Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Kerry’s faux pas

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.

Discussions - 30 Comments

I would like to get people’s observations on how the Bush/Cheney campaign should respond to Swift Boat ads.


I really don’t think that it is necessary for the Bush/Cheney campaign to comment on the Swift Vets or their adds. I also believe the John Kerry was way out of line stating that the swift vets were just a front for the Bush Campaign. I’d like to see any evidence Kerry may possess proving his statement to be true. Just because someone who happens to donate to the Bush Campaign also donates to the swift vets doesn’t imply that there is a right-wing conspiracy. Yes the Swift boat ads hurt Kerry, and Yes, any discrediting of John Kerry helps the Bush Campaign, which is why I’m sure that republican donors feel it is a good investment to help the Swift Vets. But there is no link between Bush-Cheney ’04 and the Swift Vets for Truth.

I wonder witch young man or woman currently serving our country in Iraq will have the privilege of having that service trashed and dragged threw the mud upon his return. This is the most ingénues campaign of slander and petty politics. You will tear apart a man who, for whatever reason, volunteered for active duty during wartime. He did something on that river that made another man believe and swear that John Kerry saved his life, and somehow got shot 3 times over there. That’s all I have to hear about a man to know he served his country. I don’t need him to be a super hero, I don’t care if he protested against the politics of the war, the severity of the bullet wounds doesn’t matter to me, He got shot 3 times by other people while serving, that’s 3 more bullets then I took! I don’t care if other guys from other boats didn’t like him, and until you show me how George Bush even comes close to this man in terms of true life endangering service to his country your argument has absolutely no weight.

This issue isn’t really about a comparison between the military records of John Kerry and George W. Bush. Bush has not made his National Guard service a central selling point in his campaign. Kerry, on the other hand, has made his Vietnam service the central selling point in his campaign. Therefore, it is reasonable for people to examine that record. If it appears that that record is something less than Kerry is presenting it, it most definitely is a valid campaign issue.

Kerry is the one who uses his service as a political football. He can’t have it both ways. He can’t pat himself on the back and play the role of war hero without expecting people to inspect that role and decide whether or not it fits him.

I also find it wildly amusing that Kerry is carping about the Swift Boat Vets for Truth being a front for the Bush campaign. Whether true or not, he has no room to talk when and ACT are clearly fronts for his own campaign. One unfortunate consequence of "campaign finance reform" is that organizations like this are now likely to do the dirty work for campaigns. I think I preferred the old days when a candidate did it himself and faced the consequences rather than having a means of denying any responsibility.

"Bush has not made his National Guard service a central selling point in his campaign" But it should be, is he or is he not running as the "War president"?

BTW, Dominick, you are absolutely right, all those stupid organizations are subverting the process


It would be an issue for the President if he were saying he was qualified to be a war president because he served with distinction in the National Guard. Which he is not.


Just to back up what Paul said, I don’t think it is a requirement for a "war president" to be a decorated warrior in his own right. Neither Lincoln or FDR were veterans and yet they seemed quite capable of handling a war during their presidencies. Bush may be running as a war president, but he is not running as a warrior president. Big difference. One I’m not sure Kerry recognizes.

Neither Lincoln or FDR were veterans and yet they seemed quite capable of handling a war during their presidencies.

Just to clarify, Lincoln was a veteran. He served in the Illinois militia as a captain during the Blackhawk War. He saw no action, though. Dominick’s larger point still stands, however. Moreover, the notion that military service--no matter how honorable--somehow qualifies one to be president is absurd. U.S. Grant was unquestionably one of the greatest soldiers in American history--and one of the worst presidents.

Paul, Dominick and John, correct me if I’m wrong about what you are saying, as I understand it, Kerry’s service doesn’t count and is irrelevant to the times we live in and Bush’s lack of service doesn’t matter? You don’t have to compare the two because John Kerry brought it up. Your right, lack of service is not a disqualification, but to me if someone starts calling himself A war president, he better have done more then just start a war to claim that title.

Michelle Malkin details her appearance on Hardball. Worthy of a read.

