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NEWSMAX: Teddy’s Back

by Richard Poe
Thursday, August 10, 2006

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TEDDY’S BACK

How Kennedy Molded and Rescued Kerry

by Richard Poe

NewsMax Magazine

September 2004

SOME CALL IT the “Kennedy Effect.” Whatever you call it, John Kerry owes his political life to this mighty but ill-understood force of nature. If John Kerry makes it to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., make no mistake about it: Sen. Ted Kennedy will be the driving force behind a Kerry administration.

When Kerry landed in Iowa to begin stumping for the Jan. 19 caucus, most pundits pronounced him dead on arrival.

Voters found him wooden, cold, distant and fake. The polls showed Howard Dean leading by 17 points in the Hawkeye State and a staggering 29 points in New Hampshire.

But something happened in Iowa. The tide turned for Kerry.

When Iowa Democrats and independents voted, they chose Kerry over Dean by 20 points. Edwards came in second, with 32 percent compared to Kerry’s 38 percent. It was a stunning upset. Kerry followed up with a 13-point win in the New Hampshire primary. One by one, Kerry’s rivals for the Democratic nomination withdrew. By early March, Kerry stood unopposed.

What had happened in Iowa?

“Some analysts point to a Kennedy effect,” noted Kelly O’Donnell of “NBC Nightly News” as Kerry’s poll numbers soared before the final count.

Congressional Quarterly columnist Craig Crawford agreed. He told NBC: “The liberal voters everywhere, and especially in Iowa, love Ted Kennedy. That’s when Kerry’s surge started.”

The following night, Crawford appeared on CNBC, where he stated: “The surge … began last weekend … when Ted Kennedy worked the crowds. … I think Kennedy, the Kennedy machine, has kicked in for Kerry.”

Indeed it had. When Kennedy joined Kerry on the Iowa hustings, he electrified Kerry’s faltering campaign. Massachusetts’ senior U.S. senator traveled with the awkward candidate, speaking in churches, elementary schools and fairgrounds across the state.

“John Kerry is my friend for a long, long time,” he told one crowd. “I have admired him for 35 years.”

Kerry responded with equal effusiveness.

It was an “honor” to campaign with Sen. Kennedy, he told reporters on Jan. 10. “There’s nobody who campaigns as well and there’s nobody who stands as forcefully for the priorities of our party and for the urgent priorities of our country.”

Somehow, through the inscrutable chemistry that governs Democrat politicking, these mutual felicities translated into a landslide for John Kerry. He has been riding Kennedy’s coattails ever since.

Last of the Giants

Major media tend to downplay the “Kennedy effect” in Kerry’s success.


Senator Ted Kennedy confers with protest
leader John Kerry at an anti-war rally in
Washington, DC, April 21, 1971

But the fact is that Edward Kennedy has been Kerry’s advisor, political mentor and sponsor since the younger man entered public life in the 1960s.

Some observers believe that Kennedy views Kerry as a possible heir to the JFK legacy — an heir that his own family tragically failed to produce.

Born Feb. 22, 1932, “Teddy,” as friends and family have always called the youngest son of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, has now passed his 72nd birthday. His presidential ambitions are gone. So are his brothers, John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, beloved by millions and enshrined in American legend.

Whatever slender hope remained of reviving Camelot — that elusive dream inspired by JFK’s thousand-day administration — died forever on the night of July 16, 1999, when a plane piloted by 38-year-old John F. Kennedy Jr. tumbled into the sea off Martha’s Vineyard.

In his book “Sons of Camelot,” author Laurence Leamer reveals that young JFK Jr. planned on running for Pat Moynihan’s empty Senate seat in New York. And, from there, who knows? Now Hillary Clinton occupies that seat. Of Camelot’s heroes, only the ailing Ted Kennedy remains.

