DURING THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE on September 30, John Kerry invoked the name of Ronald Reagan to criticize President George W. Bush's policy on Iraq. Kerry claimed that, like Reagan, he would work with our allies and the international community on foreign affairs, instead of acting unilaterally.

As that preposterous comparison underlined, Kerry has proven himself to be a politician who will say anything to get elected. His wild-eyed reaction this week to the missing explosives of Al Qaqaa is just the most recent example of his making rash statements in the service of personal ambition. It is reminiscent of his original anti-war activism, when he launched his political career by rushing home from his four months of duty in Vietnam to denounce American troops with language he himself would later admit was "over the top."

Already, the facts on the Al Qaqaa flap are coming into focus, and they are far from the indictment of George W. Bush that Kerry so rashly asserted. Instead, it's becoming increasingly clear that the supposedly looted explosives were no longer at the Iraqi facility when U.S. troops arrived in the area. Kerry at a minimum has been the gullible participant in a U.N.-to New York Times-to CBS News-to Kerry campaign bank shot. At worst, he is a knowing opportunist who will ignore the reputation of our troops to get himself elected.

And this is the candidate who claimed in the first debate that he would "follow in the footsteps" of President Reagan?

During the Cold War, Senator Kerry fought against Reagan's efforts to strengthen our military at every turn. During his 1984 campaign for the U.S. Senate, Kerry claimed that "the Reagan Administration has no rational plan for our military. Instead, it acts on misinformed assumptions about the strength of the Soviet military and a presumed window of vulnerability, which we now know not to exist."

Kerry went on to call for $45 billion to $53 billion of cuts from the Reagan defense budget, including the elimination of the MX missile, the B-1 bomber, the national missile defense system, and the F-14 fighter jets. These weapons programs proved to be pivotal in Reagan's efforts to bring the Soviet Union to its knees. And Kerry proved himself to be naïve on the critical national security issue of his early years in Washington.

Unlike Senator Kerry, President Reagan was a man of firm conviction. As documented in the critically acclaimed film, In the Face of Evil: Reagan's War in Word and Deed, Ronald Reagan took politically courageous stands and did not waver because he had a vision of where he wanted to lead the nation. In a time when most of the liberal intelligentsia was arguing for the appeasement of the Soviet Union, President Reagan made the tough decisions necessary for America to win the Cold War. He was called a warmonger and worse. In 1988, Senator Kerry characterized the Reagan era as a period of "moral darkness." However, history now shows that his stubbornness and singled minded focus to defeat the beast of Communism freed millions of people.

In contrast, John Kerry is a career liberal, who voted to authorize the war in Iraq, switched course when criticized by antiwar candidate Howard Dean, and has spent the rest of his campaign offering tortured explanations of an Iraq position that is still murky by any objective analysis.

In the waning days of the 2004 presidential campaign, America finds herself at a crossroad. The threat from terrorist organizations and rogue nations that want to obtain weapons of mass destruction is a serious challenge that rivals the challenge presented by Soviet aggression in the 1980's. President Bush has laid out a clear approach for dealing with terrorism. Like President Reagan, he is leading with strength and confronting our adversaries, instead of hoping that they will not attack us first. John Kerry has spent considerable time and money trying to convince the American people he is not weak on national security issues. But he's had a hard time escaping the record he has amassed during his two decade tenure in Washington.

Kerry has voted 38 times to cut the defense budget. He has voted 12 times against providing our military men and women with pay increases. He voted against providing our troops with $87 billion to carry out their mission in Iraq. He voted to cut $7.5 billion from the intelligence budget a year after the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. And in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Kerry voted six times against establishing a Department of Homeland Security.

Americans for Peace Through Strength, a pro-defense advocacy organization, is running a television commercial to educate the public about Kerry's reckless record of voting for deep cuts in America's defense and homeland security capabilities. "It was never my intention to get involved in the political contest," said Stephen K. Bannon, the writer/director of In The Face Of Evil," who also directed our television commercial, "but, I have been outraged at John Kerry's comparing himself to Ronald Reagan, whose policies Kerry consistently fought during Reagan's presidency while Kerry was a junior senator in the 1980s."

Kerry is in fact the polar opposite of Ronald Reagan, and the American people should not entrust him with the responsibility of being commander-in-chief during this critical time in our nation's history. The second Tuesday of November will be the 15th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Wall fell because Ronald Reagan was willing to be unpopular and right, instead of popular and wrong. Bush shares this critical trait in a leader. Similarly, Bush, like Reagan, understands that it is much more important to win the war than to end it.

Let's hope that Americans choose a leader on the first Tuesday of this month that honors the anniversary of the second Tuesday and honors the sacrifices of our military.

Phil Anderson is the executive director of Americans for Peace Through Strength, a 527 organization dedicated to educating the American people about the importance of a strong national defense.

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