Back in Sandinista Days . . .
John Kerry now talks a moderate game; but what does the record say?


The committee subpoenaed Rodriguez, but, to his chagrin, insisted on a closed hearing. Of his encounter with Kerry, Rodriguez writes, “Obviously, what he wanted was to connect the Vice President and the top Contra leadership to drugs.” But at one point, Kerry’s questioning sharply veered off: “He wanted to know all the details of Che’s capture [in 1967]. He even asked me somewhat sarcastically why I did not fight harder to save Che’s life.” There followed an extraordinary exchange — again, according to Rodriguez.

I said, “Senator, this has been the hardest testimony I ever gave in my life.”

He looked up, glasses perched on his nose. “Why?”

“Because, sir, it is extremely difficult to have to answer questions from someone you do not respect.” . . .

I told him outright, “Senator, my name was leaked by your committee as being involved with drugs. I take that very seriously because it affects my family, my reputation, and my friends.”

Kerry looked at me sternly and said, “You’re making a very serious accusation, because this committee doesn’t leak.”

“Senator, leaked or not it was in every goddamned newspaper that, at one of your closed committee hearings, Ramón Milian Rodríguez said I solicited money. That is a damned lie.”

Felix Rodriguez wanted his testimony made available to the public, but “Kerry and Blum” refused. So he called a press conference, to give his side. Eleven months later — after considerable pressure (Republican pressure) — Rodriguez got a chance to testify in open hearing. Kerry now said that he believed the witness. “I was gratified by [the senator’s] statement.”

When it came to Latin America policy at large, Kerry almost always ran with the Left crowd, but at least once he stood alone. In December 1985, he was the only senator to vote against money for police training in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. Even Senator Dodd voted for it. Yet another Republican Latin America specialist reflects, “Kerry aligned himself with all the leftist-chic causes, and he was virulently anti-Reagan. And he never apologized for it, never showed any regret, in light of how things have turned out in Central America. I mean, really: In El Salvador, they just had an election in which a tired old leftist guerrilla lost to a conservative candidate. Instead of meeting on the battlefield, they met at the ballot box. Everything was peaceful. The other countries are doing the same thing.” And will Kerry give no credit to the policies he tried to stop?

A disdain for American power has been part and parcel of the senator’s attitude. He was quite sniffy about the invasion of Grenada, for example. He compared it to “Boston College playing football against the Sisters of Mercy.” (It’s funny how the Democrats were in harmony. Madeleine Albright — the future secretary of state — said, “It was the [Washington] Redskins versus the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the score was 101 to nothing.”) Kerry added, “The invasion of Grenada represents the Reagan policy of substituting public relations for diplomatic relations . . . The invasion represented a bully’s show of force against a weak Third World nation. The invasion only served to heighten world tensions and further strain brittle U.S.–Soviet and North–South relations.” Ponder that: The possible next president interpreted Grenada as “a bully’s show of force against a weak Third World nation.”

Needless to say, Kerry talks a little differently now. But has he changed his mind, or is he merely the Democratic nominee? For the benefit of South Florida, he’s claiming to be a big anti-Castroite: “I don’t like Fidel Castro. Some people have cottoned to him in our party [now there’s an admission!] and go down and visit. I went to Cuba once and I purposely said I don’t want to.” That statement was a little mysterious. Kerry has also said, “I’m pretty tough on Castro, because I think he’s running one of the last vestiges of a Stalinist, secret-police government in the world. And I voted for the Helms-Burton legislation to be tough on companies that deal with him.” That was a little mysterious too, for Kerry was one of only 22 senators to vote against Helms-Burton. His campaign later explained that he had voted for an early version of the bill, objecting to the final one because of Title III: which allows Americans whose property was stolen to sue foreign companies acquiring that property.