Sunday, May 02, 2004

The Fog of War Commercials

Kerry may have voted to drop weapon programs but Cheney was the stone killer assassin...

"The Bush team is trying to undermine Mr. Kerry's personal military record as a campaign asset by painting him as an opponent of a strong military. More specifically, the Republicans have accused Mr. Kerry of trying to kill the very weapons that are essential to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. At best, these charges are rather sloppy interpretations of complicated votes on military budgets. At worst, they are flat wrong. All are sad examples of the sort of election-year gimmickry that makes it hard for members of Congress to vote responsibly on military spending, lest they be denounced as opponents of a strong national defense.

The most glaring flaw in the Bush-Cheney assault is that the bulk of the votes for which Mr. Kerry is being castigated were cast in the early and mid-1990's, when there was a bipartisan consensus in Washington for slashing the huge Reagan-era military budgets to reflect the post-Soviet world. Mr. Cheney actually got the ball rolling by pushing through the biggest military spending cuts in a generation as defense secretary for the first President Bush. At the time, Mr. Cheney's aides liked to brag that, like Nixon going to China, the staunchly conservative Wyoming Republican had the necessary credibility to make those cuts.


In 1990, Mr. Cheney's first budget canceled, among other things, production of the M-1 tank and the Bradley fighting vehicle, and made big cuts in the F-18 fighter. That makes President Bush's newest commercial seem particularly cynical. It shows weapons disappearing from Iraq while actors in uniform watch in dismay, and an announcer accuses Mr. Kerry of trying to kill these very programs. The same commercial says Mr. Kerry "opposed" the B-2 stealth bomber, a relic of the cold war that was supposed to fly over Russia and blow up anything left after the missiles were fired. Mr. Kerry may have been less a fan of the B-2 than Mr. Cheney was, but the vice president cut production of that multibillion-dollar plane by 45 percent in his first year at the Pentagon."

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