November 4, 2006
Sen. John Kerry's mangled anti-Bush joke
has metastasized into a week of negative news for liberals hoping
to regain control of the Congress. Even his reluctant apology has
done little to quash the fires he lit. Significantly, these fires
rage because liberals have yet to expunge the scarlet "D" that has
adorned them since the Vietnam War -- "D" for disdain of our
Let's review the tape. Kerry advised students at a campaign rally in California that they would "do well" if they studied hard and made "an effort to be smart." If not: "You get stuck in Iraq."
Kerry's inference, of course, was that military recruits are motivated not by patriotism and a willingness to defend our liberties by placing themselves in harm's way, but by economic desperation and a lack of opportunity. Thus, a disproportionately minority cadre of young men and women from our poorest communities enlist reluctantly and must fight President Bush's "illegal" war in Iraq. As Rep. John Dingell (D.-Mich.) put it: "This is a rich man's war and it is a poor man's fight."
Indeed, in the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, liberals insisted that the burden of military service was being borne, in Rep. John Murtha's (D.-Pa.) words, by "people who are volunteering because they could not find a job." Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and 14 of his liberal House colleagues sponsored legislation to reinstitute the draft. "It is plain fact," argued Rep. John Conyers, the dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, "that the military [sic] does not come from the higher socio-economic status [sic] of society." Rep. Pete Stark (D.-Calif.) reasoned that a draft "with no deferments and no exceptions" would be "both fair and democratic" because "it will mean that Americans of every background will serve our country, not just the poor and disadvantaged as it is today."
This patronizing form of class-warfare is deeply rooted in the liberal psyche. It's no surprise, moreover, that it seeped through, accidentally or not, in Kerry's unfortunate statement. But the liberal premise is utterly wrong.
A new study by my colleague Tim Kane examines the characteristics of U.S. military recruits since 1999 and finds "recruit quality is increasing as the war in Iraq continues." His review of Pentagon enlistee data uncovered a number of what liberals will regard as inconvenient truths, including:
We'll give the last word to a former
colleague, a Ph.D. economist who left his family earlier this year
to serve in Iraq:
A number of us here at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad take great exception to [Kerry's] comments. There are many highly successful people here who have left their "comfortable jobs" and families back in the U.S. to be a part of something important.
As for education, just in my office there are three Ph.D.s, a Harvard MBA, and a junior staffer who will be heading to Harvard or Stanford next year to start an MBA program … Down the hall from me is a highly successful oil geologist (and former professor of geology), an electricity economist, a former investment banker, and a broad range of international economic, financial and utilities consultants.
"We're all here," he emphasized, "to help rebuild Iraq, not take cheap shots from those who just want to score political points a week before the election."
Mike Franc, who has held a number of positions on Capitol Hill, is vice president of Government Relations at The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in Human Events Online