Skip to comments.Kerry's Damning Past
Posted on 08/11/2004 7:50:47 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
"I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty." It was the most memorable line from John Kerry's acceptance speech last week at the Democratic National Convention. But Kerry's insistence on making his four-month tour of duty in Vietnam the centerpiece of his campaign could backfire as Americans learn more about what he did in that country and, more importantly, what he did when he returned home.
To hear the Kerry campaign tell it, the men who served with Kerry universally consider him a genuine war hero who would make a fine commander in chief. The campaign trumpets testimonials from a group of fellow officers and sailors who served in Vietnam when Kerry was there and, most memorably, an emotional endorsement from Jim Rassman, the man Kerry saved when he went back to rescue the wounded Green Beret, taking enemy fire as he jumped into the water.
But most of the officers who served with Kerry have not endorsed him and resent their images being used to tout the candidate. In one famous photo, which Kerry has used on his Website and campaign literature, the young Kerry is pictured with 19 other Swift boat officers in charge of Coastal Division 11. But only one of the 23 officers who served with Kerry in Coastal Division 11 has actually endorsed Kerry. Indeed the overwhelming majority of other officers who served in his unit at the time have opposed his candidacy for U.S. president, including every single officer under whom Kerry served in Vietnam. Some of Kerry's fellow officers have formed an organization called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
During the convention, controversy swirled among some veterans over footage used in Kerry's biographical film introducing him to the convention and the nation. Some of it was amateur footage supplied by the candidate himself. The Kerry campaign admits that the candidate lugged an 8mm camera around Vietnam, shooting footage of areas along the Mekong Delta where his boat encountered various attacks, but claims it was common for sailors to do so.
I own a late '60s vintage 8mm camera, which is nothing like today's tiny video cams. It weighs several pounds and is cumbersome to operate. I can't imagine carrying it aboard a boat in dangerous territory in order to shoot travelogues, but apparently Kerry thought the films would come in handy someday. Indeed, he may have planned to use the footage in his run for Congress when he returned from the Vietnam War -- before he decided that playing the war hero wouldn't sell as well as playing the war protester in the liberal Massachusetts district in which he chose to run.
But what Kerry did in Vietnam is not the real issue. It's what he did when he came back to the safety of U.S. shores that rankles so many who served this country. John Kerry lied about what he had seen in Vietnam and impugned the integrity of everyone who had served with him. Kerry testified before Congress on April 22, 1971, that his fellow sailors and soldiers had "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 a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of Vietnam. ... " A few days later, Kerry went on "Meet the Press" saying that he, personally, had "committed atrocities" in Vietnam, as well as accusing other American servicemen -- the men he now refers to as his "band of brothers" -- of doing the same.
Kerry doesn't like to talk about these gross fabrications now, hoping that people will remember only the stories of his own heroism, not his attacks on the honor of the men who served with him in Vietnam. But for many of those who remember Kerry's bitter and false statements, he will never be fit to become commander-in-chief.
Mrs. Chavez is a nationally syndicated columnist, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, and author of An Unlikely Conservative (Basic Books).
That hits the nail on the head!
Go quick to john kerry's website to see his secret mission to Cambodia. It will shortly be pulled from the website.
Hunter, Dreamer, Realist
Complexity Infuses Senator's Ambition
By Laura Blumenfeld
John Kerry eats dove. Even better, he shoots them. From behind the stalks of a Southern cornfield, he'll watch them flutter and dart, and fire.
"You clean them. Let them hang. It takes three or four birds to have a meal," said the Massachusetts senator. "You might eat it at a picnic, cold roasted. I love dove."
Dove, quail, duck, deer. Kerry described how to hunt and gut them, talking as he sliced through a steak at midnight after campaigning all day in Iowa for the Democratic presidential nomination. Carve out the heart, he said over dinner, pull out the entrails and cut up the meat. Bad table manners, perhaps, or good politics. After Sept. 11, 2001, some Democrats argue, they can't take the White House if they sound like doves. That is not a problem for the dove hunter. Kerry, 59, is the only combat veteran in the field. He stands 6-foot-4. He rides a Harley, plays ice hockey, snowboards, windsurfs, kitesurfs, and has such thick, aggressive hair he uses a brush with metal teeth.
