T Nation

Kerry's Senate Record, Generally

An article from back in the Democratic primaries (when having a liberal voting record was a positive thing, politically) examines Kerry’s Senate record. Overall, a very balanced article - as to Kerry’s record, decide for yourselves:


Kerry’s 19 Years in Senate Invite Scrutiny

By Helen Dewar and Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, February 8, 2004; Page A01

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) never fails to win applause on the campaign trail when he tells audiences, “I know something about aircraft carriers for real.” It is a mocking reference to President Bush’s “mission accomplished” carrier landing last spring and a reminder that Kerry was a decorated naval officer in Vietnam.

But 20 years ago, in his first Senate campaign, Kerry talked a different language about national defense, denouncing President Ronald Reagan’s military buildup and calling for cuts of about $50 billion in the Pentagon budget, including the cancellation of a long list of weapons systems, from the B-1 bomber to the Patriot antimissile system to F-14A, F-14D and F-15 fighter jets.

As Kerry campaigns to lock up the Democratic presidential nomination, the battle to define him for a possible general election campaign against the president already has begun. The Kerry campaign and his opponents are mining his record – from his service in Vietnam, to his antiwar activities when he returned, to his positions as candidate and legislator – for ammunition.

Kerry’s 19-year record in the Senate includes thousands of votes, floor statements and debates, committee hearings and news conferences. That long paper trail shows that, on most issues, Kerry built a solidly liberal record, including support for abortion rights, gun control and environmental protection, and opposition to costly weapons programs, tax cuts for wealthy Americans and a 1996 federal law designed to discourage same-sex marriages.

But there are exceptions to that generally liberal voting record. Kerry voted for the welfare overhaul bill in 1996 that President Bill Clinton signed over the vociferous opposition of the party’s liberal wing; supported free-trade pacts, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement that organized labor opposed; backed deficit-reduction efforts in the mid-1980s, which many other Democrats opposed; and was distinctly cool toward Clinton’s health care proposal, which died after being pilloried as the embodiment of big government.

Kerry advisers see a record that demonstrates expertise with domestic and foreign policy issues, a depth of experience on national security – in and out of the Senate – that equips him to become commander in chief without on-the-job training and an acquaintance with world leaders that would give him instant credibility as president. In short, they see a record that matches up well against the sitting president, who intends to make the war on terrorism a central campaign issue.

His opponents see a record that leaves Kerry far more vulnerable. Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, in a Jan. 29 speech, accused Kerry of being soft on defense, out of the mainstream on social issues and an heir to the liberal tradition of Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and 1988 Democratic nominee Michael S. Dukakis. Kerry’s record, Gillespie charged, “is one of advocating policies that would weaken our national security.”

Kerry has walked away from some of his 1984 campaign proposals to cancel weapons systems that have become central to the U.S. military arsenal unleashed on Afghanistan and Iraq while defending his overall record as a senator. Kerry told the Boston Globe earlier this year some of the proposed cancellations were “ill-advised” and “stupid,” blaming his inexperience as a candidate and a campaign that drove him to the left politically.

Stephanie Cutter, Kerry’s communications director, said in an e-mail response to questions about Kerry’s record that the senator’s views on weapons programs “evolved” once he was in office and that he used his votes to voice opposition to a defense budget he thought was “explosive and irresponsible” during Reagan’s presidency. She said Kerry has supported “responsible and appropriate” requests for defense spending, including major increases under Bush.

Kerry also proposed cuts in funding for the CIA during the 1990s but now advocates a more robust intelligence operation. A Kerry adviser said his proposed intelligence cuts were part of a broader proposal to reduce the deficit and that his goal was to reduce dependence on technological intelligence gathering and buttress human intelligence resources.

Beyond that, say Bush campaign officials, Kerry is a legislator who has few legislative accomplishments and is open to criticism for hypocrisy, as someone who votes one way and then describes those votes another way, and for political expedience, a politician who changes with the times.

Kerry supported Bush’s education proposal, known as the No Child Left Behind policy, but is now a sharp critic of the act. He, like almost everyone in the Senate, supported the USA Patriot Act after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but now denounces Attorney General John D. Ashcroft for aggressively implementing it. In the late 1980s, Kerry opposed the death penalty for terrorists who killed Americans abroad but now supports capital punishment for terrorist acts.

Although Kerry describes himself as a fiscal conservative and moderate on other issues, he ranked as the ninth most liberal senator in the National Journal’s comparison of voting records for 2002. He ranked even higher – more liberal than Kennedy – on economic issues, although about the same on social issues and more conservative on foreign policy. Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal group, rated Kerry more liberal than Kennedy during the time they served together in the Senate, although by only 1 percentage point.

Kerry has one of the Senate’s most consistent records in support of abortion rights, including voting against a bill passed last year to ban what critics call “partial birth” abortion procedures. He has also voted against several proposals to require parental notification before a minor can get an abortion, although campaign sides said he favors – and has voted for – some “adult” involvement in the decision – by judge, doctor or counselor, if not a parent.

He has also been in the forefront of efforts to strengthen laws protecting the environment, most recently including an unsuccessful fight to require tougher fuel efficiency standards and another (successful so far) to keep the ban on drilling for oil and gas in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Kerry has voted against Bush’s tax-cut proposals, usually supporting Democratic alternatives that provide more relief to lower- and middle-income taxpayers and less to the rich, those making more than $200,000. He opposed the Medicare prescription drug bill that Bush signed late last year but missed the vote on final passage of the measure. In 1996, he was one of 14 senators, all Democrats, to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act, which said no state would have to recognize a same-sex marriage from another state. But Kerry has said during the campaign that he opposes gay marriage.

In perhaps his biggest break with liberal orthodoxy, Kerry was one of relatively few Democrats to vote for the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings bill in the 1980s to force spending cuts to meet binding budget targets. Later he voted to give presidents “line-item veto” authority over individual items in appropriations bills.

Nowhere has Kerry been challenged more for voting one way and talking another than on Iraq, both for his vote in support of the war in 2002 and his vote opposing the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

In 2002, he voted for the resolution authorizing Bush to go to war unilaterally, but then became one of Bush’s harshest critics for having done so. Kerry, in his floor speech before the vote, warned Bush to build an international coalition through the United Nations, but the resolution did not require the president to gain U.N. approval before going to war. Kerry later said he was voting not for the use of force but for the threat of force.

In January 1991, Kerry opposed the resolution authorizing Bush’s father to go to war to eject Iraq from Kuwait, arguing that the U.N. sanctions then in place should be given more time to work. When former Vermont governor Howard Dean recently challenged Kerry to square those two votes, aides said that the 1991 vote was not one in opposition to the use of force, just as Kerry has said his 2002 vote was not in support of the use of force.

