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  • Ohioblog: A Swing State Journal





    Monday, August 23, 2004

    Now whom do you believe? 

    The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have run aground, beached on the sandbar of their own, bitter self-serving verbal bile. Though the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads and the book, Unfit for Command, also serve President Bush, he remains at a distance from the battlefield that has become Democrat John Kerry's Vietnam War record. It is familiar ground for a president whose own Vietnam-era service consisted of a spotty attendance record in the Texas Air National Guard.

    Kerry, his accusers claim, got out of Vietnam early as a result of questionable wounds. (They don't mention that Bush bugged out of the Guard early to attend graduate school.)

    All of this is too familiar. It is the same attack tactic Bush's political minder Karl Rove employed against Sen. John McCain during the 2000 Republican primary campaign and that other Republican operatives used to defeat Sen. Max Cleland in Georgia in 2002. As Joe Hallett (link requires subscription), The Columbus Dispatch's senior editor, points out: We all have forgotten this recent history ``and once again underestimated how good Karl Rove & Co. are at winning elections.'' ``As Bush scores with voters by lauding the heroism of troops he sends to war,'' Hallett correctly notes, ``his allies systematically tear down old war heroes for political gain.''

    Many bloggers express skepticism of the mainstream media's ability to ferret out the Swift boat truth. And, even if the media were successful, would they know the truth if they stumbled over it, given such high-profile failures of honesty as The New York Times and its disreputable reporter Jayson Blair.

    Ohioblog's advice: Use all of the resources available and make your own decision. In the process, factor in this: The facts, especially those 35 years old and melded from the furor of war, are not always black or white. And, as the Washington Post's Michael Dobbs suggests, they are further colored in this situation ``by the bitterly partisan nature of the presidential campaign.''

    In addition to the Post, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times have done work that further illuminates the claims and counter-claims. The most striking account of one of the incidents -- Kerry's Swift boat strategy of engaging the Viet Cong directly which led to his Silver Star -- comes from fellow Swift boat commander William
    Rood
    , now an editor at the Chicago Tribune.

    Unlike some of The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who have been trying for more than 30 years to bring down Kerry with their story, Rood never wanted to tell his. He did so at Kerry's request and after listening to the attacks on his fellow commander. Rood's story is compelling and supports the official version in U.S. Navy records. (Kerry, by the way, should release ALL of those records for scrutiny.)

    For another opinion, turn to Joseph L. Galloway, Knight Ridder Newspapers' military affairs columnist and the only journalist to receive a Bronze Star in Vietnam for his bravery. Galloway concluded: ``Military records back John Kerry's account of his service in Vietnam and have backed at least two of his accusers into a corner.''

    In that corner with George Elliott, Kerry's commanding officer in Vietnam, and Larry Thurlow, another Swift boat commander, are blogs such as Captain's Quarters, Hugh Hewitt and The Right Coast.

    Kerry made his service the centerpiece of his campaign to become the next commander and chief. In turn, it has become the target of Rove, who, by no coincidence, is a political intimate of the ads' primary financial backer, Houston homebuilder Bob Perry.

    This furor over something that occurred 35 years ago may seem overblown (and it is) to Ohioans, especially those whose concerns are more about jobs and the current war in Iraq. Yet in the tangle of tales lies truths about both of the men who would be president for the next four years. They are worth sorting out.

    - Steve Love

    posted by Ohioblog: A Swing State Journal at 12:03 PM



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