Bush Says He Does Not Think Kerry Lied About His Record
John Kerry's record in Vietnam continued to generate significant media attention, but a comment from President Bush is likely to be seen as a surprising helping hand. The New York Times reports this morning that President Bush said in an interview "that he did not believe Senator John Kerry lied about his war record, but he declined to condemn the television commercial paid for by a veterans group alleging that Mr. Kerry came by his war medals dishonestly." Bush's comments "undercut a central accusation leveled by the veterans group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, whose unproven attacks on Mr. Kerry have dominated the political debate for more than two weeks." Bush "portrayed himself as a victim of the same type of political interest groups - called 527 committees for the section of the tax code that created them - that are attacking Mr. Kerry." Bush said, "I understand how Senator Kerry feels - I've been attacked by 527's too."
Kerry Blasts "Lie" About Vietnam War Record.
The AP reports John Kerry "on Thursday lashed out at 'the lie that's been put out there' about his Vietnam War service." Responding to "a question at a forum, Kerry said, 'All the guys who were with me on my boat, all the guys who were with me in the specific action where they could see it and do it, absolutely document what I said. And as you've seen in the last few days, you're now learning about the lie that's been put out there and how it's been put out there.'"
Another Vet Supports Kerry's Bronze Star Claim.
The AP reports "a swiftboat crewman decorated in the 1969 Vietnam incident where John Kerry won a Bronze Star says not only did they come under enemy fire but also that his own boat commander, who has challenged the official account, was too distracted to notice the gunfire." Retired Chief Petty Officer Robert E. Lambert, of Eagle Point, Ore., "got a Bronze Star for pulling his boat commander - Lt. Larry Thurlow - out of the Bay Hap River on March 13, 1969. Thurlow had jumped onto another swiftboat to aid sailors wounded by a mine explosion but fell off when the out-of-control boat ran aground." Lambert said, "Thurlow was far too distracted with rescue efforts to even realize he was under fire. He was concentrating on trying to save lives." A "career military man, Lambert is no fan of Kerry's either. He doesn't like Kerry's post-Vietnam anti-war activity and doesn't plan to vote for him." Lambert said, "I don't like the man himself, but I think what happened happened, and he was there."
Dole Says He Was Especially Bothered By Kerry's Senate Testimony.
Appearing on Fox News Live yesterday, Former Senator Bob Dole commented on the phone call he received from John Kerry following his criticism of the presidential candidate over his service in Vietnam. Dole told Fox that Kerry "said he was disappointed. I said I'm disappointed in all the attacks on President Bush. You want everybody to stop attacks on you, but your people don't want to stop attacking Bush. I said it is a double-standard, and you get away with it because of the liberal media like 'The New York Times' and 'The L.A. Times' and most of the networks. So we had a good discussion. We've known each other a long time." Dole added, "I told him. . .I'm not fussing about your purple hearts. . . . I said what bothers me and has bothered me ever since 1971 because I was in the Senate then was your testimony before [the] Senate committee when you were back here and we still had American soldiers in Vietnam and you were saying they were murdering babies and rape and every conceivable war crime you could think of. Of course you said it was hearsay. You didn't have any evidence which to me makes it even worse."
Republican Strategists See Turning Point In Swift Boat Controversy.
As polls continue to show the Vietnam War swift boat controversy hurting Sen. John Kerry's presidential bid, more Republican officials and Bush advisers are asserting that it will be the key event that won the fall election for the president. "Looking back a year from now, it will be the biggest story besides the [Iraqi] war during this election cycle," an administration and congressional GOP adviser told the US News Bulletin. "The 'Defining of John Kerry' is now moving forward in voters minds at warp speed. Daily drip, drip, drip 24-hour news cycle dropping on his medals, his conduct over there, his conduct when he returned. Game, Set, Match." GOP strategists said that the efforts by the anti-Kerry swift boat veterans has helped the Bush campaign's bid to portray Kerry as a flip-flopper by playing up questions about his service in Cambodia and situation around his Purple Heart medals. The strategists also said that Kerry has been surprisingly unable to extract himself from the controversy. Unlike former President Bill Clinton, who faced multiple controversies including drug use, sexual misconduct and draft dodging during his first presidential campaign, Kerry, they believe, has not been able to turn the issue around. One reason, they said, is that the Kerry opponents "have nothing to lose" and don't care if Bush pressures them to stop the ads. "This is their moment to help re-define in the collective consciousness of America the war that defined their young lives 35 years ago. John Kerry is the vehicle for that redefinition," said a GOP political strategist of the swift boat vets in an email. "It is amazing to watch. All these punks driving around with 'No Fear' bumper stickers on their cars these are truly guys with no fear. They have been to hell and back."