weekend furloughs for convicted murderers, there is no shortage of ammunition in Mr. Kerry’s record that could be turned against him.

From his 100 percent “perfect” ratings from groups supporting abortion and homosexual rights to his “F” rating on gun rights from the National Rifle Association, and from his opposition to school choice, welfare and tort reform and tax cuts to his support for affirmative action, a nuclear freeze during the Cold War and the Kyoto global-warming treaty, Mr. Kerry is a sitting duck whose attempted “extreme makeover” as a centrist would be worthy of an episode on Fox-TV’s “The Swan.”

But if Mr. Bush fails to make an issue of that record and Mr. Kerry’s attempt to run from it, he could well find himself a lame duck on Nov. 3.

Peter Parisi works on the Copy Desk at The Washington Times.

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