I have to admit it: I’m relishing the fact that John Kerry, with these swift boat veteran claims against him, is, in a way, finally getting paid back for all of the negative comments his backers directed toward President George W. Bush earlier in the year.
In case you don’t remember, earlier this year there was a big brouhaha over how President Bush spent his time in the Texas Air National Guard. Critics charged that Bush used his daddy’s connections to avoid, shall we say, being “fully involved” in his guard duties.
Among the critics were prominent democrats such as Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who deemed Bush AWOL.
In an interview with Telumundo, Teresa Heinz Kerry publicly disapproved of the president and vice president’s comments.
“To have a couple of people who escaped (Vietnam service) four, five, six times and deferred and deferred and deferred calling (John Kerry) anything … is in and of itself unpatriotic,” she said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “As far as we know, Senator Kerry got three purple hearts for risking his life in Vietnam and President Bush got a dental examination in Alabama.”
Kerry told The Dayton Daily News that he thought many veterans were “going to be very angry at a president who can’t account for his own service in the National Guard — and a vice president who got every deferment in the world and decided he had better things to do — criticizing somebody who fought for their country and served.”
White House officials eventually released Bush’s military records and the issue faded away, for the time being.
So, after that, I tend to think John Kerry’s military record being questioned by his fellow Vietnam veterans is the universe’s way of balancing things out in the realm of campaign smear tactics.
Many people find these allegations — against both Kerry and Bush — a waste of time. I, on the other hand, believe they are important in that, depending on whether they’re true or not, they shed light on the character and judgment of both individuals. Whether they served is not as important as how they behaved when they served.
Ironically, if the Kerry campaign hadn’t made his war record such a big part of the Democratic National Convention by parading out his shipmates and having the senator salute, this criticism might never have gotten to the point it has.
Equally amusing is that Bush has been regularly attacked by supposed non-candidate affiliated groups — known as 527s for their IRS status — such as MoveOn.org. Those ads, costing about $63 million, have gone so far as to compare him to Adolf Hitler. The irony is that the administration has routinely called for an end to all such 527 advertisements, while Kerry has not (note that he did condemn the specific ad comparing Bush to Hitler). But now, as a 527 group has finally attacked him, Kerry wants the ads to stop.
The Bush administration has routinely stated that they believe Kerry’s service to be commendable, with Bush going so far as to call Kerry’s service “more heroic” than his; but Kerry insists Bush is behind the smear campaign.
The allegations against the presidential hopeful have not been proven true because not all of Kerry’s military records have been released. Right now, it’s just one group of veterans against another. There is no way to know if Kerry was in Cambodia when he said he was, which may make some of the allegations true. Maybe, on the other hand, it is just the fog of war, or maybe the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are mad about Kerry alleging that servicemen committed war crimes in Vietnam. I don’t know which is correct, but one thing is for sure: at least now the attacks on both candidates have sort of evened out.
Adam Fowler is a senior majoring in political science. firstname.lastname@example.org