Rove makes Chuck Colson look like a girly man.
Colson didn't have the audacity to go after John
Kerry's military record when President Nixon was
looking for dirt on antiwar leaders. After researching
Kerry's medals, Colson, who now heads a prison
ministry program, backed off. "Maybe Chuck knew
he was going to find Jesus back then because he
had a degree of shame," says a senior staffer
to a Senate Republican.
Kerry campaign thinks it has succeeded in discrediting
the scurrilous attack on Kerry's military service,
but Rove got what he wanted. Instead of talking
about a failed war in Iraq and a new report that
shows 1.3 million more Americans living in poverty,
we're debating what happened in the Mekong Delta
in 1968. The strategy "came straight from the
West Wing," says the GOP staffer. "Nobody should
be confused." Asked to explain, this Republican
says Rove is smart enough to keep technical distance.
But all it takes is a well-placed wink to activate
a web of Bush family hit men, confidantes and
deep-pocket donors. "They know what to do-it's
like sleeper cells that get activated," he says,
likening the players to "political terrorists."
sprang into action in 2000 when Bush was running
in the primaries against John McCain. After getting
beat in New Hampshire by McCain, Bush's first
event was at Bob Jones University in South Carolina.
Standing next to Bush on the stage was a veteran
who went right at McCain, questioning his Vietnam
service while Bush remained silent. A whisper
campaign told voters that McCain had a black child.
(The McCains have an adopted daughter from Bangladesh.)
McCain lost the primary; the veteran became a
Bush administration appointee.
charges advanced by the so-called Swift Boat Veterans
for Truth would never hold up in a court of law.
These men would have us believe, contrary to Navy
records and countless eye witnesses, that Kerry
did not act heroically and had a grand plan to
manipulate medals from the military.
bad Bob Dole got hauled into this mess. Once known
principally as a GOP hatchet man, Dole had rehabbed
himself over the years to war hero and sardonic
wit. Then over the weekend he said all Swift Boat
Veterans for Truth can't be Republican liars.
It's the old where-there's-smoke-there's-fire
routine. Why would Dole allow himself to be used
like that? He must have forgotten how Bush's father
provoked him during the 1988 GOP primaries with
sleazy allegations. When Vice President Bush approached
him on the Senate floor, Dole blurted out, "Quit
lying about my record." The remark helped sink
Dole's chance for the nomination.
Republican mole on Capitol Hill says the green
light has gone out to Republicans to do whatever
it takes to get Bush elected. "This is the way
we hold onto power," he says with disgust. Pollster
John Zogby's survey of battleground states taken
last week as the Swift Boat controversy raged
shows no fundamental change in the race. "It's
running its course, and it may boomerang," he
says of the attack on Kerry's heroism. The fact
that the sleeper network has gone nuclear is evidence
of Bush's weakness, not his strength, says Zogby.
"If [the Bush team] weren't seeing serious damage,
they wouldn't be hitting so hard so early. The
president is on the ropes; there's no other way
of looking at it."
lot of Vietnam vets will never forgive Kerry for
accusing them of committing atrocities. Kerry
has conceded some hyperbole in his 1971 Senate
testimony, but didn't the Toledo Blade win a Pulitzer
this year for uncovering Vietnam-era atrocities?
Have we forgotten about the My Lai massacre and
Zippo lighters burning down hooches? Maybe a few
masochists want to debate whether Vietnam was
a noble cause, but 58,000 of our soldiers died.
The war was a waste whether you were on the right
or the left. Kerry leveled most of his criticism
at political leaders who didn't tell the truth,
and who sanctioned "search and destroy" missions
that invited war crimes. By the time Kerry testified
in 1971, 44,000 American soldiers were already
dead. The war had almost no popular support, yet
another 14,000 lives would be lost.
irony is that Kerry does have courage-the very
quality this smarmy campaign seeks to denigrate.
The rap on him is that he is slow to battle, that
it takes a near-death experience to get him fully
engaged. By assailing his heroism, the GOP may
have done Kerry a favor. Maybe they've awakened
a sleeping giant
2004 Newsweek, Inc.
Posted: September 7, 2004