In his 1991 floor speech, Kerry accused President George H.W. Bush of engaging in a “rush to war” – language similar to that he used in criticizing the current president on the eve of the Iraq war a year ago. Kerry argued in 1991 that there was no need to pass the resolution to send a message threatening force against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, although that was his justification for supporting the 2002 resolution.

Before and after last year’s war on Iraq, Kerry criticized the president for failing to assemble the kind of coalition Bush’s father put together in 1991. But in his 1991 floor statement, Kerry was dismissive of the elder Bush’s coalition. That effort, he said, lacked “a true United Nations collective security effort,” and he was critical of the then-president for trading favors for China’s support and cozying up to Syria, despite its human rights record.

“I regret that I do not see a new world order in the United States going to war with shadow battlefield allies who barely carry a burden,” he said then. “It is too much like the many flags policy of the old order in Vietnam, where other countries were used to try to mask the unilateral reality. I see international cooperation; yes, I see acquiescence to our position; I see bizarre new bedfellows and alliances, but I question if it adds up to a new world order.”

The language raises the question of what kind of international coalition meets Kerry’s standards. Cutter said that, in 1991, Kerry was concerned that the United States would bear a disproportionate burden of the casualties, despite the coalition assembled, and preferred to give Hussein “a little more time” to withdraw before launching the war.

From his Senate colleagues, Kerry gets high marks for intellectual skills and hard work but has the same reputation for aloofness – some say arrogance – that dogged his presidential campaign, at least in its early days.

Working his entire Senate career in Kennedy’s shadow, Kerry had to fight for attention and choose issues such as the environment and fiscal discipline that did not get in the way of Kennedy’s signature causes, principally health care and education.

Kerry’s high-profile investigations, such as his probes of the deposed leader of Panama, Gen. Manuel Noriega, and the scandal-ridden Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), have led some colleagues to complain privately that he has been more of a show horse than a workhorse.

Others argue that the investigations bore fruit and point to his POW-MIA hearings on whether Americans were still being held in Vietnam, noting that they led to eventual normalization of relations between the two countries. Also, Kerry supporters say he has been intensely involved in difficult behind-the-scenes work on environmental and other legislation for which he has received little public credit.

As Dean pointed out in a debate in South Carolina, Kerry has few if any laws that bear his name. But neither do many other influential senators, because most bills are folded into other legislation and put in final form by committees, whose senior members are usually identified as sponsors. Kerry is a senior member of the foreign relations, finance and commerce committees but has chaired only the small-business committee – a far less prestigious panel than the others – for a brief period.

“He’s intelligent, he’s serious, a real hard worker . . . but he’s not in the cloakroom telling dirty jokes . . . like some of 'em,” said Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.), who has endorsed Kerry’s presidential bid. Hollings and Kerry disagree on many issues, including trade, but Hollings remembers how Kerry helped him with legislation to protect the textile industry during the 1980s.

According to a Republican senator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Kerry is viewed by many GOP senators as a political clone of Kennedy. “They don’t know him very well because they haven’t worked with him,” this senator said. “And Kerry doesn’t go out of his way to be loved by everybody.”

But Republicans who have worked with him, especially the closely knit bipartisan brotherhood of Vietnam veterans in the Senate, see a more complicated portrait of Kerry. “He’s bright, very articulate, tough . . . the complete package,” said Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), a Vietnam vet who is personally close to Kerry. “He’s the most difficult opponent we can face in November.”

Staff researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.

I’ll put this here rather than start a new thread – just what will John Kerry deign to allow us silly voters to question him about anyway?



It’s hard to criticize John Kerry these days. Apparently, every criticism of him is unfair.
At least, we’re not supposed to criticize his time in Vietnam – or even what he’s said about Vietnam more recently – because that would be a “smear” (even when the Kerry campaign admits, as it has regarding Kerry’s Christmas-in-Cambodia claims, that he hasn’t been telling the truth). That he served in Vietnam 35 years ago, we’re told, tells us all we need to know about his character.

But what he did more recently, in testifying against his fellow soldiers and opposing the war after returning, doesn’t tell us anything about his character at all, because it was a long time ago – nearly 35 years! So we’re not supposed to talk about that.

And, apparently, it’s unfair to talk about his record in the Senate, as Zell Miller did Wednesday night, because, well, those Senate votes are so complicated that nobody can really understand them anyway. (You can see Chris Matthews trying – without much success – to make this argument here, on video.)

So what’s left? His time as Michael Dukakis’s Lieutenant Governor?
Actually, that’s off limits, too:

[Begin excerpt] Kerry's decision to keep Dukakis at arm's length may be an effort to avoid a repeat of Dukakis' defeat.  In the 1988 presidential race, Bush's campaign successfully painted Dukakis as a Massachusetts liberal out of touch with most of America. [End excerpt]

But the Dukakis parallels are hard to escape. And, in fact, even some Democrats are making the comparison:

[Begin excerpt] A friend of mine tracked me down a little while ago to relate a dream.  He was walking through a big office that he realized was the headquarters of the Kerry campaign.  He saw a door marked "Campaign Manager" and entered, to see Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill, appropriately enough, sitting behind the desk.  As he drew nearer, however, the woman suddenly ripped off her Cahill mask, behind which was ... Susan Estrich, Michael Dukakis' campaign manager!  At that point, he woke up screaming. [End excerpt]

Ouch. The difference, perhaps, is that the Bush campaign isn’t having to paint Kerry as out of touch – he’s doing it himself. He certainly did it in his screechy and off-key response to President Bush Friday morning. As Ann Althouse notes, Kerry’s haughty and demeaning approach isn’t likely to play with voters:

[Begin excerpt] So, your big answer, after all of these attacks, is that you somehow "will not have" any questions.  I simply will not have it.  You hear that?  He does not want to be questioned.  He went to Vietnam, and therefore, he simply will not have any questions about whether he has the qualifications to be President.  Come on, that's a roar, isn't it?

And by the way, any man who didn't volunteer to go to Vietnam who was of age at the time--all you Baby Boomer men who had student deferments or even if you served in the National Guard, I mean were in the National Guard--you were all refusing to serve. [End excerpt]

Apparently, anyone who wasn’t in a swiftboat in Cambodia [er, I mean somewhere in Vietnam] is a traitor, or something.

And Kerry complains that people are questioning his patriotism?

Actually, from his perspective, it’s worse: they’re questioning his viability as a candidate. As Virginia Postrel observes:

[Begin excerpt] John Kerry made Bush look even better with his petulant and rambling midnight address. What was he thinking?  Doesn't Kerry have advisers to tell him not to give poorly prepared speeches that project desperation? [End excerpt]

Apparently not. Kerry’s response has been – as in the past – to blame his staff:

[Begin excerpt] Sen. John Kerry is angry at the way his campaign has botched the attacks from the Swift boat veterans and has ordered a staff shakeup that will put former Clinton aides in top positions.

