Thursday, September 02, 2004

Facts are stupid things

Slate sets the record straight about all those weapons systems John Kerry supposedly voted against. It turns out that Kerry voted against military appropriations bills which included weapons systems that the administration at the time, including the secretary of defense, wanted to eliminate. The secretary of defense in question even castigated Congress for wanting to give the military more weapons than it needed. Who was this secretary of defense so anxious to weaken the U.S. military? Some weak, French-looking Democrat? Actually, it was a guy by the name of Dick Cheney. Perhaps you've heard of him--bald man, glasses, bit of a sharp tongue. I wonder what ever happened to him...


Blogger fester said...

Yeah, I think I heard of him... didn't he publish a book or something about how occupying Iraq could be a bad idea.... but its been a while since I saw him on TV... ah the anonymity of even high level bureaucrats....

12:01 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jonathan, why do you hate America? Is it because you hate our way of life?

--- AKA Jelly Doughnut

10:19 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, J-Man, Slate was somewhat wrong about their characterization of Kerry's stance. What they didn't say was that much of Kerry's animus toward the defense budgets stemmed from his problem with big-weapons systems, which he thought diverted resources from entitlements (social security, welfare), job training, etc.

Al Gore stood directly against Kerry on defense, and he and Sam Nunn were able to get the systems through the Democratic vetting system (Dems controlled, at various points, either both houses or the Senate during Kerry's tenure until quite recently).

As mentioned by another poster, the problem with Kerry wasn't so much that he opposed the Apache helicopter, M1A1 tank, the cruise missile, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, F-15, B-1, B-2 (name the rest of your alphabet), he never took the time to develop the expertise or the willingness to do the hard work to truly understand the military and its needs, either in the Cold War or the post-war period.

And please don't mischaracterize Cheney's record as Secretary at DOD. It wasn't that he wanted to simply scrap some of the weapons systems Kerry also didn't like. He wanted to replace them with what was often a more expensive, or more elaborate system that duplicated the function.

But, if you're a Republican trying to make a speech to partisans at a convention, it's harder to say, "Although Kerry liked veterans' issues, he never really was interested in defense, and his stands on certain weapons systems was caused more by laziness and intellectual malaise than criminal intent."

That's too hard. So the message becomes the truncated: Kerry hates the military!

Slate is a good online publication, but, as you well know, it is very much a centrist Democratic edition, as the editors say all the time, just as Salon is the progressive version of the same events.

The irony, of course, is that privately Al Gore, Sam Nunn, Daniel Inouye, et al, would tell you that Kerry and most of the New England politicians (both Republican and Democrat) were never really interested in military or intelligence issues. This was ceded to southerners and Californians (where the bases, defense industries and ports are primarily located), much as foreign policy debates are always framed by Midwesterners (Lugar, Bayh, Glenn, Simon, Dole).

The Senate is a quirky institution, you see, and regionalism still plays a role in public policy debates. What did Kerry fret about during his time in public service? Really not much because he was always the very junior senator to Ted Kennedy, whose own political ambitions were spoiled by a drunken car drive home with a young woman nearly four decades ago.

This also isn't unusual. Dan Quayle rose to prominence and not Richard Lugar, the very brainy senior senator from Indiana. Rayburn watched as Johnson went on to lead the Senate, then the nation as the first Texan president.

A better take on Kerry's positions on war and peace, ironically, can be seen in publications like Dissent or any of the numerous military trade pubs. Rather than get talking points from the Clintonistas (Slate), Deaniacs (Salon) or Karl Rove (RNC, Fox), pick up some of these.

Or just peruse the Congressional Record.

10:44 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, I went back and checked the library for the pertinent Congressional testimony by Cheney. His contention was not so much that we needed to kill these weapons systems -- they had already been built years ago -- but that we needed less of them in 1993-1994.

I hate to say it, because I respect Slate, but not only does the journal not set the record straight, it completely discredits itself.

The GOP's talking points are based on Kerry's initial votes against the defense budgets in their fiscal years, which included systems such as the MX, Apache, etc.

While it might be wrong to link Kerry's votes against these total budgets to specific weapons systems (although Kerry never liked big weapons systems), it's equally wrong to say Cheney was against them!

Actually (and I checked) he voted for the creation of these systems when he was in the Senate, both by approving the final year-end budget totals AND by votes during his tenure on the Armed Services Committee.

That's very, very different from his testimony as a DOD Secretary in the early 90s. The systems already had been built and deployed and used successfully in combat. There was no point in debating their worthiness, only their numbers (and, more importantly to Cheney, the numbers of personnel that would be necessary to operate them, which is the real budget cruncher).

Slate is simply wrong. There is a huge difference between a director who wants to cut the total number of weapons in the procurement process and a senator who simply opposes all weapons systems because he doesn't like big procurement programs.

They're not comparable.

J, you're better than this. Facts are not stupid things, and it's not hard to look this up. I'm actually surprised Slate was so off on this.

6:43 PM


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