“Truth is truth - To the end of reckoning.”
Measure for Measure
There were two reasons George Bush was re-elected in 2004.
The Swift Boat Vets.
On April 22, 1971, John Kerry testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He told of atrocities, some of which he said he witnessed. His words would come back to haunt him more than thirty-three years later.
“I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command....
“They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.”
Kerry had just returned from what was called the Winter Soldier meetings in Detroit three months earlier.
Upon his return from Vietnam Kerry became one of the national leaders of the anti-war movement. He befriended Jane Fonda, who herself had betrayed American soldiers in Vietnam when she was photographed sitting an anti-aircraft weapon in North Vietnam. Her statements and actions during her trip to North Vietnam earned her the nickname of Hanoi Jane. For that, millions have not forgiven her.
Many a returning veteran and many of the released prisoners of war, view her as a traitor. The same is true for John Kerry, especially after his Senate Testimony, his trips to Paris to meet the enemy North Vietnamese leaders when the Unites States was negotiating with them in Paris on numerous occasions in 1971 and 72.
Kerry’s trips and meetings were characterized by former chief United States negotiator Ambassador William Porter as “not very helpful”. There was a definite caustic tone to his comments.
The ambassador had been a guest of mine on a number of occasions when I was at WSAR in Fall River. The ambassador had retired to Westport after a long and distinguished career in the foreign service of the United States.
Ambassador Porter, was peace negotiator in Paris. Before Paris he served under several U.S. presidents, from Franklin Roosevelt to Richard Nixon. Mr. Porter served in the Middle East, Morocco, Algiers, Vietnam, Korea and finally, as ambassador to Canada. It was my pleasure to know him in the early 80s. He passed away in 1988.
He was a guest of mine on WSAR. We also spent some interesting lunch hours sitting on Gooseberry Island at the east end of Horseneck Beach watching ships go to and from the Cape Cod Canal at the head of Buzzards Bay. Across from that location is Cutty Hunk Harbor which is at the west end of the Elizabethan Island Chain of which Martha’s Vineyard is the largest island. Oh, yes, on a clear day you could see the cliffs of Gay Head (with strong binoculars).
Ambassador Porter was a graduate of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and served in North Africa and the middle east, including Damascus, Syria during World War II.
I never had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Porter but Ambassador Porter spoke of his sweetheart Eleanore as an angel sent to him by God.
If I was so inclined, I could write about their love story. He adored his lady fair after all those years. She had been a volunteer nurse who answered the call of her country and served in Egypt during World War II. Later she was sent to Syria where she met Ambassador Bill while he was the attaché in Damascus.
One last piece of the Porter puzzle was they needed the permission of her parents and the State Department for them to wed. Obviously they got it from both.
When I had first met Ambassador Porter in our WSAR studio I expected just another member of “foggy bottom”. Most diplomats I’ve met are colorless and say very little. It may be something associated with the job. He was none of that.
The ambassador was a career diplomat who had a deep love for his country. His career began under Franklin Delano Roosevelt and ended with Ronald Reagan. He talked freely and easily of American history and how he believed the United States had a date with destiny, as President Reagan used to say. He agreed with his peace through strength philosophy.
We discussed both on and off air his feeling that we would never see peace in the middle east. He saw oil and the money and power it created as at the root of the problems. We could not buy friends in any traditional ways, the money was there already. It would be interesting to hear an Ambassador Porter view on the Iraq war.
Ambassador Porter commented on John Kerry when Kerry became lieutenant governor 1982. He was not fond of Kerry because of his meetings with the North Vietnamese while the United States was negotiating with them in Paris. Kerry initially denied meeting the communist leaders in Paris but documentation came later. According to revelations during the 2004 presidential campaign information Kerry made at least three visits to Paris.
The information confirms something said to me by Ambassador Porter the last time I interviewed him at WSAR. I cannot recall if the remarks were made on or off air. He often said things off air for background purposes. His disdain for Kerry’s and others actions in Paris were obvious to me. Since Kerry was not on my radar screen as a serious contender for anything I did not make much of the Kerry comments. I doube either of us thought Kerry would go any further in politics so our discussion about him was limited.
