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Over His Head By: Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The suspense over who would be John Kerry’s running mate is gone, and gone with it are any lingering hopes that Kerry is serious about the War on Terror. To be one heartbeat away from the presidency, he has selected John Edwards, a one-term senator from North Carolina with a startling lack of foreign policy experience. If something should happen to a President Kerry, what in John Edwards’ experience would prepare him to assume the role of Commander-in-Chief in a besieged America? 

As Michelle Cottle of The New Republic noted, Edwards’ “only experience with international affairs involves a stint on the Senate Intelligence committee.” This fact has not been lost on many critics, least of all Kerry himself. Seven months ago, Kerry summarized Edwards’ record thus:


In the Senate four years – and that is the full extent of public life – no international experience, no military experience, you can imagine what the advertising is going to be next year…When I came back from Vietnam in 1969, I don’t know if John Edwards was out of diapers then.


On another occasion, Kerry said, “This is not the time for on-the-job training in the White House on national security issues.” Kerry’s stepson, Chris Heinz, even voiced doubts about Edwards’ fitness for high office, telling the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “I was very pro-Edwards in the spring, but now I think we may need someone with stronger credentials on foreign policy.” Even Bill Clinton told Edwards he needed to increase his knowledge of the issues after a particularly embarrassing TV appearance.


How weak is John Edwards on foreign affairs? Charles Peters of Washington Monthly relates one example:


One evening while he was campaigning for the Senate in North Carolina, Edwards was faced with a choice of several events he might attend. An advance man suggested, “Maybe we ought to go to the reception for Leah Rabin.” Edwards responded, “Who’s she?” “Yitzhak Rabin’s widow,” replied the aide. “Who was he?” asked Edwards.


Edwards denies the charge, but his recent public statements give him little credibility. In February, when asked about his position about a U.S.-EU dispute before the World Trade Organization, Mr. Trade War replied, I’m not sure I even know what you’re talking about. (His answer revealed that he did not.) When asked what his policy would be toward North and South Korea, he responded, “something different than what the administration has.” Indeed, during the primaries, Edwards seemed to think the greatest threat to America’s well-being was posed by Mexican textile workers. Now he is being called upon to act as John Kerry’s Dick Cheney.


Like Kerry, Edwards voted to authorize the Iraq war, then voted against funding it. Edwards justified his vote against the $87 billion on the grounds that he did not want to give Bush “a blank check”...for things like body armor and weapons maintenance. (He declined to say whether he voted for the $87 billion before he voted against it.) Of course, Edwards actually voted against the appropriation because he (and Kerry) chose to cower before their party’s leftist, antiwar base. He caved in to the Left despite the fact that he genuinely believed Saddam Hussein had WMDs, telling Wolf Blitzer on national television:


We know that he has biological (weapons), we know that he has chemical…We also know that every single day that goes by he’s increasing the likelihood of having nuclear capability.


Edwards has made other troubling noises on national defense. He held up Homeland Security legislation to curry favor with Big Unions. He once voted to cut defense spending by $3.1 billion.


Edwards has no military record, not even in the National Guard. One wonders how this will square with Teresa Heinz Kerry’s recent tactic of calling all those without military service “unpatriotic.”


Edwards has also shown a disturbing lack of discretion in choosing domestic allies. Last June, Edwards addressed the Mexican-American Legal Defense Foundation (MALDEF). An alleged “civil rights” organization, MALDEF is actually an integral part of the Open Borders Lobby seeking to undermine American security. MALDEF believes illegal immigrants should be given the right to vote – along with state-issued drivers licenses and tuition breaks – opposes enforcing immigration laws, promotes bilingual education in the public schools and backs full-blown amnesty for the half-million or (likely) more illegals currently in the United States. Edwards saluted MALDEF, calling their work “imperative” and “inspirational” before discussing their “shared values.”


Democrats claim Edwards will help Kerry on domestic issues, but the signs are not much better. Edwards shows signs of being an economic illiterate. In addition to his desire to strangle free trade – the force arguably accountable for much of the 1990s economic boom – he discussed President Bush’s tax cuts in his speech before MALDEF, getting nearly every detail wrong:


They (Republicans) left out millions of working families because this president put a higher priority on cutting taxes for people who live off trust funds than people who drive their cars and mow their lawns! Under the Republican plan, if you are a wealthy investor, you will pay a lower tax rate than the person who answers your phone for a living.


Of course, under the Republican plan the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans is 33 percent, while the bottom pay only 10 percent. And unlike Edwards’ own proposals, President Bush’s tax cuts included all taxpayers – which is precisely what Edwards objected to.


Elsewhere, Edwards said, “The president wants to shift the tax burden in America from wealth and income on wealth…to people like my father…He (Bush) wants working people to carry the tax burden.


After the Bush tax cuts, the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans pay 65 percent of all taxes, while the bottom 50 percent of taxpayers pay less than four percent of all taxes; and almost four million more American families pay no taxes at all under George W. Bush than under Bill Clinton. (A full 77 percent of the lowest income quintile now pays zero taxes.)  So much for Edward’s “strength” on domestic issues.


John Kerry chose John Edwards as his running mate because Edwards is political Viagra. He compensates for Kerry’s charisma-deficit and general unlikeability. Edwards’ also adds strong “populist” anti-trade rhetoric and a hardscrabble biography (before becoming a multi-millionaire trial lawyer). Selecting Edwards allows Kerry to campaign on Edwards’ domestic agenda and anti-business platform. (Expect every Kerry surrogate in the country to utter the word “Halliburton” every five-minutes between now and the elections.) This fall, instead of addressing the Islamist threat to America’s physical survival, Kerry will resurrect the domestic concerns that guided both their primary campaigns: nationalizing a greater share of the health care industry, raising taxes and squelching free trade. In short, Kerry has chosen to run Richard Gephardt’s campaign – which did not carry Iowa. And in place of Gephardt, he has chosen an inexperienced politician with no background in defense or foreign policy, because Edwards is more aesthetically appealing.


Edwards’ lack of credentials vis-à-vis terrorism shows, not only does Kerry continue to view terrorism as “primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation,” but he is prepared to leave his country without a competent successor in return for short-term political gain. Kerry’s choice shows both he and his running mate are unfit for the nation’s highest office.

Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the books Teresa Heinz Kerry's Radical Gifts (2009) and 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving (2004).

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