The Bush-Cheney campaign recently released a series of television commercials designed to “define” Sen. John Kerry and his policy prescriptions for America.
The president’s team has wisely begun to set the record straight after months of being pummeled by Kerry, John Edwards, John Lieberman, and Richard Gephardt during the Democratic primary.
Even before the ads became public, Kerry berated them for their negativity. Kerry’s campaign began to explain or defend what he would do on taxes. “The only increase in taxes would happen for those people making more than $200,000,” Kerry staffers said.
As my old friend Lee Atwater used to say, “If you’re defending, you’re losing.”
What the Bush team is attempting to do by starting early is to control the debate in the general election characterizing Kerry as soft on terrorism and national security and as one who would raise taxes on American families, entrepreneurs, and businesses.
The Bush campaign has plenty of ammunition to work with. Kerry’s rhetoric on the campaign and his voting record are filled with inconsistencies.
On the key issue of going to war with Iraq, the senator from Massachusetts has flip-flopped numerous times. First and foremost, Kerry voted for authorization to use force in Iraq (H.J. Res. 114, CQ Vote #237).
In the first democratic debate, Kerry strongly supported the president’s actions in Iraq. Kerry: “George, I said at the time I would have preferred if we had given diplomacy a greater opportunity, but I think it was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein, and when the president made the decision, I supported him, and I support the fact that we did disarm him.” (ABC News, Democrat Candidate Debate, Columbus, SC, 5/4/03)
Kerry later claimed he voted “to threaten” the use of force in Iraq. “I voted to threaten the use of force to make Saddam Hussein comply with the resolutions of the United Nations.” (Sen. John Kerry, remarks at announcement of Presidential Candidacy, Mount Pleasant, SC, 9/2/03)
Now, Kerry says he is the antiwar candidate. Chris Matthews said to Kerry, “Do you think you belong to that category of candidates who more or less are unhappy with this war, the way it’s been fought, along with General Clark, along with Howard Dean and not necessarily in companionship politically on the issue of the war with people like Lieberman, believe the president took us to war as he should have, yes, absolutely.” (MSNBC’s “Hardball,” 1/6/04)
On the most important decision that a president can make — sending our troops into harms way —Kerry has had three different positions.
Aides and people who have worked closely with Kerry in the Senate say he tends to split differences. I would submit to you that during the time when this country is at war in Iraq and fighting terrorism abroad a “yes — but” foreign policy is fair game in a presidential election.
Kerry has had so many flip-flops on policy that it’s hard for one to keep track. For the record, here are a few.
In 2002, Kerry signed a letter “urging” the Massachusetts legislature to reject a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Now Kerry says he supports amending the Massachusetts state constitution to ban gay marriage. (Boston Globe 2/26/04)
In 1996, Kerry attacked Gov. Bill Weld for supporting the death penalty for terrorists. Kerry: “Your policy would amount to a terrorist protection policy. Mine would put them in jail.” (1996 Massachusetts Senate Debate 9/16/96)
In 1996 Kerry said, “You can change your mind on things, but not on life-and-death issues.” (Worcester (MA) Telegram Gazette 7/3/96)
But, in 2002, Kerry said he supported the death penalty for terrorists. Kerry: “The law of the land is the law of the land, but I have also said that I am for the death penalty for terrorists because terrorists have declared war on your country.” (NBC’s “Meet the Press” 12/1/02)
On one of the key domestic issues in the campaign, free trade, Kerry voted for NAFTA in 1993.
Kerry said, “NAFTA recognizes the reality of today’s economy — globalization and technology,” Kerry said. “Our future is not in competing at the low-level wage job: It’s in creating high-wage, new-technology jobs based on our skills and our productivity.”
Now, Kerry expresses doubts about NAFTA, saying, “If it were before me today I would vote against it because it doesn’t have environmental or labor standards in it.”
Long story short, Kerry is on multiple sides of almost every issue and challenge that confronts America. To paraphrase Sen. Jesse Helms from a campaign almost 20 years ago, “Where do you stand Senator Kerry?”