Bob Kerrey: Why Kerry Is Fit to Be President
Bob Kerrey, a Vietnam veteran and former Democratic Senator from Nebraska,
had an op-ed in today's Washington Post on "Why Kerry Is Fit to Be President."
Kerrey is now the president of the New School University in New York.
Why Kerry is Fit to Be President
By Bob Kerrey
August 14, 2004
The former Navy personnel who are attempting to discredit Sen. John Kerry's
record of service in Vietnam are doing so to argue that he is unqualified to be
commander in chief. Most appear to be angry with him on account of his opposition
to the Vietnam War, not his service in it. They have done a better job of damaging
the reputation of the U.S. Navy than they have of damaging John Kerry.
Moreover, they ignore what I consider to be the most important qualities any commander in chief must
possess. If elected in November, John Kerry will make an exceptionally good commander in chief.
Citizens may disagree with every other position he has taken in this campaign or
they may dislike the legislation he enacted during his nearly two decades of service
in the U.S. Senate. But they should have no doubt about his capacity to perform the
duties of commander in chief.
For the record, I do not include the fact that Kerry commanded a Swift boat among the
main reasons that he will be a good commander in chief. I don't even include the fact
that he chose to serve in the military and to go to Vietnam. I am impressed by his service
and by the loyalty of the band of brothers who served under his command. And as a Vietnam
veteran myself, I do hope that one of our own will make it all the way to the White House before I die.
But at the top of my list of reasons for believing Kerry can and will do this most difficult of
jobs is that he has the requisite sympathy for the men and women who give up many of their
rights as citizens in order to defend ours. My confidence also comes from knowing that he
knows what it's like to have served under leaders who lacked the moral clarity or the political
backbone to sustain an effort from beginning to end.
He also understands from personal experience and practice that strong and determined diplomacy
can enable the United States to avoid having to send our sons and daughters into harm's way in the first place.
Evidence backs up my claim in each of these three areas. Kerry demonstrated time and again the
sympathy I speak of by fighting for veterans' health and educational benefits. Can his opponents
cite one instance in which he failed to put his political career on the line for those who have already served?
Long before it became cool to do so, Kerry was arguing that we must take care of our veterans if
we are going to be able to enlist the volunteers we need in our military. In the post-Selective Service era,
in which fewer and fewer members of Congress or their children have worn the uniform, Kerry's actions
on behalf of veterans speak for themselves.
Nothing teaches you how to be a good leader better than having the opportunity to follow. In the military
and out, Kerry has had this experience. He knows from personal experience how dependent you are on the
person in charge and how essential it is for that person to speak clearly, forcefully and with moral conviction.
He knows how terrible it is to follow someone who is lost -- morally and politically as well as geographically.
He knows how vital it is that we sustain whatever it is we begin, and that we support our troops all the way to the end.
He also knows that the troops count on their leader to be a visionary capable of planning for each and every possibility.
No soldier, sailor, airman or Marine wants to follow someone who substitutes rosy scenarios for hard-headed calculation
of risk. No one wants to follow someone who believes political jargon is more important than detailed planning and execution.
Almost every person in uniform will tell you that the best war is the one we deter because our
enemies know we have the capability and will to strike back with relentless and deadly force.
It is also the one we prevent because we used our diplomatic and economic muscle to reduce
threats before they grew into the real thing.
Again, John Kerry has a tremendous amount of experience working with Republican and Democratic
presidents to negotiate and prepare for the peaceful world most of us prefer. In Southeast and Southwest Asia,
in the Middle East and in Latin America, Kerry has been involved in some of the most difficult and
successful of our bipartisan foreign policy efforts. No one will have to remind him as president that
partisan politics should be kept at the water's edge to respect and honor those who continue to serve us.
Tellingly, the attacks on Kerry's war record have been orchestrated in large part by the same Texas publicity
firm involved with notorious television advertisements meant to derail the last veteran of the Vietnam War
who ran for president, John McCain. Kerry's service in Vietnam was extensively documented by the U.S. Navy,
especially in connection with his awards, and has been reviewed numerous times by historians and news organizations.
I was going to end this by calling on President Bush to join McCain in calling for the cessation of this misguided
effort to discredit Kerry's service in Vietnam. But fair is fair. There are just as many misguided ads running against
President Bush today by these "527" organizations. Unless our campaign finance laws are changed again,
U.S. voters are just going to have to figure this one out on their own.
Posted by Dick Bell on August 14, 2004 at 03:28 PM