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Monday, August 23, 2004

Kerry, Bush on same page militarily?

The headline "Kerry, Bush on same page militarily” would seem to be tough case to make. Anti-Vietnam-war Kerry is a hawk? Anti-Contra, pro-Sandinista Kerry? The same Kerry who as senator voted to cut defense and intelligence for twenty years? The “I actually voted for the 87 billion dollars, before I voted against it” Kerry? Can The San Francisco Chronicle actually run a whole article taking Kerry’s election-season make-over as a military hawk at face value?

Forty years ago, such journalistic malfeasance would have earned a quick firing, but as J.R. Ewing put it, “once you give up integrity, the rest is easy.” In today’s Chronicle, staff writer James Sterngold has no qualms about reporting Kerry’s new clothes without adding a single mention of Kerry’s long anti-military history. And this is not just his opinion, Sterngold assures us: “...experts say the reality is that military strength is one of the few issues on which the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates hold strikingly similar views.”

For support he cites John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a military research institute in Washington: "The war in Iraq has sucked all the air out of the room on this debate," says Pike. "There's no constituency for the debate on what sort of military power we should be. Bush and Kerry do have different visions on how to run our empire, but there is no discussion on whether we should have it."

Oh really? This is why the French are mad for Kerry? Because he is an advocate for America’s military empire? What can correctly be said is that there is no room for a candidate to admit he is a dove. Another of Sterngold's expert witnesses, Thomas Henriksen, a military expert at the Hoover Institution, states the point correctly, even as Sterngold misrepresents him: “Kerry is doing in international affairs what Clinton did domestically. He's positioning himself in the center [emphasis added], and he's really pushing the military issue as a result.”

Talking tough and meaning it are two different things, and we have already seen Kerry in action. 9/11 may have changed everything, but that doesn’t mean it ushered in an unprecedented situation. What it did was put us back in the same situation we were in in 1980, 4 years before the beginning of Kerry’s Senate career, when we faced an implacable foe. Laying down for America’s enemies was not a winning electoral ploy then either, but that didn’t stop Carter from being the antithesis of Reagan. Like the French, Carter thought that American power was the problem, and he threw it away like a Million-Mom marcher throwing away her guns: Nicaragua to the Sandinistas; the Panama Canal to China; Iran to the Mullahs; Afghanistan to the Soviets. Whatever any of our enemies wanted, Carter would not oppose them.

Kerry has always been Carter. His entire Senate career was spent as an attack dog for the Carter wing's anti-military, anti-American-power agenda. (See the recent Newsmax article on The Kerry Committee’s use of the communist Christic Institute to slander the Contras.) But in Sterngold’s supposedly neutral survey of the “experts,” there is not one mention of anyone who questions whether Kerry is really a hawk. Instead, Sterngold devotes almost half of his article to a discussion with Ashton Carter, an ex-Clinton Defense Dept. official who is now a senior military advisor for the Kerry campaign. In effect Sterngold pads his article with direct campaign literature.

Check out this softball:

"We're in total agreement on all sides of that," said Carter [referring to the building of new bases in the Middle East]. "Yes, you have to take the offensive. You can't take the defensive."

Asked if that did not suggest Kerry had more in common with Bush on military issues than was often supposed, Carter agreed.

"I think that's right," Carter said of the similarities. "He recognizes that this is necessary for the U.S."

I have a better question for Mr. Carter: “Why should anyone believe Kerry’s recent hawkish make-over after he tried to cut defense for twenty years, including at the height of the cold war?” There might actually be an answer to that: “In the cold war, Kerry was anti defense because he sided with the Vietnamese and the Sandinistas and the communists in general. He does not side with the Islamic fascists, so you can trust him now.” Wouldn’t it be great if all of a sudden, like Jim Carrey in Liar-Liar, nobody could lie? Republicans would say the same things, but a bit more acerbicly (our acerbic friends excepted). Democrats would all cross their arms in front of their legs like girls caught in the shower.

Sterngold’s sliest disinformation comes when he manages to approve Kerry’s two faced position on troop re-deployments without acknowledging how two faced Kerry actually is on the issue. It is quite a trick. The article opens with an account of Kerry’s attack last Wednesday on Bush’s proposed troop withdrawals from German and South Korea: “Kerry charged Wednesday that the plan would be reckless and costly, weakening crucial foreign alliances just when they were needed most.”

That might sound hawkish to doves, but Sterngold realizes that it isn’t really hawkish to place pork for our one-time German allies above the need for fighting troops in Iraq and elsewhere. Thus he lets the above mentioned Kerry-campaign-operative, Ashton Carter, speak out of the other side of Kerry’s mouth:

"I can imagine (Kerry) even taking some of these actions" described by Bush, Carter said. "You do it quietly."

Thus Sterngold lets Kerry have it both ways (as is Kerry’s wont), but on the quiet, while making no mention of how boldly Kerry has taken opposite sides on troop re-deployment a mere two weeks apart.

As Joe Klein wrote in a Time magazine piece that came out yesterday:

But oops. Some two weeks earlier, in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Kerry had taken a different position: "I think we can significantly change the deployment of troops, not just [in Iraq] but ... in the Korean peninsula, perhaps, in Europe, perhaps." As you might imagine, the Bush campaign quickly pointed out the inconsistency.

And wow, Time Magazine reported it (hat tip, LGF). No such breaches of the party line are allowed at the San Francisco Chronicle. Revealing Kerry’s flip flop would have undermined the whole unmentioned theme of Sterngold’s article: that Kerry’s new clothes can be trusted, so he fails to mention the telling current news about the centerpiece of the article. Can somebody please fire this trash!

The Chronicle's Kerry disinformation is also on display in the three items the paper has run about the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth. After ignoring the Swiftvets detailed and corroborated charges for ten days, the Chronicle last Thursday published the Washington Post’s initial foray on the issue. That was the Michael Dobbs article that attacked Thurlow’s account of the bronze medal incident by noting that it is contradicted by the language of Thurlow’s own bronze medal citation. What Dobbs failed to mention is that one of the Swiftvets’ original charges was that Kerry wrote up embellished after-action reports on which all the medal citations were based. (Either Dobbs never read the Swiftvets chapter that had been made publicly available, or he was happy to omit what he knew was the answer to the criticism of Thurlow that he was raising. Again, can somebody please fire this trash!)

The next day Chronicle staff writer Zachary Coile wrote a long piece covering the accusations that the Swiftvets are are partisan hacks, bought and paid for with Republican money. That article also rehashed the Thurlow story, again omitting the Swiftvets' point that Kerry had written the medal citations, even though Thurlow had the day before reminded reporters of this contention in a press release on the Swiftvets website. (Scroll down to 8/19.) Also, like the Post piece, the Chronicle article made no mention of the blockbuster news that the Kerry campaign had a couple of days earlier conceded one of the Swiftvets main claims: that Kerry was not in Cambodia on Christmas eve 1968, as he often asserted. That would seem to speak to the issue of credibility.

The third Swiftvet item in the Chronicle was Oliphant’s disgusting depiction of the Swiftvets as a bunch of drunken barfly wannabees. Might even San Francisco leftists be bothered at being relentlessly lied to this way?

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