September 03, 2004,
New York, N.Y. One sentence of Georgia senator Zell Miller's scorching critique of his fellow Democrat, John Kerry, left me winded.
Speaking Wednesday at the GOP Convention in New York, Miller said: "The F-15 Eagles, that Senator Kerry opposed, flew cover over our Nation's Capitol and this very city after 9/11."
After retrieving my jaw from the floor, I was so buffaloed that I barely could absorb the first ten minutes of Vice President Dick Cheney's acceptance speech which followed Miller's 5,000-volt keynote address.
Inside Madison Square Garden, I recalled that sparkling morning three Septembers ago when I sat on my balcony and watched American Airlines Flight 11 fly very low and very loudly over my East Village apartment. I remembered hearing the jet's menacing roar and the piercing car alarms its vibrations triggered. I visualized the burning Twin Towers and its many doomed inhabitants for whom I grieved in total horror, wondering what next would explode in flame.
And I could not forget feeling both amazed and reassured a few minutes later when, of all things, fighter jets screamed into the skies above Manhattan. As tears of patriotism filled my eyes as they do even as I write these words I thought to myself: "My government in Washington has sent these valiant men in well-armed aircraft to protect me and my neighbors from these murderers. Finally, we're safe." That emotion was as vivid as having my mother or father run to my aid at times that I hurt myself as a little boy.
If John Kerry had his way, those F-15 Eagles never would have arrived, nor would others like them have patrolled the skies over Washington, D.C., where many of my friends live and work within the institutions that govern our nation and oversee our leaders.
Kerry's vote would have left the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the U.N., and my entire community naked to more fireballs and carnage, had Mohamed Atta's henchmen transformed even more airliners into guided missiles. If the brave passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 had not steered their craft mercifully into a Pennsylvania field, what defense would Kerry have offered to protect himself, his staffers, and family, had that Boeing 757 maintained its deadly trajectory toward Washington?
"Seeing the aircraft coming to our defense probably meant more to me at that point in time than anything else out there because it was a clear sign of security," said Bernard Kerik, the former New York Police Commissioner who called the White House early on 9/11 to request air cover. "For somebody to vote against things like that that are absolutely essential I can't endorse anybody to be in the White House who would do that."
Even worse, Kerry opposed far more than the F-15 Eagle.
"Listing all the weapon systems that Senator Kerry tried his best to shut down sounds like an auctioneer selling off our national security," Senator Miller said. Among others, he cited the B-1 Bomber, which dropped four of every 10 bombs in the first six months of Afghanistan's rescue from the Taliban; the B-2 Bomber that struck Saddam Hussein's command facilities; and the Apache helicopter which neutralized Iraqi tanks in Gulf War I.
"You don't value families if you force them to take up a collection to buy body armor for a son or daughter in the service," Kerry complained in a July 29 Democratic convention acceptance speech that lambasted President Bush. Yet Kerry famously voted last October 17 against $86.5 billion in military spending for Iraq and Afghanistan. The measure included $300 million in body armor and $140 million for armored Humvees. Kerry rejected body armor before he embraced it. Kerry says he is "proud" of this "complicated" vote.
As Cheney observed, Kerry also turned thumbs down on "ammunition, fuel, spare parts, armored vehicles, extra pay for hardship duty, and support for military families." He added: "A senator can be wrong for 20 years, without consequence to the nation. But a president always casts the deciding vote."
Kerry's strategy seems to be to empty the arsenal of civilization and hope that multilateralism magically will shield us from those who plot to murder us by the thousands.
If he had his druthers, John Kerry would be a commander-in-chief with little to command.