THE LATE SEN. HENRY "SCOOP" JACKSON used to say, "I'm a liberal but not a damn fool." On domestic policy, he was indeed a liberal: a lifelong Democrat who enthusiastically backed the New Deal-Fair Deal economic agenda of Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. But in foreign affairs, Jackson was, as one journalist put it in 1972, "the hawkiest hawk" around. This made him the quintessential Cold War liberal.
Monday morning, at the opening session of the GOP convention, Republican delegates met a contemporary Scoop Jackson Democrat: former New York City mayor Ed Koch.
"I know what you're thinking," Koch said with a smile. "What's Ed Koch doing at the Republican convention? Me! A Democratic district leader in Greenwich Village, Democratic city council member, a Democratic member of Congress, a Democratic mayor. Why am I here? I'm here to convert you. But that's for the next election. This year, I'm voting for the reelection of President George W. Bush!" The crowd roared with applause.
"I've never voted for a Republican president before," Koch told CNN shortly after his introductory remarks. "But I am voting to re-elect George W. Bush because I believe that the Democratic party, regrettably, doesn't have the stomach to take on international terrorism. And George Bush has demonstrated he does."
Make no mistake: Koch, 79, is a lifelong Democrat with bona fide liberal credentials. But in a New York television interview broadcast on August 22, the ex-mayor insisted, in Scoop Jackson-esque fashion, that he was a "liberal with sanity." He supports the Bush administration's foreign policy wholeheartedly--not just on the war, but also on the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Protocol, and the (now-defunct) Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
Koch has become Bush's chief ambassador to the Jewish community. Last January, he penned an article for the Forward, a New York-based Jewish weekly, in which he explained how a liberal could justify voting for Bush. "I do not agree with him on any major domestic issue," Koch wrote, "from tax policy to the recently enacted prescription drug law. These issues, however, pale in importance beside the menace of international terrorism, which threatens our very survival as a nation. President Bush has earned my vote because he has shown the resolve and courage necessary to wage the war against terrorism."
In February, the ex-mayor gave an interview to TV host Leon Charney at the B'nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton, Florida. "President Bush made absolutely the right decision in going to war against Iraq," Koch declared. He urged Jewish voters to consider Bush's Mideast policy and robust support for Israel when casting their ballots.
The former New York mayor heads to South Florida again this September. According to state Rep. Adam Hasner, Bush's Jewish outreach chairman in Florida, Koch will be speaking in predominantly Jewish communities on the third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Koch will no doubt reiterate what he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on the second anniversary: "I'm a Democrat, but I'm voting for Bush."
Duncan Currie is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.