October 27, 2004


And No, It's Not Just About Voting Against Bush

I like John Kerry. Some people think you need to love him in order to vote for him. But I'm fine with like. Loving your President always struck me as a bit odd (not unlike my Mom wanting me to send her Valentines Day cards...okay, that's just plain creepy).

I believe John Kerry is a good man. He's a true patriot who fought for his country when he could have easily ducked his responsibility to spend a couple of lost years boozing around Texas. And when Kerry realized that his country was wrong, he fought back and helped end a senseless, wrong-headed war.

Bush (well, Rove) likes to talk about John Kerry's lack of a Senate record (because, obviously, Bush's record as illustrated in the post below is just too embarrassing to trumpet). Here's just some of the amazing things John Kerry did during his Senate career:
In early 1986 Kerry's office was contacted by a Vietnam vet who alleged that the support network for the CIA-backed Nicaraguan contras (who were fighting against the socialist Sandinistas in power) was linked to drug traffickers. Kerry doubted that the Reagan Administration, obsessed with supporting the contras, would investigate such charges. He pushed for a Senate inquiry and a year later, as chairman of a Foreign Relations subcommittee, obtained approval to conduct a probe.

It was not an easy ride. Reagan Justice Department officials sought to discredit and stymie his investigation. Republicans dismissed it. One anti-Kerry effort used falsified affidavits to make it seem his staff had bribed witnesses. The Democratic staff of the Senate Iran/contra committee--which showed little interest in the contra drug connection--often refused to cooperate. "They were fighting us tooth and nail," recalls Jack Blum, one of Kerry's investigators. "We had the White House and the CIA against us on one side and our colleagues in the Senate on the other. But Kerry told us, 'Keep going.' He didn't let this stuff faze him."

Kerry's inquiry widened to look at Cuba, Haiti, the Bahamas, Honduras and Panama. In 1989 he released a report that slammed the Reagan Administration for neglecting or undermining anti-drug efforts in order to pursue other foreign policy objectives. It noted that the government in the 1970s and '80s had "turned a blind eye" to the corruption and drug dealing of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who had done various favors for Washington (including assisting the contras). The report concluded that "individuals who provided support for the contras were involved in drug trafficking...and elements of the contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers." And, it added, US government agencies--meaning the CIA and the State Department--had known this.

This was a rather explosive finding, but the Kerry report did not provoke much uproar in the media, and the Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill did little to support Kerry and keep the matter alive. His critics derided him as a conspiracy buff. Yet a decade later the CIA inspector general released a pair of reports that acknowledged that the agency had worked with suspected drug smugglers to support the contras. Kerry had been right.

After the contra investigation, Kerry next turned to a far more sensitive target: a bank connected to a prominent Democratic Party fundraiser. During their investigation of Noriega, Kerry's staff discovered that the Bank of Credit and Commerce International had facilitated Noriega's drug trafficking and money laundering. This led to an inquiry into BCCI, a worldwide but murky institution more or less controlled by the ruling family of Abu Dhabi. BCCI was a massive criminal enterprise, although this was not yet publicly known. It had engaged in rampant fraud and money laundering (to help out, among others, drug dealers, terrorists and arms traffickers) around the world. Its tentacles ran everywhere. Its political connections reached around the globe. Jimmy Carter and Henry Kissinger both became involved in the scandal. When banking regulators finally shut down BCCI in 1991, an estimated 250,000 creditors and depositors from forty countries were out billions of dollars.
While Kerry was in the middle of the BCCI muck, Senate majority leader George Mitchell asked him to assume another difficult task: investigate the unaccounted-for Vietnam POWs and MIAs. For years so-called POW advocates, like billionaire Ross Perot, had claimed American GIs were still being held in Vietnam, and the highly charged POW/MIA issue was the main roadblock to normalizing relations. Working closely with Senator John McCain, a Republican who had been a POW, Kerry got the Pentagon to declassify 1 million pages of records. His committee chased after rumors of American soldiers being held. He took fourteen trips to Vietnam. This was a hard mission: How could his committee say there were absolutely no POWs still captive in Vietnam? Yet anything less could keep the POW controversy alive.
Investigations were not the only notable moments in Kerry's Senate career. On September 10, 1996, as he was in a tight re-election contest against William Weld, the popular Republican governor of Massachusetts, Kerry voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, which would deny federal benefits to same-sex couples and permit states to not recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states. He was one of only fourteen senators to oppose the measure. Several leading Senate liberals--including Paul Wellstone, Tom Harkin and Pat Leahy--had voted for it.
The following year, a re-elected Kerry was in another lonely position as one of only five original sponsors of the Clean Money, Clean Elections Act, to provide for full public financing of Congressional elections. The measure would remove practically all special-interest money from House and Senate campaigns.
(from What's Right With Kerry by David Corn)

Throughout his Senate career, our next President has been an ardent supporter of abortion rights, environmental protection, campaign reform and a forward-thinking foreign policy. From Corn: "He was a leader in the battle against Bush's tax cuts for the rich. He voted against the antigay Defense of Marriage Act. He has advocated boosting the minimum wage."

These are all values I can live with. John Kerry is a man who I will like very much as President.

Plus, what he says...

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