At this point, it's nice to see Kerry putting the "Swift Boat Veterans" and the Bush campaign on the defensive [UPDATE: Edwards is doing it too.]. If the media are going to obsess over this irrelevant nonsense, we might as well not give Rove a free pass. The Kerry camp is taking it even farther than I would have guessed: they've followed up the hard-hitting speech from yesterday by filing a complaint with the FEC.
Team Bush is responding like they always do when someone takes them on: calling him crazy. McClellan used the phrase "lost his cool" or some variation 3 times in today's press gaggle, and Republican Campaign chairman Marc Racicot says Kerry looks wild-eyed. I think they only have 2 pages in their playbook.
Am I missing something essential in my belief that none of this matters? I mean, take the swift boat Republicans at their word. Suppose Kerry exaggerated the danger he faced when he pulled Rassmann out of the water, and even fled first before coming back. Suppose his action reports were filled with puffed-up accounts of his team's exploits, and his purple-heart-yielding incidents were less than deserving. And suppose he even actively considered using his military service for future political purpose. I don't, for one, believe there's been any credible evidence for any of that, by the way, but let's just suppose for the sake of argument that it's so.
What, he's the first candidate for President to ever self-aggrandize, and in his twenties? The Vietnam War was a horrible disaster for nearly an entire generation of young American men. It was a travesty foisted upon them by a government and a Pentagon that got us into a foolish war that wasn't worth fighting, lied to keep us there, and then abandoned its Veterans upon their return, as if it was their fault. Being there at all was an indisputable risk to these kids' lives (Here are the B's....unbelievable). As far as I'm concerned, any medal any of them could have received from the military, after what was done to them physically, emotionally and mentally just in being sent there, was pretty weak payment indeed.
If building up yourself and your team to receive more medals actually took place, even if the purpose was getting the hell out of there as fast as possible and/or making yourself look like a bigger hero than you were, who the heck cares, especially now that we know what a dishonorable war it was on the part of those that put us there?? And most of all, who could criticize Kerry for this in support of Bush, in light of the President's service decisions at the same time? If Kerry's actions at age 25,26,27 are going to be the focus of the campaign, why not at least compare to what Bush and Cheney were doing with themselves at those ages?
To be sure, I'm not for a second believing that the charges against Kerry are indeed true (see especially updates at the bottom of this post about the mounting evidence that Kerry's detractors are not telling the truth). I'm just perplexed that they've seen so much attention, given their irrelevance even if they were true. And I'm also not saying that the most evil, vicious of American soldiers in Vietnam (and I'm sure there were some, though a very relative few) are worthy of being honored, but I don't hear even his detractors accusing Kerry of that.
The worst part of all of this is that Bush's record as President and both of their plans for the next four years are getting lost in this 30+-year-old debate. I'm sure that's part of the point of Bush's not criticizing the group and re-inforcing his own statements that Kerry's service was honorable, urging the debate to focus on plans for the future. He would certainly win political points for staging that kind of leadership, but clearly not more than he would lose by having the focus return to his record of failed policies. Maybe by putting Bush on the defensive on this issue, he can be cornered into having to do just that. Or it will be perceived as desperation on Kerry's part, a fear that people are buying this nonsense. It's a gamble, this fighting tactic, but we don't need this all-negative, all-defensive run-up to the Republican Convention.
And, oh yeah, where's the backlash against negative campaigning that we always hear is so central to the non-partisan, undecided middle??
UPDATE: More evidence is growing that this group is really all about payback for Kerry's anti-war statements to Congress. They don't seem to have a clue about his service. They just want to harm him. The Washington Post has that story.
UPDATE2: Even more are speaking up that the Swift Boat group are just plain liars, angry about Kerry's congressional testimony, which itself is worth a read, and Atrios posts it here. Another commander happens to be a copy editor for the Chicago Tribune who wished to never think or speak about the horror of Vietnam again. Watching the lies about Kerry has compelled him to speak up, in a lengthy piece to be published in the Sunday Tribune. Story and preview here. (sorry reg. reqd.)
[Note: You can still nominate your Captain Obvious for the DUH award in the previous thread...I'll hold off on the award until Monday. Maybe we'll get more.]