"The candidate is furious," a longtime senior Kerry adviser told the Daily News.  "He knows the campaign was wrong.  He wanted to go after the Swift boat attacks, but his top aides said no." [End excerpt]

I’m reminded of the old Saturday Night Live skit involving a debate between Michael Dukakis, played by Jon Lovitz, and George H.W. Bush, played by Dana Carvey. At one point, Lovitz/Dukakis turns to the camera and says, “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy!” I guess if it were remade for this election, Kerry would be turning to the camera and saying, “I can’t believe my staff is losing to this guy!”

One question for voters – among many, many others that we’re apparently not supposed to be asking – is this: If Kerry can’t run a campaign, how can he run the Presidency?


I tried to talk about Kerry’s record before – what do you think of the first article above?

Pretty good first article, with a bias that there is dirt on Kerry (“and this is what the dirt is”). I didn’t read the second post, I don’t care what Republican bloggers say against Kerry. Sorry. I just don’t care. Plus I don’t want to read any posts where I need a map in order to figure out who’s saying what…

A caveat that I am not an expert on Kerry, although I like him and he is my candidate this election…

First, many of the weapons and defense bills that Kerry voted against, were also opposed by the same people who try to criticize his record now, like Dick Cheney. I am going to start a thread on Cheney’s voting record on defense, I think you will be surprised how closely Cheney’s positions resembled Kerry’s.

The article’s comment about Kerry working on Iran-Contra and the BCCI investigation, and the ridiculous quote about how that makes him “a show horse, not a work horse” WTF does that imply??? That no actual work was done? I had no idea that the BCCI case was so glamorous. Did you? Then a few paragraphs down they say Kerry works on many projects while getting no credit. So it’s a throw-garbage-against-the-wall and decide for yourself what sticks kind of article. You can find anonymous petty attacks against anyone, and quoting this anonymous “show horse” snipe was off the mark and irresponsible journalism.

Also, the claims that Kerry is the X-most liberal Senator (pick your ranking, this article says he’s #7) seem to usually be flawed. Picking a single year to survey someone’s entire record (in this case 2002, if I recall) is not as accurate as taking a long term survey. When you look at Kerry’s entire career, he is more accurately seen as a moderate.

As far as the charge of Kerry changing his position to conform to the times (I think that is how they termed it) how would you describe the people who say “9-11 changed everything”? Aren’t they changing their positions based on current events? I think that is rather extreme comparison, but that the point is that changing your policies to conform to changes in the political landscape or changes in society is not unreasonable. How have your own political ideas evolved over the last 20 years? How have any politician’s political ideas evolved over the last 20 years?

All in all I think Kerry has a good record in the Senate, and he was working in public service (as compared to George Bush. What was he doing during those 20 years? Losing investors money? Insider trading? Partying?)

[quote]Lumpy wrote:
Also, the claims that Kerry is the X-most liberal Senator (pick your ranking, this article says he’s #7) seem to usually be flawed. Picking a single year to survey someone’s entire record (in this case 2002, if I recall) is not as accurate as taking a long term survey. When you look at Kerry’s entire career, he is more accurately seen as a moderate.


Kerry was ranked as the most liberal senator in 2003 and John Edwards was #4

[quote]Lumpy wrote:
Also, the claims that Kerry is the X-most liberal Senator (pick your ranking, this article says he’s #7) seem to usually be flawed. Picking a single year to survey someone’s entire record (in this case 2002, if I recall) is not as accurate as taking a long term survey. When you look at Kerry’s entire career, he is more accurately seen as a moderate.

Kerry was the most liberal senator in 2003 and 3 other times

[quote]Lumpy wrote:
Pretty good first article, with a bias that there is dirt on Kerry (“and this is what the dirt is”). I didn’t read the second post, I don’t care what Republican bloggers say against Kerry. Sorry. I just don’t care. Plus I don’t want to read any posts where I need a map in order to figure out who’s saying what… [/quote]

I think that article was fairly balanced in its presentation of Kerry’s record.

[Laughing] Lumpy, I don’t think anyone save a newbie has any doubts about your vote. Same thing surely applies to me…

If you do, be certain to put the dates of the votes in. I’ve heard this one, but I think it’s a false comparison because Cheney’s votes came in the early 90s after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, whereas Kerry was pushing for ending the weapons spending back in the pre-Glasnost days of Andropov.

Actually, I do remember those cases being high profile in the news – it’s not surprising Kerry gravitated toward “trials” rather than legislation, given his background as a former prosecutor in Massachusetts. I believe he was an assistant AG, but that’s from memory of reading some bio article or other. One thing about the AG’s office in most areas – they tend to produce a lot of “show horses.”

As to what the term implies, I think they’re saying he was more of a guy who was around when the cameras were rolling rather than someone who would get down into the nitty-gritty legislative details. The Washingtonian Magazine recently had an issue in which congressional staffers rated the Senators and Members – I think McCain ranked as the top “showhorse” in the Republican Party, for what it’s worth…

As to “throwing garbage” I think they were trying to present a balanced view with the different perspectives more than trying to “throw garbage.”

Honestly, I’m not bothered by the fact he doesn’t have his name on a lot of bills. What bothers me more is his ability to take both sides of an issue very forcefully – because to me it seems he doesn’t believe in some of those positions.

I want a leader who believes he is doing the right thing – I think that’s part of leadership (as opposed to politics and poll-driven positions). Obviously, I’m not saying someone should go against the majority just to be contrarian, or ignore evidence that indicates the position is incorrect, but something about Kerry’s inconsistent positions doesn’t sit well – and, from the way the “flip-flop” label seems to be sticking, apparently a lot of people feel the same way. That’s one reason I’m voting for Bush.

I lived in Massachusetts for a few years. Kerry has a reputation in his home state as very liberal – which is what they like there. I think any particular rating might not mean much, but given that liberal organizations in their voter recommendations have consistently rated him highly and conservative orgs have consistently rated him low – compared to other Senators mind you – I think he has generally pleased his Massachusetts constituents.

However, if you feel he is moderate, I would like you to perhaps flesh that out a little bit – do you mean “moderate” as in balanced, so that he has some conservative positions to balance out his liberal positions, which makes his overall record “moderate”, or do you mean that most of his positions are really not liberal?

See above.

However, I think that’s a fair point, to the extent he explains the change in his views and what brought it about. However, I haven’t heard Kerry explain which of his old, liberal positions were wrong or why he thinks they’re wrong now, or how his overall thinking has changed. I think one can make a good-faith change based on a change of perspective – however, it seems to me Kerry’s positions have only modified because his eyes are on the national constituency, which is more moderate than the Massachusetts voting population.

Had to bash Bush a little eh? And I don’t think I’ve heard the “insider trading” one before… You’re getting creative.

