Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Kerrey on Kerry

I'm not one to do a lot of bashing of the 2004 Kerry-Edwards campaign. There's a lot of criticism about how the campaign was run – some I think justified, some not so much -- but few enlightening comments on how we could have gotten past a fake president running on a war of his own creation.

Former Senator Bob Kerrey

Bob Kerrey is president of New York City's New School University, a former U.S. Senator from Nebraska, a Vietnam Veteran and a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. He had an interesting comment in a recent issue of Time Out New York when asked about the Vietnam effect on John Kerry's presidential campaign. Here's what Kerrey said:

"John's mistake is that he defined his Vietnam experience as the five and a half months he spent in Vietnam. My Vietnam experience began on the 7th of August 1964, with the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that was passed as a consequence of the President and the Secretary of Defense lying to Congress, and continued all the way through the 1990s.

"John Kerry, John McCain and I and others worked with the first President Bush to resolve the POW-MIA issue, to get a peace agreement with Cambodia and write a road map to normalizing relations with Vietnam. It's a 40-year story of achieving a great foreign-policy victory in spite of our worst foreign-policy mistake. So if you say 'vote for me, I went to Vietnam,' I don't think it qualifies you to be commander-in-chief. What qualified John Kerry to be commander-in-chief was the work he did to make peace with a former enemy."

A compelling point, given the startling parallels that could have been drawn in the last presidential campaign between the Bush administration's justification for the Iraq war and the actions of the Lyndon Johnson administration. Johnson's administration had virtually fabricated the Gulf of Tonkin attacks that facilitated increased U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Sound familiar?

Had Kerry used the overall lesson of the Vietnam generation as a light to illuminate what our government is doing again – instead of focusing so much on his own combat experience -- the result of the last election may have been very different.

While we should not for one minute look beyond the task ahead in the 2006 midterm elections, we should file this away for reference in 2008.