"That's our slogan," quipped his ad man, Jim Margolis. "John Kerry: He's no weenie."
"He doesn't need a consultant to tell him how to dress like an alpha male," said his friend Ivan Schlager. "He is a damn alpha male."
It is more complex than that, though. With Kerry it often is. Yes, his message is the hard-line "stronger, safer, more secure America." But there's another part of his message, and it borders on the sentimental. "We have to get back to dreaming again," he told Democratic activists in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Echoing Robert F. Kennedy, he often closes with the line, "I'm running for president of the United States because I really believe it is time for this country to ask again, 'Why not?' "
In a series beginning today, The Washington Post will examine all nine Democratic presidential candidates: their campaign messages, the roots of their ambition, their ability to connect with voters. On all three counts, Kerry is nuanced and often misconstrued. What makes him compelling as a person makes him vulnerable to opponents who say he lacks clarity as a candidate.
Kerry's complexity has been an issue since his national debut in 1971. He became famous for a war within himself: He had fought in Vietnam and came, reluctantly, to believe the war was wrong. As spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War, he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" The senators were awed by the young man's poise and by his Bronze Star, Silver Star and three Purple Hearts. He was a hero. Complexity worked the first time around.
It is much tougher now, as he presents himself as both a dreamer and a realist, an old liberal and a new Democrat, for the war in Iraq and yet troubled by it. While other White House hopefuls lined up for or against Iraq, Kerry voted for the war and then criticized the president for failing at diplomacy.
"It's the natural reluctance of a soldier to put young Americans in harm's way," said fellow Vietnam veteran and former senator Max Cleland (D-Ga.).
But Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), one of Kerry's competitors, accused him of being "ambivalent" when the country needed leadership. Republican strategist Richard Galen said, "People who were disappointed by the Gore campaign sniff another Gore coming because he doesn't have any clear message."
Kerry always has enjoyed breaking down issues, arguing all sides for sport, like a game of mental racquetball. While his Yale roommates played cards, he'd be refining a debate-team speech. He still debates his staff for fun, often playing devil's advocate against himself. Sitting on his office balcony at the Senate, he scribbles speeches on yellow pads. Occasionally, he'll even write poems, like the one he reluctantly read to a reporter: "I had a talk with a deer today/ we met upon the road some way . . . between his frequent snorts/He asked me if I sought his pelt/cause if I did he said he felt/quite out of sorts!"
He has been testing his writing talent on the campaign trail. Some lines have worked, such as: "Never before has so much had to be done in America and so little asked of Americans." Others have not, like his call for a "regime change" at home during the Iraq war. "It showed a political tin ear," said Merle Black, a professor of politics at Emory University. More likely, it showed a man stumbling on his love for a turn of phrase.
"The most important thing with message is staying on it -- which I didn't do," said former senator and presidential candidate Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), when asked about Kerry. "I liked to ramble around. Have a little fun."
Kerry's advisers have urged him not to ramble, to speak less about issues and more about his life. At a recent gathering of Democrats in Duncan, S.C., Kerry promised he'd make America safer. Then he touched on his usual themes of health care, energy independence, progressive internationalism, creating jobs while protecting the environment.
He finished with a smile that held until a man raised his hand to speak.
"I'm sorry to say -- that won't be able to beat Bush," said Elvis Muhaabwa, 52. "Bush is a one-topic man. He's going to hammer it in our ears. Even if it's not true, we will believe it."
"I understand you have to boil it down," Kerry said, his voice ratcheting up. "But I'm here, talking to smart Democrats."
Afterward, Muhaabwa said, "After he leaves, he'll be thinking about what I said."
That's where Muhaabwa was wrong. Because when Kerry left, he drove to the airport and climbed into the pilot's seat of a twin-engine Cessna. The cautious politician gave way to the other Kerry. This was Primal John, the pilot who flies barrel rolls, who relaxes by windsurfing in a squall, who ran with the bulls at Pamplona and, when trampled, got up, chased the bull, and grabbed for its horns.
Now Kerry revved the plane's engines, clamped on his headset, cracked a joke about the Red Sox and rumbled down the strip.