“He looks all of his 72 years — jarringly so …,” writes Mark Leibovich of the Washington Post. “He wears his mileage plainly: His purply-red cheeks have gone puffy, his hair a bright white. He suffers chronic back pain, hunches and grimaces while he walks, and his breathing is labored after just minimal exertion.”

Yet, even now, Kennedy broods over grand designs. And at the heart of his intrigues stands John Forbes Kerry.

One Brief, Shining Moment

The Kennedy legacy has never lost its power to enchant. But most Americans, and perhaps even brother Ted, have forgotten its meaning.

Above all, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was a patriot. He would have found no place in the Democratic Party that gave us Bill and Hillary Clinton — or John Kerry, for that matter.

To stimulate the economy, Kennedy called for a 30 percent tax cut across the board, arguing that “a rising tide of prosperity will lift all boats” — an argument that met sneers and catcalls from Democrats when Ronald Reagan repeated it 20 years later.

JFK fought communism at home as well as abroad. As a senator, he praised Joseph McCarthy’s purge of communists from the U.S. government. As president, he confronted Soviet aggression in Berlin, Cuba and Indochina. He sent the first U.S. ground troops to Vietnam, initiating a war that might well have gone differently had Kennedy remained in command.

He called for bold action during a period when America was threatened by Russia’s nuclear-tipped missiles. During his 1962 television address to the nation when he revealed the Cuban missile threat, Kennedy warned, rather provocatively, that if one missile were launched from Cuba against the United States, he would order a full nuclear retaliation against the Soviet Union.

Such strength in the face of danger evokes parallels to President Bush’s war on terror and his resoluteness in holding rogue states accountable.

But the heirs to Camelot, over whom Ted Kennedy reigns as patriarch, do not see it that way.

In “Sons of Camelot,” Laurence Leamer notes the corrosive effect JFK’s assassination had on Robert F. Kennedy’s beliefs. “Of all the Kennedy brothers, Bobby had always had the deepest faith, but now in scriptural passages where he had once found truth, he saw only platitudes,” writes Leamer.

If JFK’s murder dimmed the Kennedy light, Bobby’s assassination extinguished it. Even the clan’s indomitable matriarch, Rose Kennedy, succumbed to despair.

After Bobby’s death, Ted Kennedy confided to his friend James Wechsler, editor of the New York Post: “This is terribly private, but it’s the only time I’ve ever heard her question her faith. Somehow she was able to accept Jack’s death, but after Bobby …” Ted’s voice trailed off.

Ted Kennedy addressed the Democratic National Convention that year. “Like my brothers before me, I pick up a fallen standard,” he said. But no one remembered any longer what that standard had once represented.

Whither Camelot?

Stripped of the faith that had guided our Founding Fathers, Edward M. Kennedy turned to the very philosophy his brother JFK had condemned: “the belief that the rights of man come … from the generosity of the state.”

In fact, Ted Kennedy embraced the hard left.

During the 1970s, he emerged as the Senate’s leading class warrior, promoting high taxes, defense cuts, national health care and extravagant government handouts. Kennedy became a caricature of liberal excess, the bete noir of Goldwater and Reagan conservatives and a punching bag for direct-mail fund-raisers.

Emboldened by his growing fame, Kennedy sought to wrest the Democratic nomination from incumbent Jimmy Carter in a bruising 1980 primary campaign. Kennedy lost that battle.

But later, during the long, dark night of Democratic despair that was the Reagan era, Kennedy rallied his party to action, if only for the spiteful purpose of throwing monkey wrenches in every one of Reagan’s initiatives.

The Kennedy machine no longer pursued any lofty goal. Yet it chugged away all the same, as mighty as it was when it lifted John F. Kennedy to the White House.

During the ’90s, Bill and Hillary Clinton challenged Kennedy’s dominance of the party. They stole Teddy’s media spotlight. But Kennedy’s power in the Senate remained undiminished. Kennedy’s office had become the Central HQ for liberal legislators; a breeding ground whence dozens of loyal, leftwing operatives fanned out to infiltrate the Executive branch, the major media and the Democratic Party apparatus.

