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Bush Making an Issue of Kerry’s Military Service Is Dumber Than--Well, Anything, Rea

by Mark Drolette Sunday, Aug. 15, 2004 at 6:09 PM

Why would a president who did everything he could to not put on a uniform during wartime but couldn’t wait to don one years later as the most protected person on Earth, cast aspersions about a guy who volunteered to wear one in Vietnam and upon arriving back home as a decorated vet did everything he could to help other soldiers take theirs off? For more details about the Bush Baby’s last-gasp grasp at a straw man, read on.

I guess the president and his advisers have never listened to Kenny Rogers. (I can’t say I blame them.) Or if they did, they must have ignored him. (Ditto.) I refer specifically to Rogers’ sage admonition (as sage an admonition as a pop singer can offer): “You got to know when…to fold ‘em.” Because when it comes to the Bush campaign’s mantra of “national security,” and debating whether the president or John Kerry is best qualified to lead America in that regard—well, old George “Smoke ‘Em Out If Ya Got ‘Em” Bush, with spurs a-janglin’ and participles a-danglin’, should have long ago thrown in his cards, put on his way oversized one-gallon hat, and gotten out of (giving questions the) Dodge. As they are wont to say in certain parts (parts where they won’t ever say wont): “That dog don’t hunt, ‘cause fer one thing, it’s been dead a piece.”

I can see the dilemma for the GOP: When you look at Bush’s record, it’s broken. On what issues can he possibly run? I tried to put myself in the Republicans’ shoes (I do suffer for my craft) and think of some issues and slogans that might work for the president:

Take the economy—please (certainly enough jobs have already been taken): “Bush: A Lot Like Herbert Hoover.” No good, as it could lead to depression. Maybe Bush’s disastrous financial policy: “Deficits, Schmeficits!” Nope, that’s a bankrupt idea. The battered environment, perhaps: “A Little Mercury in Your Fish Hasn’t Hurt You Yet, Probably.” Unh-uh. Dead in the water. The mess in Iraq? “Bush Didn’t Lie; His Intelligence Let Him Down.” If you look hard, that one actually does have a bit of truth to it.

Slim pickings abound. Thus the scaly Bush and his trusted serpent Karl Rove have decided national security will be their campaign centerpiece, even though as a viable issue, it, too, comes up snake eyes. It's just vague enough, however, to provide a little more slither room than the areas listed above. And as with those topics, specific details are better left alone, since they, too, don't exactly conjure up particularly flattering catchphrases: “Only One Domestic Attack with Massive Casualties on the President’s Watch” or “Rise in Global Terrorist Attacks Since Iraq War Could Always Be Worse” may leave voters somewhat cold. Besides, the bumper stickers could only be put on Hummers (probably no problem there) while the lawn signs might violate some city size ordinances.

Choosing to take on Kerry over national security, though, shows just how increasingly desperate our indumbent and crew have become. What is even more mind-blowing is that to try to “prove” how unsafe we’d be with Kerry at the helm, the GOP has astoundingly chosen to go after him for his military service. Man, talk about playing a dead hand. Bush should fire Karl and hire Kenny; he could even keep his adviser’s monogrammed White House towels.

Recently, there has been some smoke on the water over Kerry’s war duty: A group calling itself the Swift Boat Veterans against Truth--check that, for Truth—has shown up in a television ad declaring Kerry didn't serve with distinction in Vietnam. Since many of this group’s 250 veterans personally fought beside Kerry during the war and are now relating their first-hand experiences with him, this is, indeed, rather disturbing. In the name of journalistic accuracy, I wanted to learn just how many of these honorable men stood with him in battle. Zachary Coile of the San Francisco Chronicle writes: “The ad, using black-and-white images of Kerry and testimonials by veterans who served on other swift boats, seeks to undercut [Kerry’s] credibility by questioning the wounds he received in combat, for which he received a Bronze Start, a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts.” Huh? These guys served on other boats, but not Kerry’s? Hmm, I thought. The eyewitness accounts must be deeper in the article. Ah, maybe this is it, I told myself, as I read a little farther on: “’John Kerry is no war hero,’ said Lt. Bob Elder, who commanded another swift boat.” Another swift boat, but he wasn’t on Kerry’s? What’s going on? Maybe this Coile guy is a Kerry lover and is dodging the truth. Then I had a brainstorm (for me, more like a braindrizzle--with apologies to Snoop Dogg).

Aha! Who better to go to, I mentally exclaimed so loudly I almost hurt myself and then suddenly turned to see if anyone had heard me but realized that no one could if it was inside my head and since I was alone it was kind of a silly thought anyway, than GOP Senator John McCain, whose heroic exploits in Vietnam are well documented and who is the rare bird that commands respect from either side of the aisle? He must be livid, too, I figured, that Kerry is such a phony, and since these revelations are so damning, surely McCain would know how many of these 250 guys personally saw Kerry’s wartime non-actions. Sure enough, in an Associated Press article, McCain did weigh in on the matter. Plain as day, he said, “As it is, none of these individuals served on the boat (Kerry) commanded.”

NONE??? You mean, like…zero? As in, zilch, nada, or the typical rating for George Bush: CSI (Common Sense Index)? Maybe these boat veterans are not so swift, after all. But, because these men feel strongly enough about their troubling assertions to spend a ton of their own money to publicize them, I decided to give them one last crack at proving their credibility. I figured a Lieutenant Commander should be of high enough rank to clarify the proceedings before they got even murkier than the Mekong Delta, and, in a Boston Globe article by Michael Kranish, I located testimony from a Lt. Cmdr. George Elliott, a former Kerry superior. What I actually found, though, was that far from condemning Kerry, Elliott actually had stood up for his former charge during Kerry’s campaign for the Senate in 1996 by “saying that Kerry acted properly and deserved the Silver Star.”