"This is Five Papa Juliet at 120 degrees, climbing to 7,500 feet," he told the control tower as the ground dropped away.
As the tiny plane bumped and shook, he looked more and more relaxed. Flying to his next campaign stop, he chatted about maneuvers to avoid flak in combat.
The political flak he'd just taken was far from his mind. Throttle, propeller, speed, fuel: Kerry was happily in the moment. He turned the plane to dodge a threatening cloud. There were no ambiguities. It was simple.
"I Want to Win!'
Jacket off, shades on, Kerry stretched out on a park bench in Charleston, S.C., his head and feet sticking off the bench at both ends. "We need your help, man. Rally the troops," he said into his cell phone. "I want to win!"
Kerry was on a fundraising jag, dialing supporters between campaign stops. He has excelled at raising money, at creating a national campaign network, and at hiring top consultants. First to announce his candidacy, he's been unambiguous about his ambition.
To get from that Charleston bench to the roots of Kerry's ambition, roll back 50 years to postwar Europe, to a boy riding alone on a train. Kerry, the son of a Berlin-based American diplomat, was sent to a Swiss boarding school at age 11. If he wanted to go home, he had to take a train to Zurich, switch trains to Frankfurt, then switch to a military train that passed through communist Berlin.
"Your blinds had to be down as you traveled through the forbidden east sector," Kerry said in an interview. "I'd peek, pick up the blinds. Soldiers would rap with their gun barrel -- you have to pull down the shades."
Two things happened to the boy. He biked around, saw the rubble of Hitler's bunker, sneaked into bleak East Berlin (until his father found out and grounded him), and was awakened to the impact politics had on people's lives. Second, he kept on challenging himself -- bigger adventures, greater dares.
"When you travel alone at age 12," he said, "you gain confidence and self-reliance."
Often on his own, he tested his survival skills. He biked through France, took the ferry from Norway to England, camped alone in Sherwood Forest. His wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, explained: "It's like, he's landed a jet: 'I can control. I know how to do it. I'm safe.' " He took risks to feel safe? Kerry likes to quote the French writer Andre Gide: "Don't try to understand me too quickly."
By the time Kerry arrived in New Hampshire at St. Paul's boarding school -- his seventh school by eighth grade; his family moved around -- his need for challenges and his interest in public affairs expressed itself in politics. A Catholic Democrat in a predominantly Republican Protestant school, he represented John F. Kennedy in a debate during the 1960 campaign.
Lloyd MacDonald, the class president, stood in for Richard M. Nixon: "John was very ambitious. As far as John was concerned, he expected to be president of the United States. I wanted to be president, too, but I never would have admitted it. It was at odds with prevailing notions of what was cool."
Kerry volunteered for Edward M. Kennedy's 1962 Senate race. He broadcast from a loudspeaker on his Volkswagen Beetle, "Kennedy for Senate." Then he added, "And Kerry for dogcatcher!" At Yale, classmates teased him about his initials, "JFK." The F was for Forbes, his mother's old-line New England family.
"John was from a prominent family, but he wasn't wealthy" compared to his peers, said his friend George Butler. Kerry loaded trucks in a grocery warehouse and sold encyclopedias door to door. "He was a little bit of an outsider because he had to work during college summers. It gives you tremendous drive to make up for it."
After Yale, Kerry volunteered for the Navy. He returned from Vietnam with his faith in the government shaken. He felt betrayed; his friends had died in the war. In 1972, he ran for Congress as a "peace candidate," campaigning so relentlessly that once when an aide came to pick him up, he found Kerry asleep in the shower. Kerry lost, but he won as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 1982 and as senator in 1984. The same avenging anger that animated him after Vietnam shaped his work on the Hill. Rather than focusing on legislative matters, he went after government corruption. In 2000, he considered running for president and was a finalist as a running mate for Al Gore. It wasn't his time, but there was no question of his ultimate goal.
