Politics & Policy

Back in Sandinista Days…

John Kerry now talks a moderate game; but what does the record say?

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article appears in the May 17, 2004, issue of National Review.

Here’s what you’re not supposed to say about John Kerry: that he is a man of the Left; that he is a “Massachusetts liberal”; that he is the anti-Reagan (well, you can say that in some circles). No, now that he’s the Democratic nominee, he is a man of the sensible center, in contrast to those Texas-fried radicals in the White House. Kerry the Nominee even enjoys getting to President Bush’s right. Why, just the other day–appealing to Cuban-American voters in Florida–Kerry chided Bush for being a little soft on Hugo Chávez, the (democratically elected) strongman of Venezuela and one of Fidel Castro’s best friends. The Bush people sputtered with indignation: The gall! But Kerry is acting cannily.

Canny or not, Kerry has a record on Latin America–a substantial one. You will recall the 1980s, and that decade’s fierce debates over Central America policy. At the heart of these debates was Nicaragua: the Sandinistas, Castro, and the Soviet Union versus the Contras and the United States (or rather, not all of the United States: the Reagan administration, in particular). Kerry was an important player in all this. He was part of a group derided by Republicans as “‘Dear Comandante’ Democrats,” for they would address letters to Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista No. 1, “Dear Comandante.” (“But that’s his title,” they would plead, not unreasonably.) This group included such House members as Mike Barnes and Pete Kostmayer, and such senators as Chris Dodd and Tom Harkin–and John Kerry.

Only months after he was sworn in, Kerry joined Harkin on an infamous trip to Managua, to meet with Comandante Ortega. This was April 1985. The trip, according to an article in Policy Review magazine, was arranged by the Institute for Policy Studies, a hard-Left group. IPS was one of several such groups around Kerry back then. The trip, moreover, occurred a few days before a key vote in Congress on Contra aid–the bill proposed to send $14 million in humanitarian assistance to those anti-Communist rebels.

Said Kerry, “Senator Harkin and I are going to Nicaragua as Vietnam-era veterans who are alarmed that the Reagan administration is repeating the mistakes we made in Vietnam. Our foreign policy should represent the democratic values that have made our country great, not subvert those values by funding terrorism to overthrow governments of other countries.” Note that, certainly by implication, the senator characterized the Contra resistance as “terrorism.” In addition, “President Reagan has probably come closer to trying to interpret Vietnam in a positive way than either Presidents Ford or Carter. But this also lends itself to a revisionism about Vietnam that makes it easier for us to repeat our mistakes unwittingly.”

YOU CAN READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE IN THE CURRENT ISSUE OF THE NEW DIGITAL VERSION OF NATIONAL REVIEW. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A SUBSCRIPTION TO NR DIGITAL OR NATIONAL REVIEW, YOU CAN SIGN UP FOR A SUBSCRIPTION TO NATIONAL REVIEW here OR NATIONAL REVIEW DIGITAL here (a subscription to NR includes Digital access).

Most Popular

White House

Trump and the ‘Racist Tweets’

What does “racist” even mean anymore? Racism is the headline on President Trump’s Sunday tweets -- the media-Democrat complex assiduously describes them as “racist tweets” as if that were a fact rather than a trope. I don’t think they were racist; I think they were abjectly stupid. Like many ... Read More
White House

The Trump Steamroller

As we settle into high summer and the period of maximum difficulty in finding anything to fill in hours of television news, especially 24/7 news television, two well-established political trends are emerging in this pre-electoral period: The president’s opponents continue to dig themselves into foxholes that ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar Is Completely Assimilated

Beto O’Rourke, the losing Texas Senate candidate who bootstrapped his way into becoming a losing presidential candidate, had a message for refugees who had come to America: Your new country is a hellhole. The former congressman told a roundtable of refugees and immigrants in Nashville, Tenn., last week: ... Read More
Sports

We All Wanted to Love the Women’s Soccer Team

For the first time in my life, I did not root for an American team. Whatever the sport, I have always rooted American. And if those who called in to my radio show were representative of my audience, many millions of Americans made the same sad choice. It takes a lot for people like me not to root for an ... Read More
U.S.

The ‘Squad’ Gives a Gift to Donald Trump

On Sunday, Donald Trump gave the Democrats a gift -- comments that indicate he thinks native-born congresswomen he detests should “go back” to the countries of their ancestors. On Monday, the four congresswomen handed Trump a gift in return, managing to respond to the president’s insults in some of the most ... Read More
U.S.

Men Literally Died for That Flag, You Idiots

The American flag’s place in our culture is beginning to look less unassailable. The symbol itself is under attack, as we’ve seen with Nike dumping a shoe design featuring an early American flag, Megan Rapinoe defending her national-anthem protests (she says she will never sing the song again), and ... Read More