By choosing to ignore the giant elephant, er, donkey, that Matt Drudge led into America’s living room, the national press once again showed its true stripes. After all, there is far less proof that Bush was AWOL than there is that Kerry had an affair, Alex Polier’s rote denial notwithstanding. Yet, while America was abuzz with the rumor, not one major cable network was willing to spend a moment even questioning its veracity. Instead, shows like "Hardball with Chris Matthews" spent hours rehashing the tired old charges against George W. Bush's military service. While Kerry’s monosyllabic denial of his affair was good enough for the press to back off on him, Bush has presented his honorable discharge, pay stubs, witnesses, and even dental records as proof that he was in Alabama for his Air National Guard Service 30 years ago. Not good enough, the media brays. And it never will be.
And the fact is, the mainstream media started giving Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry a pass a long before the intern story surfaced (or rather, didn't).
If only the media took as much interest in John Kerry’s activity during that same time period, rather than contenting themselves by acting as a giant magnifying glass for Kerry’s stump speech. This collusion allows Kerry to freeze his Vietnam-era image into the five month period he served with honor “in country.” Indeed, no one can take that service away from him. But should this honorable deed bestow a permanent absolution upon Kerry, no matter the substance of his words and actions beyond those years? Major media outfits seem to have answered this in the affirmative, but most Americans would likely find John Kerry’s post-Vietnam behavior important to their decision as to whether he should be president of the United States. Right now, outside of the conservative press, they are not being given this information.
The general consensus of the talking heads on television seems to be that George W. Bush got out of going to Vietnam because of his background, wealth, and connections. But why is it no one asks John Kerry how he managed to get out of finishing his full tour of duty on the basis of three light wounds that he openly admits cost him a total of two days service? Or how he was able to manage getting out of his Navy hitch six months early? After all, it would seem Kerry, a son of privilege himself, called in a few favors.
Worse yet, Kerry used the time gained by his early release to immediately begin undermining the United States war effort, by teaming with a rag-tag group of antiwar radicals and communist sympathizers and excoriating the very government and troops he now seeks to lead. Referring to one of the men convicted of participating in the Mai Lai massacre, “Guilty as Lt. Calley might have been of the actual act of murder, the verdict does not single out the real criminal,” Kerry said in a speech in front of the New York Stock Exchange. “Those of us who have served in Vietnam know that the real guilty party is the United States of America” (emphasis added).
Even those who served in Vietnam were not immune from Kerry’s wrath. In testimony before the Senate in 1971 Kerry made hideous claims that U.S. soldiers “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, who spent most of his time in Vietnam on a boat not in the jungle, explained that Vietnam, was “ravaged equally by American bombs as well as by search and destroy missions, as well as by Vietcong terrorism, and yet we listened while this country tried to blame all of the havoc on the Viet Cong.”
Later in the question and answer portion of his testimony, Kerry accused the United States of being “paranoid” about the “so-called communist monolith.” Showcases an entirely ignorant view of geo-politics, Kerry dismissed communism's threat entirely. “I think it is bogus, totally artificial,” he said. “There is no threat. The Communists are not about to take over our McDonald hamburger stands.”
In truth, this is not all that different from Kerry’s take on the Islamist threat. “I think there has been an exaggeration,” Kerry said in a recent Democratic debate, accusing President Bush of overstating the threat of terrorism. A Kerry administration would not look at our fight with al-Qaeda as a war, but rather, “primarily” as an “intelligence-gathering, law enforcement operation.” Isn’t this the exact same soft approach Bill Clinton took? Shouldn’t someone ask John Kerry why he wants to rekindle a policy that only emboldened our enemies throughout the 1990s?
Despite the media's claim that his past is now irrelevant, Kerry's words had a real effect in Vietnam. John McCain, upon release from the Hanoi Hilton in 1973, said that the testimony of Kerry and others before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was “the most effective propaganda” his North Vietnamese torturers used against him. Navy pilot Paul Galanti, also was read Kerry speeches while a prisoner at the Hanoi Hilton. Galanti is far less charitable towards Kerry than McCain is these days. “The Vietnam memorial has thousands of additional names due to John Kerry and others like him,” he told the Los Angeles Times.
