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Kerry and the pivotal question of leadership

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted August 16, 2004

Can John Kerry provide sound presidential leadership that will keep our nation safe? Americans understand that the stakes are high as we address the perils posed by radical Islamists in Iraq and elsewhere.

But here's the rub for John Kerry: In the realm of showcasing leadership ability, he's up against considerable difficulties that are manifest to even the casual observer. Let's face it, Kerry's Senate career has been virtually nondescript, with the exception of his very poor -- and very liberal -- voting record on national security issues. And that's a record Kerry would rather deep-six, if possible. In order to successfully campaign for the presidency, it was necessary for Kerry to develop another angle, another theme, that would display his leadership proclivities. That's precisely why he made his four months in Vietnam the centerpiece of his campaign, in the belief that it would highlight his valor, patriotism, and most importantly, his capacity to lead in warfare. Unfortunately, Kerry's cheerleaders and surrogates -- most notably the elite media crowd -- have been unable to contain the unraveling situation for him. The American people are now asking too many questions. Oh well, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Frankly, Republicans are exhibiting growing optimism. There's a sense that we're approaching a sort of critical mass in this campaign -- a tipping point if you will -- among undecided voters that are now leaning toward the Bush camp. Pursuant to the most recent Gallup Poll released on August 13, in a two-way match up President Bush leads Senator Kerry, 50 percent to 47 percent. Mind you, this is before the GOP convention in NYC, which will certainly produce some type of bounce, probably within the five to eight point range initially. Moreover, according to an Associated Press piece that examines new Pew Research data: "President Bush retains an advantage with voters on such qualities as decisiveness and strength of leadership despite the Democrats' effort to promote John Kerry as a strong leader." And this is key, Bush continues to demonstrate a substantial lead over Kerry in his ability to tackle the war on terror, 49 percent to 39 percent. Pew polling also underscores the public's perception of Kerry as a significant flip-flopper on political positions, with the AP article noting: "When asked which candidate is more likely to change his mind, 47 percent said Kerry and 28 percent said Bush."

Given the aforesaid, it appears that two recent news stories -- the emergence of the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, and Kerry's further flip-flopping on his Iraq War stance -- seem to be jarring those few Independent voters who were still sitting on the fence this election cycle.

Liberals have eagerly embraced their so-called "genuine war hero," John Kerry, who has been all over the political terrain on virtually every campaign issue including the war in Iraq. But war hero? Hardly! What Senator Kerry appears to be is nothing more than a scoundrel who served all of four months in Vietnam by acquiring three questionable Purple Hearts, and quickly converting them into a free-pass home. In the book Unfit for Command that he co-authored with Jerome Corsi, swift boat officer John O'Neill indicates that two of Kerry's three Purple Heart injuries were self-inflicted, and all were very minor in nature. If true, the Kerry situation is outright bizarre, and his actions in Vietnam are anathema to honorable men. Clearly, common sense alone dictates that something is amiss here, given the rapid pace at which Kerry garnered medals in Vietnam. Reportedly, Kerry was "gaming the system," writing himself up for decorations, and was known as an "unscrupulous self-promoter" among the swift boat crewmembers.

Senator Kerry really only has about a dozen swift boat veterans supporting him in his quest for the presidency, a group that Kerry has dubbed the "Band of Brothers." Kerry continues to exploit that "Band of Brothers" by parading them before the media for his own aggrandizement and the benefit of his presidential bid. Despite the Left's attempts to denigrate the approximate 200 swift boat vets who signed off on a letter that labeled John Kerry a "liar and a fraud," it appears that the group -- now known as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- is slowly impacting Independent voters, as noted in the aforesaid recent polling results. They have ads running in a few media venues as a 527 political group, and some Swifties are making the media rounds, particularly the authors of Unfit for Command. According to authors O'Neill and Corsi, "the signers of the May 4, 2004 letter included almost every one of Kerry's commanders in Vietnam, fifteen of the twenty-three offices who served with him in An Thoi (where he claims to have been a hero), and a substantial majority of those who were with him during military operations." The book also states: "Kerry had misrepresented his service in Vietnam and lied about his claims of atrocities committed as a matter of policy by his unit and the American military."

It's salient to note that swift boats generally traveled in groupings of threes and were always within yards of each other -- Crewmembers on these boats operated in tandem, knew each other, and covered each other's backs. That said, there is also the ongoing controversy surrounding John Kerry's Bronze Star and Silver Star medals, which will continue to be vetted during the course of this campaign. As to Kerry's Silver Star, O'Neill and Corsi maintain that the overall circumstances were rather unsavory, and certainly did not merit medals for American military personnel. Let the reader be the judge. According to "Unfit for Command," Kerry and crewman Medeiros followed "the young [wounded] Viet Cong as he fled, and shot him in the back, behind a lean-to…Many Vietnam veterans and most Swifties do not consider this action to be the stuff of which medals of any kind are awarded."