I would love to hear Ambassador Porter’s thoughts about Kerry’s campaign for president and the possibility American foreign policy would be crafted by someone who met the enemy while we were at war with them. Add to that be commander-in chief of all our people in the service.
In the 2004 campaign, John F. Kerry made his Vietnam service the linchpin of his campaign for President. After saluting his audience he opened his acceptance speech at the Democrat National Convention with the line, “I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty.”
At the time of the convention his salute and opening line made little political sense. John Kerry rarely made his anti-war past a campaign issue. Therefore, mentioning anything about his military past was played down for fear the anti-war issues would become fair game as well.
The Massachusetts senator said nothing about what he did when he came home. No mention about his testimony quoted above, no reprinting of his book, The New Soldier. When he ran for congress in 1972 his people tried to recover as many copies of his books as possible to take them out of circulation. You will never see it with its cover of grubby looking men in fatigues carrying the American flag upside down.
His activities and statements in the 70s painted our veterans with an undeserved bloody brush.
Some believe his statements and activities and those of Jane Fonda and others actually prolonged the war, resulting in the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of our soldiers, and thousands of Vietnamese.
Why did he do what he make his military background and war record a big part of the campaign? There was obvious risk in that many would have negative memories of his war protests actions.
Democrats had been trying to come up with ways to appeal to “Reagan Democrats” since his successes of the 80s. The Republican takeover of congress in 1994 was done by getting those moderate to conservative Democrats and Independents to vote Republican. If Democrats are to win back those Truman type Democrats they have to appeal to their issues.
Reminding those swing Democrats of the their party’s anti-war protest days is not a winning strategy.
In reality there was a good reason for taking that bold strategic action.
Who knew Dan Rather would attempt to bring down George Bush by using his checkered Texas Air National Guard record? Who knew of the phony documents indicating Bush did not fulfill his Guard obligations?
The Democrat Party did, that’s who. And that’s why they rolled the dice.
Here’s how it worked:
A week before the 60 Minutes 2 smear attempt, Dan Rather interviewed First Lady Laura Bush. The occasion was the final night of the Republican National Convention in New York City.
Rather asked a question which was as much a prologue as it was designed to extract information from Mrs. Bush.
“Now that friends and supporters of the President have raised the issue of John Kerry’s combat record in Vietnam, do you or do you not think it’s fair now for the Kerry people to come back and dig anew into your husband’s military service record?”
For weeks Dan Rather denigrated or outright ignored the charges made by John Kerry’s fellow Vietnam veterans. Now on the September 8, 2004 CBS Evening News Rather said he had new proof that George W. Bush had neglected his duties as a Texas Air National Guardsman decades earlier: “There are new questions tonight about President Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard in the late 1960s and early ’70s and about his insistence that he met his military service obligations. CBS News has exclusive information, including documents, that now sheds new light on the President’s service record. 60 Minutes 2 has obtained government documents that indicate Mr. Bush may have received preferential treatment in the Guard after not fulfilling his commitments.”
Interesting bit of co-ordination between the Democrats and Rather.
The Democrats knew for weeks Rather was planning on springing the Texas Air National Guard service assault on the President Bush.
The story Dan Rather had in mind when he asked Mrs. Bush that question was based on forged documents. Weeks after breaking the Burkett story CBS Evening News did acknowledge that Rather’s producer, Mary Mapes, put the Kerry campaign in touch with CBS’s untrustworthy source, Bill Burkett.
Mapes was the first to take the fall for Rather. Reporter Bill Plante read from CBS’s official statement forbidding bias: “It is obviously against CBS News standards to be associated with any political agenda.”
Rather made reference to “exclusive information, including documents” to support his and CBS Evening News and 60 Minutes stories charging George W. Bush with shirking his duties when he was in the Texas Air National Guard in the 1960s and 1970s.
A few hours after those documents were posted on CBS News’s Web site typography experts said the documents had not originated with their alleged author, Bush’s former commanding officer the late Lt. Colonel Jerry Killian. The photosphere experts called them fakes and a fraud. The experts who saw copies of the documents in the Internet pointed out the font was a Microsoft Word font, not a 1970ish typewriter.
