John Kerry finally stood up to the swift boat boys who are saying nasty things about the senator's Vietnam record, even though some of those same guys supported his past campaigns. What gives?
This is where perceived personal slights turn into million-dollar political-attack ads. A recent biography of Kerry apparently painted some of those swift boy leaders, including retired Rear Adm. Roy Hoffmann, in a negative light. Or at least they see it that way.
Yet just last summer, Hoffmann was singing Kerry's praises in a Boston Globe article. Adrian Lonsdale, another swift boat veteran, according to The New York Times, also praised Kerry's "bravado and courage" when he was helping Kerry's Senate campaign in 1996.
Yet another swift boat leader, George Elliott, was one of his commanders and gave Kerry stellar reviews as an officer, calling Kerry "beyond reproach" in 1969 and campaigning for him in 1996.
With turncoats like that, Kerry's right to be angry.
After weeks of pummeling by the Republican-financed group of veterans who are airing television ads accusing Kerry of making up events to earn medals, Kerry saw his support among the nation's veterans erode. Just after the Democratic Convention, Kerry and Bush tied among veterans with 46 percent backing. Last week a CBS poll showed Kerry plummeting to 37 percent support among vets and 55 percent for Bush.
Kerry accuses Bush of looking the other way, letting the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth do the president's dirty work. By law, the so-called 527 group must operate independently of the candidate it supports. "If he wants to have a debate about our service in Vietnam, here is my answer: Bring it on," Kerry said, referring to the president.
Bush, meanwhile, accuses Kerry of letting other 527 groups, bankrolled by Democratic contributors, attack Bush's record in the Texas Air National Guard and question that mysterious year of his missing service and spotty records.
It's like watching my two teenage boys argue. "It's his fault," one says. "No, he started it," says the other.
All sides would be wise to stop fighting a war that ended 30-plus years ago and start dealing with the mess we face today. Veterans who didn't like Kerry's criticism of U.S. policies in Vietnam upon his return have a right to speak out -- but focusing on the man's bravery or on which medals were won by which way or that, when a few years ago they were praising him, is transparent pettiness.
Now boys, stop it.
Myriam Marquez is an editorial page columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.