Jewish World Review July 30, 2004 /12 Menachem-Av, 5764

Thomas Sowell

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Electing an image | Much of what is being said and done at the Democratic convention in Boston is so 1960s. The old favorite songs of the left, the old rhetoric, the old gestures, the delegates swaying together, all take you back to a time 40 years ago when the liberal vision seized the imagination of so many who were young then — and who are now old enough to know better.

After all, we now know with hindsight what the heady ideas of the 1960s actually led to in practice — declining test scores and rising rates of teenage pregnancy and venereal disease, while rates of crime in general and murder in particular skyrocketed, along with unprecedented waves of riots that devastated city after city across the country, while families began a disintegration from which they may never fully recover in our lifetime.

The 1960s behavior of the Democrats' speakers and delegates tells you more than their updated image, an image now featuring symbols and rhetoric of patriotism and religion that many of these liberals would sneer at if this were not an election year.

In politics, facts do not carry nearly as much weight as rhetoric. At this convention, facts are being systematically covered up by rhetoric.

John Kerry is running for a political office and he has a political track record that goes back 16 years in the United States Senate alone. The facts on how he has voted on innumerable issues are all on record. Yet everyone at this Democratic convention and on the campaign trail seems to want to talk about everything except that record.

In fact, everything at this convention and on this year's campaign trail seems carefully designed to create the opposite impression from what Senator Kerry's voting record shows.

Over the years Senator Kerry has voted again and again to cut spending on the military and on the intelligence services. In short, his votes have weakened this country militarily. Therefore the rhetoric of the convention and the Kerry campaign uses the word "strong" or "strength" at every opportunity.

By repeating such words incessantly, the rhetoric counters the reality — at least for those voters who cannot be bothered to find out the facts.

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John Kerry's military service three decades ago is likewise used over and over again at the Democratic convention and on the campaign trail to cover up his repeated weakening of this country's military defenses as a United States Senator during the many years since then.

If we were fighting the Vietnam war over again, nobody would deny Kerry's qualifications for being an officer in that war. But that is not the job he is seeking this election year.

You cannot defend this country with memories and rhetoric — not in an age of international terrorism, which could become an age of nuclear terrorism in a very few years.

On the domestic front as well, Senator Kerry is hard at work creating an image that is the opposite of his record. His recent statement that he believes life begins at conception may create the impression among the unwary that his views on abortion are very different from what his voting record in the Senate plainly shows.

Senator Kerry has not only voted consistently pro-abortion, he has even declared that he will vote against confirming any federal judge who is not in favor of abortion "rights." The issue is not what your position is on abortion. The issue is whether you want to be conned about a presidential candidate's record.

The strenuous efforts of the Democratic convention and of the Kerry campaign in general to create an image that is the opposite of the reality tell us that they know where he is weakest — and that they think the voters are fools enough to elect an image without bothering to check out the reality.

The unending parade of personal "human interest" stories that are being featured at the Democratic convention are a further distraction from the party's record on the issues and a further insult to the voters' intelligence.

What any of these people's personal lives are like is none of my business. My business as a voter is to know what Senator Kerry has been doing during two decades in politics, since that is the truest indicator of what he would do as President.

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JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, "Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One." (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) To comment please click here.


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