NEW YORK -- I have never seen so many police -- and for the first time I really understand Rudolph Giuliani's love for "New York's finest." Convention goers are impressed with their hospitality, their politeness and their restraint in the face of some extremely obnoxious protesters. (Many of the protesters, it should be added, comported themselves admirably.) Some of the police and federal agents patrolling the streets, the subways, the busses and trains are carrying impressive firepower. But they are friendly and open. Their bodies say we are ready to confront any enemy -- their eyes say we are disposed to help everyone else. In this, I believe, they are just like American soldiers.
I have mixed feelings about New York City, where I was born. It's too dirty, too noisy, too rude and too liberal to love. But one cannot approach this greatest of American cities without awe. The people who created and sustain this behemoth are full of spirit and courage. They have seen what frenzied, hate-filled terrorists can do, and still they persevere. They know that New York remains a prime target for the Islamist killers, but like Londoners during the Blitz, they soldier on. And some -- one cannot say how many -- have learned the lesson of 9/11. I got a succinct history from a young cab driver, himself a Democrat, about the Democrats' approach to terrorism. "When they bombed the towers the first time (in 1993), Clinton gave them a slap on the wrist and said, 'Don't do it again.' When they bombed our guys in Saudi Arabia, he gave them another slap on the wrist." (He demonstrated -- making his passenger wish he would keep his hands on the steering wheel -- I was fine with the metaphor.) The cabbie is voting for Bush.
I didn't ask him whether he had seen Zell Miller's keynote speech, but if he had, it would have solidified his inclinations. That was a unique and significant moment in American political history -- a politician who had delivered the keynote address at one party's convention 12 years ago now switching sides and addressing the other party's convention. It's quite extraordinary. Liberal commentators were at a loss to explain Miller's change of heart, and attempted to blunt the effect by noting that Miller had praised Kerry a few years ago. But the most likely explanation for Miller's decision is also the most obvious: He is sincere. Like the New York cabbie, he believes that every other issue pales beside national security. He wants his grandchildren to grow up safe.
Miller picked up where the Swift boat ads left off. It isn't simply that John Kerry dishonored his fellow veterans when he returned from Vietnam (though that is reason enough to vote against him), it is his stellar record of liberal soft-headedness in a 20-year career in the United States Senate. John Kerry consistently underestimates the dangers this nation faces. When the Soviet Union was attempting to gain nuclear supremacy in the 1980s, they endorsed and (through their willing agents among European and American leftists) popularized the idea of a "nuclear freeze." Reagan saw through it. He knew that a freeze would actually cement a Soviet advantage in intercontinental ballistic missiles. But Kerry fell for it. As a new senator he introduced the Comprehensive Nuclear Freeze bill. Kerry was also an early and influential opponent of the Strategic Defense Initiative, and a consistent opponent of new weapons systems including, as Zell Miller itemized, many of those that are helping us to defeat the terrorists today.
Like so many in the Democratic Party, Kerry was soft on the Sandinista communists, voting against aid to the anti-communist Contras. More than most, Kerry put his prestige on the line by meeting with Sandinista commandante Daniel Ortega. The little communist in designer glasses easily snookered the liberal from Massachusetts by promising to abide by the "Contadora" process (a Central American brokered deal). But only days after reassuring Kerry and others that he was interested in peace, Ortega flew to Moscow.
That is the public record. Kerry partisans will perhaps attempt to argue that raising such painful history amounts to questioning their man's patriotism. But frankly, Kerry's patriotism, or lack of it, is utterly beside the point. We elect presidents for their judgment -- and that is Kerry's chief vulnerability.