Politics & Policy

“Shameful & Irresponsible”

John Kerry plays politics with the war on terror.

If John Kerry’s skin were any thinner, he would seem contained by Saran Wrap. Criticize the Democratic presidential nominee to any degree, and he responds as if gravely and unfairly wounded, even if he threw the first punch.

”The Bush campaign and its allies have turned to the tactics of fear and smear because they can’t talk about jobs, health care, energy independence and rebuilding our alliances,” Kerry whined at Cooper Union College in New York on August 24, soon after the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth began broadcasting torpedoes below Kerry’s water line. Never mind that Kerry himself placed a mine downstream from President Bush’s reelection juggernaut more than six months earlier: “The issue here, as I have heard it raised, is was he [Bush] present and active on duty in Alabama at the times he was supposed to be,” John Forbes Kambodia complained last February 8. “Just because you get an honorable discharge does not in fact answer that question.”

Kerry now cries anew, like a toddler deprived of his ice cream.

Vice President Dick Cheney told Des Moines voters on September 7, “It’s absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on November 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again, and we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and that we’ll fall back into the pre-9/11 mindset, if you will, that–in fact–these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts, and that we are not really at war. I think that would be a terrible mistake.”

Rather than explain how his self-described “law-enforcement” approach would keep Americans from being killed by Islamofascists, Kerry nearly collapsed with the vapors.

“George Bush and Dick Cheney are engaging in shameful and irresponsible and outrageous behavior in trying to play the politics of fear and exploit the war on terror,” Kerry bellyached to the Associated Press on September 9.

A day earlier, he moaned about Bush and Cheney on WCCO-TV in Minneapolis. The GOP nominees, according to Kerry, “will say anything and do anything in order to get elected. And it is outrageous and shameful to make the war on terror an instrument of their politics in this race.”

One could empathize with Kerry had he studiously circumscribed the war on terror as off limits in the presidential race. Of course, that’s not so, nor should it be. The war on terror is the issue this year, and both Bush and Kerry owe the American people their individual visions for how they would crush Islamic murderers like cockroaches, at home and abroad.

Bush–agree or disagree–embraces his defeat of Kabul’s al-Qaeda-loving Taliban and Baghdad’s terrorist-nurturing Baathist regime. Bush also can highlight the Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security, and–by Heritage Foundation scholar Ed Meese’s estimate–some 40 terrorist acts stymied by cops, spies, and soldiers before anyone got blown to pieces.

Kerry can point to…what?

The Massachusetts Democrat already has politicized the war on terror. He is no purer here than the gal on the street corner in high heels, Spandex pants, and smeared rouge who decries the salty taunt of her soon-to-be client. Just listen to Kerry himself:

‐”I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror” than Bush, Kerry famously told minority journalists in Washington, D.C. on August 5. By implication, that would make the president’s war on terror comparatively ineffective, thoughtless, random, passive, and insensitive. If this statement did not politicize the war on terror, what would?

But Kerry politicized the war on terror far earlier than last month.

‐Before eventually deriding President Bush for allegedly not internationalizing Operation Iraqi Freedom, Kerry insulted America’s then-46 military, logistical, and diplomatic allies in that conflict. On March 13, 2003, Kerry asked members of San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club, “If the federal government, my friends, can find billions of dollars in order to create a coalition of the coerced and the bribed, why can’t it provide vital aid for schools, health care and law enforcement in California?”

‐Last March, Kerry adviser Richard Holbrooke conceded that politics played a role in Kerry’s postures on Iraq. As President Clinton’s United Nation’s ambassador told Laura Blumenfeld in the March 7 Washington Post: “One, he [Kerry] knows that war is hell from firsthand experience. Two, he didn’t know if you could trust Bush to pursue war as a last resort. Three, he was starting a presidential campaign and knew where a bulk of the primary voters would be.”

‐”Home base for George Bush, as we saw to the nth degree in the press conference, is terror. Ask him a question, he’s going to terror,” Kerry said April 14, just two days after President Bush’s prime-time press conference, according to Reuters’ John Whitesides. “Everything he did in Iraq, he’s going to try to persuade people has to do with terror, even though everybody here knows it had nothing whatsoever to do with al Qaeda and everything to do with an agenda that they had preset.”

‐Kerry continued his criticism four days later on NBC’s Meet the Press. “I will use our military when necessary, but it is not primarily a military operation,” he told Tim Russert April 18. “It’s an intelligence-gathering, law-enforcement, public-diplomacy effort.”

‐Kerry even has used the Iraq war to raise campaign funds. In a May 7 appeal e-mailed to supporters, Kerry campaign chief Mary Beth Cahill wrote: “Over the past week we have all been shocked by the pictures from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. But we have also been appalled at the slow and inept response by President Bush, which has further undermined America’s credibility in the world and created new dangers for Americans in Iraq.” She continued, “Show George Bush and show the media that you support John Kerry’s stand: Donald Rumsfeld must resign immediately.” The e-mail ends: “Keep the ball rolling: Donate Now!”

“John Kerry has politicized the war on terror at every turn, regularly abandoning his previous positions for a new, more politically expedient viewpoint,” says Scott Stanzel, Bush-Cheney’s quick-witted spokesman.

Kerry has every right to debate his differences on the war on terror with the Bush-Cheney team, so long as he takes it like a man when they return the favor.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.

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