August 05, 2004
Kerry better be careful
Posted by McQ
Dale has provided a link to the new Swift Boat Vets ad and points to the dilemma the DNC and candidate Kerry have if they go after these vets.
Collin Levey of the Seattle Times is of the opinion that the Democrats will indeed go after the Swift Boat Vets and provides us with a preview:
For a preview of the talking points, Democrats might be directed to the recent writings of New York Observer columnist Joe Conason in the online diary, Salon. Over the past few months, he has written three pieces on the nefarious connections of the anti-Kerry Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, remarking, among other things, that the group, classified as a 527 organization, has connections with well-known Republican operatives in Texas.
He calls the Swift Boat Veterans "conservative Republicans embittered over Kerry's later antiwar activism" and describes the group's founder, retired Rear Adm. Roy Hoffmann, as having "gained notoriety in Vietnam as a strutting, cigar-chewing Navy captain... whose obsession with body counts and 'scorekeeping' may have provoked the February 1969 massacre of Vietnamese civilians at Thanh Phong."
So the tact may be to claim they're actually embittered Republicans, disreputable, and one of them may have caused a massacre. Hmmm. If that's the defense, then I don't see it being that effective in terms of a rebuttal. The group includes his chain of command, his peers, a crew member and even the doctor that treated his first wound. Pretty diverse and inclusive.
On the other hand, the Swift Boat Vets could overplay their hand and actually cause a backlash if they appear bitter or too strident. In the few interviews I've heard with members of this group, they seem reputable, calm and measured in their criticism. One such interview can be heard here from one of the Officer's in Tactical Command who had Kerry as a subordinate in his ad hoc boat group.
There's also another bit of information floating around out there that I've seen occassionally as concerns Kerry's service in Vietnam. It has to do with Adm. Elmo Zumwalt's, later CNO of the Navy, recollection of John Kerry's service in Vietnam as related by W. Scott Thompson:
He now makes much of his decorations from the war in Vietnam, to appeal to centrists and conservatives, without reminding those audiences that he for long was a leader of Vietnam veterans against the war. Indeed, assiduous searchers, looking for his vulnerabilities, will find much of interest in that period of his life. For example, the fabled and distinguished chief of naval operations (CNO), Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, told me -- 30 years ago when he was still CNO -- that during his own command of US naval forces in Vietnam, just prior to his anointment as CNO, young Kerry had created great problems for him and the other top brass, by killing so many non-combatant civilians and going after other non-military targets.
"We had virtually to straight-jacket him to keep him under control," the admiral said. "Bud" Zumwalt got it right when he assessed Kerry as having large ambitions -- but promised that his career in Vietnam would haunt him if he were ever on the national stage.
Thompson is a former assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration.
Be that as it may, if this is true, then it has a tendency to vet the opinion of the Swift Boat Vets. An Admiral should only be aware of a LT (jg) for one of two reasons. Because he was damned good or damned bad. Based on Thompson's recollection of Zumwalt's discussion of Kerry, his awareness of Kerry concerned the latter.
Collin Levey then makes a prudent observation, and a huge point that was apparently overlooked by the leadership of the DNC:
The fundamental problem with Kerry's campaign is that it presumes the worst thing possible about American elections: that the voters are too dumb to see through the holograms. An alien watching the convention might have reasonably assumed that the Democrats had nominated a 28-year-old for the presidency, so absent was any mention of the candidate's other career in the U.S. Senate.
If Kerry wants the leadership campaign to be about his time in Vietnam, he and his emissaries should be careful about impugning the motives of his veteran detractors. As one of them said, "We didn't lose the war on the ground in Vietnam, we lost it at home, and at home John Kerry was the field general."
Kerry's activism after his service in Vietnam is as much an issue to the Swift Boat Vets as his service for the 4 months he was in Vietnam. That particular issue is going to be very difficult for Kerry do dodge, so my bet is he'll essentially ignore it and if he responds at all it will be in a huff about his patriotism and valor being questioned.
It should be interesting to watch the next few weeks to see how this develops.
But Kerry should be gratified ... he said to "Bring it on" concerning his Vietnam record and the Swift Boat Vets have. How he handles it may be critical to his continued viability as a candidate.