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The Commander-in-Chief

Hugh Hewitt | The Weekly Standard | Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Commander-in-Chief

October 29, 2004

JOHN KERRY now closes his presidential campaign exactly as he opened his political life: Attacking the United States military.

Thirty-three years ago, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he indicted the soldiers of Vietnam as war criminals, the heirs of Genghis Khan.

This week he embraced an already discredited account of missing munitions to attack the reputation of the 3rd Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne. Make no mistake, that is exactly what Kerry is doing when he asserts that deadly weapons went unsecured and unreported as these two divisions rushed to liberate Baghdad. And not just these divisions, but every officer and soldier who had a hand in drawing up the war plan. If the negligence that Kerry charges the military with was real, additional troops would not have made a difference. The initial search would still have been conducted by the 3rd I.D. and the site pronounced clear. The 101st would still have spent 24 hours in the munitions complex before moving on. Kerry cannot avoid owning the latest of many slanders he has launched at the military as a means of wounding the president.

That the story was floated by a Bush foe in the U.N. bureaucracy at the IAEA did not discourage Kerry. Nor did the evident pretzel logic of condemning the war while bemoaning the huge danger of Saddam's arsenal. The facts on the myth of the missing munitions are available at The Belmont Club and Instapundit, but facts did not matter to Kerry at all, nor the reputations of the soldiers he charged with allowing massive amounts of deadly munitions to go missing.

John Kerry wants to be commander-in-chief, and it is on the question of who is better equipped to lead the war on global terrorism that the choice between President Bush and Senator Kerry should be made. Here we should consult the men and women who will be responding to the orders of that C-in-C.

Polls of the military show a decisive advantage for President Bush. Superb essays on the qualities necessary in a commander-in-chief are available from a retired Navy SEAL blogging at FroggyRuminations, and by an active duty soldier now stationed in Iraq and blogging at MudvilleGazette. Indeed, only the most partisan of Kerry supporters would assert that active and retired military prefer Kerry over Bush. Such a preference is only a factor in considering a vote, but it's one that should weigh more heavily in wartime.

THIS ELECTION has had a Greek Chorus--the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and the POWs who testified in Stolen Honor. The mainstream media did not want to hear this chorus, even when the first volley aimed at Kerry successfully exposed his fabricated tale of a secret mission to Cambodia on Christmas Eve, 1968--an episode Kerry asserted on the floor of the Senate was "seared, seared" into his memory. The mainstream media has refused to question Kerry on his other accounts of incredible adventures transporting CIA men up river and running guns to anti-communist Cambodians, afraid perhaps to pull on a thread that might leave the candidate exposed as a serial fabulist. Despite the hostility, the chorus has kept chanting, this week even, pointing to meetings Kerry held in Paris with the North Vietnamese.

I am grateful for their work, especially this week as Kerry lashes out again at the men and women in uniform. Many times over his long political career Kerry has taken credit for missions he did not undertake and successes in war he did not achieve. What a sharp contrast with his attempt this week to deny credit to active duty soldiers for missions that really did occur and which really did succeed.

The left genuinely hates these veterans of that long ago war: for refusing to shut up and sit down; for questioning the pose struck by Kerry long ago; for rekindling memories of a war that, once lost, resulted in the death of millions.

The veterans' real significance has been to keep the question of fitness for command front and center for the past three months. The Kerry campaign has been almost all low ball--from the moment he blamed the Secret Service agent for his fall on the slopes, to his venom picked up by a mike he thought was off to his, his staff's, and Elizabeth Edwards's abuse of Mary Cheney's privacy to his wife's condescension towards Laura Bush. And when not low ball, he was bouncing a pitch at Fenway and bagging (or not) a goose in full hunting regalia. Kerry's not a closer: He's a poser, or maybe what the Canadians would call a hoser.

But what he most certainly is not is a commander-in-chief.

George W. Bush has wisely decided to close his campaign by summoning the memory of Democrats who indeed had the right stuff to command. "The party of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John Kennedy is rightly remembered for confidence and resolve in times of war and hours of crisis," the president declared in Wisconsin on Tuesday. Bush pointed out that "many Democrats in this country do not recognize their own party."

"Today I want to speak to everyone of them," he declared. "If you believe America should lead with strength and purpose and confidence and resolve, I'd be honored to have your support and I'm asking for your vote."

Bush has set up the campaign to be a referendum on his response to the attacks of September 11 and his conduct of the global war on terror. It is ending exactly where it should, as a vote of confidence on him and the military he leads.

With five days left, Americans would do well to recall Winston Churchill's critique of Cordell Hull's fatigue in a late night planning session in the early stages of World War II. Hull began to excuse himself and head for bed, citing the lateness of the hour. Churchill bellowed his dismay: "Why, man, we are at war!"

Indeed. Vote accordingly.

Hugh Hewitt is the host of a nationally syndicated radio show, and author most recently of If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends Upon It. His daily blog can be found at HughHewitt.com.

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