Anyway, if you really want to examine Bush’s record as an executive, you should try to do so fairly. It was actually a big topic of legal/business academia a few years ago, when I was in law school, how to make a compensation package that actually rewarded an executive for something in his control, rather than rewarding him for being in a favored industry or punishing him for being in an industry that was suffering. I think if you look back at G.W.'s tenure as an energy exec you would note that it was a very tough time to be in the oil business, particularly in Texas. To really guage how he did as an exec you’d have to look at the performance of similar-sized companies in the industry during the same timeframe as his tenure. But that’s getting into history, academics, and fairness, which is a bit too much for politics. And, to be fair, it’s usually a bit too much for the market as well…

Anyway, sorry for that digression. Bottom line is that I’m going to vote for Bush because, to the extent I am displeased with Bush on certain issues such as spending and trade (for trade, just his first 2 years), I think Kerry would be measurably worse, and on issues that I’m pleased with Bush, such as taxes, Kerry is an anethema. On Iraq, I think Kerry might pull out too soon, which would be worse than messing up certain things that slow progress, which is what I think about Bush right now. And the reason I don’t trust Kerry to stay the course in Iraq has everything to do with what I wrote about him above.

[quote]BostonBarrister wrote:
However, if you feel he is moderate, I would like you to perhaps flesh that out a little bit – do you mean “moderate” as in balanced, so that he has some conservative positions to balance out his liberal positions, which makes his overall record “moderate”, or do you mean that most of his positions are really not liberal?[/quote]

The liberal candidate in this election is Ralph Nader. Do you equate Kerry and Nader? Come on. As far as Kerry’s positions, an extensive rundown at this site, which rates him as “Moderate Liberal”. (Note: this site ranks “every” US politician, if you are curious):

This is common, including for the Republican party. Look how many Republicans have changed their position on abortion, in order to make themselves more marketable to a national constituency? Kerry never changed his position 100% on a life-and-death issue like abortion. Is it okay when Republicans do it? As far as flip-flopping, that is the buzzword created by the PR people in the Republican party. It’s quite catchy, but it ignores the realities, such as the fact that your candidate Bush has flip-flopped on a whole host of issues in the last 4 years alone. In fact I dare say he is a worse flip-flopper than Kerry.

Sorry but the guy is dirty. He is corrupt. This administration is the worst example of cronyism in modern history. Almost every political decision is made with an eye on how best to make money for the campaign contributors and the big industries that Team Bush came from, at the expense of taxpayers. Plus they have lied about so SO many things. And the sheer incompetence of some of these people.

Take Condi Rice. Would we need to create a whole new Intelligence Czar position, if she could actually do her job as National Security Advisor? I don’t think so.

Look into how Bush dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Harken stock, just a couple of months before they released a financial report saying that they were taking a dump. The SEC looked into it, and took no action. Coincidentally, a family friend was head of the SEC at the time. Coincidence? If George Bush was named George Smith he would be working at a Dairy Queen, not our president.

Kerry’s not perfect, but no politicians are, because nobody is. But he is a damned sight better than the crooks and the bumblers we have in there now.

[quote]Lumpy wrote:


First, many of the weapons and defense bills that Kerry voted against, were also opposed by the same people who try to criticize his record now, like Dick Cheney. I am going to start a thread on Cheney’s voting record on defense, I think you will be surprised how closely Cheney’s positions resembled Kerry’s. [/quote]

Kerry voted against this stuff in 1984 at the height of the coldwar. Cheney testified against it in 1989 after the fall of communism.

[quote]Lumpy wrote:
BostonBarrister wrote:
However, if you feel he is moderate, I would like you to perhaps flesh that out a little bit – do you mean “moderate” as in balanced, so that he has some conservative positions to balance out his liberal positions, which makes his overall record “moderate”, or do you mean that most of his positions are really not liberal?

The liberal candidate in this election is Ralph Nader. Do you equate Kerry and Nader? Come on. As far as Kerry’s positions, an extensive rundown at this site, which rates him as “Moderate Liberal”. (Note: this site ranks “every” US politician, if you are curious):

This doesn’t really follow. I was asking about Kerry’s positions, not Nader’s. If Pat Buchanan were running on Bush’s right (certain issues anyway), would that make Bush more centered? Only in relation to Buchanan, but not in relation to the electorate, which, I think, is the relevant measuring stick.

As to the insider trading, if it was a couple months ahead of the report, he would have to have been privy to much better inside information than I’ve generally seen as corporate counsel. They usually start putting the numbers together in usable form much closer to when the reports are due.

Anyway, I think Kerry’s record of changing positions in the political wind is a big liability – to me, it’s just one more liability, but to a swing voter it might be decisive. Also, his liberal voting record is a negative.

But really, his biggest negative so far has been believing that “Anybody But Bush” would be enough. Kerry hasn’t sold his alternative vision of what should be done – all he’s offered is criticism, which makes him sound like an old scold - not a leader - to middle-of-the-road voters.

Some choice Kerry flip-flops:

Death penalty for Terorrists:

FIRST HE SAID: Between 1989 and 1993, John Kerry voted three times against giving terrorists the death penalty.
He went so far as to tell former Gov. William Weld, his 1996 GOP Senate opponent, that “'Your policy would amount to a terrorist protection policy.”

THEN HE SAID: In the wake of September 11, Kerry changed his mind. In Dec 2002 he said: “I am for the death penalty for terrorists because terrorists have declared war on your country. I support killing people who declare war on our country.”

The Patriot Act:

FIRST HE SAID: John Kerry voted for the Patriot Act in 2001 and even wrote parts of it himself.

THEN HE SAID: “It is time to end the era of John Ashcroft. That starts with replacing the Patriot Act with a new law that protects our people and our liberties at the same time.” -John Kerry, December 2003

“Gay Marriage”

FIRST HE SAID: In 1996, Kerry opposed federal legislation that would define marriage as between a man and a woman: “This is an unconstitutional, unprecedented, unnecessary and mean-spirited bill.” In 2002 he joined Barney Frank and other members of his state’s congressional delegation in signing a letter asking the Massachusetts legislature to reject a constitutional amendment that would outlaw homosexual marriage: “We believe it would be a grave error for Massachusetts to enshrine in our Constitution a provision which would have such a negative effect on so many of our fellow residents.” (USA Today, 2/11/04 http://www.usatoday.com/news/politicselections/nation/president/2004-02-11-kerry-gay-marriage_x.htm )

THEN HE SAID: In February 2004, Kerry told reporters: “I support equal rights, the right of people to have civil unions, to have partner rights. I do not support marriage” for gays and lesbians. Asked if he would support a state constitutional amendment barring gay and lesbian marriages, Kerry didn’t rule out the possibility. “I’ll have to see what language there is,” he said.

