Thomas Sowell

 Now that Senator John Kerry has named Senator John Edwards as his vice-presidential running mate, we need to examine the reality behind the images that both men have projected.

 Senator Kerry has been busy posing for the media shooting guns, playing hockey, declaring himself as having "conservative" values, and even saying that life begins at conception. The point of all this is to counter any attempt to depict him as a limousine liberal, out of touch with the values of mainstream Americans.

 It is an insult to our intelligence to act as if posing with guns is as significant as how the Senator has voted on gun control laws during his 16 years in Congress. It is an insult to our intelligence to claim conservative values when both liberal and non-partisan organizations have rated John Kerry's voting record as the most liberal in the Senate, more liberal even than Ted Kennedy's.

 What matters is not what Senator Kerry says during an election year about life beginning at conception. What matters is how he has voted on bills involving abortion -- and how he has declared that he will block the appointment of any judges who are not pro-abortion.

 The political packaging of Senator Kerry's personal military record in Vietnam in the 1970s is far less important than how he has repeatedly voted in the Senate since then to cut military spending and to cut spending for the intelligence services.

 People who will vote for candidates on the basis of election-year images, rather than bothering to find out the facts, perhaps deserve whatever officials they elect. But, when you are electing a President of the United States especially, you are electing someone whose actions will affect generations yet unborn -- who have no vote, but who deserve something better than someone with a well-contrived media image.

 Selecting Senator John Edwards as a vice-presidential running mate was more image-making. Senator Edwards has had few, if any, achievements during his one term in the United States Senate, and savvy political observers question whether he would have been re-elected if he had decided to run again for the Senate. But he brings more image -- a more lively and engaging image -- to spice up John Kerry's dullness with his own more gushing sparkle.

 Just as Senator Kerry's long-ago military tour of duty in Vietnam is exploited politically today, so Senator Edwards' working class origins are being similarly exploited. But John Edwards has long since grown rich as a lawyer suing for millions of dollars in medical malpractice lawsuits.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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