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Friday, August 27, 2004

Weird focus to election campaign 

This is getting seriously weird -- read this exchange between Matthews and Pat Buchanan last night regarding Kerry's military record. Every single Navy document and every single personal statement FROM PEOPLE WHO WERE ACTUALLY THERE ON THE BOAT support Kerry's heroism during Vietnam.
But the right wing just will not believe it -- it's like they can not permit themselves to believe it. Not only do they think Kerry lied, they have turned him into the scum of the earth. Now, I don't think Reagan's supporters thought that Carter was a lying, evil scumbag; nor did Bob Dole's supporters think that Clinton was a lying sack of shit (at least, not until after he was elected). But the way the right wing is after Kerry, you would think that he was the most corrupt, evil being ever to inhabit the United States.
Here is the Hardball transcript last night, just part of it, showing how Buchanan is frothing. Then I have an excerpt from later in Hardball, where Matthews interviewed an actual veteran, former Republican congressman. Compare the tone and the content:
"BUCHANAN: . . . This is a tremendously emotional issue for me. I was involved in all that. [Buchanan never went to Vietnam, though you would think he had from the way he is talking.] And we‘re caught up in it. We‘re intoxicated with it. It is the hottest issue going. And you look at that poll out in California. Kerry now only gets 3 percent of Republicans.
This is driving Republicans back to Bush and it is bringing home some Reagan Democrats. There‘s about 15 or 20 percent. They are moving toward Bush. And this for some of us—I know
it may be a minority.
. . . MATTHEWS: Pat, is it character or courage that is pivoting these voters?
BUCHANAN: It is about truthfulness. It is about character. It is about courage.
It is about Vietnam. Did this guy come home and slime all these guys while you have got POWs in North Vietnam who are being tortured to say the things Kerry was saying for free? That‘s the outrage, Chris, that you‘re feeling and you‘re seeing from a lot of folks.
MATTHEWS: OK. I get you. It‘s not the medals. It is the testimony. Let‘s go to...
FINEMAN: Yes, I do think the testimony is the emotional thing here. I was talking to a
Republican strategist very close to the White House. I said, aren‘t you guys just sort of talking to yourselves about this thing, this whole swift boat thing? And he said, what‘s wrong with talking to yourself? That‘s what the aim is here. And that‘s what the effect has been. And in Ohio, where I have spent a lot of time, I know a diner out there on the highway in Canton in the swing county of Stark. Those guys and those women are talking about this issue. No question about
it.
MATTHEWS: So, in other words, Bush ain‘t no great shakes, but he is not no lying, medal-gabbing, rat fink, like this other guy is.
FINEMAN: Right. This is all about, as an independent or not, making Kerry unacceptable. That‘s what it is all about.
MATTHEWS: To change the focus of a reelection campaign from the usual focus on the
incumbent, Marie, to the challenger. Brilliant move.
COCCO: Well, if I were George Bush and I had 61 percent of the people in your poll saying that the economy is not getting better for the middle class, I would want to change the subject, too.
I think what Kerry has to do after all of this talk and chatter—every piece of allegation against him is disproved by the actual Naval records. I think what Kerry ought to do is say over
and over again, this isn‘t my story. This is the U.S. Navy‘s story.
MATTHEWS: Right.
COCCO: Mr. President, do you not believe the U.S. Navy?
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS: I think the only way he is going to change this story is to say he‘s gay . . . Changing
the subject now is going to have to be a full McGreevey. "

And here is the section from later in the show, when Matthews interviews a Republican congressman who actually DID go to Vietnam. Like historian Sydney Karnow, McCloskey supports not only Kerry's service but also Kerry's testimony:

