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Kerry Goes Down with His Swift Boat, Again

By Dennis Byrne

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) now has accused Hillary Clinton's campaign of the worst possible--in his mind--evil: "Swiftboating" his choice for president, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL).

Kerry, demonstrating a child-like inability to let go, on Tuesday dragged out the swiftboating analogy in an e-mail responding to what he called "disgusting lies" that "they" are floating that Obama is a secret Muslim and refuses to observe the Pledge of Alliance.

Kerry doesn't say who "they" are, but it's clear, considering the deteriorating civility of the two campaigns that he was referring to the Clinton camp. Kerry equates the "disgusting lies" told about Obama with what happened to him when the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth challenged Kerry's claims, made during his presidential campaign, of bravery and heroism in the Vietnam War.

"As a veteran, it disgusts me that the Swift Boats we [presumably the editorial "we"] loved while we were in uniform on the Mekong Delta have been rendered, in Karl Rove's twisted politics, an ugly verb meaning to lie about someone's character just to win an election," Kerry said in the email, supposedly emailed to 3 million "supporters." (I'm not a supporter, but it also showed up in my email.)

"But as someone who cares about winning this election and changing the country I love, I know it's not enough to complain about a past we can't change when our challenge is to win the future--which is why we must stop the Swiftboating, stop the push-polling, stop the front groups, and stop the email chain smears."

Can we, Sen. Kerry, also stop this lame wallowing in self-pity over the campaign blunder you made? And unlike the anonymous attacks you claim are being made against Obama, these responses to your heroic assertions were made by identified people in the light of day.

Moreover, you brought up your Swift Boat record, not the Swift Boat veterans. You made the unabashed claim that you were some kind of hero. You attacked folks who dared challenge your assertions. You and your ilk were the ones who muddied up the reputations of people who exercised their right to free expression. Your folks coined the term Swiftboating and your ideological bedfellows are the ones who keep it alive. You are the one who continues to engage in a smear of naval veterans who served honorably.

Does Kerry really believe that he can bring up these bogus claims again without response? I was a naval officer at the same time as was Kerry, and when I read his book of his supposed Navy exploits, something immediately struck me as kinky, even before the Swift Boat group was formed. (For example, he asserted that officers in training at the Officer Candidate School in Newport, R.I. were routinely ordered to hit the deck and "do 50." This is bull, and Kerry knows it. No one I knew there ever was subjected to such punishment. Instead, they were issued "red gigs," which, if you gathered enough, cut into your liberty.)

But I wasn't in the Mekong Delta, and in honesty, I have to say that I find credible assertions on both sides. A good idea might have been for Kerry to let it all rest, but he can't stop himself. Witness this recent episode, related here by R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., editor in chief of The American Spectator:

Just a few weeks ago Kerry blundered into buffoonery once again. Impatient with unsubstantiated claims that the 2004 Swift Boat advertisements lied about Kerry's hoked-up military record, Boone Pickens, one of the funders of those ads, publicly challenged the critics to demonstrate the ads' inaccuracies. He promised to provide $1 million to anyone who succeeded. Astonishingly, Kerry took the bait. With the consummate presumption that makes him the "comic perpetual motion machine" that he is, Kerry wrote Pickens: "While I am prepared to show they [the Swift Boat Veterans, often his fellow officers] lied on allegation after allegation, you have generously offered to pay one million dollars for just one thing that can be proven false, I am prepared to prove the lie beyond any reasonable doubt." That said -- and only that said -- Kerry asked for his cool million.

Pickens's perfectly reasonable response was to ask for Kerry's proof. As of today, no proof has been tendered by the Massachusetts Braggart. Pickens also cleverly asked for the journal that Kerry allegedly maintained in Vietnam and "Your military record, specifically your service records for the years 1971-1978, and copies of all movies and tapes made during your service." Megalomaniac that he is, Kerry filmed himself in Vietnam. Some of his fellow servicemen thought the films faked injuries and actions....

As retired Marine Corps Major Michael E. McBride wrote in, Kerry "has always had the power to clear up any of the Swiftboater challenges; all he had to do is allow the Navy to distribute unaltered copies of his service record, medical records, and DD214. It is essential that these records come from DOD, so that they cannot be tampered with by Kerry or his supporters. The DOD copies are the true copies of record and the only viable evidence for these maters." McBride, citing Kerry's long reluctance to do, so goes on to write, "it is unlikely that any credible evidence exists to refute the base charges of the Swiftboaters." He concludes, "If any of my ex-squadron mates dumped on me like the Swift boat vets are dumping on Kerry, my records would have been available the next day...."

I suppose it is "divisive" of us to try to rebut any of Kerry's charges, which now are taken as the given truth by the Left. But, again, folks who challenge Kerry's account of his heroics aren't the ones who brought this up. Kerry brings this on by himself, this time in the wearisome belief that this presidential election is about him.

Dennis Byrne is a Chicago Tribune op-ed columnist.

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