Saturday, May 29, 2004

Once again the credibility of John Kerry’s presidential campaign has come under serious question. A major disagreement has developed regarding what was said about Iraq at a recent meeting between Ralph Nader and Mr. Kerry. “In a much-publicized meeting with Senator Kerry,” Mr. Nader’s Web site reports, “Nader urged withdrawal from Iraq.” Mr. Nader told The Washington Post that he beseeched Mr. Kerry to “give the public an exit strategy.” According to Mr. Nader, Mr. Kerry said, “I have an exit strategy and I’ll be talking about it more.” However, Steve Elmendorf and Mary Beth Cahill, two senior Kerry aides who attended the meeting, could not recall Iraq being discussed. Clearly, both camps cannot be telling the truth, although Mr. Elmendorf did acknowledge that “Ralph Nader is a person of great integrity.”

While we cannot say for certain who is telling the truth about this meeting, we can shed some light on Mr. Kerry’s propensity for prevarication. But don’t rely on our words. Focus, instead, on Mr. Kerry’s. Consider his assertion in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal that his often-quoted comment about “Benedict Arnold CEOs” betraying America by “shipping jobs overseas” was a big misunderstanding.

Here is what Mr. Kerry told the Journal: “The Benedict Arnold line applied, you know, I called a couple of times to overzealous speechwriters and said, ‘Look, that’s not what I’m saying.’ Benedict Arnold does not refer to somebody who in the normal course of business is going to go overseas and take jobs overseas. That happens. I support that. I understand that. I was referring to the people who take advantage of non-economic transactions purely for tax purposes — sham transactions — and give up American citizenship. That’s a Benedict Arnold. You give up your American citizenship but you want to continue to do business and deduct and do everything else. That’s what I’m referring to.”

Contrary to Mr. Kerry’s revisionism, he did, in fact, repeatedly attack CEOs as “Benedict Arnolds” for relocating American jobs overseas. There never was a misunderstanding with speechwriters. Clearly enunciated on numerous occasions in public forums by Mr. Kerry himself, the charge was repeatedly made over a period of more than three months, including during at least two Democratic debates. This period coincided with Mr. Kerry’s remarkable political comeback. Indeed, as the record shows below, he literally resuscitated his campaign on the backs of “Benedict Arnold CEOs,” whom he routinely criticized on the campaign trail throughout the primaries. During that crucial political period, the accusation appeared in every victory speech Mr. Kerry made on primary and caucus nights.

All quotes reported below came not from remarks “as prepared for delivery” — as they are identified on Mr. Kerry’s Web site — but from real-time recordings of his speeches by broadcast and cable networks, and official transcribing agencies, such as Federal News Service and Federal Document Clearing House. There also exists substantial evidence proving that Mr. Kerry routinely slandered “Benedict Arnold CEOs” for “shipping jobs overseas” during stump speeches that were repeatedly delivered (but not recorded) during each day of the primary campaign. Writing in The Washington Times, columnist Mark Steyn recently observed: “I myself have been present on three occasions when he attacked ‘Benedict Arnold CEOs’ who ‘take jobs overseas,’ and on two of them he didn’t have a TelePrompTer or even a script.”

The first time an allegedly “overzealous” speechwriter penned the charge occurred in a Nov. 15 speech prepared for delivery in Iowa. In those remarks, which the Kerry campaign dispatched to journalists as an “immediate release,” Mr. Kerry promised to close “every loophole for the Benedict Arnold companies that ship jobs overseas.” Subsequently, Mr. Kerry leveled the charge time and time again.

On Jan. 19, more than two months after the charge first appeared in his prepared remarks, Mr. Kerry declared in his Iowa caucuses victory speech: “We are not going to give one benefit or one reward to any Benedict Arnold company or CEO who take [sic] the jobs and money overseas and stick you with the bill. [Cheers/applause] That’s over.”

On Jan. 27, in his New Hampshire primary victory statement, Mr. Kerry said he would “shut down every loophole, every incentive, every reward that goes to some Benedict Arnold CEO or company that take [sic] the jobs overseas and stick [sic] Americans with the bill.” [Applause]

Two days later, in a Democratic debate in Greenville, S.C., Mr. Kerry said, “[W]e’re going to take out [of the tax code] any benefit, any reward, any incentive for any Benedict Arnold company or CEO to take American jobs overseas and stick the American people with the bill. And that’s what we need to do.” [Applause]

The next day in a debate in Columbia, S.C., Mr. Kerry demonstrated that he actually could distinguish between the CEO who engages in “non-economic transactions purely for tax purposes — sham transactions,” as he explained in the Wall Street Journal interview, and the CEO “who in the normal course of business is going to go overseas and take jobs overseas.” The problem is that in Mr. Kerry’s mind — and contrary to his assertion to the Journal — both CEOs were traitorous Benedict Arnolds. You be the judge: “The first thing I’m going to do is crack down on any of these companies that take advantage of the tax code, like Tyco did, buying a $27,000 mailbox and then they take $400 million off the tax rolls and stick you with the bill. We’re going shut down any incentive, any reward, or any kind of benefit for any Benedict Arnold company or CEO that takes American jobs overseas and stick [sic] the American people with the bill.”

When Mr. Kerry won five of seven Democratic presidential contests on the first Super Tuesday (Feb. 3), he told an enthusiastic Washington state crowd and national television audience: “And so we will, I pledge to you, shut down every loophole, every incentive, every reward for every Benedict Arnold CEO or company that want [sic] to exploit the tax code and take jobs and money overseas at the expense of the American people.”

One week later, after crushing John Edwards and Wesley Clark in the crucial southern primaries in Virginia and Tennessee, Mr. Kerry repeated what by now had become a major applause line in his victory stump speeches. “We will repeal every single benefit, every single loophole, every single reward for any Benedict Arnold CEO or corporation that take [sic] American jobs overseas.”

On the eve of the Feb. 17 Wisconsin primary, Mr. Kerry declared that “the American taxpayer is shoveling out of their [sic] pocket, rewarding some Benedict Arnold CEO or company that want [sic] to take the jobs and money overseas.”

Following his Wisconsin victory, Mr. Kerry traveled to Washington, D.C., to receive the AFL-CIO endorsement at the labor federation’s headquarters. “[W]hen I am president, and with your help, we’re going to repeal every benefit, every loophole, every reward that entices any Benedict Arnold company or CEO to take the money and the jobs overseas and stick the American people with the bill.”

Note that in none of these speeches does Mr. Kerry talk about giving up one’s citizenship, a crucial ingredient for becoming a Benedict Arnold CEO in the revision he peddled to the Wall Street Journal. Moreover, while he assured the Journal that he “understand” and “support” decisions by CEOs who, in “the normal course of business [are] going to go overseas and take jobs overseas,” he never made such a distinction in his numerous victory and stump speeches. Quite the opposite: Regardless of the reason for locating facilities overseas, in his speeches he branded all such CEOs and companies as “Benedict Arnolds.”

With such a shameless record on the “Benedict Arnold CEO” front, Mr. Kerry lacks the credibility to offer a believable Iraq exit strategy, whether he has one or not.

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