As the evidence mounted, Rather stood by his story. He called it “bulletproof“, and dismissed its critics as partisans and Internet rumormongers.
When he “apologized” on September 20, Rather would not concede the documents were forgeries, only that he and CBS could “no longer vouch for their authenticity.” What a fraud.
Meanwhile, Rather told the Chicago Tribune that he still thought the memos were real: “Do I think they’re forged? No.”
The fact the Kerry campaign learned of the so-called Burkett documents in advance of the convention explains Kerry’s decision to make the “military” move. He wanted to define the difference between George Bush as a draft dodger and him as a war hero.
The gambit may have worked except for the people who later were referred to by Lucianne Goldberg on her web site Lucianne.com as the “Pajamahadeen”, those of us who crawl behind our keyboards before sunrise and scrutinize the news.
And then there were the Swift Boat Vets.
Without them, we all would have been learning how to say, First Lady Teresa Heinz Kerry.
I have been in talk radio for seven presidential campaigns. The worst was the 1996 effort of Bob Dole and 1992 by Ross Perrot. Dole’s campaign was tired from the moment he seized the nomination in the late spring and Perrot destroyed his run in 1992 by withdrawing and then re-entering later.
Right behind them have been the runs by George Bush. Both the 2000 and 2004 races seemed to flounder and make numerous mistakes in strategy.
As we discussed in Chapter twenty-two, the stupidity of trying to hide the driving under the influence conviction in Maine in 1976 nearly derailed the Bush 2000 campaign, his inability to make his case again of why we were at war in Iraq gave John Kerry his best chance to unseat the president.
For reasons I, nor our talk show callers could articulate, the Bush campaign ignored the president’s only real strength. His handling of the war on terror resonated well with the voters and callers. His base was not energized by his feeble attempts to overhaul social security, prescription drug policies nor a myriad of other areas his administration poked around in.
His tax cuts and possible revamping of the tax system were his strong points.
George Bush is not, and has not, been a forceful communicator. However his message regarding terror and security at home were clearly his trump cards John Kerry could not deal with.
Based on our callers and the message most of the polling which was done, George Bush needed to continue discussing the following:
The threat Saddam Hussein posed through his ongoing efforts to destabilize the middle east. His weapons programs, his use of chemical weapons against his own people, his finance of terror bombers in the Palestinian areas designed to kill civilians were good reason to remove him from power.
Hussein’s collaboration with international terrorists by allowing them to train in his country. It was estimated over two-thousand terrorists were trained in northern Iraq and a place called Salman Pac, a short distance south of Baghdad. We knew from the statements of former weapons inspectors and Iraqi defectors, and after the invasion, documents, that terrorists were trained in methods of hijacking a plane in flight using only small pocket knives.
The military had uncovered documents outlining active and planned weapons programs.
For reasons few could explain the Bush campaign said nothing of the findings. It made no sense.
The other area is who John Kerry may appoint to important positions in a Kerry administration. The Bush campaign never took advantage of the fact some very irresponsible people could be put into positions of power similar to what happened in the early days of the Clinton administration.
The same was true for possible supreme court appointees. Not a word from the Bush camp.
The intelligent position would have been to remind voters of Janet Reno, Madeline Albright, and any number of others such as former Clinton national security adviser, Sandy Berger who was by then a chief Kerry concultant on security matters.
On July 18, 2004, it was revealed Berger was being investigated for the theft of as many as fifty classified documents from the National Archives. The theft occurred in October of 2003 as Berger was preparing to testify before the 9/11 Commission concerning the Clinton White House handling of the 2000 millennium attack plots.
Berger had carried out the documents in his brief case and had stuffed notes and smaller documents in his socks, coat and pants pockets and stuffed in his underwear.
Berger left the Kerry campaign shortly after the incident became public. Many of us felt what he did was theft and moreover had serious national security implications pure and simple. Berger's removal of the documents constituted theft and moreover had serious national security implications.
Ultimately the campaign became one of which campaign could get out its negative message.
