Kerry vs. Bush: Why does Vietnam matter more than 9/11?

The likely Democratic candidate FOUGHT in a war 35 years ago. He cites his military service to support his claim of fitness to be Commander in Chief. Meanwhile the Republican incumbent and his staff have successfully RUN two wars during his term. In light of these facts, can someone explain to me why Bush’s old National Guard record is a more important credential of military competence than is his record since Sept. 11, 2001?

UPDATE: The question may now be moot. Jim Miller explains why.

17 thoughts on “Kerry vs. Bush: Why does Vietnam matter more than 9/11?”

  1. Excellent point Jonathan. What the lieutenant did on the Mekong Delta 35 years ago has little bearing on how good or bad he can lead our current military.

  2. To veterans it matters. He served two tours. The other guy was honorably discharged from the National Guard. And given the mess Vietnam was, I’d actually agree someone who saw it at ground level would not be a bad thing to have right now.

  3. Sure, he can appreciate what real combat is, the danger, the fear, the constant stress. However, it doesn’t mean he has the aptitude to instill confidence and inspire a nation. C-in-C requires the man to have the balls to call the shots, and the faith that he’s doing the right thing. Kerry doesn’t do any of the above. I give George W the leader vote hands down.

  4. He commented that he didn’t want his head blown off and that he didn’t want to go to canada to some paper way back when. He (like many others) didn’t want to go to vietnam. Not sure this means much, but ….

    There is also the fact that Bush’s two commanders said they never observed him… If he is lying about his record…thats another story, which I am sure the press will keep digging on.

    And I can’t help but thinking this conservative web site wouldnt’ be as forgiving to someone from the other party.

  5. Past war experience is used as an indicator of national leadership potential, in the absence of better information. Isn’t actual, recent, successful national leadership at least as relevant an indicator?

  6. Having shamelessly avoided service didn’t seem to hurt Clinton’s performance at the polls. It is hard to see how this issue will hurt someone who did wear the uniform of his country.

    Whether Bush’s two commanders ever observed him seems a lot less relevant than that he successfully landed an F-102. This is hard to do, even with 2,000 hours logged on Microsoft Flight Simulator, and suggests that he may have attended some training exercises.

    This will have to do for an issue until Bush decides to engage in electioneering. It sure beats talking about the economy.

  7. This is a non-issue, Kerry covered it in 1992 and I guess was asked about it today and didn’t want to talk about it:

    …The race for the White House should be about leadership, and leadership requires that one help heal the wounds of Vietnam, not reopen them; that one help identify the positive things that we learned about ourselves and about our nation, not play to the divisions and differences of that crucible of our generation.
    We do not need to divide America over who served and how. I have personally always believed that many served in many different ways. Someone who was deeply against the war in 1969 or 1970 may well have served their country with equal passion and patriotism by opposing the war as by fighting in it. Are we now, 20 years or 30 years later, to forget the difficulties of that time, of families that were literally torn apart, of brothers who ceased to talk to brothers, of fathers who disowned their sons, of people who felt compelled to leave the country and forget their own future and turn against the will of their own aspirations?

    Are we now to descend, like latter-day Spiro Agnews, and play, as he did, to the worst instincts of divisiveness and reaction that still haunt America? Are we now going to create a new scarlet letter in the context of Vietnam?
    Certainly, those who went to Vietnam suffered greatly. I have argued for years, since I returned myself in 1969, that they do deserve special affection and gratitude for service. And, indeed, I think everything I have tried to do since then has been to fight for their rights and recognition.

    But while those who served are owed special recognition, that recognition should not come at the expense of others; nor does it require that others be victimized or criticized or said to have settled for a lesser standard. To divide our party or our country over this issue today, in 1992, simply does not do justice to what all of us went through during that tragic and turbulent time….

  8. Joe – Everything I’ve read about Kerry tells me he’s a snake. He will say whatever it is that will get him elected. Good link.

  9. Kerry deserves credit for brave service in Vietnam. Unlike Bill Clinton, he didn’t try to dodge the draft with a bogus declaration of intent to join ROTC, then skip off to England to not inhale cannabis smoke.

