Sunday, September 09, 2007

NE-Sen: A closer look at Bob Kerrey

So with the news that Chuck Hagel (R) is also retiring from the Senate, all eyes turn to former Senator Bob Kerrey (D) to see if he'll reclaim a spot in the Senate. FYI, Kerrey also served as Governor of Nebraska from 1983-1987. Some interesting facts about Kerrey: He only has one foot, having lost the other one in Vietnam. He dated actress Debra Winger while he was the Governor of Nebraska. He also ran for President in 1992, but lost out to a much more charismatic politician by the name of Bill Clinton. He helped convince Jim Webb to run for Senate, and then served as Webb's National Finance Chair, and so today we have a Democratic-controlled Senate.

As for his record, everyone should read this diary from Markos Moulitsas highlighting the good and the bad from Kerrey's record. This would be the case of a pro-Iraq war Democrat replacing an anti-Iraq war Republican. He's actually pretty liberal when it comes to social issues, and showed good judgment on Supreme Court justices. On the interest group ratings, he's much, much more liberal than Ben Nelson, the other Senator from Nebraska, who's actually a Democrat, believe it or not. As Markos showed:

Below I have Kerrey's 1998 interest group ratings. In parenthesis, I'm including Ben Nelson's 2004 numbers for comparison purposes. (Nelson replaced Kerrey in the Senate.)

Americans for Democratic Action (liberal group)
95 (65)

86 (33)

AFSCME (labor union)
100 (86)

League of Conservation Voters
100 (67)

Concord Coalition (fiscal conservatives, pro-balanced budget)
86 (81)

National Taxpayers Union (conservative anti-tax group)
22 (34)

Chamber of Commerce (conservative pro-big business group)
56 (81)

American Conservative Union
0 (52)

Christian Coalition
0 (83)

Also, ya gotta love his sense of humor at being called a cockblocker as president of The New School in New York City. Oh, and on Rick Santorum, Kerrey said, "Santorum, that's Latin for asshole." LOL.

As for Iraq, it's more nuanced than some are willing to consider. This New York Observer piece from May goes more in-depth with Kerrey on the issues, and on his comments on the Presidential candidates. When it's not Iraq, but terorrism in general, Kerrey did a most excellent job in smacking down Rudy Giuliani.

In response to Rudy Giuliani’s recent remarks doubting the ability of Democrats to keep America safe from terrorism, the Vietnam veteran and former Navy SEAL questioned whether the former Mayor is himself qualified for the job.

“It’s an outrageous statement,” Mr. Kerrey said about Mr. Giuliani’s assertion that a Democratic President would make the country more vulnerable to a similar terrorist attack. “His record of preparing New York between World Trade Center attack No. 1 and attack No. 2—it wasn’t exemplary.”

Far from it, argued Mr. Kerrey in an interview. The former Nebraska governor and then Senator said that he thinks Mr. Giuliani showed solid leadership in the hours and days after the attack, but he just won’t stand for the idea that Republicans—and especially President Bush—did a better job than Democrats at keeping danger at bay.

“When he turned and said to Bernie Kerik, ‘Thank God George Bush is President,’” said Mr. Kerrey, echoing one of Mr. Giuliani’s favorite (but now retired) 9/11 anecdotes. “What he should have said was, ‘Why the fuck didn’t George Bush call us and tell us this was going to happen?’ That was a more appropriate response.”

On the Democratic candidates:

Joe Biden, he says, is the most serious thinker on Iraq, even though his plan smacks too much of micromanaging. Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd and Governor Bill Richardson are likewise in the top tier of foreign policy.

Barack Obama lacks experience, but is uniquely equipped, given his Muslim heritage, Christian faith and peripatetic childhood, to face the foreign-policy challenges of the 21st century.

John Edwards has made strides in foreign policy since he last ran for President, though he is still stronger on domestic issues.

On Iraq, he's more nuanced than kos is willing to give him credit for.

“I think we have under-funded the Iraqi military,” said Mr. Kerrey. “They don’t have enough helicopters; they don’t have enough of the basic necessities to confront an enemy, either domestic or foreign. So the idea that we are going to provide them an incentive by cutting back on their military—I don’t understand that.”

Worse, said Mr. Kerrey, is that such a move would help America’s enemy in the region.

“Iran will step into the breach,” he said. “If we don’t want to be Iraq’s ally, there are a lot of people in the region who we don’t like who will be willing to fill the gap.”


He argues that the United States achieved its goal of regime change in Iraq by deposing Saddam Hussein, and that it is not America’s role to police the nation, train its soldiers, or even stand in the way of widespread sectarian bloodshed. At the same time, he advocates robust military operations in the majority-Sunni Anbar province with the goal of wiping out Al Qaeda cells, and behaving like a “good ally” to an Iraqi government under siege by an insurgency.

Unlike Mr. Biden, who he says has “a very, very serious proposal of what to do” in Iraq, Mr. Kerrey is convinced the country should not be split up into ethnically homogonous regions and believes that it wants, at its core, to be unified. To that end, Mr. Kerrey wished that Washington would stop “meddling” in Iraq’s affairs.

At the same time, Mr. Kerrey is still very obviously suspicious of the ascendant out-of-Iraq portion of the Democratic electorate.

“Had we not invaded Iraq and overthrown Saddam Hussein—and if Iraq was experiencing the kind of sectarian violence that they are experiencing today—liberals would be advocating, as they are in Darfur, that we use military force to go in,” said Mr. Kerrey. “For any Democratic candidate, they are facing a very anti-war audience. And that’s reality.”

So therein lies Bob Kerrey. Maybe not the perfect candidate for us California Democrats, but someone who may be a good fit for Nebraska. And FWIW, even Ben Nelson is now saying the "surge" hasn't worked.

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