Speaking of Abortion…

FIRST HE SAID: Kerry promised during the primaries to appoint to the Supreme Court only justices who favor Roe v. Wade because “people who go to the Supreme Court ought to interpret the Constitution as it is interpreted, and if they have another point of view, then they’re not supporting the Constitution, which is what a judge does.”

THEN HE SAID: In April 2004, he said that he would be willing to appoint anti-Roe justices so long as the Court had a pro-Roe majority.
(“Supporting the Constitution” was apparently no longer a requirement for his nominees.)

THEN HE SAID: The abortion lobby expressed its displeasure, and reasonably so given its principles ? if Clinton had followed that policy, the Court might have upheld bans on partial-birth abortion and pro-lifers would need to switch only one more vote to overturn Roe. So now Kerry is saying that he will nominate only pro-Roe justices.

The flop-flip was accompanied by some unconvincing spin. Here’s what Kerry said yesterday: “I will not appoint somebody with a 5-4 court who’s about to undo Roe v. Wade. I’ve said that before. But that doesn’t mean that if that’s not the balance of the court I wouldn’t be prepared ultimately to appoint somebody to some court who has a different point of view. I’ve already voted for people like that. I voted for Judge Scalia.” Nedra Pickler’s AP story has Kerry aides saying that “some court” was a reference to lower federal courts, not the Supreme Court.

Aides said later that “some court” was not a reference to the Supreme Court, only lower federal benches. That is hard to reconcile with his prefatory reference to a 5-4 Supreme Court or with the Scalia example ? in other words, with anything he said.

Still unclear is whether he would appoint appeals-court judges who are anti-Roe. But he has been supporting filibusters of Bush judicial nominees for less than that: A major complaint against Priscilla Owen has been that she read a parental-notification law in a way the abortion lobby found disagreeable.
? by Ramesh Ponnuru, originally posted in The Corner

Some foreign-policy…

The Cuban Embargo

FIRST HE SAID: Kerry takes a tough line on the Cuban embargo. Sometimes. He was a big advocate of tough Helms-Burton legislation in 1996, which he still mentions, but he didn’t actually vote for it.

Last year he still didn’t know what he thought about Cuba: ‘‘I haven’t resolved what to do. I’m going to talk to a lot of people in Florida.’’ In August 2003 he told Tim Russert that he was against lifting sanctions: “Not Now. No.”

THEN HE SAID:A few days later, he wanted to allow “humanitarian” travel and interactions with Cuba that would end “the isolation that in my judgment helps Castro.”
(For more, see Peter Kirsanow, “Cuban Waffles” http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/kirsanow200403180824.asp )

Israeli Security Fence

FIRST HE SAID: ?I know how disheartened Palestinians are by the Israeli government’s decision to build a barrier off the green line, cutting deeply into Palestinian areas. We do not need another barrier to peace.? John Kerry, Oct. 17 2003

THEN HE SAID: ?Israel’s security fence is a legitimate act of self defense.?John Kerry, Feb. 25, 2004 [Note: Uh oh, this was the first sign Kerry was part of the Jewish neo-con conspiracy…]

And, of course, Iraq…


FIRST HE SAID: On Face the Nation on 9/14/04, Kerry discussed an amendment he was pushing as part of the $87 billion funding bill for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Asked if he would support the bill even without the amendment, he replied, “I don’t think any United States senator is going to abandon our troops and recklessly leave Iraq to whatever follows as a result of simply cutting and running. That’s irresponsible.”

He added “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.”

THEN HE SAID: Kerry voted against the bill in October 2003. He later infamously replied to a Republican ad highlighting the vote by saying, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.” (For more see Barbara Comstock, “Where the Dem Was” http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comstock200403171310.asp )


FIRST HE SAID: John Kerry sounded like President Bush before the war. In a September 2002 New York Times op-ed he wrote: “If Saddam Hussein is unwilling to bend to the international community’s already existing order, then he will have invited enforcement…even if that enforcement is mostly at the hands of the United States, a right we retain even if the Security Council fails to act.”

Kerry voted for authorization to use force in Iraq on October 11 that same fall.

THEN HE SAID: By January 6, 2004, Kerry is a self-identified antiwar candidate: On Hardball, Chris Matthews asked 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, Edwards and Gephardt? Are you one of the antiwar candidates?”

Kerry replied: “I am ? Yes, in the sense that I don’t believe the president took us to war as he should have, yes, absolutely.”

This laundry list is idiotic.

For example, you say that Kerry authored parts of the Patriot Act. but now he wants to repeal it.

DUH??? Do you have a clue how many pages and how many regulations the Patriot Act contains? It’s laughable for you to cite that.

Then you cite the death penalty for terrorists issue. Before 9-11, Kerry was against it. After 9-11, Kerry is for it. Since you Bushies love to talk about how “9-11 changes everything” it’s stupid to even bring this up.

The president has flip-flopped on dozens of policies and positions, for example:

the 9-11 commission
the Dept of Homeland Security
the reasons for attacking Iraq
investigating the WMD intelligence failure

More Bush Flip-Flops here:

And hasn’t George Bush changed his abortion stance? Wasn’t he quoted in the local paper as saying that abortion is a decision best left to a woman and her doctor, when he ran for Congress in the 70s?

Answer: yes

And isn’t his position now a cop-out? “I’m against abortion, but I’m not going to push my unpopular position with the voters”?

[quote]Lumpy wrote:
This laundry list is idiotic.

For example, you say that Kerry authored parts of the Patriot Act. but now he wants to repeal it.

DUH??? Do you have a clue how many pages and how many regulations the Patriot Act contains? It’s laughable for you to cite that.[/quote]

I hope you’re not implying Kerry would author part of a bill and vote for a bill he did not understand?

That can only apply if Kerry were to have agreed that 9/11 changed his view – his view, not “the Bushies” view. If “The Bushies” think 9/11 changed everything, that doesn’t affect Kerry’s reasoning. I don’t recall Kerry having espoused that view though, do you?

[quote] The president has flip-flopped on dozens of policies and positions, for example:

the 9-11 commission
the Dept of Homeland Security
the reasons for attacking Iraq
investigating the WMD intelligence failure

More Bush Flip-Flops here:

And hasn’t George Bush changed his abortion stance? Wasn’t he quoted in the local paper as saying that abortion is a decision best left to a woman and her doctor, when he ran for Congress in the 70s?

Answer: yes

And isn’t his position now a cop-out? “I’m against abortion, but I’m not going to push my unpopular position with the voters”?[/quote]

I told you above, I’m not saying people shouldn’t change their mind. I’m against flip-flopping for naked political gain, not changing one’s mind due to a change in perspective, new information, etc. And, I think, if you do change your mind, if you explain why you did so to the voters, they will say, “OK, I either agree or disagree, but I see why he did that – he didn’t just do it to curry favor.” But Kerry, unfortunately for you, gives just that impression.