No one said his service "doesn’t count." It would appear that he has served his country with some distinction, though it also appears that he may have stretched the truth in some significant ways. Be that as it may, I, for one, think Kerry’s service was admirable. What I find irritating and duplicitous is Kerry’s beratement of anyone who even dares question any of the details of his service. If Kerry wants to use his Vietnam service as one of his key qualifications for office, then he should expect the media and the opposition to delve into those details and examine them.

Bush’s "lack of service," as you call it, is indeed less important because he doesn’t mention it in every speech he gives on the campaign trail. He has no interest in saying that his National Guard service has any real bearing on his qualifications to be President.

As for calling himself a war president, he self-evidently is a war president, as we are in a war, incidentally it is a war that Bush did not start. I don’t think referring to a leader as a war president automatically presumes that that war has been handled to perfection, it simply means that that leader has served as president during a war. I would assume that Bush believes he has handled the war with some skill and that he believes his performance during the war is one of his many qualifications for reelection, but I fail to see how his National Guard service has anything to do with his performance as a leader during the current war.

Sorry but I think we must just disagree on this point, I do believe that George Bush started this war, give any justification for it you want, but he is the one who pushed for and got this war. I also wonder why he doesn’t mention his lack of (combat) service in every speech, could it possibly be that he is not to proud of that fact. I would not run for office by calling myself a war president if it simply meant that that I had served as president during an unresolved war. I wish George Bush was a war hero, as they say; no one wants to avoid war more then someone who’s been threw it.

The new swift boat veterans ad is far more damaging than the last. It was perfectly timed.

Yesterday, Mr. Kerry responds to the book and first ad with an attack on the character of his comrades.

The new ad basically says that Mr. Kerry sold them out when he returned to war.

The connection is perfect.


John, are you under the impression that those things never happened or are you angry at him for coming back and telling about it? It sounds a lot like these guys are crying over spilled milk. They can’t get over the fact that they were outed for there or others actions in that war.

I would not run for office by calling myself a war president if it simply meant that that I had served as president during an unresolved war.

Did Lincoln deserve to call himself a war president when he ran for reelection in 1864, in the midst of the unresolved Civil War? Did FDR, when he ran in 1944?

I think it is unfortunate the Kerry campaign has allowed such issues to matter in this election. The groupthink mentality of our congress led to many votes in favor of this war - including Kerry. Had he voted against the war, Kerry could rightly criticize the president in such a way that the details of wounds received 30+ years ago would not matter.

The Democrats chose poorly in the election - it reminds me the Dole candidacy against Clinton. Republicans assumed that since Clinton was such a poor president, anyone could win. Bush is such a poor president that the democrats assumed anyone could win. However, Kerry is so boxed in by that vote for war that he is in no position to point out how horribly wrong our foriegn policy has gone. Iran has/will have nukes, Korea restarted its program in response to Bush’s policy, the world hates us (ask anyone who has recently travel abroad), and our civil liberties are shrinking.

Horrible incumbant. Boxed-in opponent. Either way, the American public lose in November.

My question--sounds glib but I’m wondering why I haven’t seen people compare the Swiftboat to the Fahrenheit 911 movie. If the Swiftboat ad is inappropriate, isn’t the Michael Moore movie inappropriate?

But John, did they start those wars? Kathy, I think it’s exactly the same and I also think people have a right to voice there opinion weather we agree with them or not. (As long as it’s an honest debate). Joe, I hope you turn out to be wrong on this one, no matter who wins the election.

I would like all of you to consider two things.

First, try to take the Swift Boat Vets’ ads out of the context of politics. They’ve said it repeatedly but no one wants to listen - this is between them and Kerry. They’re not pro-Bush, although they’re not oblivious to their affect on the election; their timing is driven by the ability to harm Kerry, not help Bush. Everyone is making a tactical blunder thinking this is political for them. This is payback, and it’s personal, not political. Think of their actions as revenge for the dishonor to their dead and it’s clear why attempts to muzzle them are futile.

The second consideration, which is subtle but could be huge, is they are re-writing the history of the Viet Nam war in the public consciousness. The Kerry campaign and the geezer media have failed to comprehend their danger because they are certain the anti-war, anti-American 60’s version of history they assiduously cultivated for decades was unassailable. These veterans were denied a hearing by the media and the elites in the 60’s and 70’s, but technology has given them a platform. Their version of history is being displayed and the public is listening.

