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The Bush Campaign's Attack Dog in Chief
May 15, 2004
By Evelyn Pringle

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Every single time I hear Chief Chickenhawk Cheney challenging John Kerry's military record, I see red. Cheney once told reporters, "I had other priorities in the '60s other than military service," when asked why he didn't serve. I can't help but wonder how many soldiers in Iraq, if given the chance, might say that they have more important priorities to attend to in 2004.

Kerry not only volunteered for military service, he specifically volunteered to serve in Vietnam, at a time when Cheney went to great lengths to obtain 5 deferments to evade service. Kerry served 2 tours of duty in Vietnam. He was awarded three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, a Silver Star, and a Presidential Unit Citation for Extraordinary Heroism.

And yet Cheney, who's only experience with military service comes from sending other people's children off to die, has the gall to question Kerry's ability to handle matters of defense and national security, and his suitability to be commander-in-chief during a time of war.

Over the next several months, voters will compare the military backgrounds of the candidates in order to decide who can best serve the country in a time of war. In order to do that, they must be given the truth, instead of a steady diet of disinformation from million dollar TV ads and dozens of talking heads on cable news shows.

In campaign speeches all over the country, Cheney has charged that Kerry would not be a strong president because during his years in the senate, he opposed some key weapons programs. Here's what he said about Kerry when he spoke at Westminster College. "The senator from Massachusetts has given us ample grounds to doubt the judgment and the attitude he brings to bear on vital issues of national security."

Cheney is a complete hypocrite for criticizing Kerry's voting record against defense programs, in light of the fact that when he was secretary of defense during the first Bush administration, Cheney himself presided over the biggest cutback in defense programs in modern history. Between 1989 and 1993, he cut many of the exact same programs that he now assails Kerry for voting against.

One of the latest Bush-Cheney TV ads portrays a B-2 stealth bomber flying over a battlefield and disappearing into thin air, to make voters think that Kerry voted to cut programs critical to national defense. Yet, if the truth be known, it was Cheney and Bush Sr. who canceled the B-2 bomber program, at the same time that they opposed upgrading the M1 Abrams tank, and recommended cutting the F-14 fighter jet, and opposed buying more F-15s.

The minute that Kerry appeared to be the likely nominee, Republican pundits took to the airwaves in droves. RNC chairman, Ed Gillespie, led the pack. Gillespie said Kerry voted to cut $1.5 billion from the intelligence budget, but he conveniently left out half the story. Kerry never did any such thing. According to John Pike, who runs the globalsecurity.org Web site, the truth is that the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) had appropriated $1.5 billion for a spy satellite that was never launched. So the Senate passed an amendment to get a refund for a program that had already been canceled. There's no doubt that Gillespie knew this charge was dishonest when he made it.

Never too far from any mud-slinging contest, Chickenhawk Gingrich always has to put in his 2 cents, "I think the more that the president and the Republicans describe accurately-- they don't have to exaggerate at all; they just have to describe accurately and calmly-- what it means...to have voted against every major weapon system," he said on Fox's Hannity and Colmes, "I think if they stick to that and stick to the facts, Senator Kerry will react by saying that he's being smeared by his own record."

Apparently nobody listened to Newt's advice about not exaggerating. Sean Hannity certainly didn't when he chimed in with: "He's (Kerry) voted against every major weapons system we now use in our military." Every major weapons system, huh, Sean? Yea right.

Hannity's participation in feeding the public disinformation is not a bit surprising, but he's not the only media person to repeat the Republican mantra, without checking out the truth or falsity of the accusations.

In February, the RNC released a report that listed 13 weapons systems that they said Kerry had voted to cut, apparently implying that he should have voted differently. The list included the Patriot air-defense missiles, B-2 bombers, Tomahawk cruise missiles, Apache helicopters, and others. However, the report omits the fact that 10 of the votes that were cited were the result of Kerry's vote on bill S. 3189, the "Fiscal Year 1991 Defense Appropriations Act." It was one vote on one bill. There were no separate votes on the 10 programs listed.

Soon after the list was made public, CNN's Judy Woodruff took the bait and repeated the charge while interviewing Democratic Rep. Norm Dicks. "The Republicans list something like 13 different weapons systems that they say the record shows Senator Kerry voted against. The Patriot missile, the B-1 bomber, the Trident missile and on and on and on," she said.

Dicks explained how Kerry merely voted on a single bill and Woodruff seemed amazed. She asked: "Are you saying that all these weapons systems were part of one defense appropriations bill in 1991?" Duh---Yea, Judy, that's exactly what he was saying. I wonder who's in charge of fact-checking (if anyone) at CNN these days.

