When all is said and done … when all the punditry are talking about the events of the day in another month or two, this one fact will become glaringly obvious: John Kerry was defeated by the Viet Nam vets he smeared in 1971.
As this campaign came to a close, John Kerry tried his best to avoid mentioning Viet Nam. How did this dramatic turn of events occur? Who took Kerry’s strongest sales point away? The ghost of Viet Nam, invoked by Kerry, came back to haunt this deeply flawed man. It was poetic justice rarely found outside of novels.
John Kerry ran all his campaigns for public office as a war hero. His Senate campaigns, his Senate speeches, his public pronouncements invariably recalled his heroism in Viet Nam. He received his party’s nomination as a war hero and he began his convention speech with a salute to himself…as a war hero. He populated his stage with his “Band of Brothers” who testified to his daring-do.
His credentials, his medals and his heroism were never challenged while he was an obscure junior senator from Massachusetts. But when he reached for the supreme office in the land, a determined group of people whose honor he smeared decided to stand up. They blew this faux hero out of the water.
Despite the best efforts of a news media in the tank for Kerry, the people who knew him and were witnesses to his brief tour found their voices. Talk radio, the blogosphere and Fox news – media channels that are as new as the day after tomorrow – allowed their story to be told. Suddenly his purple hearts, his bronze and silver stars were being examined by those who were there, and who disputed his version of events. For the first time we learned that his first purple heart was for a self-inflicted scratch, his last was for blowing rice into his butt with his own grenade.. Three purple hearts and not a day in the hospital! After-action reports written by Kerry himself in which he became the star of his own war story, and that became the “official” Navy record. Christmas in Cambodia stories, and magic hats given by imagined spooks. Suddenly the dashing young military hero was revealed as a fabulist who used fake wounds to take a powder from the battle zone after a few months in a war he never wanted to fight.
Toward the end of the campaign, Kerry’s antic references to Viet Nam were widely ridiculed. His “Band of Brothers” disappeared from his staged events. His references to spending Christmas in Cambodia never again saw the light of day. His biographer began to disavow his own depiction of events. His refusal to release his military records was never mentioned by the MSM, but those who had access to the Internet knew this and wondered what he had to hide.
In the end, images of hundreds of decorated vets, POWs and war widows testifying to the lies told by Lt (j.g.) Kerry in 1971 in congressional testimony left an indelible impression on large segments of the American people. The people who gave testimony against John Kerry were real war heroes, with real war wounds, lots of bronze and silver stars, and two Congressional Medals of Honor.
They were older, much older. With paunches and lined faces; the kind you get when you turn 60. Despite the best efforts of the MSM and Kerry partisans to call their testimony lies, they were credible to middle of America. Because mainstream Americans knew that their sons, brothers and husbands were not murderers, mutilators, and torturers. They knew the vets as real people and they knew that their friends and relatives did not enlisted in the armies of Genghis Kahn. These people came out to vote in November 2, 2004 in record numbers. To them, truth and honor mattered. Even though the injury was done thirty years ago, the wounds never healed. The ones who were wronged never received their apology. Those who spat on them, lied about them, and kept them in prison are still in positions of privilege, wealth and power.
This election has not changed that fact. But they do have the satisfaction of knowing the leader of those who had the most to do with their suffering was denied the goal he sought. Not a bad start to the beginning of their rehabilitation.