By Jennifer Verner
While Senator Ted Kennedy, D-MA, has always been unhinged, his performance since the beginning of the Iraq War shows that he is becoming increasingly irresponsible, irrational, and dangerous.In a ranking member of the Senate Judicial and Armed Services Committees during a time of war, this kind of behavior poses a danger to national security. Case in point, Kennedy’s recent remarks at the Brookings Institute: “In our open society, it is essential to distinguish vigorous debate over honest differences of opinion from the repeated use of false and misleading arguments to persuade the American people. Integrity is the lifeblood of democracy. Deceit is a poison in its veins.”
As his eight-term record shows, Kennedy’s definition of “honest” has not changed since his failed attempt to have his smarter friend take his Spanish final at Harvard. His father was a notorious mob associate, Nazi sympathizer and predatory womanizer who tyrannically micro-managed the lives of his children. His mother spent much of her life either at Mass or obsessively pinning notes to everything in sight. And Ted? The runt of the litter. A puckish dumpling of a boy who was never expected to make good, until fate left him the last son standing. Then, with a slip of a wheel greased by booze, all presidential hopes and expectations were washed away in the waters of Chappaquiddick. And the dark days weren’t over by a long shot.
The death of Mary Jo Kopechne heralded two decades of Kennedy-generated tabloid fodder. Drug overdoses, failed marriages, rape trials, baby-sitter sex scandals, all capped by the tragic death of America’s beloved John Jr.: Aeschylus and Euripides would strain to come up with a better plot.
Perhaps the realization that he would never become president freed Kennedy to speak his leftist mind. Judge Robert Bork had a taste of Kennedy’s venom in the 1980s. During the Supreme Court nomination process, Kennedy stated that although the judge had abandoned his most “Neanderthal” views, his appointment would result in an America where “women would be forced into back alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters” and “rogue police would break down citizen’s doors.”
Judge Bork is not the only jurist Kennedy has branded with knuckle-dragging status. Last fall, he re-cycled his “Neanderthal” slur on respected Bush appointees Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and Carolyn Kuhl. (At least he didn’t use that other “N” word like former Klansman Robert Byrd—a man Kennedy equated with the founding fathers on the Senate floor last April Fool's day. Unfortunately, the salute was no joke.)
It was also apparently not false and misleading, in Senator Kennedy’s mind, to delay the appointment of Judge Julia Gibbons in an alleged attempt to throw the 6th Circuit Court in the University of Michigan Affirmative Action case. What’s wrong with Elaine R. Jones, president of the NAACP and an interested party, asking her friend Senator Kennedy to keep a conservative judge off the court until the case was decided? Ted Kennedy won’t say. When asked for a comment at a press conference in April, he left the room. He may not be able to evade the question for much longer; the Senate Ethics Committee has received three complaints concerning the matter.
As damaging as they are, Kennedy’s unethical partisan antics on the Judiciary Committee pale when compared to the palpable harm he has done to national security over the years. The only surprise in Ted Kennedy calling Iraq “George W. Bush’s Vietnam” was that he waited as long as he did. It is one of his oldest, most worn-out rhetorical stand-bys—a known crowd pleaser for the hard-line Democrat base. In 1985, when the Reagan administration requested aid for the Contras, Kennedy couldn’t resist evoking the “Gulf of Tonkin” resolution. The Panama invasion didn’t last long enough to be compared to Vietnam. Instead, the removal of Manuel Noriega represented “long-term damage to our foreign policy, to our ability to work with other nations in Latin America, and our goal of achieving lasting democracy in the region.” Kennedy predicted that George Bush Sr.’s aggressive actions made the Sandinistas shoe-ins for the Nicaraguan election in February of 1990. He was dead wrong. As soon as the Nicaraguan people had a chance, they booted Fidel wannabe Daniel Ortega from power by a 14-point majority.
Kennedy went beyond Vietnam in the debate before the first Gulf War. According to the senator, the casualties in Southeast Asia would seem slight when compared with Desert Storm. And the liars in the Bush administration knew it beforehand. “The 45,000 body bags the Pentagon has sent to the region are all the evidence we need of the high price in lives and blood we will have to pay,” said Kennedy. And when the war ended in a matter of days, as predicted, he never apologized to the President for his paranoid insinuations and over-the-top fear-mongering. Instead, in typical Kennedy noblesse oblige fashion, he sponsored millions of dollars in resolutions granting extended medical benefits to reservists, child care for military personnel, deferred student loans and mental health services for military children. But forget about funding the B-2 stealth bomber, which would have given those troops the tools they needed in war; Kennedy voted to kill funding on that project.
