. . . Friday August 20, 2004

The Infliction

After awhile, the interviews with the not-so-swift boaters against Kerry go from odd to surreal. One set of comments is made, and is then debunked (or at least not supported by any factual evidence) and then that set of comments is used as supporting material for another more outlandish charge. We saw this transparent (yet often effective) tactic spin out of control a bit during an appearance on Hardball by Michelle Malkin in which she spreads the the issue there are questions about: Whether or not Kerry’s Vietnam wounds were self-inflicted.

Chris Matthews laughed and went on the attack (rightfully, I think) as did his colleague who describes the incident here.

To get both sides, you might want to check out Malkin’s take on the exchange. Notice how she uses even supposedly supportive data on several topics. (You may find yourself thinking of junior high or Fox New while you’re doing that). Notice also how the issue changes from the nonsense about Kerry to the tactics used on Hardball.

Bottom line? This has gotten beyond ridiculous. Self-inflicted wounds? Oh, and also, Kerry wasn’t really in Vietnam; he was actually in a bathtub pushing around plastic swift boats.

The New York Times gives a lengthy account of how and when this whole attack on Kerry got started. While it has certainly and understandably picked up in recent months, John E. O’Neill has been going after John Kerry since the early seventies. He has since received increasing support from those backing the incumbent in this race.

There have been wild inconsistencies and a consistent fervor as these charges have been made (and changed and made again). I wonder why the men who are attacking Kerry don’t just come right out (as they sometimes do during interviews) and explain why they really hate John Kerry. His remarks made after returning home from Vietnam were seen by many as a sign of disloyalty and many of those who fought on the same river felt they were sold out in the name of politics or some other form of grandstanding. Some veterans may also be irritated by the constant selling of Kerry’s heroism which seems cool in politics, but would be endlessly disturbing in the real world, no?

Some see Kerry’s post-Vietnam speech to Congress as heroic. Others see it as a disgrace. There is no denying that it happened, though. So let’s debate that behavior if we really feel like turning this campaign into an election about Kerry’s Vietnam.

I do think that it’s critical for Democrats to find an effective way to blast these charges and move on. The issue has already been a winner for team Bush because we have wasted so much time on it. Kerry is defending what was considered his best trait.

The art of politics is like the art of negotiation (and the art of mud wrestling). If you’re opponent wants to keep the spotlight on a certain issue (a debate topic, a deal point, a half-nelson), chances are you want to focus the spotlight elsewhere. The Bush backers want Kerry to stick to the issue of Vietnam. They want him focused on that battle and not the broader political war. And the bait they are dangling is nearly irresistible (for me too, as you can see). But to get stuck on this issue instead of turning this back into what it should be – a referendum on the man in the Oval Office – would be self-inflicting indeed.

Concentration is important!