Unfit for Command is a riveting book that is rife with all kinds of details regarding Kerry's military service in Vietnam. Kerry's version of events, as well as versions or rebuttals provided by other Swifties -- including the hot topic of Kerry's "fantasy" trip into Cambodia during Christmas 1968 -- are there for perusal. On the floor of the US Senate in 1986, Kerry had stated: ''I remember Christmas of 1968, sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by the Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there, the troops were not in Cambodia. I have that memory, which is seared -- seared -- in me." Kerry's rant was clearly aimed at casting aspersions upon President Richard Nixon for "illegally" ordering military incursions into Cambodia. However, Kerry forgot one basic fact: In December 1968, President Lyndon Johnson was still in office. I wouldn't be surprised if the Kerry camp attempts to move the date of the Cambodian tale to early 1969, during the Nixon administration. Of course, Kerry better have his ducks-in-order to corroborate any of his "Cambodian incursion" stories, otherwise he'll continue to lose credibility with the public. At any rate, no one can make heads or tails out of this drivel.

To continue, the numerous veterans who served with Kerry in Vietnam have earned the right to voice their opinions without threat of lawsuits and exposure of their private lives. But again, the response by the Kerry camp and the DNC is pure viciousness, which is typical of retaliation by Liberals. Even if people want to believe that Kerry was deserving of three Purple Hearts due to almost non-existent injuries, the fact that he immediately parlayed these awards into a ticket home tells something crucial about Kerry's character. Ex-FBI agent Gary Aldrich, Clinton era whistle-blower and author, specifically cautions the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Aldrich states: "The mainstream media will work diligently to alter the population's perception of you in ways that you could not possibly imagine. They will demonize, and then marginalize you so that your impact on this coming election will be minimal. Many have come before you and have suffered the same fate. When you become whistle-blowers and take on the establishment, you'll find few friends within the establishment, right or left, to support you. The establishment does not want the truth; therefore, your real support will come from the grass roots."

And then there are John Kerry's recent comments that have elicited considerable response, especially from Vice President Dick Cheney. Americans intuitively understand that an American president can't be all over the playing field when taking a stance. Constant flip-flopping is not indicative of principled positions or true leadership. That being said, Kerry had issued myriad statements in the run-up to the Iraq War demonstrating that he was in favor of military action to topple Saddam Hussein. Kerry then voted for authorization of the war, but then voted against funding it when the "Deaniacs" buffeted him into an anti-war position. As radio host Sean Hannity indicated, up until mid-July, Kerry was still saying that the Iraq War was a "mistake." With Kerry's incredible "nuance" always in play, it's been virtually impossible to pin down his ideas on Iraq. Or does Kerry even hold core convictions on this vital matter?

That said, a few weeks back, President Bush issued a yes or no challenge to his Democratic opponent, asking that John Kerry reply to one simple question: Knowing what we know today -- no WMDs in Iraq -- would John Kerry still have authorized military force to bring down Saddam Hussein's regime? John Kerry essentially said yes (thereby thoroughly confusing and confounding the Democrats in the process) and averred "I believe we can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history." What's that all about? The words "sensitive" and "thoughtful" are lovely and endearing terms that are incongruent with warfare. Does Kerry even grasp the basic concept of war, which is to stop the enemy dead in their tracks, and to either kill them or capture them? There's no negotiations or rapprochement possible with Jihadis who want us dead. As Vice President Cheney said on the Hannity radio program, "I can't think of a single war won by being sensitive...The al-Qaeda terrorists don't need to be treated more sensitively, they need to be destroyed." Right-O. Clearly, Bush and Cheney are the real deal, the real wartime leaders. And those undecided voters are coming to the same conclusion.

As to "proactive," "effective" and "strategic," President Bush has already embraced all of those concepts in this war on terror. Bush has been right on the money all along, having ousted the Taliban from Afghanistan and the Ba'athist Party from Iraq, in addition to garnering increasing support from a number of Islamic states, most notably Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.. And what about Libya, which has turned over a new leaf and eschewed its WMD programs? Granted, Qaddafi thought he was next on Bush's hit list of dictators, but Qaddafi managed to save his precious hide and strike a nice deal with the US. And, yes, the democratization of Iraq is an integral part of the war on terror, not some curious adjunct. President Bush is a visionary who sees the "big picture" and understands that he's helping to create a new synergy in the Islamic world, so that democratic reforms and economic opportunities can flourish and benefit the people. Democratization of the Middle East will help undercut the militant Islamist mentality, which will, in turn, enhance international safety and security. This is largely about invoking the gales of creative destruction in the Islamic world -- Out with the old tyrants who collude with terrorists, and in with new and improved leadership. But Kerry still doesn't get it. He's more interested in being on all sides, of all issues.

As to Kerry's pontificating about persuading the French and Germans to be involved in "burden sharing" in Iraq, it's all just bluster. "Old Europe" is beginning to make it quite clear that they have no intention of troop involvement in Iraq -- This has all been another Kerry pipedream. Now if the Americans were really willing to sweeten the pot in some manner -- providing the French and Germans with outstanding oil contracts, etc. -- well that might be another story. But as it stands now, our "allies" of "Old Europe" are going to provide us with bupkis in Iraq.

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.

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