Now that the Clintons have left the White House, at least temporarily, Kennedy seems determined to seize the moment.

He is exploiting his final opportunity to restore the Kennedy clan to its former preeminence. For reasons best known to himself, Kennedy has chosen John Forbes Kerry as the vessel through which he will achieve that restoration.

The Kerry race “is the most important election of my lifetime,” Kennedy told the Post’s Leibovich, a statement that he found “revealing, given that Kennedy and two of his late brothers have all run for president themselves.”

You would hardly know it from the network news, but the roster of Kerry’s inner circle reads like a Who’s Who of Kennedy loyalists.

The Kennedy Machine

Take Democrat strategist Robert M. Shrum — “Shrummy,” as Beltway insiders call him. David M. Halbfinger of the New York Times once described him as the “alter ego to Senator Edward M. Kennedy.” Shrum managed Kennedy’s 1980 presidential campaign and served as his spokesman until 1984.

It was Shrum who wrote Kennedy’s famous 1980 concession speech, “The Dream Shall Never Die.” In it, Kennedy laid to rest forever his presidential dreams. Yet Shrum’s stirring choruses aroused hosannas from the Democratic faithful. Kennedy had lost to Jimmy Carter, but the heart and soul of the party remained his, thanks largely to Robert Shrum’s deft speechwriting.

In February 2003, Shrum joined Kerry’s campaign. He clashed with strategist Chris Lehane, who resigned in September. Shrum proceeded to pick fights with Kerry’s campaign manager, Jim Jordan. Kerry fired Jordan on Sunday night, Nov. 9. The following day, Kerry accepted resignations from two other staffers whom Jordan had hired: press secretary Robert Gibbs and deputy finance director Carl Chidlow.

Shrum emerged victorious. He had driven off every competitor and “captured the candidate” for himself, as political consultants are wont to say.

Now the Kennedy machine kicked into high gear, moving quickly to fill the power vacuum left by Kerry’s Sunday Night Massacre.

Ted Kennedy’s Senate office chief of staff Mary Beth Cahill left her job to take over as Kerry’s campaign manager. Kennedy press secretary Stephanie Cutter replaced Gibbs.

As for “Shrummy,” he rose from a mere speechwriter and media consultant to a commanding position, overnight becoming Kerry’s Karl Rove.

“[S]hrummy … attached himself to Kerry like a mollusk. … He’s the first to have the senator’s ear in the morning and the last to whisper in it at night,” notes liberal pundit Doug Ireland in LA Weekly.

New York Times pundit William Safire credits Jeanne Shaheen, national chairwoman of Kerry’s campaign, with masterminding the purge. On Nov. 12, 2003, Safire wrote:

“The Kennedyization of the Kerry campaign was carried out by Jeanne Shaheen, the former New Hampshire governor. She prevailed on the candidate to fire his longtime manager, Jim Jordan, and replace him with Mary Beth Cahill, Ted Kennedy’s chief of staff. Cahill has impeccable far-left credentials, from Emily’s List fund-raising to Representative Barney Frank’s staff. She is an ideological soulmate of the superb writer and Kennedy Boston braintruster Robert Shrum. …”

Other Kennedy operatives prominent in Kerry’s campaign include Jack Corrigan, who served as liaison to the Democratic Convention; field organizer Michael Whouley; pollster Tom Kiley; political strategist John Marttila; John Sasso, whom Kerry appointed DNC General Election Manager; and, of course, Tad Devine and Michael Donilon. Shrum’s partners in the Boston media consultancy Shrum, Devine & Donilon.

It did not take long for Kennedy’s machine to work its magic. Barely three months passed before Kerry’s fortunes took a 180-degree turn in Iowa.

