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Today's Boston Globe runs a lengthy article about John Kerry's decision to feature his Viet Nam service as the centerpiece of his presidential campaign. Patrick Healy's report uncovers several interesting nuggets from his in-depth research into this ultimately disastrous strategic choice, but none quite so interesting as this assertion by David McKean, a Kerry advisor:
Yet in meetings with Kerry, McKean and other advisers say, they told the Democrat that he had an extraordinary story of heroism to tell Americans. Campaign advisers say they felt sure of two things: Past Vietnam critics like John O'Neill, now a leader of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, would probably resurface, but Kerry and his allies could neutralize the criticism as they had done before.
The attacks on Kerry by the swift boat group, however, have stunned many in the camp and left Kerry frustrated that the media have not dismissed the charges as unsubstantiated. "What has surprised me is the voracity with which they have tried to attack his heroism," McKean said. "I have never seen people lie so egregiously and get away with it. This is as close to McCarthyism as you can get in a campaign. The print press has worked hard to discredit it, but television just replays the charges over and over."
This series of assertions boggles the mind. First, let's recall that the print press' job isn't to discredit critics of Democratic candidates -- it's to search for and report the truth. McKean and the Kerry campaign felt comfortable enough with the print press, however, to assume that they would reliably attack the Swiftvets once they raised their voices (and pens) against Kerry. McKean only rues the fact that the campaign couldn't control television.
Did the print press try to discredit the Swiftvets? Only after ignoring them for weeks failed to stop the story from breaking to the surface.
But let's take another piece of McKean's statement to Healy, the notion that the Swiftvets "lie so egregiously". He then accuses them of McCarthyism, but who exactly is guilty of that charge? So far, the Kerry campaign has been forced to back down from at least three components of its Viet Nam narrative:
* Kerry's 25-year-old Cambodian Christmas fable, which has morphed and split into multiple near-Cambodian experiences with Special Forces/CIA entanglements
* Kerry's stealing of Tedd Peck's engagement on 29 January 1969, which he included in his website timeline
* Kerry's and David Alston's stories about Alston serving with Kerry on the 29 January and 28 February engagements, which Captain's Quarters determined was impossible -- and Alston no longer makes appearances with Kerry in telling those stories
Also, as a result of the scrutiny applied to Kerry's narrative, the following medals that Kerry thrust to the forefront of his campaign are now under question:
* His explanation for his first Purple Heart for the "action" of 2 December conflicts with his own journals, which states on 11 Dec that he had not yet been shot at -- and the application for that award was processed long after the event and through a different chain of command than that under which Kerry served on 2 Dec.
* The Navy has launched an investigation of how Kerry had three separate commendations for one Silver Star, including one signed and supposedly written by John Lehman in the 1980s, while Lehman insists he never saw, wrote, or signed it. The Navy is also investigating how Kerry claimed a combat "V" for the Silver Star, a device that does not apply to that award.
The only factual refutations that have occurred so far apply to John Kerry's narrative, not that of the 250-plus Swiftvets with whom he served. So who's lied to the electorate so far? It doesn't appear to be the Swiftvets, which makes the only "egregious" liar in this campaign John Kerry.
Healy includes more entertaining nuggets in his in-depth look at the Kerry campaign's struggle with the Viet Nam narrative, although their irony escaped Healy. For instance, Healy writes:
Indeed, Kerry hyped his Vietnam service at the kickoff, asking his former crewmates to join him on stage. But campaign aides were frustrated when the media did not embrace the war hero storyline and focused instead on the race with then-front-runner Howard Dean. As Dean gained momentum, Kerry's advisers publicly shrugged off the polls, but one statistic stunned some of them.
"A staggering amount of people still didn't know that John was a Vietnam veteran -- it was extraordinary," McKean said. "We felt like John's story wasn't breaking through, and it was a critical part of who he was and a critical part of the campaign."
Part of the problem was the candidate. Kerry rarely opened up about Vietnam, leaving the glory for his crewmates to share. But he concentrated on overcoming his own Brahmin-bred modesty, advisers said, talking more than ever about how he had "bled for his country" and killed Viet Cong.
Oh, yeah, hardly anyone knew that Kerry was a Viet Nam veteran! His emphasis on his war record had become such a joke that the Opinionjournal blog Best Of The Web had a running gag included in any entry about Kerry: "who, by the way, served in Viet Nam". Besides, Kerry's infamous anti-war stance had long been known as the basis of his public life. Kerry himself was so reticent to talk about his experience that he wrote a letter to the Boston Herald in 1979 comparing it to Apocalypse Now, with the movie coming up short to the danger Kerry experienced -- according to Kerry.
Healy's conclusion, though, reveals the pure political calculation behind the emphasis on Kerry's service record, and it comes from Kerry's own biographer:
Whether this counterassault will put Vietnam squarely back in the win column for the Kerry campaign will become clear in the next eight weeks. Democrats, including advisers to Kerry, remain wary and uncertain, just as the candidate once was about telling his Vietnam story. "Kerry decided to make Vietnam the centerpiece of his campaign for one clear reason: Imagine him without his military record -- he would just be another liberal from Taxachusetts," Brinkley said. "With Vietnam, he could challenge Republicans on their strongest position -- standing with the military and with the American flag. Now you're seeing the negative effects of that."
The Kerry campaign has made his Viet Nam service its front in order to disguise the fact that Kerry has been a complete non-entity for the past twenty years in the Senate, voting over and over again for tax hikes and defense and intelligence cuts. Kerry campaigned for nuclear freezes and against the death penalty while introducing almost no legislation, despite his tenure in the Senate. And now that people have decided to look into the only qualification Kerry himself has offered for his candidacy, his campaign squeals about McCarthyism.
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» Why Vietnam is an issue from everyone's a pundit
Captain Ed takes a look at old media, the Swift vets, and how and why Sen. Kerry's Vietnam service has turned into a lightning rod for scrutiny from the right. [Read More]
Tracked on September 6, 2004 4:26 PM
» Contrast and Compare from L'Ombre de l'Olivier
Despite masses of soft money bashng Bush and the good will of the majority of the Mainstream Media, the SBVT have managed to hull Kerry's presidential ambitions. And in passing demonstrated precisely what I concluded in my letter to the Times, Kerry ... [Read More]
Tracked on September 6, 2004 5:13 PM
» Kerry Could Tell You He's a War Hero, But Modesty Prevents Him from The Sundries Shack
Hey, did you know that John Kerry served in Vietnam? Well, according to the Kerry campaign (thanks to Captain Ed), you obviously didn't. Indeed, Kerry hyped his Vietnam service at the kickoff, asking his former crewmates to join him on stage. Bu... [Read More]
Tracked on September 6, 2004 5:17 PM
» Kerry v. SBV for Truth: Part V from rightpundit.com
Catching up on my blog reading Tuesday night I ran across this post from a few days ago at Captain's Quarters. Captain Ed points out 2 additional allegations made by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that have either been explicitly admitted by the ... [Read More]
Tracked on September 8, 2004 5:33 PM
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