Woodruff wasn't the only CNN reporter who gave Republicans air time to distort the facts about Kerry's voting record. In an interview with Wolf Blitzer, Republican strategist, Ralph Reed said Kerry's record was one of "voting to dismantle 27 weapons system, including the MX missile, the Pershing missile, the B-1, the B-2 stealth bomber, the F-16 fighter jet, the F-15 fighter jet, cutting another 18 programs, slashing intelligence spending by $2.85 billion, and voting to freeze defense spending for 7 years."

Here again, had someone at CNN done just a little research, it wouldn't have taken much time to figure out that, at worst, Reed was a bald-faced liar, or at best, that he was totally ignorant about the defense programs that Cheney fought to get rid of the last time there was a Bush in the White House.

In fact, the testimony during the hearings on the Appropriations Bill, proves that Bush Sr. and Cheney were pushing for even deeper cuts. Cheney berated Congress for not approving more: "You've squabbled and sometimes bickered and horse-traded and ended up forcing me to spend money on weapons that don't fill a vital need in these times of tight budgets and new requirements. You've directed me to buy more M-1s, F-14s, and F-16s-all great systems but we have enough of them," he claimed.

Here's the hypocrisy of this issue. The same M-1 tank, F-14, and F-16 fighters that Cheney mentioned in his testimony, are all on the list of programs they now say Kerry was wrong to vote against. And if that's not bad enough, here's what Cheney said during a recent interview on Fox, "What we're concerned about ... is his (Kerry) record in the United States Senate, where he clearly has over the years adopted a series of positions that indicate a desire to cut the defense budget, to cut the intelligence budget, to eliminate many major weapons programs," he said.

I know of only one reporter, Fred Kaplan, who actually did do a fact check on the accuracy of the RNC report. He took the time to look up the Senate voting records of the time and found out that 10 of the thirteen items on the list were included in one single vote. Based on his review of the information, Kaplan said the report "reeks of rank dishonesty."

Before the media sanctioned the criticism of Kerry's record, it should have compared how closely his voting record was aligned with Bush Sr.'s proposed cuts in defense programs that he outlined in his 1992 State of the Union Address. Here's what was said: "After completing 20 planes for which we have begun procurement, we will shut down further production of the B-2 bomber. We will cancel the small ICBM program. We will cease production of new warheads for our sea-based ballistic missiles. We will stop all new production of the Peacekeeper [MX] missile. And we will not purchase any more advanced cruise missiles. The reductions I have approved will save us an additional $50 billion over the next five years. By 1997 we will have cut defense by 30 percent since I took office."

Next, reporters should have checked out Cheney's testimony (3 days later), before the Senate Armed Services Committee, in which he bragged about all the cuts that he had made in the defense budget: "Overall, since I've been Secretary, we will have taken the five-year defense program down by well over $300 billion. That's the peace dividend. And now we're adding to that another $50 billion of so-called peace dividend," he said.

Finally, the media should have reviewed Colin Powell's testimony, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the same hearings, where he proposed specific radical cuts in the (1) Army divisions by one-third; (2) aircraft carriers by one-fifth; and (3) the overall armed forces by 500,000.

Something is very wrong with this picture. Kerry now stands accused of voting for proposals to cut defense programs that were presented to him by Bush Sr., Cheney, and Powell. This has got to be the definition for Hypocrisy with a capital H.

For Democrats, bashing Kerry's voting record was bad enough, but the straw that broke the camel's back came when Cheney and his minions took to the airwaves and waged a full-blown assault on the credibility of Kerry's military service record in Vietnam.

Kerry obviously decided he'd had enough and came out with both barrels aimed at the top 2 chickenhawks. "I think a lot of veterans are going to be very angry at a president who can't account for his own service in the National Guard, and a vice president who got every deferment in the world and decided he had better things to do, criticizing somebody who fought for their country and served," Kerry told the Dayton Daily News. "I think it's inappropriate. I think it shows how desperate the Republicans are. They don't have a record to run on. They have a record to run away from," he said.

DNC chairman, Terry McAuliffe, also came out swinging. He accused Cheney of being "the Bush Campaign's Attack Dog in Chief," and rebuked Cheney for not serving when it was his turn. "When John Kerry was risking his life for his country in Vietnam," McAuliffe said, "Dick Cheney was getting deferments because, in his words, he had other priorities than military service. And he feels qualified to tell us that John Kerry won't do whatever it takes to defend America?" That's right. Where was Bush for the better part of that year when he was AWOL? And what qualifies Cheney to decide whether Kerry has what it takes to defend our country? I hope Kerry and McAuliffe keep chasing those chickenhawks until they're forced to answer those questions.

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