Kerry: More Liberal Than Teddy

Without Edward Kennedy’s helping hand, Kerry’s modest talents seem unlikely to have won him national prominence, much less the 2004 presidential nomination.

But what’s in it for Teddy? Why would a politician of his radical views embrace with such gusto a candidate whom the press and Democrat spin doctors have dubbed “moderate” and “centrist”?

The answer, of course, is that Kerry is no moderate. His voting record and public statements reveal an agenda that is more extreme even than Kennedy’s.

Through the years, Kerry has missed few chances to embrace the radically chic issue of the moment. Since joining the U.S. Senate in 1984, he has equaled and even surpassed his mentor’s radicalism on a wide range of national security issues.

When Kennedy proposed a nuclear freeze, Kerry voted for it.

When Kennedy opposed U.S. efforts to quell Marxist takeovers in Central America, Kerry supported him.

Nicaragua swarmed with Soviet and Cuban “advisors” in 1985. Sandinista death squads were slaughtering Miskito Indians and disobedient campesinos by the thousands. Kerry chose that moment to visit Nicaragua and hobnob with the Sandinistas, declaring, “We’ve got to create a climate of trust.”

Kerry notoriously voted, with Kennedy, against the Gulf War Resolution of 1991. He explained his reasons in a speech of Jan. 11 1991:

“Can it really be said that we are building a new world order when it is almost exclusively the United States who will be fighting in the desert, not alone but almost, displaying pride and impatience and implementing what essentially amounts to a Pax Americana? Is that a new world order?”

Kerry did not object to establishing a “new world order.” But a world dominated by the United States was not the sort he wanted. His loyalties lay elsewhere.

More than 13 years later, Kerry is still fulminating over U.S. “pride,” “impatience” and the alleged dangers of a Pax Americana. “We need a real transfer of political power to the U.N.,” he commented recently.

Again following Kennedy’s lead, Kerry voted on Oct. 17, 2003, against the Iraq Supplemental Bill allocating $87 billion to support further U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Only 10 U.S. senators joined Kerry and Kennedy in this reckless act. Even Hillary Clinton voted with President Bush. Had that handful of dissenting senators had their way, U.S. forces could well have faced military catastrophe in both countries.

Kerry’s attempt to legislate military defeat from the Senate floor echoes one of Kennedy’s least-known but most odious acts.

In the early 1970s, as U.S. troops were pulling out of Vietnam, Kennedy spearheaded efforts in Congress to cut funding for South Vietnamese troops, a move that ensured communist victory in Vietnam and years of bloody repression and genocide throughout Southeast Asia.

During the early to mid-1990s, Kerry followed Kennedy’s lead in slashing billions from the defense budget.

On social issues, Kerry is as deeply estranged from Middle America as he is on military and foreign policy. Like Kennedy, he has voted persistently against banning partial-birth abortion and repealing Bill Clinton’s marriage-penalty tax.

Kerry and Kennedy were two of only 14 U.S. senators who voted against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act forbidding same-sex marriage. Even Bill Clinton supported the act and signed it into law.

Kerry’s radical pro-abortion stance has prompted rebukes from Catholic theologians and the decision of some bishops to deny him the sacrament of Holy Communion.

In 1993, Kerry and Kennedy twice voted for Bill Clinton’s $240 billion tax increase, the largest in U.S. history.

To the extent that liberalism can be quantified, every objective indicator shows Kerry deep in the red zone — deeper, in fact, than Ted Kennedy.

In February 2004, the nonpartisan National Journal awarded Kerry a liberal quotient of 96.5, on a scale of 0 to 100, for the year 2003. This made him the reigning liberal in the U.S. Senate, veering even farther to the left than such “progressive” stalwarts as Barbara Boxer of California (91.2 percent) and his mentor, Ted Kennedy (88.3 percent).

Nor was Kerry’s rating a one-time fluke. The magazine named Kerry No. 1, most liberal lawmaker in the U.S. Senate, four times in his 20-year Senate career.

