Vietnam remains alive and well in U.S. politics. Last evening, former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kansas), a decorated and badly wounded WW2 vet, lashed out at John Kerry on CNN's Late Edition, saying in part (as the Wash Post has it),
"One day he's saying that we were shooting civilians, cutting off their ears, cutting off their heads, throwing away his medals or his ribbons," Dole said. "The next day he's standing there, 'I want to be president because I'm a Vietnam veteran. "Maybe he should apologize to all the other 2.5 million veterans who served. He wasn't the only one in Vietnam," said Dole, whose World War II wounds left him without the use of his right arm.
Dole added: "And here's, you know, a good guy, a good friend. I respect his record. But three Purple Hearts and never bled that I know of. I mean, they're all superficial wounds. Three Purple Hearts and you're out."
Earlier on Sunday, Kerry spokesman Tad Devine told Meet the Press (in the Chicago Tribune's telling,
"There's only one commander in chief of the United States who sent our troops to Iraq without the body armor they need to survive, and his name is George W. Bush," Devine said. "And if he had spent one day on the front line of a war, he never would have done it."
Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, but Democrats have questioned whether he fulfilled his duties. The White House has insisted he did.
Devine said that Kerry's boat came under fire on three occasions on Christmas Eve 1968.
"That's three times more than the president and the vice president ever have been fired upon in the course of their life," Devine said.
Whole thing here.
Also in the Tribune yesterday, journalist–and fellow Vietnam vet–William Rood says that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the anti-Kerry group, is wrong about the actions that led to the candidate's Silver Star. That story here.
A question: Is the reason why Vietnam remains such an issue simply–or mostly–because we lost that war?
An observation: You've got to hand it to the Democrats. They enter a presidential race against a guy who clearly worked to evade active service in Vietnam and manage to nominate a multiply decorated vet whose service record somehow becomes the focus of attention. Yes, there is an orchestrated attempt by the GOP to throw questions onto Kerry (a process he's abetted with his changing Cambodian story, among other things). But if anybody is wondering why the Dems are on the threshold of becoming a permananent minority party, this latest screwup is one indication of incompetence that used to be a Republican hallmark.