Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
August 8, 2004
POLITICS: A Swift Confusion

Kevin Drum says the Vietnam vets in the Swift Boat group must be "certifiable lunatics" because Media Matters has assembled a bunch of (admittedly wacky) quotes about the co-author of their book . . . who isn't one of the vets. Josh Marshall (tongue in cheek) says he's starting a "Concerned Vietnam Combat Veterans Whose Service Records Have Been Attacked by Friends of President Bush Even Though President Bush Has Nothing To Do With It and Did His Best to Stop it But Failed" group . . . except, of course, that he doesn't even humorously suggest that any such vets exist.

As I've said before, I think the whole swift boat story is something of a sideshow, and I'm withholding judgment on the credibility of these guys. And yes, as with the Democrats' favorite small subset of 9/11 widows, their credibility needs to be evaluated just like anybody else in politics, no matter how sympathetic (or, in this case, heroic) their own personal stories are. I do have an open mind on this one.

But note to people attacking the vets: discrediting people who assist, finance or run with the story won't do. If you don't have the goods on the men who wore this country's uniform and now want to be heard on what they saw and did in Vietnam, don't dismiss them out of hand.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:59 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Kerry volunteered, he went, he served [two tours of duty], he got wounded [three times] and earned a Silver Star for Bravery. He then came home to try and tell the truth about the war, risking his war-hero political capital.

Bush got every possible advantage [skipped to the front of a waiting list for a guaranteed safe stateside unit], and then went AWOL [blowing a million dollars worth of pilot training], and avoided all consequences.

If someone can explain why I should think about it any other way, I'd love to hear it.

Posted by: Mr Furious at August 9, 2004 11:29 AM

JFKetchup ginned the system for all it was worth - racking up 3 "wounds" in a four-month period - NONE of which required hospitalization, or caused him to miss a single day of duty. His returning to film "re-enactments" of his "heroism" indicates a cynical disposition for grandstanding.
He served FOUR MONTHS in Vietnam and then was gone ...got out of the military early so he could work on a p[olitical campaign. He wasted no time in impugning the reputations of tens of thousands of his fellow servicemen by accusing pretty much any and all of them - as well as the entire chain of command - of atrocities.
He himself admitted to committing numerous "war crimes" - see the Dick Cavett show, 1971.
Yet 30= years later, he's all proud of his service - in fact, it's the defining act of his entire campaign was this 4 month period where he committed atrocities and witnessed others and NEVER raised this issue with his chain of command.
He's an opportunist of the worst kind.
Any reason why I shouldn't believe this?

Posted by: tomaig at August 9, 2004 12:19 PM

Um, you can believe your version 100% and it still trumps the hell out of how Bush spent his time back then.

Look, I'm not pretending that what happened thirty-plus years ago is the most relevant or defining criteria for judging a President now, but the point Kerry makes about learning the lessons of war from the battlefield do have resonance.

It's a valid theme for Kerry to campaign on and Bush would do the same if he could. It's also fair that if Kerry is going to use it, it opens him up for criticism on the topic.

Slice it any way you want, Kerry risked his life for his country and his crewmates which is far more than Bush and much of the Republican leadership and the cabal of chickenhawk cheerleaders can say.

As for your arguments:

"...his returning to film "re-enactments" of his "heroism" indicates a cynical disposition for grandstanding."
Got a source or some proof of this?

"He served FOUR MONTHS in Vietnam and then was gone...
His four months on the swift boat was his second tour of duty. He had already spent six months on a missile frigate in the Gulf of Tonkin.

"...got out of the military early so he could work on a political campaign"
Yes, Kerry took advantage of military regulations; The instruction, titled 1300.39, says that a Naval officer who requires hospitalization on two separate occasions, or who receives three wounds "regardless of the nature of the wounds," can ask a superior officer to request a reassignment. You really have a problem with that? After performing fearlessly (some said with reckless abandon) his extremely dangerous duty, Kerry sought a safer assignment. Narrowly escaping death a few times might do that to a man. "Under Zumwalt's command, swift boats would aggressively engage the enemy. Zumwalt, who died in 2000, calculated in his autobiography that these men under his command had a 75 percent chance of being killed or wounded during a typical year."

"...NEVER raised this issue with his chain of command."
Not quite: "In any case, Kerry said he was appalled that the Navy's ''free fire zone'' policy put civilians at such high risk. So, on Jan. 22, 1969, Kerry and several dozen fellow skippers and officers traveled to Saigon to complain about the policy in an extraordinary meeting with Zumwalt and the overall commander of the war, General Creighton W. Abrams Jr."

