There are very few people within the Beltway, or anywhere else for that matter, that will be able to adequately patch up Kerry’s “no” vote on $87 billion for Iraq in October 2003. Sure, Kerry simply voted “no” in protest over his Biden-co-sponsored anti-tax break amendment being exempted from the bill, knowing full well the $87 billion would pass regardless. However, it still does not look good to the typical American voter and the Bush campaign has seized on this with intensity over the last few days. The main reason the Bush team has tackled this opportunity at this point is directly related to Kerry’s new focus on Iraq funding, where he constantly asks in pre-planned sound bites why the federal government can afford $200 billion for Iraq but is unable to pay for domestic programs. To Kerry’s credit, he is not directly coming out against the Iraq funding, he is simply pointing out that if, somehow, $200 billion is lying about for a foreign war, then why can’t there be more for local police protection, education, and healthcare? Regardless, the Bush strategists have taken this new rhetoric and skillfully turned it back at Kerry, drawing parralles to his vote against the $87 billion Iraq bill last October. In defense, Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter had the following to say in an ABC News article on the issue:
“If the president and his Republican attack machine were serious about protecting our troops they wouldn’t have invaded Iraq under false pretenses without our allies or without a plan to win the peace. And they wouldn’t have sent the troops into battle without the equipment they needed in the first place.”
Not a bad retort, but this is something the Kerry crew needs to hop on quickly. Firing back is simple enough, as there are more than a few defense and military budget-related issues Bush/Cheney have fumbled over the years:
1. BUSH WAS RELUCTANT TO INCREASE PENTAGON FUNDING IN 2001.
Despite pleas from a number of top-ranking military brass, President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld decided to grant only $4.5 billion of a proposed $12 billion for military improvement in 2001. (CNN, 2001.)
2. CHENEY ATTEMPTED TO GET RID OF THE M-1 TANK, THE APACHE HELICOPTER, THE F-16, AND MORE WHEN HE WAS SECRETARY OF DEFENSE.
In testimonies in front of Senate Appropriations Committee, Defense Subcommittee and the House Armed Services Committe in 1989 and 1990, along with internal Pentagon budgetary papers from the same period, Cheney suggested the termination of several military programs that have been vital in the War on Terror. John Kerry supported each program deemed fit for termination by the current vice president. (Source: American Truths)
3. BUSH/CHENEY SENT TROOPS INTO IRAQ WITHOUT BODY ARMOR — IN FACT, SOLDIERS HAD TO PAY FOR THE ARMOR THEMSELVES.
The Bush administration did not plan well enough ahead to provide body armor for all the troops stationed in Iraq, which has left soldiers and their families to foot the bill for such equipment equalling over $1000 in some cases. While Bush aides will point to Kerry’s “no” vote on body armor in the $87-billion bill, troops were sent to Iraq without adequate protection long before the vote.(Source: ABC News)
4. BUSH/CHENEY OPPOSED THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY INITIALLY.
For those who are supposedly so concerned with the security of the United States, it certainly took a lot of chiding from Democrats to cause Bush to flip-flop on creating the Homeland Security department.
5. BUSH/CHENEY OPPOSED THE 9/11 COMISSION INITIALLY.
Mainly because they were so unprepared for the attacks despite numerous warnings and red flags. Where has this issue been hiding over the last several months, anyway?
It’s going to be an uphill battle for Kerry on the defense issue, and he must come out swinging now if he has any sort of chance to win the presidency. The ammunition is there; they just cannot be afraid to use it.