WASHINGTON - "This is not a good man." That's how Lynne Cheney summed up John Kerry after the Democratic candidate decided to engage in a little gay-baiting of her daughter in the final presidential debate last week. Was Mrs. Cheney speaking only as an "angry mom," as she admitted, or did she expose an essential truth about Mr. Kerry?
I don't like the recent tendency to cast political opponents as "enemies," "liars" and "evil," which the Democrats have engaged in far more than Republicans this election season. But Mr. Kerry's actions over a lifetime do reveal a man with an unsteady moral compass, willing to say and do whatever he deems necessary to advance his own ambitions. The Bush campaign has characterized this tendency as flip-flopping, but it goes deeper than that. Mr. Kerry isn't a mere political opportunist but a man who knowingly engages in deceit and is so contemptuous of those who disagree with him that he underestimates their intelligence and their character.
Mr. Kerry's remark about the vice president's daughter was no accident but a conscious effort to discourage blue-collar Democrats and Christian voters from supporting the GOP ticket. The remark bore the fingerprints of Robert Shrum, Mr. Kerry's chief political strategist and one of the most ruthless operatives in the business. The Shrum-Kerry tactic says worlds about these two men's disdain for working-class Americans and people of faith as yahoos and bigots who would be so turned off by the sexual orientation of one of the Republican candidate's family members that they'd stay home on Election Day.
The move clearly backfired. By an almost 2-to-1, Americans disapproved of Mr. Kerry's raising the issue during the debates. So the senator moved on to more tried and true scare tactics that have worked well for the Democrats in previous elections.
In the last few days, Mr. Kerry has been accelerating his use of fear to motivate blocks of voters. He is trying to scare seniors into believing that if Mr. Bush is re-elected, their Social Security benefits will be cut by 30 percent to 45 percent, alleging the president has a "January surprise" to "privatize" Social Security for current recipients. "That's up to $500 a month less for food, for clothing, for the occasional gift for a grandchild," Mr. Kerry told a group of seniors in Florida. The Democratic candidate has also tried to frighten young people into thinking that if President Bush wins, they may face a military draft. And Mr. Kerry and his surrogates have consistently tried to convince blacks that the Republicans have a plan to cheat them of their votes - which they claim is how Mr. Bush won the presidency in 2000, despite the lack of evidence to back up such a scurrilous claim. With polls showing that President Bush has substantially increased his support in the black community, Mr. Kerry wants to make blacks believe Mr. Bush is little different from Bull Connor. One campaign flier even shows water hoses being turned on black voters during the 1950s, with the implication that Republicans would do the same today to keep blacks from the polls if they could.
Mr. Kerry knows these charges are untrue - but still he makes them and encourages his supporters to do likewise. And his run for the presidency is not the first time in which he has been willing to spread lies to accomplish his aims. In 1971, in an attempt to undermine support for the war in Vietnam, he went so far as to claim that he had personally committed atrocities while an officer in Vietnam, something he now admits was untrue. To this day, however, Mr. Kerry has never apologized to those soldiers whose honor he sullied when he accused them of having "raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam."
Lynne Cheney was right. This is not a good man.
Linda Chavez's syndicated column appears Thursdays in The Sun.