Check out this profile of Kerry. Though it's from the Boston Globe, this is no puff-piece. the Globe has been one of Kerry's toughest critics. It does a pretty good job of sorting out the details of his service and offers plenty of critical views.

Posted by: Mr Furious at August 9, 2004 2:22 PM

1. I don't fault Kerry for bailing out early, having served heroically (Al Gore also got out of his tour of duty early). But Bush "bl[ew] a million dollars worth of pilot training"??? Bush had fulfilled - indeed, exceeded - his contractual requirements for Air National Guard service. By 1972, the Nat'l Guard was overstaffed, and Bush's plane was being phased out. Check my "14 Questions" and other AWOL posts for the links - even if you think there were some drills he should have shown up for, there's no basis to say that the Natl Guard needed or wanted any more services from Bush.

2. Waiting list? Source for that, please. Bill Hobbs' investigation showed that there was no waiting list for Bush's unit.

3. "Kerry risked his life for his country and his crewmates which is far more than Bush and much of the Republican leadership and the cabal of chickenhawk cheerleaders can say"? Now, Kerry's service was indeed more risky than Bush's, but the fact is that Bush was flying dangerous aircraft - John at Useful Fools has done some stuff on that, many men died training on and flying patrols in that plane. And Don Rumsfeld - the guy who's target #1 of a lot of the complaints about troop strength - was a Navy pilot himself.

4. "returning to film "re-enactments"" - I don't knock Kerry too much for this, but it's well-documented (by the Globe and others) that Kerry's footage from Vietnam included a lot of re-enactments.

Posted by: The Crank at August 9, 2004 3:45 PM

1. Based on what do you assert that Bush exceeded his requirements? They still haven't produced proof that he even met them. It seems the definitive documentation met a conveniently untimely fate. Paystubs do not count. If anything, getting paid for service you did not show up for is worse. I will grant you this is a stupid exercise 30 years later and after he was already elected once, but still... like many other things, it's no the offense, it's the cover-up. If Bush had come clean about this a long time ago, and never pulled his carrier stunt, it would be a non-issue.

As far as Bush's plane goes, the fact that it was being phased out was exactly why that was a desirable assignment. It rendered you obsolete as a pilot to be sent overseas. Flying any fighter plane has a degree of danger, but flying it over Texas certainly eliminates your greatest risk -- enemy fire.

2. I'll look around. It is entirely possible that in my left-ward travels I read this and took it for fact when it might not be true. In my research today, I did not confirm this.

3. Yeah, I know about Rumsfeld. But his experience didn't prevent him from botching troop strength decisions, based mostly on listening to the idealogues around him (C-Hawks Perle, Wolfowitz, Cheney, etc). And obviously Powell's service goes without saying... but the rest of the gang, including most of the vocal cheerleaders still fall into that category.

4. I'll keep looking for the "re-enactment" documentation you guys are citing, I believe you, I just want to read it for myself.

Posted by: Mr Furious at August 9, 2004 7:07 PM

Check the links on point #1 here. Bush flew way more hours than required. And his plane was being phased out in 1972 - not in 1969, when he joined the Guard. At that time, in fact, the unit Bush joined was actually flying combat missions in Vietnam (again, see the links to the 14 Questions post).

Posted by: The Crank at August 9, 2004 7:21 PM

Do a google of "kerry reenact film" - lots of references to a 1996 Boston Globe profile of Kerry
This article quotes from the Globe piece:
"The future senator was so "focused on his future ambitions," Sennott reported, that not long after the fight, he bought a Super-8 movie camera, returned to the scene, and reenacted the skirmish on film. During their interview, Kerry played the tape for Sennott.

"I'll show you where they shot from. See? That's the hole covered up with reeds," Kerry said as he ran the tape in slow motion.

Kerry told Sennott that his decision to reenact the fight on film was no big deal "just something I did, no great meaning to it. [SNIP] "Kerry jumps repeatedly from the couch to adjust the Sony large screen TV in his home entertainment center, making sure the picture is clear, the color correct. He fast forwards, rewinds and freeze frames the footage. His running commentary vivid, sometimes touching, sometimes self-serving never misses a beat."

In John Kerry's home-entertainment center, it's always 1969."


How's that? Do you believe me now? Or is that mean old Boston Globe just another arm of the VRWC, out to get poor JFKetchup?

Posted by: tomaig at August 10, 2004 7:54 AM
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