John Kerry has decided to speak to the issues raised by the Vietnam vets. He says they are a "front for the Bush campaign" and "When you’re under attack the best thing to do is turn your boat into the attacker." This I find a little odd, given the purpose of Swift boats: draw enemy fire, the enemy reveal their positions, you call in the coordinates, and others hit them. Perhaps this is what Kerry should have done; he should have others counter the vets. But now questions about his honesty have moved front and center in the campaign. And because he has already lost (i.e., found to lie) on a fundamental issue--being in Cambodia--the rest are details that reasonable men can disagree over: were we under heavy fire when we went back for the guy in the soup, or not; were his wounds serious, or mere scratches, etc.? But these disagreements have and will settle into the voters’ consciousness, doubt now will rule. When you add all this into his distortions and exaggerations in the past (e.g., talking to foreign leaders, throwing medals away, etc.) the sense that this guy smells more and more like Al Gore (the one who invented the internet) will settle in.
And this is Kerry’s fault. He has based his candidacy on his short Vietnam service; but he should have remembered how angry he made soldiers then serving (never mind those who were being held as POW’s) when he accused all of them of war crimes. He should have have talked about his Senate career. And it will do no good to blame a Republican conspiracy on this (which the press is playing up); yup, some Republicans have given money to these guys, and would the Liberal media complain if George Soros had dropped at least ten million on the project? I guess not. It is also counterproductive to threaten television stations with a lawsuit if they run the Swift boat vets’ ads.
Watching the media try to spin this will be more fun--although less consequential--than watching Kerry and his people sweat out a response. Even Mickey Kaus says that Kerry (and the media) made a mistake: "Respectable big-time journalist friends who met with the anti-Kerry vets recently found them a lot more credible than expected." Bingo. Watch this develop. After all, these guys are 250 strong, articulate and well decorated Vietnam vets! Right, keeping hitting them hard, as if they were a bunch of sleazy thugs, instead of being a "band of brothers." It won’t sell. Infidel Cowboy has a lot of detail with good links, as does Captain’s Quarters, as does Powerline, and, of course, Instapundit. I am not going to follow the ins-and-outs of how the The New York Times and the rest of the Liberal media is going to try to spin it, but I will pay attention--and try to figure out--the political consequences for the Kerry campaign. I think it will take its toll, and Kerry knows it, hence his personal response and accusation. I saw John O’Neill on PBS last night (and three other news casts) talking about all this, and he was very impressive. These guys will be hard to ignore. Kerry’s campaign folks must be seriously concerned, if not yet in a panic.