Kemp on Kosovo
Jude Wanniski
April 6, 1999


Memo To: Editors, Political Correspondents, Anchorpersons
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Kemp Opposition to Bombing Campaign

On Thursday morning last week, Jack Kemp issued a lengthy statement of opposition to the Clinton administration's strategy of bombing selected sites in Yugoslavia in order to punish the Serbs for trying to hold their country together. It was the strongest and clearest statement of opposition from any American political leader, but the only way I would have known about it is that Jack's office sent me a copy. This memo is not, though, on Jack's behalf. He can do his own complaining. I'm wondering how there can be a national debate over this issue if statements like Jack's never see the light of day. Where is the press corps when it is needed?

In case you may have forgotten, Kemp has been an important leader of the Republican Party for more than a quarter century, easily the most influential figure in the party over that span of years except for the Republican Presidents. He was the GOP's vice presidential nominee in 1996 and while he has declared himself retired from elective politics, as co-director of Empower America he remains an influential voice on matters of national and international policy. So it led me to wonder why his statement, which I'm assured was sent out to all of you last Thursday, was almost totally ignored -- except for a snippet on CNN's Evans&Novak show over the weekend, and a reference in Novak's syndicated column yesterday.

It is not as if his comments were so predictable as to be unimportant. From his arrival in Washington as a freshman congressman in 1971, Jack has been identified as a national security hawk and a card-carrying Cold Warrior. Even when the Berlin Wall came down, Jack moved only slightly left, describing himself as a "heavily-armed dove." So for him to argue vigorously against the military campaign in the Balkans and warn that it would be "insane" for President Clinton to introduce ground troops could not have been foreseen by those of you to whom the memo is addressed. Did you discard the statement because you didn't think it matters what Kemp thinks? Did you decide because he isn't running for President in 2000 that only those Republicans who have declared should be heard from? Some of you, I'm sure, either ignored it without even reading it, or read it and simply disagreed with its message.

If there were a division in the Political Establishment over the wisdom of bombing Belgrade into submission, we would see it show up in the official editorials of the three major national newspapers. But there we find lockstep support for the Clinton bombs, with the only difference being The Wall Street Journal which wants more and bigger bombs, even hinting they wouldn't mind if a few found their way to civilians in Serbia, so the population will rise up against the monster Milosevic. Yes, columnists and commentators here and there are raising questions about the wisdom of the exercise, but news editors and correspondents are not looking for dissident points of view, or the Kemp statement would have found its way into the public consciousness.

Is there time for such a national discussion BEFORE ground troops are introduced? Is the slope so slippery that there is no way to halt the slide into the abyss. Henry Kissinger, who was once known as the smartest man in the world, opposed the bombing campaign, but now says we have no choice but to slide. He doesn't say why, except to infer that he is fresh out of bright ideas. Hey, maybe Kemp has a bright idea! Maybe if you took a look, you'd find he has some support for his bright idea. And if it isn't so smart, maybe someone else has a better one. I wish you would pay attention.

P.S. My hat is off to Stephen Erlanger of The New York Times, who has been practically alone in supplying honest-to-goodness balanced reports from Belgrade. If it were not for Erlanger, I would not have known that Milosevic is ready to work out a political solution with the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo. The stupid side of the press corps has been trying to determine if a film clip of Milosevic with the ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova is recent, or was taken from a long ago meeting. How can editors be so stupid as to worry if the clip is old or new. The fact that it was released by the Belgrade government is all the evidence you need to know that Milosevic is ready for such a deal, as long as he does not have to accept 45,000 NATO troops in the bargain.