Thirty years after his Senate testimony in 2001, Tim Russert threw Kerry a softball question: “The folks who oversaw the war, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, you do not now 30 years later consider them war criminals?” Could Russert, master of pulling out the damning quote, not pulled out this 1971 Kerry gem in which he said that he “committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers” in Vietnam, including, “shootings in free fire zones,” “harassment and interdiction fire,” and the “burning of villages”?
Kerry was so upset by the U.S. governments behavior in Vietnam that he famously threw his combat medals away, before allowing himself to be photographed in a fetal position on the Capitol lawn, crying. Of course, more than a decade later the truth came out: Those weren’t John Kerry’s medals. The spectacle and tears were all a hoax. Yet this episode has been deemed unworthy of exploration by members of the esteemed press.
Not only have these questions not been asked, either by a fawning media or a Republican Party afraid of being seen as insensitive to Kerry’s service, but it seems that asking any question at all about the Massachusetts senator’s record is an affront to his patriotism.
Reacting to comments by Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss that Kerry has a “32-year history of voting to cut defense programs and cut defense systems,” the Kerry machine went into overdrive trying to spin a criticism of Kerry’s record, inexplicably, as an attack on his service in Vietnam. Once again, the ubiquitous Max Cleland was wheeled out on stage. Once again Kerry was astonished that anyone might dare bring up his Congressional voting record. “I don't know what it is that all these Republicans who didn't serve in Vietnam are fighting a war against those of us who did,” Kerry told reporters, cleverly ducking the actual question.
Later in the day, Kerry became even more shrill and melodramatic, releasing an “open letter“ to George W. Bush, which read, in part: “As you well know, Vietnam was a very difficult and painful period in our nation's history, and the struggle for our veterans continues. So, it has been hard to believe that you would choose to reopen these wounds for your personal political gain. But that is what you have chosen to do.”
This from the guy who has yet to produce an ad that doesn’t show him as a Vietnam warrior. At nearly every campaign stop Kerry has made it clear he believes Bush has made America less safe. Those four months he spent on the Mekong Delta have made him immune to any sort of criticism whatsoever, effectively whitewashing his past. Thus, Kerry can complain ad naseum about President Bush’s audacity in showing up on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit -- but woe to Bush if at some point in a debate he should like to ask Kerry why he tried to gut CIA funding. Democrats are already up in arms about the Republican National Convention being held in New York City because it is “designed” to invoke September 11.
The hypocrisy is blatant. Kerry’s courage under fire 30 years ago is campaign fodder, but Bush’s response to the worst massacre on American soil in modern history two-and-a-half years ago is off-limits. His leadership in winning the two wars following that attack must be, according to Democrats, hidden away in the interest of good sportsmanship. Let’s boil it down: Anything that makes Kerry look good is on the table. Any votes, actions, photographs, speeches, protests or interns that might cast an unfavorable light on him is just not kosher and will be accompanied by much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Here’s a good example. When politely asked about his uncomfortable proximity to Jane Fonda and the '60s antiwar movement on "Imus in the Morning," Kerry lectured, “We're 30 years beyond that. I think people are interested in the future.” Simple enough, except where Bush is concerned the matrix is different. “The issue here is . . . was he present and active on duty in Alabama at the times he was supposed to be?” Kerry said, apparently no longer interested only in the future. “I don't have the answer to that question and just because you get an honorable discharge does not, in fact, answer that question.”
These are strange times, indeed. Somehow the same media that once scoffed at any sort of criticism of Bill Clinton’s character or his avoidance of the Vietnam conflict has now decided that it absolutely must get to the bottom of Bush’s Air National Guard record. Instead of talking about what either of these men have done in public service -- the votes they’ve cast, the programs they’ve supported or opposed, and, yes, their positions on national defense issues -- the media has chosen to focus entirely on the past. Perhaps the present doesn’t suit their biases well enough, or maybe that’s just where the better stories are. Nevertheless, we’re not voting on Bush and Kerry on the basis of who they were when they were 20, but rather on the basis of the direction they intend to take the country.
Our major problems today are not in Vietnam. We as a nation are facing the more immediate threat of an expansionist Islamist movement, which has already struck once at the heart of our financial and military institutions. In 1992, John Kerry excoriated Republicans for bringing up Clinton’s lack of service, saying, “We do not need to divide America over who served and how.” It is unfortunate that the John Kerry of 2004 does not see things the same way and an outrage that the media have let him slide, on this issue and every other.