Now, he's competing in the extreme sport of politics, running for president. "He thrives on stress and pressure," said former senator Timothy E. Wirth (D-Colo.). "I said, 'The Republicans have 250 million dollars, it's going to be relentless.' He smiled and said, 'Bring it on.' " He's reflexively competitive, the first into freezing water, the skier with the fastest time. Excelling was the Kerry family ethic, starting with his father, who taught young John to sail while wearing blinders so he'd learn to navigate in the fog. It wasn't enough that John's pet parakeet could say, "Hello." He taught it to squawk in Italian and French.
His adventures, he said, are not reckless. "The things I do are completely in control, up to my ability," Kerry said firmly. "They're not big adrenaline rushes. More like meditations. Doing things correct is relaxing, rewarding. Fun, fun, fun. If you're doing aerobatics, it's very simple fun."
"It must be part chemical," said his wife. "Look at him. He's a total string bean. I mean, he's wired, bzzzzzz. In Portuguese you say fulminante, it means you're revved up. Why did he have to take up kitesurfing now? Not just windsurfing. It's so dangerous. And the guitar lessons! Why does he have to learn guitar at this time of his life? He challenges himself."
On a recent afternoon in his Senate office, Kerry was challenging himself with a piece of Spanish classical guitar music. "It's very hard," he said, mid-strum. "I broke one of my nails."
His hand raced up and down the neck of his guitar, his fingers working the frets.
"We've got to go, John," his chief of staff said.
He tried another song, picking the opening notes of "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina."
Another staffer cleared his throat.
"Oh, you'll like this," Kerry said, ignoring him, playing the theme song from "Love Story."
His press secretary interrupted, "Senator, the car's waiting. . . ."
Just one more song. A Beatles tune from 1965. He strummed the guitar and belted: "Yesterday. . . ."
'This Guy's Not Personable?'
Kerry's face appeared at the door to the Iowa Scott County Democrats dinner.
Mike Boland, 60, an activist, whispered, "I heard he's aloof."
Kerry stepped into the crowd, planting his big hands on workingmen's shoulders, quizzing students about their majors, telling a woman about the time his daughter's pet frog jumped on his nose. He waved, hugged, guffawed and sat knee to knee with a grandmother. Boland said: "This guy's not personable? What a phony issue."
Yet it has been an issue, especially with journalists, all the way back to yellowing newspaper clips of 1971, which describe Kerry in such terms as "slick," "too pretty," "ambitious," "opportunistic."
John Norris, Kerry's state director in Iowa, said he isn't worried: "The East Coast press uses the word 'aloof.' It's been an asset, because Iowans come with low expectations."
Kerry appreciates the irony. "I'll say thank you to every journalist who wrote [expletive] articles about me," he joked. Then he added, "I plead guilty to being a little brash when I first got into politics. I wish they had a delete button on LexisNexis."
There is something about him, "the Kerry effect," that provokes a visceral response. He is too towering, too confident and too rich (his wife's fortune exceeds half a billion dollars) for people to walk away indifferent. As one Kerry friend said, "People see him and say, 'Geez, I'm short, bald, stupid and poor.' " They feel either swept away or swept aside. When he smiles, one on one, people literally squint and blink; when he doesn't, light carves shadows in his face and his deep-set eyes sink into the dark. At a house party in Florence, S.C., the women giggled, charmed by the way he pronounced "y'all," and said he looked like GI Joe. The men anointed him the next JFK.
But even in Massachusetts, polls have put his job approval rating ahead of his personal popularity rating. His friend Dan Barbiero said it comes down to Kerry's complexity: "There's still a lot of idealism in John. It's corny and people tend to be cynical, and coming from this big, patrician-looking man you wouldn't expect it. You look at him and say, 'He's putting this on.' "
It's been a hard rap to overcome in part because Kerry is reserved. He inherited it from his mother, along with her devotion to public service. "She taught us you stiff-upper-lip it," said his sister, Diana Kerry. "John is a man of the people. Of the little people, actually. He needs to project who he really is by simplifying."
And who is he, really?
A close associate hints: There's a secret compartment in Kerry's briefcase. He carries the black attaché everywhere. Asked about it on several occasions, Kerry brushed it aside. Finally, trapped in an interview, he exhaled and clicked open his case.
"Who told you?" he demanded as he reached inside. "My friends don't know about this."
The hat was a little mildewy. The green camouflage was fading, the seams fraying.
