Oh!pinion Rotating Header Image

April 13th, 2005:

Surprises from supposedly anti-military senator

Republicans made last year’s Democratic candidate for president, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, out to be irresponsibly opposed to spending for the military. At the same time they cast themselves in the role of the best friends the military’s ever had.

How many times in 2004 did President Bush trek out to some military installation, there to don a soldier’s jacket and alternate between his commander-in-chief and just-folks personas? We lost count, but you can check with CNN because the network seemed to always give these appearances generous, even complete, coverage.

Now it’s 2005, Bush won the election and the next congressional elections are more than a year and a half away. Suddenly, the game seems to have changed.

Here’s what Kerry’s been up to this week, from the Congressional Record. It tells in briefest form about two amendments he put forth:

S.AMDT.333 to H.R.1268 To extend the period of temporary continuation of basic allowance for housing for dependents of members of the Armed Forces who die on active duty.

Sponsor: Sen Kerry, John F. [MA] (introduced 4/11/2005). Cosponsors (1)Sen Levin, Carl [MI].

Latest Major Action: 4/12/2005 Senate amendment proposed (on the floor)

S.AMDT.334 to H.R.1268 To increase the military death gratuity to $100,000, effective with respect to any deaths of members of the Armed Forces on active duty after October 7, 2001.

Sponsor: Sen Kerry, John F. [MA] (introduced 4/11/2005) Cosponsors (4) Sen Corzine, Jon S. [NJ] – 4/12/2005, Sen Levin, Carl [MI] – 4/12/2005, Sen Obama, Barack [IL] – 4/12/2005, Sen Pryor, Mark L. [AR] – 4/11/2005

Latest Major Action: 4/12/2005 Senate amendment proposed (on the floor)

Surely these must be some kind of sneaky maneuvers. After all, no self-respecting Massachusetts liberal, what conservatives like to refer to as a Washington elite type, would bother to actually know or care about what happens to our military members, right?

Everybody knows, having been told incessantly for years, that Democrats in general and liberals most especially hold the military in contempt, right?

But then look at who’s in on the amendments with Kerry. Can it be that the co-sponsors of his amendments are Democrats? This must be some kind of conspiracy. At least you can bet that’s how Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others like them will spin this story, if they mention it at all, which they probably won’t.

Update from the Associated Press:

For soldiers who die in combat zones, the Bush administration proposed an increase in death benefits. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., won a voice vote to extend those higher benefits to include soldiers whose deaths are not combat-related.

“You can be driving a car and have a car accident in a combat zone and you qualify for that upper level (death benefit),” Kerry said of the administration’s proposal. “But if you’re serving on an aircraft carrier or elsewhere and you’re training personnel and you die … you don’t get the same benefit, even if you’re preparing to send troops to war.”

A Republican effort to set Kerry’s amendment aside was defeated, 75-25.

(Sen. Ted) Stevens (R-Alaska) argued that “fallen heroes” should be entitled to higher death benefits than a service member who dies in a drunken driving accident in the United States.

Republicans also agreed in a voice vote to a Kerry proposal to let the families of soldiers killed in action stay in military housing for up to a year, instead of the current 180 days.

Good moves so far: We applaud the Senate’s passage of Kerry’s measures. Here’s hoping they don’t get disappeared in conference negotiations with the House — a common occurrence for Democratic measures passed in floor or roll call votes that have the potential to generate bad publicity if voted down.

Always the diplomat, that Stevens. We’d like to ask him what he’d do about the soldier, maybe a decorated hero, just back from a second, much-extended, combat tour in Iraq who gets tipsy celebrating and is killed in a car accident. Maybe a car accident in which someone else was driving. Is he no longer a “fallen hero”?