Bush, Kerry, and the Vietnam War

By on September 22, 2004

The Democrats are starting to panic. With polls showing that President Bush’s lead could be more than just a convention bounce, and with John Kerry’s campaign mired in the quicksand of his ever-changing position on Iraq, Democrats have decided to dust the cobwebs off an old issue: Bush’s National Guard Service during the Vietnam War.

Never mind that the question of whether Bush fulfilled his Guard requirements has been asked and answered already during Bush’s two campaigns for governor in Texas and the 2000 presidential race. Alarmed with the current direction of the race, Democrats figure it’s worth one more try.

Of course, this time there’s another factor in play. In Kerry, the Democrats have a nominee who served two tours of combat duty in Vietnam, picking up numerous medals and Purple Hearts along the way. The contrast of Kerry against Bush, who avoided combat by enlisting in the Texas Air National Guard, is too much for them to resist.

So, with the drop of a hat, what were alleged to be old Guard documents appeared recently on CBS’s Evening News with Dan Rather. The documents appeared to be signed by one of Bush’s superiors in the National Guard and they indicted the president for receiving preferential treatment from getting into the Guard in the first place to the nature of his actual service. They indicated that superiors were under pressure to “sugar coat” Bush’s record due to his status as a congressman’s son.

In the following days, various news outlets exposed the documents for what they were – forgeries. They couldn’t possibly have been typed on standard typewriters used in the early 1970’s and were more likely created within the last ten years in Microsoft Word. In fact, Fox News interviewed a documents specialist who typed the exact same alleged-1970’s-era document in a modern Word format, placed it on a transparency and then over the old document, and the two were an exact match.

That the documents are forgeries doesn’t stop Democrats, and even Kerry himself, from attacking Bush’s record. In a belated response to attacks on his own Vietnam-era actions, Kerry responded by bellowing that he won’t have his record attacked in favor of those who refused to serve – referring to Bush’s non-combat duty and Vice President Dick Cheney’s draft deferments.

Someone should introduce this Kerry to the Kerry of 1992, who said that then-candidate Bill Clinton’s draft avoidance shouldn’t be an issue against President Bush’s father, a World War II veteran. Or even to the Kerry of last spring, who said he wouldn’t make Bush’s Guard service an issue in this campaign.

Then, in a bizarre midnight rant after Bush’s convention acceptance speech, Kerry returned once again to Vietnam in explaining why we should trust him, and not Bush, with our national security: “I defended this nation as a young man, and I will defend it as president of the United States of America.” That pretty much sums up the Kerry campaign’s message to date.

The harping on Vietnam goes on and on. Democratic strategist Mary Ann Marsh caught my attention by recently saying on Fox’s “Hannity and Colmes” that Bush “betrayed his country” by not serving combat duty in Vietnam and then by leading us into the Iraq War. That’s just a cheap-shot idiotic comment made by a partisan Democrat in the midst of a political campaign.

However, it brings me to perhaps the larger context of Kerry and the Democrats returning to Vietnam as the center of their campaign this year. Liberal Democrats bitterly opposed the war’s escalation in the 1960’s (under a Democratic president, no less). Yet now we have people like Marsh claiming that Bush should be ashamed for not fighting in the war that they have called illegal, immoral, stupid, and everything else in the book.

It is the height of hypocrisy for these old anti-war folks to now do a 180 turn and say that Bush “betrayed his country” for not serving in a war they opposed and then turn their own convention into a four-day Swift Boat ride with Kerry. This is perhaps the biggest and most offensive flip-flop of the campaign, which is no small statement.

Kerry himself has openly tried to have it both ways with Vietnam. Washington Post columnist David Broder recently reported that Kerry told him he thought it would be to his advantage that he both served in Vietnam and then returned home to ridicule the war in the vilest terms. To his advantage? As we’ve seen, it’s just another example of how far out of touch with reality Kerry is.

I continue to believe that aside from all this, voters are more concerned with where the candidates would take us in the next four years. But Kerry has his hands tied on the most important campaign issue, having taken about 14 positions on Iraq in the past two years. Thus, Vietnam is the center of almost every message, whether anti-Bush or pro-Kerry. A clear sign of a directionless campaign.


About A. J. Atchue