George W. Bush question your military record must
feel not unlike having Anna Nicole Smith question
your intelligence. Surely, there is a weightless
moment of disbelief, a struggle with a level of
gall that just does not compute.
I know the White House has denied any connection
between the erstwhile Texas Air National Guard
fighter pilot who sits in the Oval Office and
the so-called Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, the
group that has accused Democratic presidential
candidate John Kerry of inflating his Vietnam
War record. In a TV ad and a best-selling book,
the boaters claim Kerry never plucked a fellow
sailor from the water while under enemy fire,
never chased down and killed an armed Viet Cong
soldier, never was seriously wounded by the enemy,
never was a hero.
Kerry has denounced the group as a front for the
Bush campaign. The campaign has denied having
anything to do with the boaters. We are indebted
to The Washington Post and The New York Times,
among others, for revealing what a grandiose fib
out the group is financed in part by a longtime
associate of Karl Rove, the president's chief
political advisor. One Bush campaign official
-- he resigned Wednesday -- provided the group
with legal advice. Another left the campaign after
it was revealed that he had appeared in the offending
are other examples, but you get the point.
course, the damage has already been done. Despite
the fact that John Kerry has medals and wounds
attesting to his valor as a swift-boat commander,
despite the fact that military records and the
men who were there support what he has said, despite
the fact that some of those now criticizing him
previously went on the record lauding Kerry's
courage, despite all this, the issue of the swift
boats has managed to inflate into a controversy.
Some conservative commentators would have us believe
there is really some doubt about what Kerry did
in the waterways of Vietnam.
including Republican Sen. John McCain, have pressed
the president to denounce the ad. Bush has refused
to do more than call for an end to all ''third
party'' campaign advertising.
tend to be skeptical about such advertising myself,
but the president's response is specious. The
issue here is not ads, but ad -- a specific campaign
from a specific group.
one sense, I suppose we shouldn't be surprised
at Bush's refusal to speak ill of the swift boaters.
all, they serve two purposes for him. One, they
smear mud on his opponent. Two, they divert the
electorate's attention from matters the president
would doubtless prefer we not focus upon too closely.
does anyone really think swift boats are the most
important issue of this campaign?
hour spent debating what happened in Vietnam more
than 30 years ago is an hour not spent debating
what's happening in Iraq right now. Not to mention
Afghanistan right now, the economy right now,
the environment right now, the schools right now.
politics is a dirty business. Yes, third party
groups and candidates from both major parties
spend millions on advertising designed to make
the other candidate look like an ax murderer.
Still it seems to me that some things are simply
beyond the pale.
is one of them.
have never been in combat. Until a few weeks ago,
I had never heard of a swift boat. But I have
profound respect for the men and women who wear
the uniform of this nation and go into harm's
way when duty calls. As far as I'm concerned,
you do not impugn that service lightly, no matter
what your or their political affiliation might
a matter of honor.
apparent inability to understand that speaks volumes
about the president's own honor or lack thereof.
Posted: August 27, 2004