John F. Kerry is a dove in hawk's clothing. Yes, he volunteered in Vietnam -- and none can deny him the honor he deserves for having done his duty. But he now asks to be commander in chief largely on the strength of that four-month stint -- which is like trying to build a pyramid atop a toothpick. Moreover, every position Kerry has taken on foreign policy since he left the swift boats behind stands in sharp contrast to those months of service.
There were many honorable ways to protest the war in Vietnam. Kerry did not choose those. Instead, he joined a group, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, that had disgraced itself by presenting a libelous picture of American soldiers to the world. Nor were they honest about their own service.
As recounted in B.G. Burkett's book "Stolen Valor," Al Hubbard, the VVAW's executive secretary, lied about his service in Vietnam. He had claimed to be a decorated Air Force captain who had been wounded flying supplies into Da Nang in 1966. A CBS reporter uncovered the truth: Hubbard was a staff sergeant, not a captain or a pilot. He had never served in Vietnam. Yet, like other members of VVAW, he served up a damning concoction of stories about his service. Kerry defended Hubbard when the subject of his dishonesty was raised. Michael Harbert, another VVAW leader, had claimed to have flown 47 missions over Vietnam. But a glance at his record showed that he spent most of the war at McClellan Air Force Base in California. His only overseas service was in Taiwan in 1967 and 1968.
No one disputes that Kerry really was in Vietnam. He now asks us to believe that his service in war proved his suitability to lead a country at war. Not so. This is a "war hero" who tossed his medals over the White House fence -- a gesture not just of opposition to the war, but of contempt for the nation that sent him. There is also some question as to whether Kerry himself has been altogether honest about his Vietnam service. In a Senate floor speech delivered in 1986, Kerry said: "I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer rouge and Cambodians, and the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia. I have that memory which is seared -- seared -- in me."