In years when he fails to take the lead spot, Kerry still scores consistently in the top 10 percent of left-leaning senators, by the National Journal’s reckoning.

Some defenders of Kerry have criticized the rating methodology. However, left-wing and right-wing analysts alike have given him nearly identical rankings.

For instance, the League of Conservative Voters gave him a 94 percent liberal rating. The left-wing Americans for Democratic Action, a tough audience to please when it comes to judging one’s devotion to the “progressive” cause, awarded him a lifetime rating of “only” 93 percent and Ted Kennedy a pitiful 88 percent.

The Kennedy-Kerry Agenda

His admirers call Kennedy the “conscience” of the Democratic Party, the most faithful exemplar of the party’s core values. There is little question that if Kerry finally makes it to the Oval Office, Kennedy will be writing the presidential agenda for the next four, and perhaps, eight, years.

If history is prologue, Kennedy’s record and legislative agenda are crucial for Americans to comprehend before his protege ever takes the oath of office.

Here are just some of the highlights of Kennedy’s agenda:

– During his 42 years in the U.S. Senate, he has championed spending bills that, by some estimates, have quadrupled the federal budget.

– He leads the party in support of gay marriage. When President Bush proposed a Federal Marriage Amendment, he sneered that Bush would “go down in history as the first president to try to write discrimination back into the Constitution.”

– A Roman Catholic, he supports the most extreme forms of abortion, right up to the final moments before birth.

– He seeks government control over medical care so strict and pervasive that buying vitamins would be illegal without a prescription.

– Kennedy, well before “Hillarycare,” pushed for nationalization of America’s health-care system — ceding the federal government one-sixth of the U.S. economy.

– He introduced the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which opened the floodgates for a level of mass immigration never before seen in U.S. history. By the mid-1990s, the immigration rate had quadrupled from pre-1965 levels. Even after Sept. 11th, he continues to promote open borders, mass immigration and special rights for illegal aliens.

– He is the Senate’s most outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq, his tirades against Bush frequently quoted in the Islamist press.

Aid and Comfort

In recent months, Ted Kennedy has provided our foes with a steady stream of sound bites tailor-made to buck up enemy morale, by showing them a deeply divided U.S. government, just one election away from turning tail and running.

“Before the war, week after week after week after week, we were told lie after lie after lie after lie,” he roared from the Senate floor on Oct. 16, 2003. “Iraq was not a breeding ground for terrorism. Our invasion has made it one.”

In the same speech, he charged: “The trumped-up reasons for going to war have collapsed. … [T]he president’s war is revealed as mindless, needless, senseless and reckless.”

On Sept. 19, 2003, Kennedy told the Associated Press: “There was no imminent threat [from Iraq]. This was made up in Texas. … This whole thing was a fraud.”

In fact, the invasion of Iraq “could well become one of the worst blunders in more than two centuries of American foreign policy,” he opined at a Jan. 14, 2004 speech before the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C.

“Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam’s torture chambers reopened under new management: U.S. management,” he quipped upon the release of photos showing mistreatment of prisoners by U.S. guards at Abu Ghraib prison.

Even some Democrats have grown nervous over Kennedy’s above-quoted remarks. But the worst was yet to come. He made his most damaging statement in a speech April 5, 2004, at the Brookings Institution:

“This president has now created the largest credibility gap since Richard Nixon. He has broken the basic bond of trust with the American people. … He’s the problem, not the solution. Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam, and this country needs a new president.”

What made these remarks so much more dangerous than his other attacks?

For one thing, Kennedy’s speech came at a perilous moment for U.S. forces in Iraq. With the Iraqi Parliament scheduled to take back the reins of government on June 30, Islamist guerrillas had escalated their attacks.

The worst provocation had occurred on April 1, four days before Kennedy’s speech. Masked men had ambushed four American civilian contractors driving through the town of Fallujah in the rebellious Sunni Triangle. The attackers threw grenades and peppered the four men with bullets. A crazed mob then pulled the charred corpses from their cars and hung them from the Euphrates Bridge.