"My good luck hat," Kerry said, happy to see it. "Given to me by a CIA guy as we went in for a special mission in Cambodia."
Kerry put on the hat, pulling the brim over his forehead. His blue button-down shirt and tie clashed with the camouflage. He pointed his finger and raised his thumb, creating an imaginary gun. He looked silly, yet suddenly his campaign message was clear: Citizen-soldier. Linking patriotism to public service. It wasn't complex after all; it was Kerry.
He smiled and aimed his finger: "Pow."
CW..did you read Tony Blankley column in today's Washington Times..a must read..
***The men making the charges are almost all of his fellow officers and the higher chain of command in Kerry's coastal Division 11. The book points out that on John Kerry's Web site he has a photo of himself and 19 fellow swift boat officers, taken while they were simultaneously serving in that unit. Of those 19 fellow officers, 11 have asked him to stop using their image with him. Of the remaining eight, two are deceased, four don't wish to be involved and one is not a supporter of Kerry but didn't have the opportunity to sign the letter calling for the photo to be taken off the Web site. Only one of the 19, Skip Barker, supports Mr. Kerry.*** Unfit for command? By Tony Blankley
Tony lays it out...Kerry is coming across more and more liek the Manchurian Candidate..scary, isn't it..
Will it scare enough people? I hope so.
More from the Blankley column:
*** The book has the ring of sincerity to it, and the mark of careful research and writing. If they are not telling the truth, all these men have exposed themselves to financially ruinous libel actions by Mr. Kerry who has the private resources to prosecute such actions. Even as a public figure, he might well win such an action, if this book is the pack of lies the Kerry camp says it is.
If it is not a pack of lies, the nation needs to know that, too. I would encourage some of the major voices of the non-conservative mainline media Tim Russert, Dan Rather, Leonard Downie Jr. of The Washington Post to do as I did. Spend an evening reading the book. If they are not struck by the damning picture it paints of John Kerry and the credibility of the presentation, forget about it. But if they judge it as I did, then let their consciences be their guide. ***
If the article hasn't been posted..may I suggest you start a thread with it? I gotta run..regards...
Thanks..the morning crew posts the papers at midnight..when they first hit the websites...twelve hours later..they're overlooked..(sigh)..techniological overload...
Got it and saved it.
He could be bothered to take film footage of his 'heroics' but couldn't be bothered to take footage of all the supposed atrocities that were committed. One would think film footage to prove it would have been a MUST.
And the LIBERALS lapped up his testimony.
What better way to prove your accusations than to video it. DUH. You noticed too that he didn't video himself committing atrocities. Why I bet he didn't even give the hamster that medical aid...we don't have video of it after all and hanoi john is a camera hog.
The need to document things makes one wonder, why did he feel he had to do that? Was he anticipating the vets' coming after him and his lies?
He and terazor will try hard to destroy these 250 good men.
Let's grant for the moment that he serve honorably, was heroic, and that his self-accusation of war-crimes was mere youthful histrionics, not an actual confession. The fact remains that the "Vietnam War" was really just a campaign in a larger war, commonly called the Cold War. The entire record of Kerry's public life during the Cold War reads like an attempt to undo any service he did in Vietnam: from his histrionic 'testimony' about war-crimes in Vietnam, to his first Congessional campaign with its promises to virtually abolish the CIA and subject the projection of American military power to UN approval, to his opposition to Reagan's defense build-up and support for the anti-communist insurgency in Nicaragua, all of his public actions relevant to foreign policy during the Cold War gave aid and comfort to the Soviet Union and it allies.
Much has been made of his votes for defense cuts in the wake of our victory in the Cold War. These, while a bad idea when viewed retrospectively in light of 9/11, really are not the main issue. The main issue is that Kerry himself says he will lead 'with the lessons I learned in Vietnam'. It is his record during the Cold War which reveal those lessons, not his grasping at the purported 'peace dividend' at the end of the Cold War.
Evidently the lessons by which he would lead are
But what Kerry did in Vietnam is not the real issue.
Sorry, Linda, it's a big one. Then again, maybe it's not.
Maybe it's what he's always claimed to have done versus what he really did.
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