By October 2003, in the debate over the authorization of the use of force in Iraq, Kennedy had again gone over-the-top. Abu Nidal was listed in the Baghdad phone book, the Iraqi regime backed Palestinian jihadist organizations with millions of dollars, and Mohamed Atta was seen meeting with members of Iraqi intelligence. And what about Ansar al-Islam and Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi? Insignificant details according to Kennedy. Saddam had no links al-Qaeda. Invading Iraq would harm our efforts to hunt down Osama Bin-Laden. A “unilateral” rush to war would only make our allies hate us, inflame the Arab masses, and de-rail the war on terror.
According to Kennedy, a war on Saddam might also cause an unprecedented humanitarian crisis with an estimated 900,000 refugees, a pandemic and an environmental disaster as Saddam lit the oilfields on fire. Kennedy even quoted General Joseph Hoar, who warned that when urban warfare broke out in Baghdad, the U.S. could run through “battalions a day at a time” and that the fighting would look like “the last fifteen minutes of 'Private Ryan.'” Not once in the debate did Senator Kennedy, the great progressive heart of the Democratic Party, mention the continued suffering of the Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein and the corrupt Oil for Food program.
As usual, history disproved Kennedy’s Cassandra-like predictions. A country of 25 million has been liberated at a cost of 788 American lives. But the process of restoring civil society to a nation brutalized by thirty years of totalitarian rule has not been easy. As expected, Ted Kennedy has taken political advantage of every bump in the road. By September 2003, Kennedy was claiming that the Iraq war was “a fraud made up in Texas to give Republicans a political boost.” In a December speech in Austin before the Texas Civil Rights Project, Kennedy claimed that Bush’s Iraq policy was enough “to make the Statue of Liberty weep.” Oh really, Senator? Tell it to Iraq’s five million Kurds.
In January 2004 at Washington’s Mayflower hotel, flanked by the grieving parents of a soldier killed in action and a disabled veteran, Kennedy fingered the real villain in America’s unjust war against Saddam—Paul Wolfowitz. Paul Wolfowitz, with his “misguided ideology” had been scheming to remove Saddam since President Bush Sr. decided not to invade Baghdad. According to Kennedy, “the President and his senior aides began the march to war in Iraq in the earliest days of the administration, long before the terrorists struck this nation on 9/11.” Should Kennedy be surprised that the Bush administration had a “plan?” It would have been irresponsible for any presidential administration not to be prepared. Support for regime change in Iraq had been a matter of public law since 1998.
In April, Kennedy finally played his trump card. George Bush had become Richard Nixon, and Iraq was Vietnam. “It is said that truth is the first casualty of war,” said Kennedy at the Brookings Institute. “But this administration’s dubious and devious behavior is not limited to war and peace.”
It would be wishful thinking to expect Ted Kennedy to support a Republican president in war. But is it asking too much for the Senator to make sure his allegations are reality based? Americans are outraged when al-Jazeera broadcasts rabid anti-American propaganda to the Arab street. Yet, what should we expect when the grand old man of the Democratic Party is feeding them sound bites? Slinging specious, unsubstantiated charges at the Bush administration erodes American credibility, props up anti-Americanism worldwide, inflames fanatical elements in Arab world and endangers American lives. Is it just a by-product of “vigorous, honest debate” to Senator Kennedy when Shiite thug Muqtada Al-Sadh picks up on his empty Vietnam analogy and uses it as an excuse to slaughter American soldiers?
And it just keeps getting worse. On May 10th , even before essential hard facts were known about the homemade pornographic images from Abu-Ghraib, Senator Kennedy gave the world the following assessment: “On March 19, 2004, President Bush asked: ‘Who would prefer that Saddam's torture chambers still be open?’ Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management, U.S. management.” It would be unfair to place any blame for the gruesome, sadistic murder of Nicholas Berg on Senator Kennedy’s shoulders, just as it was unfair of Senator Kennedy to deal out responsibility for the actions of few sick rogues on President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld.
What is plain, however, is that by claiming that prison abuse results from administration policy without a shred of proof to back up the charge, Kennedy sets up a dangerous form of moral equivalency that helps to recruit terrorists and justifies the heinous, inhumane actions of al-Zarqawi in the psychotic minds of Islamofascists. Even Kennedy’s protégé, John Kerry, now sees a need to distance himself from his number one cheerleader. In an interview on the morning following the outrageous remarks, Kerry reassured America that he did not approve of the way Kennedy had “framed” the situation.
Ted Kennedy is right. Deceit is poison in the veins of democracy. He should know. The man honored as a senior statesman at the beginning of George W. Bush’s administration for his bi-partisan efforts to improve America’s educational system is now, in a time of grave national crisis, spreading a brand of partisan political poison that would shame Honey Fitz’s dirtiest back-room ward heeler. His speeches have become the ravings of a man who has lost touch with the moral implications of his actions. Senator Kennedy, before you harm America any further, please get help.