March 17, 2004

Kerry is right
Posted by Jon Henke

Kerry is being attacked unfairly on this one...

The new Bush television commercial, which began running in the swing state of West Virginia on Tuesday, sought to discredit Mr. Kerry's defense credentials by attacking him for voting against the $87 billion bill last year that financed operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Kerry had voted for the resolution authorizing war in Iraq, but White House aides said he later expressed enough ambivalence about the war to let them portray him as opposing a war that enjoys wide support among Americans.
Mr. Kerry added, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it," referring to an amendment he supported that would have rescinded some tax cuts to finance the war.

This isn't equivalence, a flip-flop, or a "failure to support the troops". The Bush administration is spinning this as hard as they can, but it's a thoroughly dishonest spin. They have to know it, too.

To clear this up: Not only did Senator Kerry not oppose appropriating $87b, he actually submitted a bill to "require the Treasury Department to raise an additional $87 billion for the Presidentís request for supplemental funding for our troops in Iraq and for reconstruction". In short, he wanted to take a mulligan on the tax cuts.

Now, we can argue whether that was a good idea - I don't think it was - but he was NOT against appropriating money to support the reconstruction effort in Iraq or the troops. He was simply against doing it in the way it was submitted. President Bush, I would remind you, threatened to veto the SAME BILL if it wasn't done in the way he wanted.

Argue about the merits of each argument, but let's not pretend Kerry "doesn't support the troops" because he voted against this appropriation. That's just dishonest.



I'm sorry, but it looks to me like he will support the troops if he can raise taxes to do it. Otherwise, no dice. Leaving aside the argument that raising taxes enough to cover the tab isn't a particularly revolting position, if he's not going to get his way on taxes he's leaving the troops and the Iraqi people in the lurch.

As it were.

What am I missing?

Posted by: spongeworthy at March 17, 2004 02:30 PM

Well, what did Kerry value more in this case: supporting the troops, or raising taxes?

Posted by: Roy Jacobsen at March 17, 2004 02:32 PM

I agree to a certain extent that Bush's ad might be misleading - Kerry did indeed show support for the troops in his bill.

However, it brings into question the level of commitment his "support for the troops" and for finishing the job in Iraq reaches. Since it appears that he voted against the final bill soley on the basis that it didn't include a tax hike might indicate that he is more committed to budget issues than he is to making sure that the job in Iraq is completed properly. I might liken such an approach to deciding not to feed your children because you would have to liquidate some asset you would prefer not to. Yes, you might be demonstrating financial responsability/acumen, but you look awfully cold in the process.

In addition, while it's true that Bush threatened to veto the bill if it didn't meet his requirments, you'll note that those requirements were directly related to the details in the bill itself and not to simply funding issues. It's also interesting to note that issue Bush threatened to veto the bill over would have created a greater burden on the Iraqi people b y making some of money into loans instead of gifts/grants.


Posted by: MartyB at March 17, 2004 02:33 PM

All three comments echo this thought:

"Well, what did Kerry value more in this case: supporting the troops, or raising taxes?"

- - -Why is it an either/or issue? Both Bush and Kerry had the same goal, but both thought there were problematic funding issues. Bush thought the loan would unreasonably encumber the Iraqi's with debt....Kerry thought the bill would exacerbate US debt.

Again, we can agree to disagree on whether either is correct, but the fact is that he DIDN'T attempt to deprive the troops of support...he attempted to do it a different way. Had the bill been voted down, they still would have gotten the money...they just would have gotten it within a different bill. A bill more in line with Kerry's priorities.

Whatever that is, it's not a lack of "defense credentials".

Republicans have been the victims of those attacks, too. They should know better. (they do, but choose to ignore it)

Posted by: Jon Henke at March 17, 2004 03:32 PM

Although I agree with your overall sentiment in this post, I take issue with the "spinning as hard as they can" and "thoroughly dishonest" parts.

Yes, it's being spun politically, but nowhere near as dishonest as the Democratic debate spin machine has been in the past few months.

