Let’s take a little look at the info that’s available on Kerry’s record on defense items in the Senate. From the looks of it, it seems that initial charges overstated the case in saying Kerry voted “against every major weapons program” while in the Senate. However, it does seem he voted to cancel a significant number of what turned out to be important items, and actually targeted military spending for removal in his Senate campaigns.
Here’s the info, working from broad claims, through “debunking”, to more narrow claims:
About His Record
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): ?They haven?t come to you and said, this system is a great system, and we need this system and John Kerry voted against the system.? (CNN?s ?Live From,? 2/23/04)
RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie On Sen. John Kerry?s Defense And Intelligence Record: ?What he?s not proud of, apparently, is his votes in the United States Senate when it comes to national security policy: votes against the Apache helicopter, votes against the Stealth bomber ? He voted against the first Gulf War in 1991. Those are legitimate, public policy issues. I can cite chapter and verse in the congressional record of his statements on the Senate floor of the votes he has cast. He offered an amendment to cut $1 1/2 billion from our intelligence funds at a time we were engaged and–and needed to be engaged in serious intelligence work relative to the war against terror, a $300 million cut the year before the USS Cole was attacked, a $300 million cut the year before the embassies in East Africa were attacked, a $300 million cut the year before the Khobar Towers were attacked by the terrorists, two years after the first attack on the World Trade Center. That?s legitimate discourse and I can cite documentation.? (CBS? ?Face The Nation,? 2/22/04)
Kerry?s Rhetorical Response
?And, you know, it?s curious to me, George, how angry they get and how, sort of, they throw patriotism around and so forth. I don?t know what it is that all these Republicans who didn?t serve in Vietnam or fight in a war have against those of us who did.? (ABC?s ?This Week,? 2/22/04)
About His Record
Gov. Mark Racicot On Sen. John Kerry?s Defense And Intelligence Record: ?Your proposals and votes as a Senator should be known to the voters as they evaluate the candidates, including: your proposal to cut intelligence spending by $1.5 billion for the five years prior to 2001 (S. 1290, Introduced 9/29/95), your 1996 proposal to cut defense spending by $6.5 billion (S. 1580, Introduced 2/29/96), and your support for canceling or cutting funding for the B-2 Stealth Bomber, the B-1B, the F-15, the F-16, the M1 Abrams, the Patriot Missile, the AH-64 Apache Helicopter, the Tomahawk Cruise Missile, and the Aegis Air-Defense Cruiser. (Brian C. Mooney, ?Taking One Prize, Then A Bigger One,? The Boston Globe, 6/19/03)? (Bush Cheney ?04 Chairman Gov. Mark Racicot, Letter To Senator John Kerry, 2/22/04)
Kerry?s Rhetorical Response
?In a letter to [President] Bush on Saturday, Kerry wrote: ?As you well know, Vietnam was a very difficult and painful period in our nation?s history, and the struggle for our veterans continues. So, it has been hard to believe that you would choose to reopen these wounds for your personal political gain. But, that is what you have chosen to do.?? (Nedra Pickler, ?Kerry Decries Bush Over Attacks On Record,? The Associated Press, 2/22/04)
About His Record
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) On Sen. John Kerry?s Defense And Intelligence Record: ?When at the same time, his history in United States Senate is that he has continuously voted to either reduce or eliminate funding for major weapons systems some of them which are made right here in my state like the F-22 and the C-17. There are others, like the B-2, the F-15, the F-16.? (Fox News? ?Fox News Live,? 2/22/04)
Kerry?s Rhetorical Response
?[Kerry] said the president ?decided once again to take the low road of American politics.? ?Saxby Chambliss, on the part of the president and his henchmen, decided today to question my commitment to the defense of our nation ??? (Nedra Pickler, ?Kerry Decries Bush Over Attacks On Record,? The Associated Press, 2/22/04)
? Sen. Kerry Voted Against B-1 Bomber. (S. 3189, CQ Vote #273: Passed 79-16: R 37-5; D 42-11, 10/15/90, Kerry Voted Nay)
? Sen. Kerry Voted Against B-2 Stealth Bomber. (S. 3189, CQ Vote #273: Passed 79-16: R 37-5; D 42-11, 10/15/90, Kerry Voted Nay)
? Sen. Kerry Voted Against F-14. (H. R. 5803, CQ Vote #319: Adopted 80-17: R 37-6; D 43-11, 10/26/90, Kerry Voted Nay)
? Sen. Kerry Voted Against F-15. (S. 3189, CQ Vote #273: Passed 79-16: R 37-5; D 42-11, 10/15/90, Kerry Voted Nay)
? Sen. Kerry Voted Against F-16. (S. 3189, CQ Vote #273: Passed 79-16: R 37-5; D 42-11, 10/15/90, Kerry Voted Nay)
