Swift Boat Nixonites for Bush

August 10, 2004

I probably should have chosen a more polite title for these guys. I didn't. Then again, I did not call them raving moonbats either although I should have after their ranting about Kerry's medals.

What bugs me about these guys, and about the warblogger and bushblogger embrace of them, is that they have three points that they are completely merging and mangling.

The first is the whole "all Vietnam veterans were involved with war crimes" thing - something that has them frothing at the mouth. The second is John Kerry's role as an anti-war activist in the 1970s. The third is whether or not JK made up stories during his anti-war activism.

On the first of these, all the Nixonites have to offer is outrage. Kerry offered up a syllogism in the 1970s, and all O'Neil's efforts and all their rage do nothing to challenge the syllogism. At the lowest common denominator, Kerry pointed out that the Geneva Convention regards free fire zones as a war crime. The American military made such extensive use of free fire zones during the Vietnam war that every serviceman either participated in one or supported someone who participated in one. Therefore, all who served were complicit in war crimes. They have never challenged this syllogism; they have just expressed outrage that JK could accuse veterans who did not think they did anything wrong of participating in war crimes. Until they tackle this logic, they are moonbats.

The second, connected to the first, is Kerry's role as an anti-war activist. His actions in the 1970s got O'Neill and Nixon involved with countering him. In addition, his high-profile status led to him presenting the findings of the Winter Soldier investigation to Congress. To the best of my understanding, that investigation made some stuff up. To the best of my understanding, Kerry had no reason to challenge their findings at the time, and presented their material for them in good faith. To the best of my understanding, Kerry distanced himself from the Winter Soldier crowd after he learned more about their details. As many have pointed out, Kerry's role here is one that many find offensive, but the specific actions are a sub-set of the larger question:

What should a patriot who wants to improve his country do when he sees his country engaged in what he believes to be an immoral war? Do you shut up because it is wartime? That is the route to moral hell. Do you only say things that you have good evidence for? You try to do that. Do you remain silent in the face of emotional appeals to continue the war, or do you manufacture your own emotional appeals against that war? And, finally, what should the United States have done in 1975? In 1972? In 1968? In 1965? In 1963? In 1956? In 1954? At every stage in the American involvement in the region, creating, propping up, and then abandoning the South Vietnamese government, there were several alternatives. And, at every stage the war path seemed prudent given the assumptions of the Cold War and the domestic politics of Cold War Liberalism.

Finally, of course, we have the Cambodia story that the warbloggers are focusing on this week. If things are as they describe it, then it looks like someone was making up stories to make a rhetorical point. Given the past history of right wing smears, I rather suspect that they have left bits out. But that is my skepticism, based on politics over the last 15 years or so.

I did not discuss the entire moonbat stuff about Kerry not deserving medals. That whole line of argument is a return to stupid cop tricks by the right - we know he is guilty, so lets frame him for something. The arguments about Kerry's medals are not credible. They lower the credibility of the Swift Boat Nixonites' entire position. They are a big lie, with all the power and pitfalls of a big lie.

Like James Joyner, I was surprised by the extent to which the Kerry campaign and the Democratic Convention focused on Vietnam. I can see why they did it - they were pre-empting any Republican attempt to pull a Max Cleland on Kerry. But, it had the downside of giving legitimacy to the Swift Boat Nixonites for Bush.

I still say we should re-defeat Dubya in 2004.

Posted by Red Ted at August 10, 2004 01:42 PM | TrackBack

You sounded reasonable right up to that last line.

On the point of Geneva Convention free-fire zones, to my understanding North Vietnam was not a signatory to those at that time (they may be now). Also, the Geneva Conventions were designed to be applicable to a specific kind of war such as WWI and WWII, i.e. European-style war. The Vietnam War was a very different animal, and trying to apply 'our' rules often hamstrung the troops on the ground, putting them at an unfair and unwarrented disadvantage. A specific example is the refusal, for political reasons, of permission to chase the enemy across borders. The North used that to great effect, hit and run, fading across into neighboring countries to regroup and reconstitute.

As for Kerry, I'm really tired of all the yammering about his Vietnam record. Does he really believe that those five months in country all those years ago is the strongest endorsement for him to be President? What about his time in the Senate? He claims to want to be judged on his record, which is spot on. But they keep defining his record as being five months long.

Posted by: Ted at August 10, 2004 07:33 PM

I suspect that the yammering about Vietnam was an attempt to pre-empt what Rove's buddies did to Max Cleland in the 2002 Georgia Senate race. The only way to keep from being accused of being anti-American for not falling into lockstep over Iraq was to go to the right of dubya, and Vietnam let Kerry do just that.

But, that tactical decision created an opportunity for the Swift boat guys.

I almost did not include the final line. But I really really don't like Dubya and so no reason to hide my preferences.

Posted by: Ted K at August 10, 2004 08:26 PM

Followup: a good solid rebuttal of the Swift Boat Nixonites for Bush

Posted by: Ted K at August 10, 2004 11:23 PM

Don't you mean Swift Boat Johnsonites for Bush?

You see, Nixon wasn't in office in Christmas of '68 ... Kerry was just making that up.

I wonder whether Kerry's "lucky CIA hat" was lined with tinfoil when he got it or whether he added it later, say around 1986, after an unfortunate memory-searing incident?

Posted by: Lyndon Johnson at August 13, 2004 08:05 PM

No, I mean Swift Boat Nixonites for Bush.

Yes, Kerry's Vietnam service was during the transition between Johnson and Nixon.

But, the real reason these guys are so pissed at Kerry is his actions against the war. And those actions and testimonies were during the Nixon administration.

More, it was the Nixon administration who encouraged O'Neil's first round of Kerry bashing. More, the politics of personal destruction that the Swift Boat Nixonites are engaging in is something that comes out of Nixon's playbook, as revised and extended by the 1990s smear team.

If you don't approve of Kerry's actions as an anti-war activist, then argue against them. Don't make up nonsense, contrary to your words at the time, the paper record, and all other evidence, impugning his medals.

Posted by: Ted K at August 14, 2004 02:44 PM

A President who dealt in lies while he was alive reaches out from the grave and across decades to expose the lies of another who would be President.

What poetic, indeed "searing" irony.

The best part is that, like Nixon, Kerry's OWN WORDS are what have buried his credibility, in Kerry's case somewhere "near" (within 50 miles) of Cambodia. "Christmas in Cambodia" is a Kairytale at least as memorable -- and false -- as "I am not a crook!" Indeed, the irony, it bears repeating, is ... "searing".

Laura Blumenfeld, author of the even funnier Kerry story, "Pow! The Lucky CIA Hat", is a little young to be a Nixonite. Her story is still hilarious, though. "Pow!" Priceless.

The Kerry / Nixon parallels, now that you mention it, are quite striking. Luckily Kerry isn't a sitting President, so the damage he causes will be limited to his own campaign.

Posted by: Lyndon Johnson at August 18, 2004 12:21 PM
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