Charles Krauthammer, dreaded neo-con, on the theme of Kerry as flip-flopper. Interesting take on Kerry’s Orwellian explanations: There’s no flip flop, as Oceania has always been the enemy…

As I said, it’s not the mere fact of changing one’s mind, it’s the idea that it’s a purely political calculation to curry favor.

Nowhere Left to Flop

By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, September 17, 2004; Page A27

If the election were held today, John Kerry would lose by between 88 and 120 electoral votes. The reason is simple: The central vulnerability of this president – the central issue of this campaign – is the Iraq war. And Kerry has nothing left to say.

Why? Because, until now, he has said everything conceivable regarding Iraq. Having taken every possible position on the war, there is nothing he can say now that is even remotely credible.

If he had simply admitted that he had made a mistake in supporting the war, he might have become an antiwar candidate. But having taken a dozen positions, he has nowhere to go.

He now calls Iraq “the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.” But, of course, he voted to authorize the war. And shortly after the fall of Baghdad he emphatically repeated his approval of the war: “It was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein. And when the president made the decision, I supported him.”

When Don Imus asked him this week, “Do you think there are any circumstances we should have gone to war in Iraq, any?” Kerry responded: “Not under the current circumstances, no. There are none that I see. I voted based on weapons of mass destruction. The president distorted that.” But just last month he said that even if he had known then what he knows now, he would have voted for the war resolution.

Is Iraq part of the war on terrorism or a cynical distraction from it? “And everything [Bush] did in Iraq, he’s going to try to persuade people it has to do with terror, even though everybody here knows that it has nothing whatsoever to do with al Qaeda and everything to do with an agenda that they had preset, determined.”

That was April 2004. Of course, shortly after Sept. 11, Kerry was saying the opposite. “I think we clearly have to keep the pressure on terrorism globally,” he said in December 2001. “This doesn’t end with Afghanistan by any imagination. . . . Terrorism is a global menace. It’s a scourge. And it is absolutely vital that we continue [with], for instance, Saddam Hussein.”

So then Hussein was part of the war on terrorism – a “for instance” in fighting “terrorism globally.” Kerry temporarily returned to that position last week when he marked the 1,000th American death in Iraq by saying the troops have “given their lives on behalf of their country, on behalf of freedom, in the war on terror.”

How did Kerry get to this point of total meltdown? He started out his political career voting his conscience on national security issues. During the 1980s he was a consistent, dovish liberal Democrat: pro-nuclear freeze, anti-Star Wars, against the Reagan defense buildup, against the war in Nicaragua. And then he joined the overwhelming majority of his party in voting against the Persian Gulf War.

That turned out to be a mistake. And Kerry suffered for it. The very next year he had to watch as Al Gore, who got the Gulf War right, was chosen for the 1992 Democratic ticket, a spot for which Kerry had been on the short list.

Kerry learned his political lesson. Or thought he did. So when the Iraq war came around, he did not want to be caught on the wrong side of another success. He voted yes.

But then things went wrong both for the war and for him. What did he do? With Howard Dean rocketing toward the Democratic nomination, Kerry played to his deeply antiwar party by voting against the $87 billion to fund the occupation.

Two months later, with Saddam Hussein caught and the war looking better, Kerry maneuvered again, slamming Dean with: “Those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe today that we are not safer with his capture, don’t have the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president.”

Kerry is now back to the “wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time,” a line lifted from Dean himself. So we are not better off with Hussein deposed after all.

These dizzying contradictions – so glaring, so public, so frequent – have gone beyond undermining anything Kerry can now say on Iraq. They have been transmuted into a character issue. When Kerry went off windsurfing during the Republican convention, Jay Leno noted that even Kerry’s hobbies depend on wind direction. Kerry on the war has become an object not only of derision but of irreconcilable suspicion. What kind of man, aspiring to the presidency, does not know his own mind about the most serious issue of our time?


An article from back in May that a friend sent to me – not available online – deals with Kerry’s liberal record in the Senate. I think the author has a point in that Kerry is avoiding his Senate record – I think the choice is clearly between an old-line liberal from MA and a “compassionate” (which means big-spending) conservative from Texas. This article covers Kerry’s Senatorial forays into Latin American policy:

Back in Sandinista Days . . .
John Kerry now talks a moderate game; but what does the record say?

May 17, 2004

Here’s what you’re not supposed to say about John Kerry: that he is a man of the Left; that he is a “Massachusetts liberal”; that he is the anti-Reagan (well, you can say that in some circles). No, now that he’s the Democratic nominee, he is a man of the sensible center, in contrast to those Texas-fried radicals in the White House. Kerry the Nominee even enjoys getting to President Bush’s right. Why, just the other day ? appealing to Cuban-American voters in Florida ? Kerry chided Bush for being a little soft on Hugo Ch?vez, the (democratically elected) strongman of Venezuela and one of Fidel Castro’s best friends. The Bush people sputtered with indignation: The gall! But Kerry is acting cannily.

Canny or not, Kerry has a record on Latin America ? a substantial one. You will recall the 1980s, and that decade’s fierce debates over Central America policy. At the heart of these debates was Nicaragua: the Sandinistas, Castro, and the Soviet Union versus the Contras and the United States (or rather, not all of the United States: the Reagan administration, in particular). Kerry was an important player in all this. He was part of a group derided by Republicans as “‘Dear Comandante’ Democrats,” for they would address letters to Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista No. 1, “Dear Comandante.” (“But that’s his title,” they would plead, not unreasonably.) This group included such House members as Mike Barnes and Pete Kostmayer, and such senators as Chris Dodd and Tom Harkin ? and John Kerry.

Only months after he was sworn in, Kerry joined Harkin on an infamous trip to Managua, to meet with Comandante Ortega. This was April 1985. The trip, according to an article in Policy Review magazine, was arranged by the Institute for Policy Studies, a hard-Left group. IPS was one of several such groups around Kerry back then. The trip, moreover, occurred a few days before a key vote in Congress on Contra aid ? the bill proposed to send $14 million in humanitarian assistance to those anti-Communist rebels.

Said Kerry, “Senator Harkin and I are going to Nicaragua as Vietnam-era veterans who are alarmed that the Reagan administration is repeating the mistakes we made in Vietnam. Our foreign policy should represent the democratic values that have made our country great, not subvert those values by funding terrorism to overthrow governments of other countries.” Note that, certainly by implication, the senator characterized the Contra resistance as “terrorism.” In addition, “President Reagan has probably come closer to trying to interpret Vietnam in a positive way than either Presidents Ford or Carter. But this also lends itself to a revisionism about Vietnam that makes it easier for us to repeat our mistakes unwittingly.”

