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Sunday, August 8, 2004
The Heart of the “Swift Boat” Issue

By Steven Taylor @ 8:02 am

Dean Esmay points to the following set of quotes by the Swift Boat Vets from their May 4, 2004 press conference. It is clear that the grievance that drives them is primarily Kerry’s post-war activities. And there is little doubt that those activities have colored their view of his behavior during the war-which is not surprising.

I think that there are legitimate issues here, especially given the fact that Kerry himself has made his four-plus month tour of duty the foundation upon which his campaign has been built. A critique of Kerry along the lines of juxtapositioning his current acceptance of his Viet Nam service as a good and honorable thing that helps qualify him to be Commander and Chief with his own critiques of Viet Nam, which he says he stands by, would be quite powerful.

The major tactical error here was going after the medals. It is the kind of attack that smacks of an emotional response to Kerry’s post-war comments rather than an argument that can be made empirically and dispassionately. Further, the attack on the medals becomes the focus of the discussion and not the substance of Kerry’s basic problem: the logical inconsistency between his own two positions on the war.

Further, this desire to go beyond simply criticizing Kerry for his post-war statement, it would appear (I say this, not haveing read the cample chapter), that the new book Unfit for Command is the result of allowing an emotional reaction to Kerry’s post-war actions to cloud memories about Viet Nam (or, at least, to a post hoc re-interpretation of those events).

Filed under: 2004 Campaign
  • Backcountry Conservative linked with John Kerry & Vietnam Round-Up
  • Blogumentary linked with DIRTY POLITICS: SWIFT BOAT VETS

Click here to go to the main page.


  1. Mr. Kerry has created a problem for himself. In his acceptance speech he said:

    I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as President.

    What is he talking about here? Presumably about his service in Viet Nam. But it’s been Democratic Party orthodoxy (or at least the wing of the Democratic Party to which Mr. Kerry belongs) that the Viet Nam War had nothing to do with defending the country. Here’s what he said before the Senate in 1971:

    In our opinion, and from our experience, there is nothing in South Vietnam, nothing which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America. And to attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom, which those misfits supposedly abuse, is to us the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart….

    So which is it? He must repudiate either his service or his testimony.

    Comment by Dave Schuler — Sunday, August 8, 2004 @ 11:27 am

  2. I agree that his actions upon return from Vietnam could cloud their view of him. But it is precisely that which makes him unfit to be president.

    Moreover, I don’t believe there would be this great opposition against him from his fellow soldiers if he had not made his Vietnam service the cornerstone of his campaign. That was a stupid move. But like everything else with Kerry, any criticism is a “Negative Attack” where his attacks are simply “compare and contrast.”

    His insulation will fall apart during the debates, however, because he will look like a whiney little girl if he keeps toting that line. Being president is a tough job and if you cannot handle criticism then you’re not tough enough to lead.

    Comment by Aaron Matthew Arnwine — Sunday, August 8, 2004 @ 11:44 am

  3. Think you’re right here, Mr. Taylor. Get the focus away from the medals and onto the principles, or lack thereof.
    Bill Clinton said that Kerry said “send me.”
    It looks like what Kerry said first was, “How about I do this first.” He applied for a deferment for a year or so to study in Switzerland.
    Then, when that didn’t work, and Kerry was on a Destroyer off the Viet Nam coast, he saw the pretty Swift boats.
    And Kerry said, “Wow, those remind me of JFK’s PT109, and all they do is patrol the coastline.”
    Later, after applying for the transfer to Swift boats, the Swift boat mission changed.
    And Kerry said, “Got my three, send me home.”
    Kerry never became disillusioned about the war, as he testified later. He is creating an illusion now. He never liked the war in the first place, and was probably resentful that his family at the time was not sufficiently connected to make sure he did not go.
    His only connection with the common man is that at the time of the Viet Nam war, he was not sufficiently rich and powerful enough to escape, but many of the kids he went to those expensive school with were.
    Kerry said, “I’ll never be caught again without enough money or power to hide behind, and I’ll make sure that everyone else knows that I went to war and they didn’t.”

    Comment by themarkman — Sunday, August 8, 2004 @ 2:07 pm

  4. The major tactical error here was going after the medals.

    I almost commented on this the last time you posted it but I passed… However when you use the word tactical, that gets to the heart of the matter.

    It was brilliant from a tactical point of view. The interview of him saying one that to that black woman (name forgotten) then the interview of him on meet the press showed how he will say anything at anytime. Kerry took it on the chin over this issue.

    I’m NOT discussing wether the argument was valid… That’s a different debate. But Kerry took it on the chin that week and in continues to haunt him.

    Comment by Paul — Sunday, August 8, 2004 @ 3:55 pm

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