August 23, 2004 [LINK]

Swift Boats: search for truth

An August 22 Washington Post story by Michael Dobbs sifted through the evidence regarding the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth charges against John F. Kerry's military record. So far, the truth seems somewhere in between. My sense is that Kerry probably served honorably, but flagrantly hustled superiors ("Ouch!") to get an extra Purple Heart and thus a quick exit from Vietnam. There is little doubt that from the very beginning he was self-consciously capitalizing on his Vietnam service for a possible future career in politics. His callous disrespect for his comrades in uniform and his too-pious Congressional testimony are examples of utter shameless gall. Kerry's most dubious claim of having been in Cambodia on Christmas Eve 1968 is not corroborated by any official documents, and his campaign organization has beat a steady retreat from his past definitive declarations of how that experience was "seared ... seared" in his memory. It is possible, however, that he was on a "black" secret mission. If so, he never should have divulged it to the public, and anyone with so little regard for confidentiality sensitive national security matters is unfit to serve as commander in chief.

Why would Kerry put so much emphasis on his military service if he had so blatantly inflated his record? My guess is that he wanted to divert the public's attention from the fact that, like Nixon in 1968, he really doesn't have any better ideas on how to win the war on terrorism. If that is the case, why in the world should we "change horses in the middle of the stream"? In any case, all that gung-ho, off-color bravado (I'm John Kerry, reporting for duty!") is likely to wear thin as more people realize that there is very little correlation between presidential greatness and past military service. Abe Lincoln vs. Ulysses Grant?

To me, the biggest lesson to be learned from this is the futility of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which inadvertently created the massive pernicious loophole. Only in a world of political saints could the "527" organizations such as and the Swift Boat Vets be regarded as fully independent of the respective parties and presidential campaigns. Why pretend? Well, there's a good reason: Both sides are straining to appeal to the small but vital undecided bloc of voters, who are by and large clueless about the facts and/or innocent of such Washington political games. To his credit, President Bush today distanced himself from any and all such unauthorized quasi-campaigns, calling on the Democrats to do the same. Way to take the high road, "W"! Meanwhile, esteemed WWII veteran (and political hard-baller) Bob Dole endorsed the Swift Boat Veterans' charges, in a well-choreographed "good-cop, bad-cop" routine. John Kerry is shocked -- shocked! -- that the usually slow-witted Republicans have learned to play his party's game.

NOTE: This is a "post facto" blog post, taken from the pre-November 2004 archives.