"During the Vietnam War," said former President Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention, "many young men -- including the current president, the vice president and me -- could have gone to Vietnam but didn't. John Kerry came from a privileged background and could have avoided it too. Instead he said, 'Send me.' When they sent those swift-boats up the river in Vietnam, and told them their job was to draw hostile fire -- to show the American flag and bait the enemy to come out and fight -- John Kerry said, 'Send me.'"
From the beginning, the Kerry campaign said to voters: Vote for me because I volunteered to go to Vietnam, faced hostile fire and came back a decorated war hero.
John O'Neill, who took over Kerry's swift-boat after Kerry left Vietnam, and co-author of the new book, "Unfit for Command," questions whether Kerry's attitude toward Vietnam was, indeed, "Send me":
John Kerry has often implied that he volunteered for the military right after college. But Kerry petitioned his draft board for a student deferment. At Yale, Kerry's antiwar political views were well known. He . . . used his commencement address in 1966 to criticize the foreign policy of President Lyndon Johnson, especially with regard to Vietnam. When he approached his draft board for permission to study for a year in Paris, the draft board refused and Kerry decided to enlist in the Navy. . . . The top choice was the Navy Reserves where the duty commitment was shorter and a larger proportion of the period could be served stateside on inactive duty.
John Kerry's service record indicates that on February 18, 1966, he enlisted in the United States Naval Reserves, status 'inactive,' not in the U.S. Navy. These details are conveniently left out of all pro-Kerry biographies. Douglas Brinkley records that Kerry entered Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island; however, again he fails to note that Kerry was seeking to be an officer of the U.S. Naval Reserves.
The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- consisting of some 250 Democrats and Republicans -- now run ads attacking Kerry's record. They accuse Kerry, among other things, of lying repeatedly about being in Cambodia on Christmas 1968. Kerry said, "I have that memory which is seared -- seared -- in me." In 1979, Kerry wrote,