Though I don't completely condone this spin, I can somewhat understand it. A man can have his face slapped only so many times before he has the tendency to slap back.

Posted by: Jim G. at March 17, 2004 03:45 PM

But when faced with the bill that actually had a chance of passage, he voted No.

Unfortunately, that goes with the territory when running on a legislative record--you get faced with complicated packages and have to make tough choices. He ultimately voted not to fund the troops.

Posted by: James Joyner at March 17, 2004 03:49 PM

Yes, he did. And if faced with a bill containing a loan package, Bush would have voted against it. It doesn't mean he would have voted not to fund the simply means he didn't want to do it in that particular way.

But you're right....the "all or nothing" nature of voting on large bills gives your opponents plenty of space to misrepresent your stance.

Posted by: Jon Henke at March 17, 2004 03:52 PM

It's actually quite fair and not dishonest, within the scope of normal political squabbling over Senate votes, to characterize things the way the Bush ad did. Which does not mean it's inarguable, or that it proves a disregard for defense on Kerry's part.

Having spent years as a Senate staffer on precisely these sorts of matters years back, I can say it is a no-brainer to support final passage on any bill funding troops in the field. Pitched battle over amendments (in this case, the tax issue) is the norm. But on final passage of such funding measures ("such funding measures" understates the case, since this dealt with support for troops in a hot war), it's rare to see much opposition. It's unimaginable to see someone with presidential aspirations vote this way -- I was stunned when Kerry voted against final passage. He handed his GOP opponents a Willie Stargell-sized bat.

In any case, the Kerry vote fits a pattern, and the resonance (rightly) comes from that pattern: a nearly unbroken chain of votes on nat. security issues that have not borne up well over time, and in each case the rationale being "how" and not "what" -- evidence of irresolution, failure to keep an eye on the bottom line, or bad judgement ... or some mix of all three.

Posted by: IceCold at March 17, 2004 03:57 PM

Frankly, it looked to me at the time that he was belatedly trying to whip up some antiwar credentials. So he chose to vote against the bill. Did he actually think there was a chance of getting a tax increase tacked on to that bill?

I'm not buying it. I don't honestly think the guy wanted to leave the troops without food or bullets, but he made a poltical decision and now it's time to pay the piper.

Posted by: spongeworthy at March 17, 2004 04:45 PM

A 30-second political ad doesn't offer much room for context, so let's look at Kerry's vote in context.

"On national security, the Senator has shown at least one measure of consistency. Over the years, he has repeatedly voted against weapons systems for the military. He voted against the Apache helicopter, against the Tomahawk cruise missile, against even the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. He has also been a reliable vote against military pay increases - opposing them no fewer than 12 times." -- Vice President Dick Cheney (

That's one additional bit of context, admittedly from the opposition. Does Kerry's website showcase his voting record for strengthening the military? I took a look, but didn't find specifics. If anyone can point out something, I'd be glad to take a look.

From what I've been able to find, the vote in question was cut from the same cloth as the rest of his record.

Posted by: Roy Jacobsen at March 17, 2004 05:50 PM

So, Jon, if Kerry voted to buy Abrams tanks, but only if taxes were raised enought to pay for all of them, and the bill didn't pass, and therefore we didn't have any tanks, would this be a vote for or against military expenditures?

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at March 17, 2004 05:59 PM

It's intent, guys. Kerry didn't stand in the way of funding the troops....he simply tried to do the same thing another way.

Again, would you have made the same criticisms if Bush had vetoed the bill, as he promised? I doubt it. You'd know that he was only voting against that FORM of the bill, but the soldiers would get the funding in another way.

Well, the same applies to Kerry. You don't get to have it both ways.

Posted by: Jon Henke at March 17, 2004 09:14 PM

That's the difference between being the President and being a Senator. One way or the other, those troops are going to get their stuff. If Bush vetos the bill with the loan proviso, it's going back until it comes out in a form he can sign. The Executive is supposed to have a unique power here to advocate his agenda.

Senators have to learn to compromise. It's one of the sucky parts of the job. At the end of the day--Christ I hate that but it's accurate here-they have to sign on or off.

