The perfect running mate for Massachusetts' second JFK

Posted: Apr 08, 2004 12:00 AM

Word comes that John Kerry may name his running mate by June 1. The suggested possibilities range from relative unknowns, such as the governor of Virginia, to John McCain, to Hillary and even Bill.

This space recommends Teddy Kennedy - the senior senator from Massachusetts. Already possessing the initials JFK, Kerry ought to go whole-hog and pick the original JFK's brother and make it a straight Massachusetts ticket - officially nominated in Boston.

Teddy would bring three added benefits:

TRUSTED FRIENDSHIP. The two have known each other since at least the May Day, 1971, anti-war rally - organized by Kerry - at which Kennedy appeared. That was just a week after Kerry, 27, had told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about "the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made (Americans serving in Vietnam) do": He said American soldiers he had heard at an anti-war conference in Detroit had related how "they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam."

A NOTE OF CONSERVATISM. For their career Senate voting records, the leftist Americans for Democratic Action gives Kennedy an 88 (that is, he voted liberal 88 percent of the time) and Kerry a 94. Yet oddly

A NOTE OF COMPATIBLE EXTREMISM. Compatible extremism? Yes, indeed - and shared simpatico.

Kerry has taken extreme positions in Congress and says extreme things almost daily on the campaign trail.

He has voted against practically every key military hardware expenditure. He has voted against practically every initiative to give the United States precisely the energy independence he says we need; he long favored raising the federal tax on gasoline by 50 cents a gallon. Now seeking to make foreign policy a key element of his campaign, he has voted or spoken on practically every side of every foreign-policy question facing the nation.

He is the first presidential candidate generally opposing the death penalty since 1988, when Michael Dukakis ran - the governor of Massachusetts with whom Kerry served as lieutenant governor. He laments the alleged extremism of Bush nominees to the federal bench. He favors repeal of the Bush tax cuts, paints himself as a "fiscal conservative," and terms Bush "a borrow-and-spend" incumbent. He blames Bush for corporate outsourcing abroad, sides with Old Europe leaders who deplore American efforts in Iraq, and implicitly sides with those carping about Bush's prosecution of the war against terror.

Al Gore terms Bush "a moral coward." Now there's a possibility for Kerry's running mate. But he cast his lot with the moderate Howard Dean - the source of the primaries' loudest primal scream, remember him? Teddy Kennedy would be better still.

Let's see. Regarding President Bush's nominees to the federal courts, in a Washington Post op/ed last week Kennedy deplored the nomination of William Haynes, general counsel for the Defense Department, to "the extremely conservative" (Kennedy's words) 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. Haynes, he said, "embodies the administration's use of the war on terrorism to justify an 'anything goes' rule to handcuff federal judges, deny any access to counsel, carry out unreasonable searches, harass Muslims and Arabs, conduct secret criminal proceedings and deportation hearings, implement arbitrary immigration orders, and impose endless detentions. ... Nominations do not get much worse than this. Haynes does not come anywhere close to the commitment to fundamental rights and the principle of separation of powers that we all expect from the federal courts. He would be a poster boy on the 4th Circuit for denying the rule of law."

In a speech last month to the Council on Foreign Relations, Kennedy said: "In making the decision to go to war, the Bush administration allowed its wishes, its inclinations and its passion to alter the state of facts and the evidence of the threat we faced from Iraq." He accused the president himself of resorting to "pure, unadulterated fear-mongering, based on a devious strategy to convince the American people that Saddam's ability to provide nuclear weapons to al-Qaida justified immediate war."

On Monday, Kennedy went to the Brookings Institution to rip Bush for creating "the largest credibility gap since Richard Nixon." Here's how a New York Timesman reported the speech: "Summoning rhetoric common to the Vietnam era, Kerry had called for a political, diplomatic solution in Iraq. But he left it to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, his old friend and occasional campaign surrogate, to compare the events in Iraq to the war in Southeast Asia four decades ago. While Mr. Kerry said he would not make analogies to past conflicts, Mr. Kennedy said, 'Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam, and this country needs a new president.' "

With Teddy on the ticket, Kerry wouldn't have to deploy his sister Diana - for instance - to rustle up votes among Democratic ex pats, as she was doing the other day in Edinburgh. He could fire up the Kerry overseas enterprise with none of this ersatz stuff but the genuine article; Kennedy could rip Bush and tell the assembled multitudes, as she did, that "a vote for Ralph Nader is a vote for Bush."

Of course, the two could double-team here at home as well - as they have been doing right along. They could blast Bush on the genuinely improving economy across the land. They could outline their liberal litmus tests for judicial nominees. They could instruct the public in what really ought to be done to win the terror war.

With Iraq seemingly turning to mush, and firebrand Shiite Moqtada Sadr claiming kinship with Hamas and Hezbollah and terming the targeting of Americans in Iraq his "Intifada," they could (a) be ever so constructively helpful about how to establish liberty and democracy in Iraq, and (b) campaign to turn the West Bank and Gaza over to Yasser Arafat and his Hamas colleagues.

Oh, and the two could go on to make Vietnam - and comparative service during that time - the centerpiece of the Democratic campaign. Together, they could demand that Bush explain what he really was doing in the Texas Air National Guard. Kerry could continue citing his heroism during his four months in the Mekong Delta - and his subsequent time at peacenik rallies. And to demonstrate the stark contrasts between the integrity of the two tickets, Teddy could cite his heroic deeds at Chappaquiddick Bridge.