? Sen. Kerry Voted Against AV-8B Harrier Vertical Takeoff And Landing Jet Fighters. (H.R. 2126, CQ Vote #579: Adopted 59-39: R 48-5; D 11-34, 11/16/95, Kerry Voted Nay)
? Sen. Kerry Voted Against AH-64 Apache Helicopters. (H.R. 2126, CQ Vote #579: Adopted 59-39: R 48-5; D 11-34, 11/16/95, Kerry Voted Nay)
? Sen. Kerry Voted Against Patriot Missiles. (S. 3189, CQ Vote #273: Passed 79-16: R 37-5; D 42-11, 10/15/90, Kerry Voted Nay)
? Sen. Kerry Voted Against Aegis Air Defense Cruiser. (S. 3189, CQ Vote #273: Passed 79-16: R 37-5; D 42-11, 10/15/90, Kerry Voted Nay)
? Sen. Kerry Voted Against Trident Missile System For U.S. Submarines. (S. 3189, CQ Vote #273: Passed 79-16: R 37-5; D 42-11, 10/15/90, Kerry Voted Nay)
? Sen. Kerry Voted Against M-1 Abrams Tanks. (S. 3189, CQ Vote #273: Passed 79-16: R 37-5; D 42-11, 10/15/90, Kerry Voted Nay)
? Sen. Kerry Voted Against Bradley Fighting Vehicle. (S. 3189, CQ Vote #273: Passed 79-16: R 37-5; D 42-11, 10/15/90, Kerry Voted Nay)
? Sen. Kerry Voted Against Tomahawk Cruise Missile. (S. 3189, CQ Vote #273: Passed 79-16: R 37-5; D 42-11, 10/15/90, Kerry Voted Nay)
Now, Snopes.com says it debunks all those claims with this, although it seems to me they only question some of the items - however, the reasoning seems generally valid:
Claim: Senator John Kerry “voted to kill every military appropriation for the development and deployment of every weapons systems since 1988.”
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2004]
Sen. John Kerry Democrat from Massachusetts HE says he is strongest Presidential Candidate on National Defense! He said Check the Record.. We Did ! Here is what we learned. He voted to kill the B-1 Bomber He voted to kill the B-2 Stealth Bomber He voted to kill the F-14 He voted to kill the F-15 Strike Eagle He voted to kill the F-16 He voted to kill the AV-8B Harrier Vertical Takeoff and Landing Jet Fighter He voted to kill the AH-64 Apache Helicopter He voted to kill the Patriot Anti-Missile System He voted to kill the Aegis Anti-Aircraft System He voted to kill the Trident Missile System He voted to kill the M-1 Abrams Tank He voted to kill the Bradley Fighting Vehicle He voted to kill the Tomahawk Cruise Missile In short, he voted to kill every military appropriation for the development and deployment of every weapons systems since 1988 to include the battle armor for our troops. With Kerry as president our Army will be made up of naked men running around with sticks and clubs.
Origins: Numerous variants of this message claiming that Senator John Kerry of Masschusetts “voted to kill every military appropriation for the development and deployment of every weapons systems since 1988” have been circulating since at least February 2004. The message’s implication ? that Senator Kerry distinctly and specifically voted to kill upwards of a dozen different weapons systems ? is inaccurate and grossly misleading, however.
A 22 February 2004 Republican National Committee (RNC) research briefing includes the list of weapons systems found in this message and citations that purportedly support the claim that Senator Kerry voted to kill each one. But all the citations stem from votes on three Congressional bills, none of which were about a specific weapons system or group of weapons systems.
The three votes cited ? regarding S. 3189 (1990), H.R. 5803 (1990), and H.R. 2126 (1995) ? were bills covering fiscal year Department of Defense appropriations, all of which Senator Kerry voted against. (Two of those three votes were not technically on defense appropriations per se, but on House-Senate conference committee reports for defense appropriations bills.) As the text of a typical defense appropriations bill shows, such bills cover the entire governmental expenditures for defense in a given fiscal year and encompass thousands of items totalling hundreds of billions of dollars ? including everything from the cost of developing, testing, purchasing, and maintaining weapons and other equipment to personnel expenses (salaries, medical benefits, tuition assistance, reenlistment bonuses), medical research, hazardous waste cleanup, facilities maintenance, and a whole host of other disbursements. Members of Congress ultimately vote “yea” or “nay” on an entire appropriations bill; they don’t pick and choose to approve some items and reject others.
Senators and Representatives might vote against a defense appropriations bill for any numbers of reasons ? because they object to the presence or absence of a particular item, because they feel that the government is proposing to spend too much or too little money on defense, or anything in-between. Maintaining, as is the case here, that a Senator who voted “nay” on one year’s defense appropriations bill therefore voted to “kill” a variety of specific weapons systems is like claiming that any Congressman who has ever voted against a defense appropriations bill has therefore also voted to abolish the U.S. military.