As his plane touched down in Nicaragua, Kerry said, “Look at it. It reminds me so much of Vietnam. The same lushness, the tree lines.” (This reporting comes from the Washington Post.) Vietnam was uppermost in his mind: “If you look back at the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, if you look back at the troops that were in Cambodia, the history of the body count and the misinterpretation of Vietnam itself, and look at how we are interpreting the struggle in Central America and examine the CIA involvement, the mining of the harbors, the effort to fund the Contras, there is a direct and unavoidable parallel between these two periods of our history.” Said Kerry, “I see an enormous haughtiness in the United States trying to tell them [the Nicaraguans] what to do.”

Finally, “These are just poor people, no money, no food, just like Vietnam, and they are just trying to stay alive. They just want peace. They don’t want their daughter getting blown away on the way to teach! Or their sons disappearing. It’s just terrible. I see the same sense of great victimization. The little kids staring wide-eyed and scared. It really hits home the same way as Vietnam. . . . If we haven’t learned something by now about talking rather than fighting . . .”
Senators Kerry and Harkin returned to Washington with a kind of peace plan ? Ortega was saying, Cut off all aid to the Contras, engage in bilateral talks with us, and we’ll call a cease-fire and restore civil liberties. Kerry hailed this as “a wonderful opening.” The Reagan administration was not impressed ? in fact, it fumed. The State Department made clear that the Sandinistas had to talk to the Contras themselves, not to Washington: “Without such a dialogue, a cease-fire is meaningless ? essentially a call for the opposition to surrender. The opposition is asked to accept Sandinista consolidation of a Marxist-Leninist order in Nicaragua.” Secretary Shultz decried “self-appointed emissaries to the Communist regime” in Managua, and said, “We cannot conduct a successful policy when [such people] take trips or write ‘Dear Comandante’ letters with the aim of negotiating.” Henry Kissinger added, “If the Nicaraguans want to make an offer, they ought to make it through diplomatic channels. We can’t be negotiating with our own congressmen and Nicaragua simultaneously.” Senator Goldwater called the Kerry-Harkin trip just “wrong, wrong, wrong.”

In the end, the trip backfired. Not long after the senators left him, Ortega flew off to Moscow, to affirm his alliance with the Soviets. Democratic leaders ? Tip O’Neill in particular ? were embarrassed.

But Kerry stayed unabashed in his position. He remarked to the Christian Science Monitor, “We negotiated with North Vietnam. Why can we not negotiate with a country smaller than North Carolina and with half the population of Massachusetts? It’s beyond me.” Kerry apparently never recognized the Nicaragua struggle as geopolitical. Referring to his onetime group, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, he said, “We were criticized when we stood up on Vietnam. . . . But we’ve been borne out. We were correct. Sometimes you just have to stand and hold your ground.” Plus, “my desire to see us negotiate is as patriotic as anyone else’s to see us fight.” (Here he sounds much like the Kerry of 2004.)
Kerry’s thinking on Nicaragua was in perfect consonance with the leftist thinking of the day (and of this day, for that matter); it would have been at home in the Latin American Studies department at Berkeley or Santa Cruz, for instance. Listen to his emotional speech on the Senate floor, delivered upon his return from Managua. Virtually every bromide, every tic, is there.

It is not just the fact that American youth may be called on once again to fight and to die in the jungles and mountains of another Third World country. It is not just that that weighs on my conscience today. . . . It is the fact that the grinding poverty in that area is so real and apparent, the legacy of a brutal dictatorship installed by American force some 50 years ago and which in concert with a tiny economic elite plundered the natural resources of the countryside while more than 80 percent of the population were forced to eke out a meager subsistence for themselves and their families. . . . If there is one guarantee of increasing the Soviet presence in Nicaragua, it will be to force that government into no other choice but that of turning to the Soviet Union. . . . [T]his administration seems to protect American interests by wanting to continue the process of escalating killing . . . Here, Mr. President, in writing, is a guarantee of the security interest of the United States.

In this last sentence, he was referring to the aide-memoire pressed into his hand by Ortega: a guarantee. At the end of his speech, Kerry said, “My generation, and a lot of us, grew up with the phrase ‘Give peace a chance,’ as part of a song that captured a lot of people’s imagination. I hope that the president of the United States will give peace a chance.”

Ultimately, the outcome in Nicaragua was democratic, as throughout Central America. In fact, this is one of the great achievements of our times, unheralded as it may be. (For one thing, few on the left are willing to do any heralding.) When Violeta Chamorro won election in Nicaragua ? February 1990 ? an interviewer asked Kerry, “Does this mean the United States did the right thing all those years by funding the Contras?” Replied Kerry, “Well, I think that’s almost an irrelevant debate right now. I don’t happen to believe that, because many of us believe it could have been a different form of pressure. But the important thing now is that the election has taken place. I really think it’s more of a triumph of multi-nation diplomacy.” Sure.


Kerry gained further fame ? or infamy, depending on your point of view ? as head of “the Kerry Committee,” more formally the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations. In this period ? the late 1980s ? Kerry devoted himself to trying to prove that the Contras were drug-runners; he was particularly interested in linking Vice President Bush to this criminality (as Bush was running for president). The Kerry Committee never accomplished its objective, but it attracted a lot of media attention and damaged individual reputations. On this committee, all the hopes, energies, and notions of IPS, the Christic Institute, CISPES, and the rest of that now-forgotten crowd came together.

Leading the charge were Kerry’s staff men, such as Jonathan Winer (still a Kerry foreign-policy adviser) and the notorious Jack Blum. This latter is considered by some Republicans a sort of Roy Cohn of the Left. One GOP aide from the period describes Kerry’s people as “drooling fanatics”: “Kennedy’s people were liberal, to be sure, and so were Dodd’s. But Kerry’s people were much more rabid. They promoted the most bizarre conspiracy theories around.” You have to remember, says this aide: “There was a real fruity network of goofball and semi-subversive people, and Kerry ran with those people. He was always a bit aloof himself, but you can tell a lot about politicians by the people they let in. These weren’t liberals. They had a shockingly hostile attitude toward the United States ? our military, our intelligence community, our policies.”

A second Latin America expert on the Republican side was Mark Falcoff, long since with the American Enterprise Institute. Though the Kerry Committee “never proved anything,” he says, “they used an enormous amount of time. I mean, you can’t imagine the wild-goose chases.” As for Kerry himself, “I found him a bully. If I could use one word, it would be that: He was a bully.”

One man who was subjected to this bullying was Felix Rodriguez, the legendary CIA operative. He was present in Che Guevara’s last hours; he also grew close to the first Bush. According to Rodriguez’s memoirs, Shadow Warrior, the Kerry Committee let it be known to the press that a convicted money launderer for the Colombian drug cartel had accused him of soliciting $10 million for the Contras. The committee was also “fueling speculation” that Rodriguez, “and, by extension, Vice President Bush,” were “somehow” involved in drug trafficking.

