WITH JOHN KERRY far ahead of the pack and almost certainly the nominee, the digging into his record has begun. Kerry hasn't made it difficult to unearth troubling stances when it comes to his positions on national security matters.
One of the more damning sets of responses from Kerry are his answers to six questions posed to all the Democratic presidential candidates by the way left "Council for a Livable World." Read them all for a comprehensive survey of Kerry's fractured views on national security, but focus especially on Kerry's answer to Question #2, on whether he supports or opposes deployment in Alaska and California of a missile defense system. Kerry answers with a simple "Oppose." Dean, Lieberman, and Edwards felt compelled to give nuanced responses that attempt to assuage the left's suspicion of all antiballistic missile defenses while retaining some credibility with a public that, quite understandably, thinks missile defense against rogue regimes like North Korea is a very good idea indeed.
Not Kerry: Damn the defenses, let's depend on the good will of Kim Jong Il! Kerry's with Kucinich on this one.
President Bush's budget asks for more than $10 billion to move towards land and sea deployment of the best technology at our disposal that might knock down whatever North Korea might throw up. It isn't a perfect system, but its better than nothing. John Kerry prefers nothing. That's a campaign debate worth having.
KERRY DOES NOT seem to have given much thought to the menace posed by North Korean intransigence. The Council presented a loaded question on North Korea as the last of its six "critical" national security issues:
"Do you support or oppose negotiations that would include providing North Korea with strong incentives to verifiably end its nuclear weapons program? Please feel free to discuss your Administration's plan for dealing with the nuclear weapons program of North Korea."
Kerry again relied on a one-word answer: "Support." The phrasing of the question and the backdrop of the confrontation that has marked the North Korean brinkmanship (and the North Korean cheating which has led to the stalemate) deserves more than a simple declaration of support for "strong incentives." How do you suppose the North Koreans would read that response?
In fact, any enemy of the United States who found the Council's quiz would determine that John Kerry's election would usher in a dramatic change in American foreign policy, a change that they would probably welcome.
In the case of North Korea, don't expect any progress on the threat posed by that regime as it waits to see whether voters will supply it with a new American president, who like the one before Bush, is willing to throw money their way in exchange for promises of good behavior that are easily broken when the funds run low again.