FIRST-PERSON: Kerry loses lead by whining

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)--For the first time in weeks, President Bush has taken the lead over John Kerry in most major polls tracking the race for the White House.

Political pundits are attributing the president’s bump in the polls to advertisements sponsored by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that accuse Kerry of being less than honest concerning his service in Vietnam. However, it is the Democrat candidate’s response to the Swifties assertions, and not the content of the ads, that has caused Kerry’s woes in the political polls.

Someone has pointed out that the devil is in the details. In failing to consider this widely accepted maxim, Kerry has hurt himself with those he is trying to sway his way.

The detail that is most plaguing to Kerry right now was heralded at the Democratic National Convention. During the party’s national infomercial, the world was introduced to John “Rambo” Kerry. As Rambo saluted the country and reported for duty he was backed by nine –- count ‘em nine -– Veterans for Kerry who sang the praises of his four-month tour of duty in Vietnam.

If Rambo Kerry’s war record had ended with active duty, his DNC impression might have been favorable. However, it has been noted anew that once Kerry returned from Vietnam he spoke out against the war and even testified before Congress that American troops were committing “atrocities.” He even confessed that he himself had committed “atrocities.”

The so-called “atrocities” were never defined by Rambo Kerry. However, if we are to take his word, they were horrible and occurred with regularity and needed to be stopped. Kerry has never said how many “atrocities” he actually committed. However, his bold assertion begs the question, “Just how many ‘atrocities’ could be committed in four months’ time?”

Enter the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, 254 men who served in or around the same time as Rambo Kerry. These men take issue with how Kerry has characterized his war record. The Swifties suggest it might even be a bit exaggerated. Some even have the audacity to assert that Rambo Kerry’s medals were earned in less than heroic fashion.

How does Rambo Kerry respond to the Swift Boat Veterans? He whines to the president: “Mr. President those Swift Boat men are being mean to me. Make ’em stop, make ’em stop.” Spoken like a true war hero.

Rambo Kerry not only has asked the president to condemn the Swifties’ advertisements, but he wants them banned as well. Kerry also wants the book, “Unfit for Command,” penned by swift boat veteran John O’Neill, banned. The book supports the claims that Kerry’s war record has been greatly overstated.

A man who would be president calling for a ban of a political commercial? A man who wants to lead the land of the free calling for a book to be banned? I wonder if the American Civil Liberties Union will rush to the defense of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth? Probably not; they are too busy defending groups like the North American Man Boy Love Association and their “right” to promote pedophilia.

President Bush, in trying to one-up Kerry, has called on a ban of all attack ads. I think the president should withdraw his support for such action. Negative campaign ads, while distasteful, are part of the price we pay for free speech.

For months the president has been the subject of relentless attacks by the likes of Moveon.org, Michael Moore and a cadre of liberal elites. However, his lack of response to the lurid mud-slinging is paying off. Americans want a leader as president, not a whiner.

It was Kerry who brought his war record into play when he had it trumpeted at the Democratic National Convention. Had he not portrayed himself as Rambo, the Swift Boat Veterans would look like mean-spirited fools. However, it is Kerry’s reaction to the Swifties’ ads –- his whining and not the charges -- that is most hurting him and it is reflected in the polls.

If Kerry keeps carping, Bush will win in November.


Kelly Boggs’ column appears each Friday in Baptist Press. He is pastor of the Portland-area Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore.

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