Well, OK, then. I tried to find some merit in these claims, but from what I can see, none exists. So I can only conclude that--hey, wait a minute…what’s this? It seems Elliott has had a change of heart in the last eight years: In an affidavit signed by him and given to the Globe recently by SBVAT—check that, that’s FT—Elliott now “suggests Kerry did not deserve the Silver Star…” Furthermore, the online PalmBeachDailyNews, in a piece by Scott Shepard, quotes Elliott in the ad thusly: “John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam.”

The plot has thickened, but we’re still not done yet, no sir, not by a long shot. Elliott, apparently suffering from liar’s remorse if not severe whiplash, has swung yet another U-turn and told the Globe that “he regretted signing the affidavit and said he still thinks Kerry deserved the Silver Star.” “It was a terrible mistake probably for me to sign the affidavit with those words,” said Elliott. “I’m the one in trouble here.” You think?

Betcha believe it ends there, though, huh? Not a chance, sailor, because even before Elliott’s retraction was published, the Swifties, according to Shepard, “released another signed affidavit from Elliott saying he had been misquoted by the Globe.”

At this point, it probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn Elliott’s all-time favorite movie scene is from “Chinatown,” the one in which Faye Dunaway tells Jack Nicholson (between slaps): "She's my daughter! She's my sister! She's my daughter! My sister, my daughter. She's my sister and my daughter." It wouldn’t surprise me, either, and if we get a chance, we could ask him. Of course, we’d then have to wade through the requisite answers, retractions, and retractions of retractions to discover how he really feels. By then, though, we’d never know, because he’d have no standing left whatsoever, and besides, it’d have taken so long, we’d all be dead.

Since we’re currently in a retractable position, I now have a correction of my own to make: The Shifties did not spend their own dough to sponsor this ho-humbuggery. The Chronicle reports they are “being financed by major Republican donors, including contributors to Bush,” one of whom is Bob Perry, “a Texas home builder and longtime Republican donor” who ponied up a cool 0,000 to help bankroll this whole stinking mess. When I learned this, I can't tell you how breathless I was rendered--'cause I wasn't. Nor winded. Not even smitten with the tiniest wheeze.

Why would I be surprised anymore at anything that comes from the Group of Prevaricators, known to some as the GOP? After all, this is the party of Saxby Chambliss, who, according to Al Franken’s book “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them,” “ran one of the great attack ads of the 2002 [Georgia U.S. Senate campaign], one that warmed even Karl Rove’s icy heart. It featured images of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and…[then-incumbent] Max Cleland.” Cleland is only a genuine war hero who left all but one limb in Vietnam; Chambliss “got out of Vietnam because of a bad knee.” Chambliss is now in the Senate.

Simply put, the Reptilians—my bad, Republicans--lie all the time. (For a great site that provides lots o’ links to more lies than you ever thought a body politic could tell, go to Like reptiles, though, they eat their own: None other than McCain himself has felt the cold-blooded bite of his own party. While facing off against Bush for the GOP presidential nomination in the 2000 primaries, Franken writes, a number of accusations were floated about McCain in South Carolina during the lead-up to its crucial primary: He supposedly “[had] fathered an illegitimate black child” (no evidence exists); “he was pro-abortion (he isn’t); …his wife had outstanding arrest warrants for giving alcohol to minors (she didn’t); …he had voted for the largest tax increase ever (he hadn’t); …he had been reprimanded by the Senate Ethics Committee (he hadn’t)...” The Bushies denied backing the scurrilous scheme, but probably the only reason Rove’s prints weren’t found all over it is because snakes don’t have fingers.

Bush is more apt than Kerry to make America secure? Please, don’t make me laugh sardonically. Bush’s thorough incompetence, arrogance, and ignorance have endangered America more than any of us can know, and I loathe the thought of giving him one additional second to lay even more groundwork for future terrorists to kill you, me, my relatives, friends, or complete strangers. No one, whether it’s John Kerry or Cary Grant (even in his current state), could possibly do a WORSE job of protecting this country than George W. Bush, a charlatan unworthy of holding Kerry’s helmet strap.

Frankly, I’ve never given a Flying Fortress whether or not a presidential candidate has served militarily, but since the Republicans have brainlessly made it an issue, I see it as a no-brainer. For those who insist it was Kerry who pushed his service to the forefront thus forcing the GOP's hand, save it, 'cause that Texas Air National Guard part-time pilot don't fly. Bush is the one who, for a nauseatingly long time now, hasn't been able to get enough of staged photo ops while wearing his precious (borrowed) flight jacket and various other military garb, becoming the first president in memory--if not ever--to don armed services attire while in office, something done by many a dictator but darkly inappropriate for America's civilian commander-in-chief. Kerry would be a fool not to show his mettle by showing his medals, especially since he earned them as he navigated Vietnam's frighteningly all-too real waterways while his opponent engages only in flights of fancy on a make-believe ego trip.

Come November 2, Bush plays his last hand. His pathetic bluff will finally be called, and the country will at last be led by someone who knows what it’s like to be a real soldier, instead of a cheap hustler who only plays one on an aircraft carrier. (Oh, and while holding a fake turkey. Or was that a real turkey with a fake president?) (

By the way: The Chronicle reports, “All surviving members from [Kerry’s] boat are supporting his campaign.”

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