I guess if your argument is that Kerry was standing on a principle, I'd try not to laugh out loud, but I suppose I would make that same argument had Bush sent the bill back becasue of loans.

Nonetheless, Kerry was trying to rally support from antiwar lunatics who were supporting the Melancholy Dean, so he pulled this cheap stunt.

Posted by: spongeworthy at March 18, 2004 08:47 AM

Mickey Kaus has the best explanation:

"A legislator can always defend a vote against a bill by saying "Well, if the bill had failed they would have had to come back to us and we would have made these three improvements." That's one reason Washington votes are Kabuki theater. But Bush's tax cuts could always be repealed later to close the deficit the $87 billion would enlarge. In the meantime, the tax cuts weren't going to be repealed, the troops were in the field, and Bush was finally stepping up to the plate and asking for money to fund his war. It seems to me the logical vote would be to support the $87 billion and figure out how to pay for it later--unless you were a Democratic candidate running for president in anti-war Iowa and trying desperately to seem anti-Bush to make up for your vote to authorize the Iraq war in the first place. If the $87 billion vote had come during the general election, and Kerry needed to appeal to moderates and conservatives, would he have voted for or against it? The question more or less answers itself."

Posted by: McQ at March 18, 2004 05:50 PM

It doesn't matter that he proposed a different funding bill with a tax cut roll back. That bill failed and the bill that eventually passed came up for a vote. Kerry voted Nay. There is nothing to debate. He should have voted for the bill since the troops were already in the field and their current funding was almost gone. He could have proposed a bill to pay for it later and avoided leaving the troops hanging.
Anyway, you know he only voted against the supplemental appropriation bill because the Democratic primary had begun and anti-war Howard Dean was kicking his butt.

Posted by: jt007 at March 19, 2004 05:09 AM

Sorry, guys. You're wrong. The key fact is this: Kerry did NOT oppose funding the troops, and he opposed the Presidents bill, so that it WOULD be done....but differently. If John Kerry had his way, the troops STILL would have gotten their funding.

And again, Bush said he would veto the bill, too, if he didn't like it.

Your assumptions about Kerry's possibly motivation is irrelevant. The only relevant fact is that Kerry DID want to fund the troops - even submitted a bill to do exactly that. Disagree with him all you like about his METHOD of funding the troops, but don't pretend he was opposed to doing it at all.

Posted by: Jon Henke at March 19, 2004 06:10 AM

Actually Jon ... the only relevant thing is despite his desire to "want" to fund the troops, he voted against the bill which would do so. His reasons are what are irrelevant, and as Kaus points out, he could have handled the tax issue in ANOTHER bill.

Posted by: McQ at March 19, 2004 07:31 AM

McQ, that wasn't the ONLY opportunity to fund the troops. Had that bill failed, there would have been ANOTHER bill. In fact, that's exactly what Edwards and Kerry argued....that, by attempting to vote down that bill, they could force another bill.

Again, if the bill he voted against were the final bill - the last chance to fund the troops - I would agree. It would not have been.

And I wonder why nobody is accusing Bush of "failing to support the troops" for threatening to veto the original draft of the bill?

Posted by: Jon Henke at March 19, 2004 07:49 AM

Because its not about "intent", Jon ...its about action. Kerry's been in the Senate for a long time. He knows how to count votes. Had it been a close vote, he might have something to fall back on, but it wasn't. He was one of 12 senators to vote no ... and as has been pointed out, one of the reasons was at the time he was getting his ass kicked by Howard Dean's anti-war stance. So he chose politics (since there were other ways to do what he claims bothered him about the bill) over funding the troops.

Now he pays the piper. Such is life in politics.

Posted by: McQ at March 19, 2004 08:25 AM

Interesting. So, Kerry should have voted for it, because it was bound to pass. How utterly principled that would have been.

Would you have accused Bush of "not supporting the troops" had he vetoed the initial bill he threatened to veto?

Posted by: Jon Henke at March 19, 2004 08:32 AM

How could I not have accused him of that?

A veto of a bill to send necessary items to soldiers in combat? What else would it have been?

The reality is Kerry played politics with this vote. My guess is Bush, despite the threat, would have held his nose and approved the bill he threatened to veto for the simple reason that it DID fund the troops and then he'd have turned to the Republican congressional leadership and said "fix this".

That's what Kerry should have done ... but instead he chose to take a stand on an tax issue knowing full well that if the bill went down in defeat it would have DENIED funding to the troops.

You'd think a poltical candidate for president would have more political savvy than that UNLESS it was important to him to take a perceived "anti-war" stand at the time.

It was. He did. Now he gets to pay for it.

Posted by: McQ at March 19, 2004 08:41 AM

Here's where I think we have a disconnect:

"if the bill went down in defeat it would have DENIED funding to the troops."

- - -No. It would not have "denied funding". It would have forced Congress to rewrite the bill...and the troops would have been funded. Was there an urgent need for a bill to be passed THAT DAY? No. It was for future funding. Had it taken an extra 5 days to pass the bill, the troops would have been funded. And John Kerry DID submit a bill to fund them.

Posted by: Jon Henke at March 19, 2004 09:12 AM

Your point of view is quite clear. Logic will never sink in with you. You are ready to sink with your guy.

John Kerry did NOT vote for the troops. He did vote for an admendment to a bill. But voted NO on the bill itself.

The bill, not the admendment, is the support of the troops. His admendment shows his concept on taxes and troop support. Which you can honestly say is his principal.

But his principal failed in the vote on the admendment. When the bill came up, he voted NOT to fund the troops. Like a crying whining baby who didn't get his way: "It's my ball and I am going home".

It is normal Democrat bull that we have had to deal with for years. Bill Clinton pulled the same shit in 1992. "If you don't vote for this bill, you want to kill innocent children". When it fact, the Republicans didn't like the bill, and tried to admend it.

You guys are going to continue to lose as long as you talk out both sides of your mouths. Why don't you just try putting someone up that has integrity, and leadership skills.

This is a chance for him to show his leadership. He should be saying: "Damn Right I didn't vote for it. We shouldn't be there, and I did my best to bring them home because of my beliefs".

Otherwise, you are just going to continue to get hammered with his record, his double speak and his absolute lies.

Posted by: rshearer at March 19, 2004 11:32 AM

"You are ready to sink with your guy."

- - -MY guy? I'm afraid you haven't read this blog very often. Kerry is just about as far from "my guy" as it's possible to be.

Posted by: Jon Henke at March 19, 2004 12:29 PM

Heh ... yeah, I got a chuckle out of that too, Jon.

Back to the point ... the bill DID fund the troops. Don't care how or what Kerry prefered, THAT was the bill which funded the troops.

He voted against it. So its entirely proper to say "he voted against funding our troops". Doesn't matter what esoteric argument he puts up, in pragmatic political terms he f'd up.

Posted by: McQ at March 19, 2004 12:34 PM

I think Kerry did the right thing. He wanted it done right. If his vote had blocked the authorization, I assume Bush would have had to move towards his position to gain approval of the 87 billion. I think it's obvious Kerry wanted to funding to go through--so to say he didn't support the troops, I think, is disingenuous. Also, if he votes for it you could criticize him for adding to the deficit. On the other hand, I strongly disagree with his vote for war authorization. He says he voted for it based upon Bush's promise to diligently gain UN support for the mission--which Kerry said did not occur. But votes don't come with conditions. He gave Bush the blank check and knew there was a risk that Bush would just go through the motions at the UN. He should have to live with that vote. If he wanted better efforts at the UN, he should have voted for the amendment that would have required Bush to come back to the Senate for further authorization if he failed at the UN. I wish he would have done that. I think he'd be in a much better position today if he had.

Posted by: KenH at May 13, 2004 11:59 PM

hey i will vote for you any day you are so much better than bush
he just rushed right in to war and i believe that you would have just sent a few troops in to fond the weponds of mass dictron even thought i am only 12 io think that you are so much better than bush

Posted by: Brittany Littlefield at October 18, 2004 04:02 PM