2004-09-03 / This Week's Attitude

Time To End Campaign’s Sound And The Furor

It’s time to stop the sound and the furor surrounding the presidential campaign lunacy over the military service records of George W. Bush and John Kerry. The interminable bickering over how much blood Kerry did or didn’t shed during his voluntary Vietnam tour of duty and Bush’s disputed tenure in the Air National Guard is so yesterday’s news.

Moreover, there’s no question Kerry briefly served in a war zone. The president’s Air National Guard record, however, has not been fully disclosed and remains suspect. Kerry accumulated five medals, including two for bravery. Bush’s cushy wartime obligation probably consisted of not much more than playing pilot by day and bending elbows at night in some local bar. Kerry carries shrapnel in his leg. Bush didn’t even get a scratch in a barroom brawl.

Isn’t it odd that not one person has yet come forward to verify they served with Bush? Was he unpopular, enigmatic or is that no one remembers seeing him where he claims he was?

Financially backed and coached by Bush supporters, a group of veterans, who served in Vietnam — but not in Kerry’s command — have accused him of lying, despite Department of Navy records verifying his combat accomplishments. Kerry’s “band of brothers,” who served alongside him, has challenged the veterans’ arguments.

The hullabaloo began months ago when Kerry campaign strategists, using tactics employed by Republicans over Bill Clinton’s draft avoidance, questioned Bush’s ability to be a wartime president since he lacked combat experience. As a result, GOP planners got hold of Republican-registered Viet vets known to loathe Kerry for his 1971 antiwar stance after his discharge. (Incidentally, the anti-Kerry group, Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace, was masterminded by none other than Watergate conspirator Charles Colson, who, years later, admitted he found John O’Neill and helped him organize the vets after Kerry criticized the Nixon Administration’s Vietnam strategy over 30 years ago.)

Where were these vets when Kerry was vying for the nomination? Waiting to emerge from the shadows, no doubt, when it was certain Kerry would be the Democratic nominee.

The Democrats, nevertheless, made a huge mistake in Boston several weeks ago when they allowed the convention to spend too much time showcasing Kerry’s laudable war record to demonstrate that despite his stand against out-of-control defense spending, he’s qualified to be Commander-in-Chief.

Nonetheless, it’s time to stop. What the heck does Vietnam have to do with the current state of American politics anyway? No less than six respectable major daily newspapers — some with a liberal bent — investigated the charges made by Kerry’s critics and found them to have little credence.

Republican Arizona Senator John McCain, a former Navy flier and Vietnam prisoner of war, recently said what is likely on the minds of most Americans and perhaps the most intelligent statement yet in this nasty, divisive 2004 election campaign: “I’m sick and tired of opening the wounds of the Vietnam War…It’s time to move on.”

McCain is campaigning for Bush, but has asked the president to condemn the anti-Kerry ads. He also asked the Kerry campaign to stop using an ad that includes excerpts of McCain attacking Bush when they were campaign opponents in the 2000 Republican primaries.

In an interview with The New York Times last week, Bush — at his indecisive best — dismissed the notion that Kerry lied about his war record, but declined to denounce the television ad campaign.

Questioning John Kerry about his brief Vietnam tour of duty for which he volunteered and saved a fellow soldier in the process or George W. Bush, who did what many American males of draft age did in the late 60s and 70s — avoid serving in combat any way they could – are issues that no longer belong in this presidential campaign.

The military service debate will ultimately damage Kerry’s more than Bush, because the president’s record contains little to argue about.

That was then. This is now.

The longer this debate persists, the greater the risk some voters may become more disgusted and not even bother to vote in November. That would be the worst casualty of this insipid debate.

Using negative ads to squabble over events that happened more than 30 years ago distracts from the serious issues that matter most to most Americans in this election — the economy, jobs, health care and homeland security.

With less than nine weeks until the election, let’s focus and get the show on the road folks!

This Week’s

Attitude

By Neil S. Friedman

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