Jewish World Review June 27, 2003 / 27 Sivan, 5763

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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Kerry had to hope his listeners have short memories | Soldiers from the First Armored Division captured piles of top secret Iraqi intelligence documents, some of which refer to a nuclear program, in a raid on a community center in Baghdad Saturday.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass), probably wishes he'd had a peek at them before he accused President Bush of intentionally misleading Americans about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee dismissed Kerry's charge as political, and refused to join in it.

Kerry had to hope his listeners have short memories: "(Saddam Hussein) cannot be permitted to go unobserved and unimpeded toward his horrific objective of amassing a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction..." Kerry said in a speech on the Senate floor in 1997.

In that speech, exhumed by JWR columnist Wesley Pruden of the Washington Times, Kerry said the UN should authorize a military strike on Iraq that would "materially much as possible of the suspected infrastructure for developing and manufacturing weapons of mass destruction." And if the UN wouldn't go along, the U.S. should go it alone:

"While we should always seek to take significant international actions on a multilateral rather than a unlateral basis...we must have the courage to do what we believe is right and wise," Kerry said.

Similar statements - essentially indistinguishable from what President Bush has said - were made by Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle and former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt. So if Americans were "intentionally misled" about WMD in Iraq, Democrats originated the plot.

Harping on this issue is strange politics, because polls indicate about two thirds of Americans think war with Iraq was justified even if weapons of mass destruction are not found. And if they are found, Democrats have walked out on a limb that will be sawed off behind them.

If next year's presidential election is decided on national security issues, Democrats will lose. But if the economy or some other issue is more important, Democrats still will lose, if Americans believe Democrats cannot be trusted to protect the country. When Democrats imply that Saddam Hussein is more trustworthy than George W. Bush, this is precisely what swing voters think.

Why would Kerry - who tells people every chance he gets that he was a Vietnam veteran -risk convincing voters he can't be trusted with America's security?

David Brooks speculates in the Weekly Standard that hatred of Bush has unhinged Democrats, who "look like they're turning into a domestic version of the Palestinians - a group so enraged at perceived oppressors, and so caught up in their own victimization, that they behave in ways that are patently not in their self interest, and that are almost guaranteed to perpetuate their suffering."

The beneficiary of Democratic feelings of impotence and rage has been Howard Dean, who has been running as the "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more" candidate.

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It is concern about the former Vermont governor that is causing putative frontrunner Kerry to step into dangerous waters. Of the (more or less) serious Democratic candidates for president, all but Dean voted to authorize war with Iraq.

Polls indicate Kerry has been putting some daylight between himself and Dean in New Hampshire since the war ended. But what worries Kerry is Iowa. The Iowa caucuses are the first major campaign event. Only about 10 percent of Iowa Democrats - chiefly the most liberal - will take part in them. Since there are so many candidates, only about a third of the votes cast are needed for victory. If Kerry cedes the Bush-haters to Dean, Dean probably will win...and have a strong tailwind blowing behind him going into New Hampshire.

The Iowa caucuses were put on the political map in 1972 when Sen. George McGovern made a surprisingly strong showing there against the heavy favorite, Sen. Ed Muskie. McGovern went on to make political history of another kind in the fall. Howard Dean and Iowa Democrats seem poised to make history repeat itself, whether Dean ultimately wins the nomination or not.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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