Friday, September 03, 2004

And the truth shall set you free

The Washington Post carries water today for John Kerry, running this analysis of the attacks made on his record during the Republican National Convention. It's a good example of the kind of scrutiny the media should be giving to campaign rhetoric; I just hope they give Democratic claims the same treatment. (I'm too lazy to search the Post's Web site to see if they ran any similar stories during the Democratic National Convention.) Here's my favorite example:

Both Vice President Cheney and Miller have said that Kerry would like to see U.S. troops deployed only at the direction of the United Nations, with Cheney noting that the remark had been made at the start of Kerry's political career. This refers to a statement made nearly 35 years ago, when Kerry gave an interview to the Harvard Crimson, 10 months after he had returned from the Vietnam War angry and disillusioned by his experiences there. (President Bush at the time was in the Air National Guard, about to earn his wings.)

That little stab at President Bush's National Guard service was probably unnecessary. I realize it is meant to add some perspective to the picture of an angry young John Kerry, saying something that would come back to haunt him. But despite what Kerry says--and regular readers of this site know that I'm supporting him--his Vietnam service has little or no bearing on his qualifications to be president; conversely, Bush's lack of combat experience bears little relation to his abilities as commander-in-chief.

That said, Kerry's criticism of the war after his return to Vietnam does not in any way diminish or dishonor his military record, assuming he believed he was telling the truth about atrocities committed by U.S. soldiers in that war. Americans who believe their country is engaged in an unnecessary and/or unjust war have an obligation to speak up.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then Kerry should talk about something, anything, other than the four months of service in Vietnam. The DNC was nothing more than a hazy-gaze back at his halcyon days in 'Nam, with a lot of tough-talkin' no-nonsense buds from the jungle to make him look tough-talkin' and no-nonsense.

The Democratic National Party hierarchy should commission a study on why three of their most prominent politicians -- Wes Clark, Gray Davis and John F. Kerry -- earned Silver Stars in Vietnam and yet come off today as either insane (Clark) or as hopelessly clueless (Davis and Kerry).

I've always wondered how Davis, a bright fellow with decades of public service and a real military hero, felt about losing an election to a guy who plays heroes on TV.

Well probably be asking Kerry the same thing on Nov. 3.

6:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The other point that should be mentioned is the relative ages of the candidates. One of the reasons blueblood Kerry ended up in Vietnam was because he was three years older than GW Bush. By the time Bush reached the end of his college deferment (Oh, yeah, Kerry had one of those too), and embarked on his officer training, the war in Vietnam was winding down, so fewer men were needed there.

Kerry had the disadvantage of getting to the fleet three years before Bush would have, just before Vietnam exploded with Tet. So Kerry got shot at, and Bush didn't.

Now, before you tell me that Bush joined the National Guard to avoid combat(which I don't doubt), it should be noted that the most common way to avoid real fighting in Vietnam for officer candidates was to go into the Navy (it's not like the Vietcong were taking on aircraft carriers parked 50 miles offshore).

Kerry deserves a great deal of credit for leaving a non-combat slot on a missile frigate, however, to volunteer for the Swift Boat service in-country.

Whether this was a calculated ploy to get some shooting under his belt before shifting into a post-war political career, we'll never know. Regardless, he deserves the thanks of a grateful nation for putting his ass on the line.

That he would go on to piss off his entire chain of command and fellow officer corps in only three months of active duty there is remarkable, however, and can explain the bitterness of the Swift Boat 527 guys, who don't seem to hate him simply for his anti-war activities after 'Nam.

The also hate his incessant bragging ("I'm a war hero! I'm a war hero!") and his failure to understand how his over-the-top anti-war activities might have hurt the feelings of guys still getting shot at.

Plus there is the lingering sense of those left behind that he trumped up his wounds to get his ass (which was wounded) back to Cambridge.

It's hard to tell a vet years later that the book ("The New Soldier") you published shortly after returning from the jungle (complete with a photo of a group of hippies holding the American flag upside down) wasn't meant to piss them the fuck off.

Some of those who volunteered to extend their tours in Vietnam had to deal with news that Kerry, in 1970, met with Vietcong leaders in Paris.

Some would suggest that made Kerry a traitor. All I know is that he still loves Paris, oui oui, today.

7:17 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

First of all, you are right about one thing--Kerry did not volunteer for combat. The Swift boats were not used in combat until shortly after Kerry signed on. It is likely that he joined the military thinking it would burnish his resume and through bad luck--or good, depending on how you look at it now--he ended up in combat.

As for the president, I don't care what he did during Vietnam, but in 1994 he gave an interview to the Houston Chronicle in which he all but admitted that he joined the Texas Air National Guard to avoid combat, and because he wasn't willing to fake an illness or leave the country. True, his chances of seeing combat at that point likely were slim, but he guaranteed they would be nil by joining the Guard. Keep in mind the National Guard of the Vietnam era was far different from today, when members of the Guard are regularly deployed to combat.

As for John Kerry's francophilia, I find that whole line of attack a bit tiresome.

6:46 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The point about Paris was simply an allusion to Kerry's notion that France should be a security partner to the U.S. This has not been the case, in reality, since De Gaulle, but Kerry told a French TV interviewer this very thing (Yes, I speak French).

Of course Bush joined the National Guard to avoid active duty, but the truth is that even had he gone active, the odds of him making it to Vietnam were very, very slim in 1971.

I should note, however, that Al Gore was three years younger than Kerry and he ended up not only in Vietnam, but as an enlisted man. How did this happen? Wasn't his father Sen. Al Gore, D-TN?

The story is fascinating. First, Al, Jr. had the great misfortune of putting himself up for the draft (like Kerry, he too opposed the war). His number was selected. After completing his initial military training, PFC Al, Jr. took leave shortly before the elections, just in time to see his father, a longterm leader of the Senate, lose.

Al Sr. lost largely because of his opposition to the war in Vietnam, famously saying that the Tonkin Gulf resolution was the worst mistake of his political career.

Once Gore Sr. lost, Nixon, who hated him, actually intervened with Army to personally send Al Jr. to Vietnam.

Now that's hate! He realized that sending the future presidential candidate as an enlisted soldier to Vietnam could've been a death sentence, and he did it because he hated the father!

Ahhh, politics.

11:08 AM


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