Steve Sachs Duke


Thursday, February 12, 2004


Score One for the Digital Archives: While most major networks (like CNN) have been focused on a new Harvard student publication, they've missed another story from Wednesday's Crimson -- an old interview with a 26-year-old John Kerry. The original article, from Feb. 18, 1970, lays out the positions of the young Congressional candidate:

[Kerry] supports a volunteer Army, "if and only if we can create the controls for it. You're going to have to prepare for the possibility of a national emergency, however." Kerry said that the United Nations should have control over most of our foreign military operations. "I'm an internationalist. I'd like to see our troops dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations."

On other issues, Kerry wants "to almost eliminate CIA activity. The CIA is fighting its own war in Laos and nobody seems to care." He also favors a negative income tax and keeping unemployment at a very low level, "even if it means selective economic controls."

The U.N. quote is most interesting from a political point of view; the Crimson quoted a GOP campaign spokesperson as stating that Bush "will never cede the best interests of the national security of the American people to anybody but the president of the United States, along with the Congress." The story also prompted a reaction from Kerry spokesperson David Wade:

"The G.O.P. must be terrified of John Kerry if they're obsessing over statements of a 26-year-old Vietnam veteran angry at the Nixon White House's indifference to soldiers dying in the frontlines thousands of miles away."

"Through 20 years in the United States Senate, John Kerry has stood up for the strongest military on Earth and a muscular internationalism that makes America safe while winning the cooperation of alllies," Wade added.

(I have to admire the political skill here -- Wade managed to get "Vietnam veteran" and the "White House's indifference to soldiers dying the frontlines" into the same sentence. And how many focus groups do you think have tested the phrase "muscular internationalism" by now?)

The Kerry campaign is perfectly right that the comments are irrelevant to his current run. Although putting U.S. troops under complete U.N. control would have been a dumb idea even at the time (the USSR gets a veto on our troops in West Berlin?), Kerry had just returned from witnessing the atrocities of Vietnam, and if he had a negative impression of U.S. military adventures, I'm inclined to give the guy a break.

But the statements are interesting to read nonetheless, and the decision by The Crimson to make over 100 years of archives available online -- though originally controversial -- keeps looking better and better. Besides, without the archives, we'd never have found this 1971 story about a rally in which Kerry appeared alongside the Democratic presidential candidates. Co-written by current Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, it contains the following unusual remark, which one hopes both parties would soon accept:

In a colloquy with a student at the press conference, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy '54 (D-Mass.) said he believed change could be brought about by governmental action...

On another subject, Kennedy said he hoped that President Nixon would appoint Supreme Court justices committed to "progressive, liberal thought."

He added, however, that he doubted the Senate would reject an appointee on the basis of his philosophy alone. "Many of the great giants wouldn't have been approved if that had been the criterion," he said[.]

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus notes the following passage from the 1970 story:

At Yale, Kerry was chairman of the Political Union and later, as Commencement speaker, urged the United States to withdraw from Vietnam and to scale down foreign military operations. And this was way back in 1966.

When he approached his draft board for permission to study for a year in Paris, the draft board refused and Kerry decided to enlist in the Navy.

Sounds pretty damning -- until you read the rest of the paragraph:

The Navy assigned him to the USS Gridley which between December 1966 and July 1968 saw four months of action off the Vietnam coast. In August through November, 1968, Kerry was trained to be the skipper of a patrol boat for Vietnamese rivers. For the next five months, until April of 1969, Kerry was the commanding Lieutenant of a patrol boat in the Mekong Delta. He was wounded slightly on three different occasions and received a Silver Star for bravery. His patrol boat took part in Operation Sealords, mostly scouting out Viet Cong villages and transporting South Vietnamese marines to various destinations up and down narrow rivers covered with heavy foliage on either side. One time Kerry was ordered to destroy a Viet Cong village but disobeyed orders and suggested that the Navy Command simply send in a Psychological Warfare team to be friend the villagers with food, hospital supplies, and better educational facilities.

Pretty hard to disparage, if you ask me.




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