Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Kerry Video Update

The story is all ober Blogistan, has yet to hit the mainstream press, and may or may not get substantial air time (the producers are relying on donations). Most of the blogs I've read focus on speculation about a) how big of an impact the video will have and b) how it will be spun by the pro-Kerry-ites.

As to issue a) I suppose we'll have to wait and see. Alternatively, we can donate huge amounts of money to the producers to actually effect how big the impact will be.

Issue b) is already playing out, as more and more stories pop up countering the video. One laughably pathetic attempt can be seen in an article by Joe Conason on

I thought I'd give the article a vigorous fisking, but ironically, it might actually be a little too fluffy for that. The tagline says:

"The "swift boat" veterans attacking John Kerry's war record are led by veteran right-wing operatives using the same vicious techniques they used against John McCain four years ago."

In case the phrases "right-wing operatives" and "vicious techniques" don't sufficiently tip you off, I will spoil the surprise and tell you that the article is devoted to smearing those responsible for the video. In other words, thos who "smear" Kerry will suffer retaliation in kind. Nowhere in the article will you find any hint that Conason believes the video represents falsehoods, no quotes from pro-Kerry vets who deny the charges, no factual inquiry into Kerry's actual service. All we have is a "left-wing operative" using the same "vicious techniques" he decries in the video. I see. Perhaps "they did it first!" isn't an argument confined solely to kindergartens.

So that you don't have to read the angry invective yourself, let me present the highlights:

"The latest conservative outfit to fire an angry broadside against John Kerry's heroic war record... this group's political connections make clear that its agenda is to target the election... veteran corporate media consultant and Texas Republican activist Merrie Spaeth... eternal Kerry antagonist and Houston attorney John E. O'Neill... retired Rear Adm. Roy Hoffman, a cigar-chomping former Vietnam commander once described as 'the classic body-count guy' who 'wanted hooches destroyed and people killed.' ... O'Neill has been assailing Kerry since 1971... she says, that he 'sounded like a crazed extremist' ... she specialized in promoting 'news' items that boosted President Reagan ... her history of handling difficult P.R. cases for Republicans... Spaeth participated in the most subterranean episode of the Republican primary contest... Rear Adm. Roy Hoffmann, first gained notoriety in Vietnam as a strutting, cigar-chewing Navy captain... obsession with body counts and 'scorekeeping'... 'In this light, one of the great merits of Vistica's article is its portrait of the Kurtz-like psychopath who commanded Kerrey's Navy task force, Capt. Roy Hoffmann.' ..."

Okay, that sounds like a pretty bad bunch, right? Especially that Hoffmann guy, who we are twice informed likes to "chomp" cigars (does he not smoke them?), which must make him pretty evil. We are given the resumes of Spaeth, O'Neill and Hoffmann with some detail, but there is no mention of anyone who actually served on the boats. In fact, Conason doesn't even mention the people featured in the video - only the producers. That seems like the ultimate in shallow rebuttals.

"Arguments about the war in Vietnam seem destined to continue forever."

Of course. That's the nature of the historical profession. Just like arguments about the Revolutionary War, the Nuremburg trials, the historicity of Jesus Christ, and crocodile worship in ancient Egypt are destined to continue forever. If the arguments end, academia will have nothing left to discuss.

"For now, however, the lingering bitterness and ambiguity of those days provide smear material against an antiwar war hero with five medals on behalf of a privileged Guardsman with a dubious duty record."

Okay, let me first point out that a huge chunk of the responsibility for any "lingering bitterness and ambiguity" must fall squarely on the shoulders of one John Forbes Kerry, who made it his mission after he came back to the states to stir up strident opposition to "those days." The other day I remarked to my wife that one good thing about the present election cycle, and John Kerry's heavy reliance on his Vietnam service, is that I have never heard Americans on both sides of the aisle so enthusiastically supporting Vietnam veterans. In fact, I think John Kerry deserves almost single-handed credit for that fact. But my wife pointed out, and she was right, that Kerry also helped to contribute to the bad image he is only now helping to repair. Kudos to him for finally doing the right thing, but let's not forget that he originally did the wrong thing.

Second, the only reason the Vietnam are gives anyone - Republicans or otherwise - smear material is becase Kerry himself has made Vietnam the centerpiece of his whole candidacy. He won't mention what he did during his brief law practice. He won't tell us what major initiatives he sponsored in the Senate. He only mentions Vietnam, and he mentions it as frequently as possible. I think that at a certain point, Americans have a right to ask the man who would be our President what, exactly, he did in Vietnam. We have a right to ask how he got the purple hearts he so frequently mentions. Asking the questions raised by John Kerry himself is not smearing John Kerry. It's following up. Plain and simple. If I hadn't promised my wife to keep this blog clean, I'd have some very choice words for Joe Conason right now.

"The president's Texas allies -- whose animus against his Democratic challenger dates back to the Nixon era -- are now deploying the same techniques and personnel they used to attack McCain's integrity four years ago."

Why are you so hung up on technique (smearing is not the exclusive province of either political party, you know) instead of actually addressing the claims?

"Bush's 'independent' supporters would apparently rather talk about the Vietnam quagmire than about his deadly incompetence in Iraq."

Again I remind myself about my no-swearing promise. It is not the Republicans, but the Democrats who constantly remind Americans of Vietnam. The comparisons of Iraq to Vietnam all come from the left side of the aisle.