The impact of the testimony of these veterans is utterly unexpected by the self-annointed elites, and their world-view just doesn’t accomodate it. That’s what delayed their response, and they still don’t "get it".

This will be fun.

But John, did they start those wars?

It could be argued that Lincoln started the Civil War by not allowing the South to secede. But it’s irrelevant, because when Bush refers to himself as a wartime president he’s talking about the War on Terror, which began on 9/11 and which he most certainly did not start. Iraq is simply one front in that war.

But in a sense, isn’t this whole issue rather silly? Bush isn’t saying, "Vote for me, I’m a war president." He’s merely stating the obvious--this is a time of war, and when choosing a candidate to support we ought to be thinking primarily about which is better suited to handling that situation. It’s a premise that Kerry has obviously accepted--why else would he devote practically his entire acceptance speech to Vietnam and the War on Terror?

Yes John, he should have just let the south secede, its all Lincoln’s fault, lol, If the right wants to drag Kerry’s war record of 40 years ago threw the mud then you better expect the other side to hit back. So if you want to muddy it up were going to talk about all the bumbling mistakes your candidate has made. Yes this issue is silly, to call yourself a war president is silly and if George Bush is not using that as one of his slogans for president then someone should tell him.

David, do we really want a group of people who by your own admission just have an axe to grind with John Kerry affecting the outcome of our election, just like moveon.whatever they are subverting the process, I wont defend or listen to there or any of those so called 527’s point of view because they are just in the game to win not to improve our country.

FDR definitely started the war against Germany. I mean, the Japanese attacked us. Why didn’t we focus on the Japanese? Why’d we split our attention by focusing on Germany, who didn’t have a "relationship" with Japan; at least not a collaborative operational relationship. But Japan attacked us. Germany never did, so why’d we go invade and start a lengthly, costly occupation? All those pointless deaths of our soldiers and reservists, most of whom didn’t even want to be there...

On a slightly less sarcastic, if not revealing, note: "Republicans" didn’t bring up Kerry’s 35 year old war record. Kerry did. Swift Vets just have a problem with how he’s presenting himself and are replying. He’s now attempting to ban their book and he’s now bringing accusations against Bush to the FEC. If you don’t want people questioning something about your past, don’t bring it up. Period.

Notice that Bush doesn’t bring up his own past. Only Kerry.

Yes John, he should have just let the south secede, its all Lincoln’s fault, lol,

You’re mischaracterizing my argument. The fact is that if Lincoln had allowed secession to proceed there would have been no war. Nevertheless, I think he did absolutely the right thing by resisting secession. If one starts from the childish premise that it is always wrong to initiate hostilities, then one ought to find fault with Lincoln, but since I do not, I do not.

I beg the differ Luke, the germans did attack us. remember the "lusitania"?

It’s kind of hard to debate topics with people who make up there own facts. Luke Germany declared war on the United States right after Japan attacked us at Pearl Harbor. As for the swift boat veterans, John Kerry has been serving his country for over 30 years, they are a bit late in airing this so called grudge, wow, talk about repressed anger, if they had something to say they should have said it long ago. And if you say they did, you better show us where you got that info. John, It’s hard for me to believe that you can find away to say, “Well if Lincoln had just let the south secede there would have been no war” He did not resist secession he stopped some slave owners from taking half the country John. Anyone who “starts from the childish premise” and believes that a country may never have to start a conflict is foolish, but who said that? Now “You’re mischaracterizing my argument” I don’t know how you got the impression that my argument is passive in any way?

I beg the differ Luke, the germans did attack us. remember the "lusitania"?

That was during World War I, Einstein.

Not only was the Lusitania sunk during WWI, but it was a British ship carrying a hold full of ammunition. It was, in short, a legitimate target.

By the way, there is a sense in which FDR started the war against Germany, in that he authorized open aid to Great Britain (in the form of Lend-Lease), and ordered American ships to fire on German submarines on sight. All of this happened months before Germany declared war on the United States.

Once again, my argument is not to fault FDR for starting a war, but merely to point out that he did.

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