Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
August 5, 2004
POLITICS: Playing Rough
Personally, I'm not that eager to go after John Kerry's Vietnam service, since that's the only issue he wants to talk about. But, of course, if he wants to run on Vietnam, he has to take the good with the bad. Polipundit links to this video from the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," featuring a group of officers who served alongside Kerry in Vietnam and blast his integrity and his conduct upon returning home from the war. Very hard-hitting stuff. Say what you will about the relevance of some of these charges to the election - I'm skeptical of whether it matters how severely Kerry was injured when people were, after all, shooting at him - but these guys have unquestionably earned the right to question every aspect of Kerry's service.
Some on the Left have attacked the swift boat group because some of its members are Republican activists in long standing, but my sense is that - whether you give their accounts credence or not - these guys are acting on motives that run far deeper than partisan politics. By and large, these are guys who felt betrayed by Kerry in 1971 when he gave his now-infamous speech to the Senate - which ran as the lead story on all three network newscasts that night and was the foundation of his political career - accusing his fellow Vietnam vets of "war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command." It should not be surprising that some of the men he slandered then have not forgiven or forgotten.
UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, John McCain blasts the Swift Boat Vets ad (although the Swifties get the benefit of having their ad available on MSNBC). For the record, as I've said before, I don't think the nitty-gritty details of Kerry's service record should be an issue, try as Kerry may to make it the only issue. Nor do I hold against him the simple fact that he opposed the war on his return. On the other hand, how Kerry conducted himself and the things he said when he returned from Vietnam - including the 1971 testimony that fed directly into his 1972 campaign for Congress - is very much a part of his political career and entirely fair game, and he shouldn't act surprised that so many vets despise him for it.