The Kerry campaign worked on fears of women that George Bush would appoint people to the Supreme Court who would end Roe v. Wade, dismantle Social Security, severely cut back aid to education and cut taxes for “the rich”. The campaign itself as well as numerous political action committees such as MoveOn.Org. poured millions of dollars into the campaign.
For their part the Republicans were in full attack mode with the Kerry flip-flop accusations. They had some effect.
The campaign really turned on the effort of the Swift Boat veterans.
Kerry’s own words did him in. On the subject of his votes on the Iraq war Kerry said, “I voted for the war, before I voted against it.” His credibility was shaken even more when his aids said he said that when he was tired at the end of the day. In reality the statement was made mid morning and was in reference to a question by a voter and it caught him off guard. Kerry didn’t know which side the people who could hear him were on. It became a metaphor for his campaign and follows him to this day.
The real damage came, however, from those who still had scars from Kerry’s remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee thirty-three years earlier.
Swift Boat Vets and POWs for Truth
Senator John Kerry has made his 4-month combat tour in Vietnam the centerpiece of his bid for the Presidency. His campaign jets a handful of veterans around the country, and trots them out at public appearances to sing his praises. John Kerry wants us to believe that these men represent all those he calls his "band of brothers."
But most combat veterans who served with John Kerry in Vietnam see him in a very different light.
Here is how the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth website described their actions on the home page of their web site:
“Swift Vets and POWs for Truth has been formed to counter the false "war crimes" charges John Kerry repeatedly made against Vietnam veterans who served in our units and elsewhere, and to accurately portray Kerry's brief tour in Vietnam as a junior grade Lieutenant. We speak from personal experience -- our group includes men who served beside Kerry in combat as well as his commanders. Though we come from different backgrounds and hold varying political opinions, we agree on one thing: John Kerry misrepresented his record and ours in Vietnam and therefore exhibits serious flaws in character and lacks the potential to lead.
“We regret the need to do this. Most Swift boat veterans would like nothing better than to support one of our own for America's highest office, regardless of whether he was running as a Democrat or a Republican. However, Kerry's phony war crimes charges, his exaggerated claims, about his own service in Vietnam, and his deliberate misrepresentation of the nature and effectiveness of Swift boat operations compels us to step forward.
“For more than thirty years, most Vietnam veterans kept silent as we were maligned as misfits, drug addicts, and baby killers. Now that a key creator of that poisonous image is seeking the Presidency we have resolved to end our silence.”
The petition they circulated continued the same theme:
“As you now seek to become Commander in Chief of our armed forces, we believe it is incumbent upon you to better explain to the American public your conduct in this matter. Specifically, we ask you to:
Acknowledge to the American public that you did not personally witness any such atrocities or, in the alternative, cite such examples and then provide an explanation of what actions you took relative to these alleged war crimes.
Explain to the American public the nature and extent of war crimes in which you participated.
Explain to the American public your justification for contacting and working in conjunction with a foreign government then at war with the United States.
Provide an acknowledgment and apology to the American veterans for your all encompassing accusations, and more specifically to our POWs for any extensions of their internment caused by your actions.
Personally respond factually to the challenges made against your service in Vietnam by some 275 men who served with you.
“Senator Kerry, the vast majority of the men who served with you, and the entire chain of command, have refuted your representations of your conduct in Vietnam. To date, you have repeatedly refused to respond to these statements, electing instead to have professional political operatives flood the media with efforts to discredit these former comrades. We want to hear from you.
We the undersigned consider your response on these five points to be critical to this nation's decision to entrust our military forces to you. If you betrayed us once, we need to be assured that you will not do it again.
“It is time for you to set the record straight.”
The die was cast.
Kerry cast the die at the Democrat National Convention comforted in the knowledge Dan Rather and CBS News would create a stir about the limited service record of President Bush, especially in time of war.
The Kerry gambit of using the military record of both candidates blew up in his face. The two records were considered. Little or nothing of substance was ever learned about Bush’s record while Kerry’s could not stand the bright glare the scrutiny of his own record created.
The final score:
Swift Vets 1
John Kerry 0