    On the other hand, Hitler won a decoration for bravery on the Western Front in World War I; Franklin D. Roosevelt never served on active duty. Who would you prefer for a wartime leader? If military valor the ticket to leadership, then Zachary Taylor, Franklin Pierce, and Ulysses Grant would be esteemed great presidents.

  10. Jonathan, I don’t think it should matter more. But the fact is that it is perceived to matter. If you remove the war record, would John McCain get more respect or less ?

    It certainly matters in an election. Whether it matters once in office, or it guarantees that the man will never get American forces in a similar situation, is another story entirely. One could even argue that someone who got his ass handed to him in Vietnam is more likely to be gun-shy about everything involving the armed forces.

    But the voters like it, specially during primaries. If they didn’t, candidates wouldn’t advertise every little tiddy bit of their military record, if they have one. And for Kerry, and to the extent he had to deal with Wesley Clark, it was a useful differentiator against the rest of his opponents. Especially Dean, the rural man from Park Avenue who got exempted for a bad back and went off to ski in Switzerland (I still can’t get over that one).

    I don’t vote, I don’t believe I would pick someone on this factor alone. But is it a plus ? Yes. Could it tilt the balance in favor of one primary candidate ? Maybe.

  11. Statements like this aren’t going to help Kerry. From his 1971 Senate testimony:

    they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside…

    With George HW Bush, shot down over the pacific in World War II, and Bob Dole, permanently crippled in Italy in the same war, Clinton still won with questions about whether he avoided the draft. Anyone who voted for Clinton and brings up Bush’s national guard service is a hypocrite. –scott

  12. Via LGF and he hasn’t changed:

    In an interview with the Harvard Crimson in 1970, John Kerry called for the United Nations to control the US military: Old Crimson Interview Reveals A More Radical John Kerry.

    “I’m an internationalist,” Kerry told The Crimson in 1970. “I’d like to see our troops dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations.”

    Kerry said he wanted “to almost eliminate CIA activity. The CIA is fighting its own war in Laos and nobody seems to care.”

  13. I think these events are so remote as to be irrelevent to a Presidential election. Having said that, I’ll make two points.

    The discussion of military service inaccurately equates two seperate considerations – moral courage and physical courage. They’re very different. Kerry’s medals are evidence of PHYSICAL courage; his actions in the subsequent 35 years have demonstrated an utter lack of moral courage. Bush’s decision to go to war without UN support and over the protests of a vocal minority of Americans evidenced breathtaking MORAL courage. Landing on the deck of a moving boat may or may not prove physical courage, but nothing sugests the President lacks it.

    The other fact being omitted from the debate is that Bush is YOUNGER than Kerry. I was a draftee and an infantryman (MOS – 11C) in Viet Nam in 1966-68. I remember what the times were like, when every month was a new record draft call. I know what Kerry’s options were and, at that time, I thought being in the Navy on a river boat was the next best thing to being 4F. In 1972, with the lottery, Bush didn’t have to serve in the military at all – unless he WANTED TO. My bother-in-law was 19 in 1972 and the draft was a non-issue for him.

    Let’s get on to discussing something serious.

  14. “There is also the fact that Bush’s two commanders said they never observed him…”
    Is your parroting of this “fact” willful ignorance or just plain ignorance?
    One of them, General Turnipseed, doesn’t remember. Period. The second, the TANG Commander, made the required “Not Observed” comment on LT Bush’s OER as LT Bush had not spent the required period of time under his command for an honest appraisal. “Not observed” on an OER does not mean “I never saw the guy.”

  15. Personally, I pray daily that anyone preferrably Edwards, but more likely Kerry beat Bush. I can’t wait to get a Democrat back into office. Why can’t the Vietnam issue and the Guard issue be put to rest? They both were Americans both have freedom of speech, both served (supposedly) So drop it already…. let’s move on to the next issue at hand. JOBS! Where are they? And I can’t wait to get a democrat back into office so we can see Americans back to work!!!

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