OVER THE FENCE
April 28, 2004 - If you listen to the Republican attack dogs the most important issue in this campaign is what John Forbes Kerry threw over the fence in 1971. Was it his ribbons? Was it his medals? What did he say that he threw and when did he say it? Somehow this cooked up controversy is supposed to reflect badly on John Kerry’s ability to provide for the security of the nation and to support its troops in the field.
One thing it reflects, as John McCain has said, that his friend earned the right to speak out against the war with his distinguished service in Vietnam. The second thing it reflects is that George W. Bush never had anything to throw over a fence or keep on his office wall – no ribbons and no medals. He did not earn one flying the friendly Texas skies or plying the bars in Birmingham and he did not earn any sitting in the co-pilots seat on a 35 mile hop to the deck of the Abraham Lincoln a year ago.
What difference does it make what John Kerry threw over the fence to demonstrate his conviction that the Vietnam War was a fools errand? What difference does it make that he referred to that symbolic act as returning medals on one occasion and ribbons on another? What matters is that he knows what it is to put ones life on the line in the service of his country. He knows what it is to be called upon to kill in the service of his country. He knows what it is to save lives in the service of his country. He knows what it is to shed his blood. Those are experiences that he shares with the 125,000 men and women of the Armed Services patrolling and getting shot at in Iraq today. Those are experiences that George W. Bush and Richard Cheney chose to avoid.
Whether he kept them or tossed them over the White House fence those medals did not make John Forbes Kerry a war hero. No, his heroism and his shame are no greater than that of those million or more men and women who answered the nations call three decades ago. Talk to the veterans of that conflict in depth and you will find that most are both proud and ashamed of what they did in that war. There are a few blinded to reality by a surfeit of moral certitude that they can justify all that was done in America’s name. For most, doubt came with the territory.
George Bush learned to fly, until he got tired of it and stopped showing up. Dick Cheney stayed in College until he fathered a child and the danger was passed. Those are not the credentials of men well suited by training and experience to lead a nation out of the caldron of war that they blundered the nation into.
Whether he tossed his medals or his ribbons or he threw the medals earned by someone else, there is one more thing that John Kerry can do to serve his nation, one more thing that he can toss over the White House fence – the Bush Administration on November 2, 2004.
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