As Kennedy mounted the podium at the Brookings Institution, U.S. troops battled a second uprising in the south, led by a Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Had Kennedy intentionally sought to undermine U.S. troop morale or encourage America’s foes, he could not have chosen a better moment nor employed more devastating words.

The Vietnam Syndrome

Muslim warlords from Osama bin Laden to Saddam Hussein have long invoked the memory of U.S. defeat in Vietnam to inspire their troops. Kennedy’s mention of a war his own brother started struck a familiar and beloved chord in the hearts of mujahideen terrorists, from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Buffalo, N.Y.

“O U.S. people, your government was defeated in Vietnam. … Your government is now leading you to a new losing war, where you will lose your sons and money,” said bin Laden’s right-hand man, Ayman al Zawahiri, in October 2001.

“I ask the American people to force their government to give up anti-Muslim policies,” bin Laden told the editor of Islamabad’s Daily Ausaf newspaper on Nov. 7, 2001. “The American people had risen against their government’s war in Vietnam. They must do the same today.”

Iraqi generals recycled the same theme prior to the U.S. invasion. Urban warfare in Iraqi cities would become America’s “New Vietnam,” they warned. “Let our streets be our jungles, let our buildings be our swamps.”

Now Sen. Kennedy had joined the chorus of America’s foes. His remarks at the Brookings Institution were widely repeated in the Islamic media. The very next day, rebel leader Muqtada al-Sadr issued a statement offering his own gloss on Kennedy’s comments:

“Iraq will be another Vietnam for America and the occupiers,” al-Sadr declared on April 6. “I call upon the American people to stand beside their brethren, the Iraqi people, who are suffering an injustice by your rulers and the occupying army, to help them in the transfer of power to honest Iraqis.”

Such statements showed that the enemy had heard Kennedy’s message and understood it. Democrats opposed the war and American resolve hung by a thread, Kennedy was telling them. If the rebels could just hang on until after the election, they could pull victory from defeat, much as the Viet Cong had done a generation earlier.

For desperate guerrillas battling superior forces, the word “Vietnam” has acquired an almost magical resonance. It is a lantern of hope that can keep men fighting through the blackest despair.

Now Ted Kennedy had spoken that word. He had given the enemy hope.

How many enemy troops might have dropped their guns by now had he and his fellow Democrats kept their mouths shut? How many of our dead might still be alive?

A French reporter once asked North Vietnamese dictator Ho Chi Minh how a small country such as his could prevail against the mighty U.S.A. Ho replied, “We will kill a few of them, and they will kill many of us, but they will tire of it first.” To our shame, we proved Ho Chi Minh correct. And the lesson is not lost on the mujahideen fighting in Iraq today.

Before any American considers appointing John Kerry commander in chief, we should re-examine how he and his mentor teamed up to undermine America’s war effort in Vietnam.

And we must consider the distasteful possibility that, even now, these two men are working with ice-cold deliberation toward the same end in Iraq.

Stab in the Back

The anti-military rhetoric emanating from today’s Democrats will evoke a shiver of recognition from those who still recall the Vietnam catastrophe.

At 72, Ted Kennedy seems eager to relive past glories.

Few achievements stand out as starkly on his resume as the perverse success he enjoyed in orchestrating America’s defeat in Vietnam, an act by which he not only betrayed his country but also blackened the memory of his brother JFK, who first committed U.S. forces to battle in Vietnam.

As his career draws to a close, fate has offered Kennedy a final chance to re-enact his drama of betrayal.

Liberal historians have carefully segregated Ted Kennedy from the Vietnam debacle. “His name hardly appears in most histories of the Vietnam War,” writes Laurence Leamer in “Sons of Camelot,” “but the work he did … may have had as much impact on changing public opinion as any of the addresses given by his brother [Robert Kennedy] or other antiwar senators.”