The inclusion of some of the items listed here is all the more ridiculous given that they were weapons systems that a previous Republican administration advocated eliminating. For example, it was Dick Cheney himself, in his capacity as Secretary of Defense under President George H.W. Bush, who testified before the House Armed Services Committee on 13 August 1989 that he had recommended cancelling the AH-64 Apache Helicopter program:
The Army, as I indicated in my earlier testimony, recommended to me that we keep a robust Apache helicopter program going forward. AH-64 . . . forced the Army to make choices. I said, "You can't have all three. We don't have the money for all three." So I recommended that we cancel the AH-64 program two years out. That would save $1.6 billion in procurement and $200 million in spares over the next five years.
(Note that this testimony took place over six years before Senator Kerry supposedly voted to “kill” the AH-64.)
Likewise, on 1 February 1992, Secretary of Defense Cheney complained to the Senate Armed Services Committee that he was being “forced” to spend money on unneeded weapons such as the M-1, the F-14, and the F-16:
Congress has let me cancel a few programs. But you've squabbled and sometimes bickered and horse-traded and ended up forcing me to spend money on weapons that don't fill a vital need in these times of tight budgets and new requirements . . . You've directed me to buy more M-1s, F-14s, and F-16s ? all great systems . . . but we have enough of them.
And President Bush noted in his 1992 State of the Union address that he was phasing out several weapons systems, including the B-2, to “reflect the changes of the new era”:
Two years ago, I began planning cuts in military spending that reflected the changes of the new era. But now, this year, with imperial communism gone, that process can be accelerated. Tonight I can tell you of dramatic changes in our strategic nuclear force. These are actions we are taking on our own because they are the right thing to do. After completing 20 planes for which we have begun procurement, we will shut down further production of the B-2 bombers. We will cancel the small ICBM program. We will cease production of new warheads for our sea-based ballistic missiles. We will stop all new production of the Peacekeeper missile. And we will not purchase any more advanced cruise missiles.
Last updated: 26 July 2004
However, the Snopes.com article does and cannot deal with this, which is John Kerry’s own Senate campaign materials specifically targeting Reagan’s military spending:
Kerry unleashed a campaign memo in 1984 saying, among other things:
Congress, rather than having the moral courage to challenge the Reagan Administration, has given Ronald Reagan almost every military requiest he has made, no matter how wasteful, no matter how useless, no matter how dangerous. The biggest defense buildup since World War II has not given us a better defense. Americans feel more threatened by the prospect of war, not less so. And our national priorities become more and more distorted as the share of our country?s resources devoted to human needs diminishes.
Those aren’t the words of somebody who was serious about fighting the Cold War. Those are the words of a committed dove.
Remember, this isn’t from 1992, when the Gulf War victory and Soviet collapse were recent events. This is in the first half of 1984, just a few months after the Soviet Union shot down KAL flight 007. The Soviets and their puppets were still in complete control of “New Europe.” Lech Walesa was under house arrest, Vaclav Havel was about to be imprisoned again, Cuban troops were wreaking havoc in Africa, Nicaraguan Communist forces were doing their level best to take over the rest of Central America for the Soviets, and the Soviets’ own military buildup was continuing apace.
There was no “glasnost” visible on the horizon in those days; they were among the darkest of the long Cold War. But Kerry still explicitly called for the outright cancellation of:
- MX Missile — Cancel — $5.0 billion
- B-1 Bomber — Cancel — $8.0 billion
- Anti-satellite system — Cancel — $ 99 million
- Star Wars [sic] — Cancel — $1.3 billion
- Tomahawk Missile — Reduce by 50 per cent — $294 million
- AH-64 Helicopters — Cancel — $1.4 billion
- Division Air Defense Gun (DIVAD) — Cancel — $638 million
- Patriot Air Defense Missile — Cancel — $1.3 billion
- Aegis Air-Defense Cruiser — Cancel — $800 million
- Battleship Reactivation — Cancel — $453 million
- AV-8B Vertical Takeoff and Landing Aircraft — Cancel — $1.0 billion
- F-15 Fighter Aircraft — Cancel — $2.3 billion
- F-14A Fighter Aircraft — Cancel — $1.0 billion
- F-14D Fighter Aircraft — Cancel — $286 million
- Phoenix Air-to-Air Missile — Cancel — $432 million
- Sparrow Air-to-Air Missile
Just taking the last section, as somebody who’s been working on fighter jets and air-to-air weapons for the last decade, I can’t even imagine how our armed forces would be able to operate today if Kerry’s advice had been heeded. Certainly we would not have been able to fight the Gulf War, or Afghanistan, or the liberation of Iraq. More likely, we’d have a small caretaker force today, something more resembling Canada or one of the lesser Euro states.
So, it seems that some of Zell Miller’s criticism’s were right on the mark.