The Corner

That $87 Billion Vote

Kerry apologists argue that it’s unfair to criticize Kerry for voting for $87 billion for operations in Iraq after the war. Kerry was willing to vote for the money, they say. He just wanted to raise the top tax rates to pay for it. This defense has never struck me as very persuasive: So Kerry wanted to fund the troops, but raising taxes was a higher priority? KerrySpot makes an additional sound criticism. But there’s yet another weakness to this Kerry defense: Kerry himself foreclosed the possibility of making it.

Here’s Kerry being questioned by Doyle McManus on the Sept. 14, 2003, edition of Face the Nation:

Kerry: “Senator Biden and I are introducing an effort to try to link the $87 billion to the reduction of the Bush tax cut at the high end, and we’re doing that as a matter of shared sacrifice. . . . I think we need–I think we need to roll back the top end of the Bush tax cut.”

McManus: “If that amendment does not pass, will you then vote against the $87 billion?”

Kerry: “I don’t think any United States senator is going to abandon our troops and recklessly leave Iraq to–to whatever follows as a result of simply cutting and running. That’s irresponsible. What is responsible is for the administration to do this properly now. And I am laying out the way in which the administration could unite the American people, could bring other countries to the table, and I think could give the American people a sense that they’re on the right track. There’s a way to do this properly. But I don’t think anyone in the Congress is going to not give our troops ammunition, not give our troops the ability to be able to defend themselves. We’re not going to cut and run and not do the job” (emphasis added).

So: Is it fair to say that for the senator to vote against the bill because his tax-hiking amendment failed was irresponsible? That it amounted to abandoning our troops and not giving them the ability to defend themselves? That it was reckless? Kerry himself seemed to think so, before the primary heat was turned up.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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