The committee subpoenaed Rodriguez, but, to his chagrin, insisted on a closed hearing. Of his encounter with Kerry, Rodriguez writes, “Obviously, what he wanted was to connect the Vice President and the top Contra leadership to drugs.” But at one point, Kerry’s questioning sharply veered off: “He wanted to know all the details of Che’s capture [in 1967]. He even asked me somewhat sarcastically why I did not fight harder to save Che’s life.” There followed an extraordinary exchange ? again, according to Rodriguez.

I said, "Senator, this has been the hardest testimony I ever gave in my life."

He looked up, glasses perched on his nose. "Why?"

"Because, sir, it is extremely difficult to have to answer questions from someone you do not respect." . . .

I told him outright, "Senator, my name was leaked by your committee as being involved with drugs. I take that very seriously because it affects my family, my reputation, and my friends."

Kerry looked at me sternly and said, "You're making a very serious accusation, because this committee doesn't leak."

"Senator, leaked or not it was in every goddamned newspaper that, at one of your closed committee hearings, Ram?n Milian Rodr?guez said I solicited money. That is a damned lie."

Felix Rodriguez wanted his testimony made available to the public, but “Kerry and Blum” refused. So he called a press conference, to give his side. Eleven months later ? after considerable pressure (Republican pressure) ? Rodriguez got a chance to testify in open hearing. Kerry now said that he believed the witness. “I was gratified by [the senator’s] statement.”


When it came to Latin America policy at large, Kerry almost always ran with the Left crowd, but at least once he stood alone. In December 1985, he was the only senator to vote against money for police training in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. Even Senator Dodd voted for it. Yet another Republican Latin America specialist reflects, “Kerry aligned himself with all the leftist-chic causes, and he was virulently anti-Reagan. And he never apologized for it, never showed any regret, in light of how things have turned out in Central America. I mean, really: In El Salvador, they just had an election in which a tired old leftist guerrilla lost to a conservative candidate. Instead of meeting on the battlefield, they met at the ballot box. Everything was peaceful. The other countries are doing the same thing.” And will Kerry give no credit to the policies he tried to stop?

A disdain for American power has been part and parcel of the senator’s attitude. He was quite sniffy about the invasion of Grenada, for example. He compared it to “Boston College playing football against the Sisters of Mercy.” (It’s funny how the Democrats were in harmony. Madeleine Albright ? the future secretary of state ? said, “It was the [Washington] Redskins versus the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the score was 101 to nothing.”) Kerry added, “The invasion of Grenada represents the Reagan policy of substituting public relations for diplomatic relations . . . The invasion represented a bully’s show of force against a weak Third World nation. The invasion only served to heighten world tensions and further strain brittle U.S.?Soviet and North?South relations.” Ponder that: The possible next president interpreted Grenada as “a bully’s show of force against a weak Third World nation.”

Needless to say, Kerry talks a little differently now. But has he changed his mind, or is he merely the Democratic nominee? For the benefit of South Florida, he’s claiming to be a big anti-Castroite: “I don’t like Fidel Castro. Some people have cottoned to him in our party [now there’s an admission!] and go down and visit. I went to Cuba once and I purposely said I don’t want to.” That statement was a little mysterious. Kerry has also said, “I’m pretty tough on Castro, because I think he’s running one of the last vestiges of a Stalinist, secret-police government in the world. And I voted for the Helms-Burton legislation to be tough on companies that deal with him.” That was a little mysterious too, for Kerry was one of only 22 senators to vote against Helms-Burton. His campaign later explained that he had voted for an early version of the bill, objecting to the final one because of Title III: which allows Americans whose property was stolen to sue foreign companies acquiring that property.

Kerry has ? or had ? long been a critic of U.S. policy on Cuba. In 2000, he said that “the only reason we don’t re-evaluate the policy is the politics of Florida.” Speaking of the politics of Florida: Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a congressman from Miami, says, “I have had to fight consistently against John Kerry for years. Every time there has been an effort to unilaterally provide the Cuban dictatorship with trade financing or tourism dollars, John Kerry has stood” with the unilateralists. Just recently, Kerry had this to say about the return of Eli?n Gonz?lez to Cuba (Eli?n was the boy plucked from the ocean): “I didn’t agree with that.” But he had supported the Clinton administration. Kerry, forced to elaborate, said, “I didn’t like the way they did it. I thought the process was butchered.” At the time of the Eli?n drama, Kerry said, “There’s obviously, now, a fair amount of sort of Cold War rhetoric. I would hope both countries would view this as an opportunity to reach beyond that, to find a new opening of opportunity for how we resolve this kind of issue.” Both countries: the Castro regime and the United States. That’s how John Kerry, pre-nomination, used to talk.

You will recall that, in March, Kerry stated that most foreign leaders were rooting for him. Then Kerry started receiving the wrong kind of endorsements. Mahathir Mohamad, the flamingly anti-Semitic Malaysian, came out for him, and so did Hugo Ch?vez in Venezuela. The campaign had to react. Kerry decided to assert that the Bush administration wasn’t doing enough to aid Ch?vez’s opponents. Moreover, this belonged to a pattern of “sending mixed signals by supporting undemocratic processes in our own hemisphere.” Huh? Come again? Kerry was pandering to South Florida (which, in addition to Cubans, has a growing population of Venezuelans). Latin Americanists in the Bush administration were beside themselves. When a coup attempt against Ch?vez occurred in April 2002, many Democrats accused them (without proof) of abetting the plotters, and thereby betraying Venezuelan democracy. And now Kerry was saying that Bush was soft on Ch?vez!

To add insult to injury, Kerry had just gotten through denouncing the administration for failing to prop up the “democratic” leader of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was forced to flee (with U.S. help). Kerry said that Bush should have sent troops to save Haitian “democracy.” And yet, both Ch?vez and Aristide were technically elected. Some Republicans want to know, What is the Kerry Doctrine, exactly? Try to overthrow democratically elected leftist tyrants in Venezuela while sending troops to save democratically elected leftist tyrants in Haiti? One former senior intelligence official dealt with Kerry in the mid-1990s, when the issue of Aristide was hot: “We knew that Aristide was a pretty bad guy, and not the most stable individual, either.” But “Kerry was a cheerleader for Aristide, regardless of the evidence, despite what we knew. It was one of those sacred, progressive positions you were supposed to take ? to be for Aristide. He was a cheerleader for Aristide, just as he had been a cheerleader for the Sandinistas.”

If Kerry has “evolved,” as we say, more power to him. Everyone appreciates a politician who grows, in the right direction (to use Hugo Ch?vez’s language). But Kerry has given no trustworthy indication of such growth. He seems merely to be engaged in some rhetorical adjustments, necessary to an American general election. When it comes to Latin America ? and to the Western Hemisphere more broadly, and to other things ? the record shows that he has not exactly been a moderate. No, not exactly.