Roundup: Media's Take
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
Brendan Miniter, in the WSJ (March 17, 2004):
John Kerry is right about one thing: He's no Michael Dukakis. A look at the record shows that in his bid for the White House in 1988, Massachusetts' then-governor ran to Mr. Kerry's right on national defense. Mr. Kerry has not repudiated his opposition to the weapon systems Mr. Dukakis promised to support.
Everyone remembers the pathetic image of Mr. Dukakis riding around in a tank while wearing a goofy helmet. But few remember why he staged that photo-op in the first place. Mr. Dukakis was fighting to overcome the impression that he had what Henry Kissinger called a "visceral, negative" attitude toward the military--a fatal problem for a Cold War presidential candidate.
Being part of the Democratic Party was a hindrance. Many Democrats spent much of the 1980s fighting for the nuclear-freeze movement. Mr. Kerry joined the movement in 1982, during his successful campaign to become Mr. Dukakis's lieutenant governor, and he used many of its appendage groups in Massachusetts when he sought an open Senate seat in 1984. These were the intellectuals behind the rabble in the streets who protested things like deploying nuclear missiles to Turkey to counter the Soviets SS-23s.
But they did much more than oppose building or deploying nukes. They believed so strongly in "mutually assured destruction"--neither side would start a nuclear war if it was clear neither side could win such a war--that they also opposed just about any weapon system that would give America a tactical advantage over the Soviets. That's why President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (which opponents derided as "star wars") was so vehemently opposed. And it's why Mr. Kerry and others voted against funding Trident II submarine launchers, stealth bombers and even the M1 Abrams Tank.
Mr. Dukakis understood the political reality that he had to close his party's credibility gap on defense without alienating politicians like Mr. Kerry. So he tried to have his cake and eat it too. Mr. Dukakis promised to cut funding for SDI but not to kill the program altogether. He also offered qualified support to the Trident II and stealth bomber projects as well as to consider ways to get around his budget concerns regarding Midgetman missile launchers. But the bulk of his military program called for spending more money on "traditional" military hardware. He wanted more tanks, not more nukes.
To pull off this feat, Mr. Dukakis drew close to "Defense Democrats" like Rep. Les Aspin and Sen. Sam Nunn, then chairmen of the Armed Services Committees in their respective chambers. He wanted to show that he wasn't the equivocating "liberal," Vice President George Bush said he was, but in fact had the support of hawks within his party.
On Sept. 11, 1988, a group of Defense Democrats made a public show of meeting Mr. Dukakis to press him on, among other things, dropping the "ifs" and "buts" when voicing support for stealth bombers and Trident II missiles. After the meeting they publicly proclaimed him to be sound on defense. The next day Mr. Dukakis went into the tank for the famous photo.
Thomas H. Lipscomb, in Oregon Magazine (March 15, 2004):
The anti-war group that John Kerry was the principal spokesman for debated and voted on a plot to assassinate politicians who supported the Vietnam War.
Mr. Kerry denies being present at the November 12-15, 1971, meeting in Kansas City of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and says he quit the group before the meeting. But according to the current head of Missouri Veterans for Kerry, Randy Barnes, Mr. Kerry,who was then 27,was at the meeting, voted against the plot, and then orally resigned from the organization.
Mr. Barnes was present as part of the Kansas City host chapter for the 1971 meeting and recounted the incident in a phone interview with The New York Sun this week. In addition to Mr. Barnes's recollection placing Mr. Kerry at the Kansas City meeting, another Vietnam veteran who attended the meeting, Terry Du-Bose, said that Mr. Kerry was there.
There are at least two other independent corroborations that the antiwar group Vietnam Veterans Against the War, of which Mr. Kerry was the most prominent national spokesman, considered assassinating American political leaders who favored the war.
Gerald Nicosia's 2001 book â€œHome To Warâ€ reports that one of the key leaders of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Scott Camil,â€œproposed the assassination of the most hard-core conservative members of Congress,as well as any other powerful, intractable opponents of the antiwar movement.â€The book reports on the Kansas City meeting at which Mr.Camil's plan was debated and then voted down.
Mr. Nicosia's book was widely praised by reviewers as varied as General Harold Moore, author of â€œWe Were Soldiersâ€; Gloria Emerson, who had been a New YorkTimes reporter during the Vietnam War, and leftist Howard Zinn. Mr. Kerry himself stated in a blurb on the cover that the book â€œties together the many threads of a difficult period.â€ Mr. Kerry hosted a party for the book in the Hart Senate Office Building that was televised on C-SPAN.
Another source is an October 20,1992, oral history interview of Scott Camil on file at the University of Florida Oral History Archive. In it,Mr.Camil speaks of his plan for an alternative to Mr.Kerry's idea of symbolically throwing veterans' medals over the fence onto the steps of the Capitol during the Dewey Canyon III demonstration in Washington in April of 1971.
â€œMy plan was that, on the last day we would go into the [congressional] offices we would schedule the most hardcore hawks for last â€” and we would shoot them all,â€ Mr. Camil told the Oral History interviewer. â€œI was serious.â€
In a phone interview with the Sun this week, Mr. Camil did not dispute either the account in the Nicosia book or in the oral history.He said he plans to accept an offer by the Florida Kerry organization to become active in Mr. Kerry's presidential campaign. Campaign aides to Mr. Kerry invited Mr.Camil to a meeting for the senator in Orlando last week, but they did not meet directly.
Mr. Camil was known to colleagues in the anti-war movement as â€œScott the Assassin.â€ Mr. Camil told The New York Sun he got the name in Vietnam for â€œsneaking down to the Vietnamese villages at night and killing people.â€