Robert Novak

 Almost totally removed from view has been Kerry's introduction to the national spotlight 33 years ago as a Vietnam War dissenter when he led, not followed, fierce antiwar protesters. This led him to his unsuccessful 1972 run for Congress, another ignored event. The Kerry biographical video shown to the nation Thursday night contains a brief image of Kerry as protester, but is blotted out by portraits of his heroism.

 Kerry has opened a door that could prove troublesome for him. Even before his acceptance speech, a conservative "527" organization (funded by soft money) opened an Internet site attacking his war record from two angles: that his 1971 accusations of widespread U.S. war crimes in Vietnam were untrue and that his record of heroism is contradicted by other veterans.

 Until now, Bush campaign strategists have given Kerry a pass on Vietnam. Conceding a record of bravery and ignoring his role in the extreme antiwar movement, Bush attacks -- especially during the convention week -- have concentrated on his Senate record. Since Kerry will not be engaged on the subject, the Republican attacks have been ineffective.

 While the Democratic consensus has been that the nominee hit a home run in his acceptance speech, the enthusiasm of some members of Congress I talked to Friday was tempered by concern over opening the door to a rehash of Vietnam whose only purpose is glorifying the presidential candidate. Had he called for Congress to get to work on the 9/11 report, it would have recalled Harry Truman's 1948 acceptance speech when he electrified morose convention delegates by calling on the Republican-controlled Congress to return on "Turnip Day." The parallel is far from exact, but that approach could have set a different tone for the nominee's campaign.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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