Democrats Should Run Bob Kerrey for Vice President
by Jerome F. Winzig
It's unfortunate that the man who would add the greatest depth to the Democratic Party's presidential ticket this year wouldn't accept a nomination as vice president. Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska isn't even running for re-election to his seat in the U.S. Senate. Earlier this year, when he announced he would not seek a third term, he said "I feel my spiritual side needs to be filled back up."
Kerrey was born on August 27, 1943 and attended public schools in Lincoln, Nebraska. After graduating from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 1966, he joined the Navy SEAL Team was sent to Vietnam. There, he earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for directing an attack on a Viet Cong guerilla unit even after losing part of his right leg in a grenade explosion.
After returning from Vietnam, Kerrey opened his own business from scratch in 1972, building it into a successful chain of restaurants and health clubs that now employs more than 900 people. In 1982 he was elected governor of Nebraska, defeating the incumbent in a highly Republican state. In 1988, he defeated incumbent Republican Senator David Karnes, and was re-elected in 1994.
In his service as governor and senator, Kerrey has built a reputation for fiscal responsibility coupled with a compassionate approach to governmental policy. As governor, he inherited a three percent deficit during a period of economic recession. He made tough budget cuts while proposing programs that made Nebraska a model for welfare reform, education, job training, and the environment.
In the Senate, Kerrey has earned a reputation for addressing issues that many people want to ignore. He has been a persistent voice warning about the dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction--nuclear, chemical, and biological. He has pointed out that, even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there are still significant risks from the nuclear weapons of the United States and Russia. He reminds us that, when the current strategic arms reduction treaty is fully implemented, there will still be six thousand nuclear warheads left.
Kerrey has joined with Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in proposing the current budget surplus to establish individual accounts as part of substantive Social Security reform. Their bill would fund the Social Security system on a "pay-as--you-go" basis, eliminating the current practice of stashing excess Social Security revenues in a so-called trust fund that is used to fund current non-Social Security programs. Instead, their bill would reduce payroll taxes from 12.4 percent to 10.4 percent. Individuals could set up personal voluntary savings accounts with the proceeds of the two-percentage-point reduction in payroll taxes.
Kerrey has also spoken out about how the advances made possible by information technology have also made us more vulnerable to individuals and small groups--terrorists, criminals, and saboteurs. He has not, however, advocated governmental intervention. Instead, he has said that "'Government Knows Best' is not the message we want to send." He has advocated lifting export restrictions on encryption products so individuals and organizations could keep their communications secure.
Kerrey has also raised important questions on international issues and does not hesitate to speak out on concerns of conscience. He voted against going to war in the Persian Gulf. In 1995, he said, "Clinton's an unusually good liar." In spite of scorn from the White House, in 1997 he joined with Republican Representative Rob Portman of Ohio to propose a thorough reform of the Internal Revenue Service. And in 1998, he expressed concern about Clinton's decision to waive export controls on the transfer of technology to China.
Kerrey's independent, thoughtful stances on significant issues would bring balance and substance to the Democratic ticket. His willingness to take principled stands would add integrity to the ticket. Most importantly, his blend of fiscal responsibility and social concern would speak to some of the nation's most important needs.