Lately there have been many attempts to paint presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry as an unpatriotic, unprincipled nominee. Republicans and his Democratic opponents suggest that Kerry changes his mind on major issues as often as the Bush administration blurts out the phrase “weapons of mass destruction.”

In reality, one will find that Kerry is not trading in his core values for political clout. The number of terms he has served in Senate is almost as high as his combat decorations. While in Vietnam, Kerry received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts in recognition of the bravery he exhibited in our country’s service. After he returned from Vietnam, he helped create Vietnam Veterans of America and worked as a spokesperson for Vietnam Veterans Against the War. After serving as their lieutenant governor, the people of Massachusetts elected Kerry to his first of four terms in the United States Senate. They re-elected him again in 1990, 1996 and 2002. As a senator, Kerry served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for nearly two decades.

Why is Kerry such a big target all of a sudden? Perhaps it is because he has won the primaries and caucuses in 18 of the first 20 states to hold them thus far. Or perhaps it is because of a now famous Jan. 25 Newsweek poll predicting that Kerry would win 49 percent of the vote in an election against Bush’s 46 percent.

Maybe the other candidates are afraid because Kerry’s victories have already sent Joe Lieberman and Dick Gephardt packing. Howard Dean was in the lead, but he stumbled and quit Feb. 17. Kerry is now in the lead, but unlike Dean, Kerry actually has victories all across the country to show for it. As his posters and T-shirts everywhere read, Kerry is “The Real Deal.”

A lengthy article refuting all the examples of Kerry’s “contradictions” would be thorough and informative. Yes, Kerry has a puzzling voting record at first glance because he voted against going to war in Iraq in 1991, for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution and against the legislation to provide the war with additional funding. As Kerry has said, “I thought we ought to kick Saddam Hussein out of Iraq. I said so on the floor of the Senate. But with the memories of Vietnam, I also thought we ought to take a couple months more to build the support in the country.”

That applies to both wars. This time around he supported it because our president promised to build an international coalition and exhaust diplomatic channels before sending over 550 Americans to die for a war with false motives. He voted against sending a big chunk of money to Iraq largely because the money already there is being spent inefficiently.

Kerry is for abortion rights, he promotes same-sex civil unions to provide equality under the law and he wants to increase public school funding and make it a national priority to make college as “universal and affordable as a high school education is today.” Kerry wants to roll back the worthless tax cuts for the wealthy, bring back the 3 million jobs lost under Bush, close the gender pay gap and make affordable national health care a reality.

He has one of the most outstanding environmental records in Congress, which is why the League of Conservation Voters has endorsed him, and he has the best plan to protect and improve our natural resources. He is almost too qualified when it comes to national security and foreign policy. Veteran and fellow senator John McCain has said, “He’s smart, he’s tough and he’s experienced. He has the capability.”

Kerry has the desire and experience to keep us safe from real threats while restoring both respect for us abroad and success for us at home. Don’t let people tell you he can’t make up his mind. He has a 20-year Senate voting record to prove that he has.

If a consistent voting record is the best thing anybody’s got against John Kerry, then perhaps Bush’s cohorts should heed the challenge Kerry has made clear to the White House administration: “Bring it on.”

Benjamin Sheldon-Tarzynski is a freshman history and classics major.