This is what the press is supposed to do. The Washington Post has examined Kerry attacks by the Bush administration to set the record straight:
Speakers at this week’s Republican convention have relentlessly attacked John F. Kerry for statements he has made and votes he has taken in his long political career, but a number of their specific claims — such as his votes on military programs — are at best selective and in many cases stripped of their context, according to a review of the documentation provided by the Bush campaign.
Kerry did not cast a series of votes against individual weapons systems, as Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) suggested in a slashing convention speech in New York late Wednesday, but instead Kerry voted against a Pentagon spending package in 1990 as part of deliberations over restructuring and downsizing the military in the post-Cold War era.
Both Vice President Cheney and Miller have said that Kerry would like to see U.S. troops deployed only at the direction of the United Nations, with Cheney noting that the remark had been made at the start of Kerry’s political career. This refers to a statement made nearly 35 years ago, when Kerry gave an interview to the Harvard Crimson, 10 months after he had returned from the Vietnam War angry and disillusioned by his experiences there. (President Bush at the time was in the Air National Guard, about to earn his wings.)
President Bush, Cheney and Miller faulted Kerry for voting against body armor for troops in Iraq. But much of the funding for body armor was added to the bill by House Democrats, not the administration, and Kerry’s vote against the entire bill was rooted in a dispute with the administration over how to pay for $20 billion earmarked for reconstruction of Iraq.
Then there’s this, wherein the Bush administration knows more about Kerry’s past then Cheney’s:
Cheney, at the time defense secretary, had scolded Congress for keeping alive such programs as the F-14 and F-16 jet fighters that he wanted to eliminate. Miller said in his speech that Kerry had foolishly opposed both the weapons systems and would have left the military armed with “spitballs.” During that same debate, President George H.W. Bush, the current president’s father, proposed shutting down production of the B-2 bomber — another weapons system cited by Miller — and pledged to cut defense spending by 30 percent in eight years.
Though Miller recited a long list of weapons systems, Kerry did not vote against these specific weapons on the floor of the Senate during this period. Instead, he voted against an omnibus defense spending bill that would have funded all these programs; it is this vote that forms the crux of the GOP case that he “opposed” these programs.
On the Senate floor, Kerry cast his vote in terms of fiscal concerns, saying the defense bill did not “represent sound budgetary policy” in a time of “extreme budget austerity.” Much like Bush’s father, he singled out the B-2 bomber for specific attention, saying it is “one of the most costly, waste-ridden programs in a long history of waste, fraud and abuse scandals that have plagued Pentagon spending.”
Asked why the campaign was attacking Kerry for having similar positions as Cheney, White House communications director Dan Bartlett responded: “I don’t have the specifics of [when] then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney was in charge of the Pentagon, but I think we’d be more than willing to have a debate on whether Dick Cheney or John Kerry was stronger on defense.”
And the big one the Republicans are making hay of:
Kerry’s vote last year against the administration’s $87 billion proposal to fund troops in Iraq and pay for Iraqi reconstruction has also been the focus of Republican attacks. “My opponent and his running mate voted against this money for bullets, and fuel, and vehicles, and body armor,” Bush said last night.
Kerry actually supported all those things, but as part of a different version of the bill opposed by the administration. At the time, many Republicans were uncomfortable with the administration’s plans and the White House had to threaten a veto against the congressional version to bring reluctant lawmakers in line.