Indeed, it could be argued that Ted Kennedy’s activities proved far more destructive to the war effort than the better-publicized efforts of George McGovern, Eugene McCarthy and other older and more prominent Senate doves.

Kennedy kept a low profile during those years. He worked by stealth and proxy. His most successful project may have been the cultivation of an ambitious young veteran newly returned from Vietnam. His name was John Forbes Kerry.

Kerry’s ties to the Kennedy clan long predate his Vietnam tour.

Born to a family of Boston Brahmins on Dec. 11, 1943, Kerry moved in the same patrician milieu as the Kennedys, even accompanying President Kennedy on a sailboat excursion in 1962.

Kerry says that JFK’s presidential run inspired him at age 16 to seek a political career. He went to work for Ted Kennedy in 1962, helping the younger Kennedy win his first Senate race.

Then came Vietnam.

Kerry has told at least two seemingly contradictory stories as to how he ended up commanding a U.S. Navy Swift Boat in the Mekong Delta. In February 1970, he told The Harvard Crimson that he enlisted in the Navy only after his draft board denied him permission to study in Paris for a year. Because he was graduating from Yale and almost certain to be drafted anyway, he signed up.

In December 2002, however, Kerry gave a different account to Joe Klein of The New Yorker. He said that he and some other blue-blood friends from Yale’s elite “Skull and Bones” society had gotten together to discuss the war. For the sake of duty, honor and country, they resolved to fight in Vietnam and made a pact to enlist together.

Readers must decide for themselves which version they find more plausible.

For whatever reason, Lt. Kerry ended up in Vietnam. He commanded a Swift Boat in the Mekong Delta for nearly four and a half months, from November 1968 to April 1969, winning a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts.

An uproar over what happened in Vietnam is now raging as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth contradicts his claims.

Back home in the States, Kerry pulled strings to get an early release from his military duties so he could run for Congress.

Winter Soldier

What happened next is subject to controversy. After returning to the U.S. a decorated war hero, Kerry underwent a sudden transformation to anti-war activist.

Kerry says that he joined the peace movement out of moral outrage against the war. More cynical observers point out that voters in ultra-liberal Massachusetts were among the first to turn against the war. Kerry knew they would never elect a war hero to Congress — unless, of course, that war hero denounced the war.

Whatever his motives, Kerry joined the fast-growing Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He participated in the controversial Winter Soldier Investigation, a series of informal “hearings” held in a Detroit hotel in January 1971, in which about a hundred self-described Vietnam veterans bared their souls, confessing to unspeakable atrocities.

It later turned out that many of the Winter Soldier penitents in Detroit were impostors who had never served in Vietnam. This did not stop Kerry from citing and disseminating their baseless charges.

Kerry worked his connections in Washington to gain a national forum for his views. His efforts proved successful. On April 22, 1971, 27-year-old John Kerry took his seat before Sen. J.W. Fulbright’s Committee on Foreign Relations and began reciting the testimony that would soon make him famous.

He could not have been better prepared for the role. Kennedy speechwriter Adam Walinsky helped Kerry polish his testimony beforehand. Senator Edward Kennedy himself met with young Kerry for a last-minute pep talk before the hearings began.

Kerry began his testimony by describing the Winter Soldier Investigation, whose name, Kerry explained to the senators, signified that he and his fellow anti-war veterans saw themselves as the opposite of Thomas Paine’s “summer soldiers and sunshine patriots” who fled Valley Forge when the going got tough. Of the Winter Soldier Investigation, Kerry stated to the committee:

“They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war. …”

In describing these atrocities, Kerry made clear to the Fullbright Committee that he had seen none of them personally. He was merely citing what he had heard at the Winter Solder “hearings.” Only later, during an interview June 30, 1971, on “The Dick Cavett Show,” did he state that he, too, had taken part in atrocities.

