Frank Gaffney
There is something surreal about the way in which the Vietnam War has become a central preoccupation of a presidential campaign being waged thirty years after it was lost. The reason it has emerged in this fashion is the same as the primary cause of the surrealism: John Kerry is attempting to perpetrate what is known as a classic ?bait-and-switch.?

The Democratic presidential candidate has sought to recast himself, especially during his party?s convention, as GI Joe. Even if one takes at face value his decorated conduct in combat ? and, according to the Washington Post, doubts raised lately by a number of fellow Swift Boat veterans about his claimed heroism and the medals he received for it cannot be dismissed ? the candidate has assiduously downplayed his post-Vietnam conduct, including two decades in the U.S. Senate.

Now, Senators are not generally modest about their service in what has been called ?the world?s greatest deliberative body.? In the case of Kerry?s acceptance speech in Boston, however, he could no more tout his senatorial record than he could his 1971 testimony before that chamber?s Foreign Relations Committee. After all, both his years of consistently voting against robust defense policies, and the weapon systems necessary to implement them, and his virulent denunciation of the military and its chain of command for ?war crimes? that preceded it run counter to the image of strength and leadership Kerry must project to beat a wartime Commander-in-Chief.

Second, there is the matter of Sen. Kerry?s reported use of his Swift Boat and crew as props for filming the reenactment of his military exploits. Such self-absorbed and narcissistic behavior fits the profile of a man who, even then, made no secret of his ambition to be President of the United States. It seems ominously consistent, moreover, with the sort of person who just might have done what it has been alleged Kerry did in order to secure undeserved medals in Vietnam and a trip home after only four-and-a-half months of his year-long tour of duty: manufacturing recommendations for decorations and end-running other officers who declined to approve them.

Then, there is Kerry?s claim he was shot at during Christmas in Cambodia in 1968 even as President Nixon denied the presence of American forces there ? a ?searing? event to which he subsequently attributed the genesis of his anti-war sentiment. The Senator?s campaign has been forced to acknowledge that, despite his oft-repeated remembrances of this formative experience, it did not happen (one give-away was the fact that Nixon was not President in December 1968)


Frank Gaffney

Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
 
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