GOP Prism Distorts Some Kerry Votes. A number of the specific claims made in attacks against Sen. John F. Kerry this week are at best selective and in many cases stripped of their context, according to a review of the documentation provided by the Bush campaign.
As a senator, Kerry has long been skeptical of big-ticket weapons systems, especially when measured against rising budget deficits, and to some extent he opened himself to this line of attack when he chose to largely skip over his Senate career during his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention last month. But the barrage by Republicans at their own convention has often misportrayed statements or votes that are years, if not decades, old.
Kerry did not cast a series of votes against individual weapons systems, as Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) suggested in a slashing convention speech in New York late Wednesday, but instead Kerry voted against a Pentagon spending package in 1990 as part of deliberations over restructuring and downsizing the military in the post-Cold War era.
Both Vice President Cheney and Miller have said that Kerry would like to see U.S. troops deployed only at the direction of the United Nations, with Cheney noting that the remark had been made at the start of Kerry's political career. This refers to a statement made nearly 35 years ago, when Kerry gave an interview to the Harvard Crimson, 10 months after he had returned from the Vietnam War angry and disillusioned by his experiences there. (President Bush at the time was in the Air National Guard, about to earn his wings.)
President Bush, Cheney and Miller faulted Kerry for voting against body armor for troops in Iraq. But much of the funding for body armor was added to the bill by House Democrats, not the administration, and Kerry's vote against the entire bill was rooted in a dispute with the administration over how to pay for $20 billion earmarked for reconstruction of Iraq.
Six years later, Kerry took part in a complex and serious debate in Congress over how to restructure the military after the Cold War.
Cheney, at the time defense secretary, had scolded Congress for keeping alive such programs as the F-14 and F-16 jet fighters that he wanted to eliminate. Miller said in his speech that Kerry had foolishly opposed both the weapons systems and would have left the military armed with "spitballs." During that same debate, President George H.W. Bush, the current president's father, proposed shutting down production of the B-2 bomber -- another weapons system cited by Miller -- and pledged to cut defense spending by 30 percent in eight years.
Though Miller recited a long list of weapons systems, Kerry did not vote against these specific weapons on the floor of the Senate during this period. Instead, he voted against an omnibus defense spending bill that would have funded all these programs; it is this vote that forms the crux of the GOP case that he "opposed" these programs.
On the Senate floor, Kerry cast his vote in terms of fiscal concerns, saying the defense bill did not "represent sound budgetary policy" in a time of "extreme budget austerity." Much like Bush's father, he singled out the B-2 bomber for specific attention, saying it is "one of the most costly, waste-ridden programs in a long history of waste, fraud and abuse scandals that have plagued Pentagon spending."