The New York Times has finally noticed the controversy about John Kerry’s Vietnam service. A lot of the initial controversy was about Kerry’s medals and, frankly, it’s one of those things like Bush’s National Guard Service that is based largely on the personal memory of events 30+ years ago. Like the Bush National Guard issue, it also features people changing their minds and saying different things over time.
At worst, the military was a bit too quick to give Kerry medals, but the military has a history of dumbing down requirements for medals (especially, as one commentator on Fox noted, for officers).
The bigger issue, as far as I’m concerned, is Kerry’s constant zig-zags about the morality of the war. Bob Dole nails this in the New York Times story, saying,
I mean, one day he’s saying that we were shooting civilians, cutting off their ears, cutting off their heads, throwing away his medals or his ribbons. The next day he’s standing there, ‘I want to be president because I’m a Vietnam veteran.’
Exactly. Kerry has went from the 1970s admitting that he took part in activities which he considered war crimes — including participating in free fire zones — to the position that he was a war hero and anyone who dares question that is shameless.
Kerry and his advisers seem to have in their minds some mythical run for presidency where being a war hero was all it took to win the election. But rather than run that campaign, they appear to be intent on running a parody of a war hero campaign instead. It’s been amusing to watch Bush run ads attacking, say, Kerry’s attendance at Senate Intelligence Committee public hearings and see Kerry surrogates immediately act outraged that Bush would question the competency of someone who spent 4 months on a Swift Boat in Vietnam.
Personally, I’d prefer to hear more details about Kerry’s secret plan to end the war in Iraq, but Kerry seems content to run out the clock to November with few details, hoping large helpings of “I was a war hero” and “Anybody but Bush” will be enough to put him over the top.
Kerry TV Ad Pins Veterans’ Attack Firmly on Bush. Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg, New York Times, August 23, 2004.
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