It’s all George Walker Bush’s fault.
The entire controversy floated by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is the result of President Bush’s desire to besmirch John Kerry’s tenure in Vietnam. That’s the Democrats’ story, and they’re sticking with it. Too bad it’s not true.
“The President keeps telling people he would never question my service to our country,” John Kerry told the International Association of Fire Fighters in Boston August 19. “Instead, he watches as a Republican-funded attack group does just that. Well, if he wants to have a debate about our service in Vietnam, here is my answer: ‘Bring it on.’”
Speaking at Manhattan’s Cooper Union College on August 24, Kerry reprised this theme. “The Bush campaign and its allies have turned to the tactics of fear and smear because they can’t talk about jobs, health care, energy independence and rebuilding our alliances,” Kerry said.
“This is a dirty tricks campaign which the Republicans undertake because they can’t talk about the economic record of the last four years because it’s been bad,” Democratic strategist Julian Epstein told Fox News Channel Sunday night. “When you don’t have something good to tell, what you do is you let your attack dogs and your front groups go to savage other people’s reputations, and this is exactly what’s going on.”
These Democratic accusations against Team Bush are belied by none other than John Kerry’s own campaign website.
Johnkerry.com features an April 27, 2004, news release headlined “Key Unanswered Questions: Bush’s Record In The National Guard.” It begins with the following quote–aired on the April 26, 2004, NBC Nightly News–in which John Kerry himself questions the president’s service to the country:
“If George Bush wants to ask me questions about that through his surrogates, he owes America an explanation about whether or not he showed up for duty in the National Guard. Prove it. That’s what we ought to have. I’m not going to stand around and let them play games.”
For the next 1,507 words, the press release dissects G.W. Bush’s Air National Guard duty. In a rather sarcastic tone, it poses nine key questions about the president’s military activities in the early 1970s, among them:
”Bush Has Said He Used No Special Treatment To Get Into The Guard. How Does He Explain The Fact That He Jumped Ahead Of 150 Applicants Despite Low Pilot Aptitude Scores?”
”Why Did Bush Specifically Request To NOT Be Sent Overseas For Duty?”
”Why Does The White House Say Bush Was On Base When Bush’s Superiors Had Filed A Report Saying He Was Gone For A Whole Year?”
The news release includes detailed analysis of such arcana as Bush’s “Area Assignment Preferences,” his “minimum-training requirements” versus “the lower threshold to receive retirement credit” and even his unit’s relative staffing levels of pilots compared to flight surgeons.
Kerry had responded to GOP congressmen who encouraged the Massachusetts senator to explain how he famously “dumped” his combat medals in disgust while actually keeping them with pride. In fact, he ditched only his combat ribbons during an April 1971 peace protest. (This was akin to discarding a holster at a gun control rally while keeping its corresponding Glock loaded under one’s pillow.) Kerry simply could have defended his record. Instead, he dragged President Bush’s integrity into the dispute.
This occurred before the Swiftees made their move. They began their educational efforts with a press conference and open letter calling on Kerry to sign a Standard Form 180 to release all of his military records. The Swiftees’ letter is dated May 4, 2004, a full week after the Kerry campaign’s anti-Bush news release. Kerry has yet to sign an SF 180. In fact, despite news reports that “the documentary evidence” supports Kerry’s side of the Swiftees’ challenges against him, the Washington Post’s Michael Dobbs reported August 22 that at least 94 pages in Kerry’s Navy file remain captive and await liberation through his signature.
More troubling for Kerry, the Post’s Ann Gerhart reported Saturday that historian Douglas Brinkley–who wrote Kerry’s authorized biography, Tour of Duty–now describes as “obviously wrong” Kerry’s claim that he spent Christmas Eve 1968 five miles inside Cambodia on a secret CIA mission, facing Vietnamese, Khmer Rouge, and Cambodian fire.
Furthermore, as Dobbs wrote last week, “The Kerry campaign has refused to make available Kerry’s journals and other writings to The Post, saying the senator remains bound by an exclusivity agreement with Brinkley.” Kerry-Edwards has cited its deal with Brinkley to justify keeping Kerry’s wartime papers away from curious journalists.
But now, Brinkley has revealed this as a ruse. There is no deal under which only Brinkley may see and discuss Kerry’s Vietnam diary and personal letters. As Gerhart reported Saturday, “Brinkley said this week the papers are the property of the senator and in his full control.” The exclusivity deal, Brinkley added, only requires “that anybody quoting any of the material needs to cite my book.”
“I don’t mind if John Kerry shows anybody anything,” Brinkley said. “If he wants to let anybody in, that’s his business. Go bug John Kerry, and leave me alone.”
This is no laughing matter. Nonetheless, Kerry has refused interviews since this imbroglio began, save for an August 24 appearance with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, a program that calls itself “The Most Trusted Name in Fake News.” Former Senator Max Cleland (D., Georgia) and Kerry’s other supporters deserve something less impertinent than that–at a minimum, a Kerry sit-down with CNN soft-touch, Larry King.
For the fourth week now, the whole world is watching the Democratic presidential nominee fight serious doubts about his veracity on Vietnam and since.
And it’s all John Forbes Kerry’s fault.