"MATTHEWS: . . . The controversy over John Kerry‘s service in Vietnam and his subsequent anti-war protests have stirred emotions on both sides of the debate, particularly with the Vietnam veterans themselves. Yesterday, I spoke with former Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey, a highly decorated Marine who served in Korea, earning the Navy Cross, a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts. He testified before Congress that Americans had committed war crimes in Vietnam. He also marched with John Kerry in the 1971 peace march. I started with Pete McCloskey by asking him why the Vietnam War is still an issue here in 2004.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
PETE MCCLOSKEY, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, there is still a division between the
people who fought honorably there and are angry because they were criticized.But we were pursuing policies there that were war crimes. We were burning down villages that harbored terrorists or harbored Viet Cong. We had executed General Yodel (ph) after Nuremberg for doing that very thing. We knew it was a war crime, burning those villages down. Kerry had the guts to come back. He testified I think the same day as I did in front of Kennedy‘s or Fulbright‘s subcommittee about the same things. It wasn‘t about cutting off heads or arms. It was about
deliberately burning down villages in a war we were trying to (CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS: But he did say in his testimony, we were people cutting off ears and cutting off heads.
MCCLOSKEY: Well, there were people that said that. And I...
MATTHEWS: He did, too.
MCCLOSKEY: Well, I‘ll tell you, we ran across General Patton‘s son, a colonel, who was
flying around in a helicopter collecting ears of Viet Cong, cutting off ears, shooting at them with his pistol out of a helicopter. But that was the exception. Most of the men served honorably. And Vietnam veterans ought to be treated better than most veterans, because they fought in a
war that was unpopular at a time. But I think these men have been so carried away by their anger over that testimony that he gave that I think they have forgotten the truth. The men that served with him knew him as a leader and as a war hero. I knew him as a principled, probably idealistic young man. It took courage to speak out in ‘71 against a war. We had Marines fighting over there. I had friends fighting over there. But the war was wrong. It‘s just like Iraq today. You can support the troops, but you don‘t necessarily need to support the policy that put them there or keeps them there.
MATTHEWS: Why are we arguing about one man‘s war record in terms of the medals he‘s won? What is that strategy about? Why are we doing that right now?
MCCLOSKEY: Well, the other guy...
MATTHEWS: You got a number of medals. You got the Navy Cross, which is a much higher distinction. Do people usually go back and question the Navy‘s decision in awarding these medals?
MCCLOSKEY: I‘ve never known a man to get a Silver Star that didn‘t earn it. A lot of people that earned them didn‘t get them, because there weren‘t people around to tell about them. But don‘t give the Silver Star lightly. That‘s a medal for heroism. And it‘s shameful that they‘ve made this attack, I think.
MATTHEWS: Because there‘s a foolproof system for awarding it?
MCCLOSKEY: It‘s not foolproof, but when a junior officer, an enlisted man got a Silver Star, it was earned. Sometimes, colonels and generals gave themselves. Lyndon Johnson I think had a Silver Star for flying over a Japanese island when he was in Congress. But, at that level,
a junior whose men respect him, he can‘t get a Bronze Star or Silver Star without their support.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about national policy.We‘re at war now in the country of Iraq. We are still fighting a war of resistance over there. And certainly in Najaf and places like that, we‘re facing local militia, lots of resistance still. We will probably lose by the Election Day, there‘s probably to count it, 1,000 people in combat, maybe 7,000 seriously wounded now.
Is that why this scab has been ripped off, that we‘re at war now and people question it just about 50/50 whether we should be there?
MCCLOSKEY: No. I‘m afraid it‘s because Bush joined the National Guard at a time when you joined the Guard only to avoid combat. Kerry volunteered for combat. That‘s the issue. And the issue is—it‘s a fair issue as to who can best lead this country. And my experience has been that the presidents who are most likely not to go to war are like Jack Kennedy and George Bush Sr., who were shot at when they were young. People that have been combat don‘t want to do it again unless they have to. The people that want to make war, prove their manhood and how tough they are
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS: Right. Is that what Cheney‘s up to?
MCCLOSKEY: I don‘t know. I liked Dick when I was in the House with him.
MATTHEWS: What happened to him and Rumsfeld? Why did they become—well, I always thought Cheney was a tough customer. When I worked on the Hill for Tip O‘Neill, I knew he was a tough customer politically, but the hard-nosed attitude about war, about not really being against war, what‘s that about? I always thought Rumsfeld was a moderate Republican. What happened to him?
MCCLOSKEY: I couldn‘t tell you. I like Don. Bob Dole is one of my favorite Republicans. We had marvelous Republican leadership. George Bush Sr. would not be doing what his son is doing today, in my judgment. He would not have gone to war without U.N. support. He wouldn‘t have gone to war unless he had to. And that‘s the way I think. In this election, where the choice is between a man who dodged combat, two men who dodged combat when they were young, against a man who volunteered for it, we‘re safer in the hands of the person who has been shot at . . . my old rifle company is outside Fallujah right now. And they‘re superb young Marines, well officered. The commanding general of the Marine division said don‘t hurt anybody you don‘t have to, marvelous kind of a humanitarian, but they‘re an occupying force. And I don‘t think we‘re going to be loved in Iraq or any country.
. . . MATTHEWS: . . . Do you think this election is going to turn on this war?
MCCLOSKEY: I don‘t know. I think it‘s so close.
MATTHEWS: Will it turn on John Kerry‘s war record?
MCCLOSKEY: I think he‘s been hurt by these attacks and I think the attacks were leveled because they knew it would hurt him. And I know how these guys feel.
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS: How come they‘re angrier at him, Pete, than they are at the guy who didn‘t serve, the president?
MCCLOSKEY: They‘re angry because they feel he betrayed their honorable service by coming back and testifying in front of the Senate of the war crimes. And we were committing war
crimes.
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS: Did contribute—my sister-in-law e-mailed me the other day, said that he contributed, John Kerry, to the atmosphere for returning veterans, like my brother, who was a Naval officer in Vietnam, along the coast—he was in that same kind of coastal Naval
service. The way they were treated when they came back, that John Kerry contributed to that sort of spirit of blaming the soldiers for the war.
MCCLOSKEY: I don‘t think so. Kerry never sought to blame the soldiers. They were individuals or
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS: Well, they took it that way.
MCCLOSKEY: They shouldn‘t have. "





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