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Roger Franklin at Business Week writes a clear-headed editorial in today's edition, which forms a partnership with an opposing piece in the same issue by Thane Peterson. Peterson makes the claim that despite John Kerry's promotion of his Viet Nam experience as his primary qualification for the presidency, Bush and his alleged front organization are behaving unethically for questioning that credential:
No moral equivalency exists between Kerry and Bush on the issue of service in Vietnam. Kerry served in combat. He was shot at. Not Bush. ...
Why the so-called called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- only one of whom served on the same vessel with Kerry -- have decided to attack their fellow vet is a bit hard to decipher, too. I suppose it could partly be an honest difference of opinion. Maybe the "fog of war" led vets to have different memories of the same events.
Peterson neatly steps astride the fact that Bush never claimed to have the "moral equivalency" of Kerry's service, and in fact on several occasions noted the difference himself. However, Bush also never made his tour of duty in the National Guard an issue for the campaign; he never trotted out pictures of himself (or staged movies from his flight assignments) and never pointed fingers at Kerry's service himself.
On the other hand, prominent Democrats such as Rep. Sherrod Brown and party chair Terry McAuliffe have repeatedly called Bush "AWOL", and Kerry himself has alluded to the same on more than one occasion. In addition, 527s such as MoveOn have beat the AWOL/deserter theme for months on end, spending millions of dollars from wealthy donors such as George Soros, and these organizations have been run by people with past and present connections to both the Kerry/Edwards campaign and the Democratic Party.
That's what makes this assertion by Peterson so laughable:
But sorry, my fellow journalists, there's no equivalency here. MoveOn is an avowedly partisan group that openly opposes Bush. The Swift-boat vets tried to cover their political tracks while claiming inside knowledge about Kerry most of them clearly don't have. And several of them have flip-flopped from publicly praising Kerry to attacking him.
So let me get this straight -- MoveOn is more credible because of the transparent nature of the illegal coordination between the Democrats and the 527, while the Swiftvets suffer because no one can establish these links? And they claim inside knowledge because they served in the same unit and the same area as John Kerry, much the way William Rood did -- they went out on patrols with Kerry and observed him from close quarters on rivers and canals where the two banks often spread less than 100 yards apart while they patrolled with their 50-foot PCFs. Peterson hasn't spent much time distinguishing the operational tactics of PCFs, which rarely if ever went out alone on patrols.
Peterson's perspective, then, is that while John Kerry's testimony should go unchallenged because he served four months in combat, the Swiftvets -- who to a man completed at least their one-year tours or left due to disabling wounds -- should shut up about theirs. And the candidate who didn't make his service any kind of qualification should expect to be slandered, but the nominee who wrapped himself in his four-month stint and surrounded himself with former shipmates for his nominating speech should get a free pass to avoid scrutiny of that record. It's a point of view, all right -- one that reeks of hypocrisy and self-service.
Franklin, on the other hand, notes the peculiar nature of Kerry's campaign and explains that this predicament is entirely of his own making:
But now, as another Presidential contest loses the track and plunges back into the same old elephant grass, it's clear that Vietnam never went away. And the blame is John Kerry's, no doubt about it. After 19 years in the Senate, the achievement on which he has chosen to place the most stress in proving he has the mettle to occupy the White House is a four-and-a-half-month tour as a junior officer in a war that America lost.
"Reporting for duty," Kerry told Boston's Democratic conventioneers, snapping a smart salute on the night he accepted his party's nomination. The cheers came on cue, even though the applause must have struck quite a few of the Democratic graybeards in the audience as a tad ironic. ...
Yet Kerry's conduct in that long-ago war remains relevant -- and not just because he has made his time in uniform both centerpiece and touchstone of his campaign, nor even, as the Swift Boat Veterans assert, because he painted his personal history in the false colors of faux heroics ...While voters will never know -- can never know -- if Kerry deserved those medals and his early ticket home, they can be absolutely sure that he did worse than merely embroider his exploits in the years that followed.
Kerry threw his medals over the White House fence -- except he didn't. He slept out on the Mall in Washington, D.C., with anti-war protesters -- except he didn't, having actually bunked down in a borrowed townhouse with Newsweek reporter Robert Sam Anson, according to an investigative story in the New York Observer.
And most troubling of all, Kerry has said he spent the last days of 1968 on a secret mission in Cambodia, under fire and listening to President Nixon deny that Kerry or any other U.S. servicemen were operating on the wrong side of the border. In one version, it was the Khmer Rouge doing the shooting. In another, drunken South Vietnamese troops celebrating Christmas, which isn't even a good fable, since Buddhists generally don't get too excited about the birth of the Christians Messiah.
While Franklin doesn't tie it up completely, the thrust is obvious. Kerry is the one who made his Viet Nam service the central testimony to both his character and his ability to wage war on terrorists. He used it to get to Howard Dean's right just as Dean started to implode and people got nervous that the eventual Democratic nominee would be so beholden to anti-war zealots that they would lose the swing vote. Kerry waved the bloody shirt in order to assuage those fears, and leading Democrats like McAuliffe and Brown slung the AWOL/deserter mud at Bush to make Kerry's service look that much better. Not only did Kerry proclaim his service as his primary qualification, at times it was the only part of his public service record he would talk about. Even today, you'd never know he spent 19 years in the Senate from his campaign speeches -- and you'd be hard pressed to realize it from the sparse list of legislative accomplishment which resulted.
In the end, Kerry has been quite successful in using his Viet Nam combat experience as the focus of his character for this election. It's unfortunate for the Senator that the result has been the exposure of his true character, instead of the fabricated nonsense he attempted to use to defraud the American electorate.Sphere It View blog reactions
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