Swift Boat To Dirty Politics

Kerry, left, and William B. Rood, right, are shown in this undated photo at the Swift boat base at An Thoi shortly after the action for which Kerry was awarded the Silver Star and Rood was awarded the Bronze Star in early 1969.
AP/Chicago Tribune/ William B. Rood
Well, here we go again.

Just when we needed a campaign about serious issues -- and for a minute there, it looked as if we might get one -- along comes the Swift Boat crowd and their charges that John Kerry didn't deserve the medals he won for valor under fire in Vietnam.

Never mind that the accusers can't quite seem to get their stories straight; negative television commercials are powerful things and the polls suggest the allegations have caused Kerry's support among veterans to slip.

So now Kerry is regrouping to counterattack. He's rolling out his retired military people to argue with the Bush military brigade or, as I understand it, Bush supporters who have no connection to the Bush campaign.

You can make the argument that since Kerry chose to flaunt record his military record, that record is fair game.

But I find the whole thing insulting to the rest of us, just as I found it insulting when some Democrats who, as I understand it, support Kerry but have no connection to the Kerry campaign tried to steer that campaign away from real issues to focus instead on George Bush's attendance record during his long-ago days in the National Guard.

Remember this: George Bush spent enough time in the National Guard to learn to fly a jet plane. And Kerry volunteered to fight in a shooting war. Can't we just let it go at that and get on to talking about something that matters?

We're a country at war, and our military is stretched thin. And we need to know how these two men propose to deal with that -- not who did what in Vietnam. We know how that came out.

By Bob Schieffer