Kerry’s testimony to the Fullbright Committee continued:

“The country doesn’t know it yet, but it has created a monster, a monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence, and who are given the chance to die for the biggest nothing in history. … [H]ow do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam?”

How indeed? If the cause for which Americans fought in Vietnam really amounted to “nothing” in Kerry’s mind, then it hardly mattered whether you were first or last to die. Better not to fight at all. That was his message to the troops in 1971. It remains his message to America’s fighting troops today.

With Kennedy’s help, Kerry had succeeded in redefining the American soldier as a “monster” and a criminal.

“The Winter Soldier Investigation was the dark heart of the whole poisoned image of the Vietnam veteran,” charges Scott Swett, founder WinterSoldier.com, an online archive of articles and documents shedding light on Kerry’s military service and anti-war activism.

North Vietnamese propagandists were among the first to exploit the “poisoned image” Kerry had conjured up.

During the 1972 peace talks preceding U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, Henry Kissinger reportedly told his North Vietnamese counterpart, “We did not lose a single battle.”

“True, but quite irrelevant,” Le Duc Tho responded.

Both men were right. Neither the Viet Cong nor the North Vietnamese had beaten America on the battlefield. All the same, Kissinger was forced to accept terms that could be described only as surrender.

Despite America’s battlefield victories, a cabal of big media, leftist politicians such as Ted Kennedy and high-profile activists such as John Kerry had combined forces to sap America’s will to fight.

With their ceaseless sniping at President Bush, Kennedy and his protege are now disseminating their own set of “myths” about 9/11 and the War on Terror. Both men are walking familiar ground; they have done this before. The public has yet to decide whether their second war on America will prove as successful as the first.

A Question of Character

To the frustration and puzzlement of many Republicans, George W. Bush has gone out of his way to court Ted Kennedy.

Within days of his inauguration, President Bush brought Kennedy to the White House to confer on education. Bush later invited him to a special White House screening of the film “Thirteen Days,” which dramatized JFK’s heroism during the Cuban missile crisis.

In 2001, Bush made the extraordinarily gracious gesture of naming the Justice Department building after Robert F. Kennedy.

More substantively, the president worked with Kennedy to craft a mutually acceptable version of the No Child Left Behind Bill of 2001, which mandates testing for schoolchildren in grades three through eight. Bush likewise sought his collaboration in hammering out Medicare reforms.

But Bush’s graciousness was lost on Sen. Kennedy. If anything, he saw it as a sign of weakness on the part of the president. In Boston, the rule of politics that Joe Kennedy so brilliantly mastered was simple: Don’t be kind to your enemies; crush them.

Ted Kennedy has had difficulty restraining his contempt for President Bush. When speakers at the Democrat convention were asked to refrain from personal attacks and angry rhetoric, he was given a dispensation. When he mounted the podium, he lambasted Bush and his team as liars, crooks and tyrants.

“We bear no ill will towards our opponents,” Kennedy said acidly. “In fact, we’d be happy to have them over for a polite little tea party. I know just the place — right down the road at Boston Harbor. …”

Kennedy continued:

“If dedication to the common good were hardwired into human nature, we would never have had a need for a revolution. If each of us cared about the public interest, we wouldn’t have had the excesses of Enron. We wouldn’t have had the abuses of Halliburton. And Vice President Cheney would be retired to an undisclosed location. …

“Our struggle is not with some monarch named George who inherited the crown. Although it often seems that way. Our struggle is with the politics of fear and favoritism … with those who put their own narrow interest ahead of the public interest.”

And so on, in the same vein.

Edward M. Kennedy is a haunted man overshadowed by the death of his brothers and their greatness. In John Kerry, Ted Kennedy chose an inappropriate surrogate for them. In Kerry, Kennedy found only a mirror image of himself.

– Richard Poe

Cross-posted from NewsMax Magazine, September 2004

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