Tuesday, April 27, 2004

SMEARING KERRY'S SERVICE. There has always been something uniquely John Kerry-ish about the matter of whether it was his medals or his ribbons that he threw over the fence at that antiwar rally in Washington more than three decades ago, or even whether medals and ribbons are or are not the same thing. As Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi writes today, "A person watching Kerry run for president wants to shake him and say, 'Stop, please stop.'"

Still, ABC News's "exclusive" on Good Morning America yesterday is an utter disgrace - an attempt to make something out of nothing, and to impugn the integrity and patriotism of someone who came to oppose an immoral war in which he had fought. Tom Oliphant's eyewitness account in today's Globe ought to put this non-story to rest.

"God, they're doing the bidding of the Republican National Committee," the Globe's Patrick Healy quotes Kerry as saying of ABC. Kerry's right, and it's frighteningly reminiscent of the way that the media took dictation from the Republicans in going after Al Gore four years ago.

Yet Healy also undermines Kerry's ability to defend himself by getting something else half-right. In response to the ABC/GOP smear, Healy writes, "Kerry turned the issue against the president, saying for the first time that Bush was far more vulnerable on matters of Vietnam-era choices because of questions about whether he completed his service in the Texas Air National Guard. 'He owes America an explanation about whether or not he showed up for duty in the National Guard. Prove it,' Kerry told NBC." Healy then adds:

Kerry has said for months that he would not question the president's Texas Air National Guard record even as his allies, such as the Democratic National Committee chairman, Terry McAuliffe, and former US senator Max Cleland, suggested Bush had been "AWOL" at times in the early '70s and may not have completed his Guard service. Kerry said that, as a Vietnam veteran, he had come to terms with others' decisions about serving their country during the Vietnam era, and once defended President Clinton for not serving.

And then this, farther down in the article:

Republicans, meanwhile, pounced on Kerry's comments about Bush yesterday, noting his past pledge not to criticize the military service of other members of the Vietnam generation. "It's another example of John Kerry saying one thing and doing another: He said he would never question the president's honorable service in the National Guard, but now he is lashing out," said Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush campaign. "It is a purely venomous political attack, and the American people will reject it."

Now, I can't cite chapter and verse. But I've followed this pretty closely, and it seems to me that Kerry has always said the issue he considered out of bounds was Bush's decision to serve in the Texas Air National Guard rather than opt for potentially more hazardous duty in the US military. To my knowledge, though, Kerry has never said he would not question whether Bush didn't serve in the National Guard. (Oof. Triple negative. Sorry.) Those are two completely different issues. Choosing to serve in the Guard is one thing; blowing it off is quite another. And if the Republicans are going to attack Kerry's military service, it is absurd to think that Kerry shouldn't fight back.

E.J. Dionne has a terrific column in today's Washington Post on the Republicans' loathsome attempts to smear Kerry's military record, noting that Bush's fellow Republican John McCain has come to Kerry's defense. Asks Dionne: "Now that McCain has spoken, will Bush have the guts to endorse or condemn the attacks on Kerry's service? Or will he just sit by silently, hoping the assaults do their work while he evades responsibility?"

Sadly, I think we already know the answer.

SEVERIN'S WORDS. The Boston Globe has obtained a transcript of WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) talk-show host Jay Severin's remarks of last Thursday, which he both defended and expressed "regret" for yesterday afternoon.

There appears to be something for everyone. On the one hand, Severin was right about what he actually said. He did not say, "I've got an idea, let's kill all Muslims," as claimed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has called for his firing. As Severin correctly said yesterday, his actual words to a caller were, "You think we should befriend them; I think we should kill them."

On the other hand, Severin offered virtually no context, at least according to the Globe report, by Michael Rosenwald. At one point, Severin is quoted as having said, "My suspicion is that the majority of Muslims in the United States, who regard themselves as Muslims first and not as Americans really at all, see an American map one day where this is the United States of Islam, not the United States of America. I think it pays to harbor those suspicions."

That doesn't sound like someone who was only advocating the killing of Islamist terrorists.

No comments: