The rules of a presidential campaign are remarkably similar to the rules of the playground: Namely, if you’re going to say it, you better be ready to back it up. The latest to learn that lesson is John Kerry, who is being challenged to back up his statement that his campaign had the support of foreign leaders who supposedly hope President Bush gets defeated in November.
The ruckus started last week when Kerry said at a Florida fund-raiser that he has met foreign leaders who have told him: “You gotta win this. You gotta beat this guy.” Since then, the candidate has backpedaled. At first, he insisted he has “heard from” foreign leaders, though not necessarily has met with them.
Then on Sunday, Kerry told an audience in Pennsylvania that he actually has spoken with foreign officials both in person and in “conversations.” But when someone in the audience challenged him to say which foreign leaders, Kerry abruptly cut off the questioner by saying this was his business and no one else’s.
How wrong you are, senator. Voters deserve presidential campaigns that are lively sounding boards for the exchange of ideas and policies. But people also have the right to expect that anyone who seeks the highest office in the land will be willing to step up and be held accountable for what he says on the stump. That is especially true when it comes to foreign affairs and national security, serious matters that deserve to be treated seriously.
Kerry’s claiming that he has the blessing of anonymous foreign leaders was – as Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Fox News Sunday – “an easy charge.” It’s also something that didn’t add much to the campaign or do much to enhance the Democrat’s candidacy.
Let’s make a deal. If Kerry wants to go on the record by revealing who told him what and when, then fine. We’re happy to listen. If not, he ought to keep quiet.
This editorial first appeared in the Dallas Morning News.