Kerry’s Defense Votes
Fred Kaplan has an interesting piece in Slate today that seems to refute many of the claims made about Kerry’s voting record on defense issues in the Senate.
Looking at the weapons that the RNC says Kerry voted to cut, a good case could be made, certainly at the time, that some of them (the B-2 bomber and President Reagan’s “Star Wars” missile-defense program) should have been cut. As for the others (the M-1 tank and the F-14, F-15, and F-16 fighter planes, among others), Kerry didn’t really vote to cut them.
The claim about these votes was made in the Republican National Committee “Research Briefing” of Feb. 22. The report lists 13 weapons systems that Kerry voted to cutÃ¢€”the ones cited above, as well as Patriot air-defense missiles, Tomahawk cruise missiles, and AH64 Apache helicopters, among others.
It is instructive, however, to look at the footnotes. Almost all of them cite Kerry’s vote on Senate bill S. 3189 (CQ Vote No. 273) on Oct. 15, 1990. Do a Google search, and you will learn that S. 3189 was the Fiscal Year 1991 Defense Appropriations Act, and CQ Vote No. 273 was a vote on the entire bill. There was no vote on those weapons systems specifically. [But, then, there never are. That’s not how it works. -ed.]
In other words, Kerry was one of 16 senators (including five Republicans) to vote against a defense appropriations bill 14 years ago. He was also one of an unspecified number of senators to vote against a conference report on a defense bill nine years ago. The RNC takes these facts and extrapolates from them that he voted against a dozen weapons systems that were in those bills. The Republicans could have claimed, with equal logic, that Kerry voted to abolish the entire U.S. armed forces, but that might have raised suspicions. Claiming that he opposed a list of specific weapons systems has an air of plausibility. On close examination, though, it reeks of rank dishonesty.
Kaplan also makes a case that Kerry’s votes against the B-2 bomber were reasonable in context and that Kerry indeed voted against several cuts in defense in recent years.
It’ll be quite interesting to see how this plays out. I know that I’ve read/heard that Kerry voted against the M-1 and several other key programs of the early 1980s. I’m now curious about the context of those votes, since he was, famously, Mike Dukakis’ lieutenant governor, until 1985.
Cherry picking the legislative record of candidates for higher office to find incriminating–and misleading–votes is hardly new. Indeed, my guess is most of the time the opposition researchers don’t even bother to discern the context. One advantage of a long campaign cycle is the ability to sort most of this sort of thing out.