Sunday, August 01, 2004

Mountains Out of Molehills

or More Attempts By The Republican Spin Machine To Tarnish John Kerry's War Record Since Bush Can't Stand On His Own...

This is going to be a long read, but if you want to know the truth, pop a brew, light a smoke and settle in.

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of my internet friends hail from Right of Center. Since I am decidedly Left of Center this provides for much spirited debate, here and elsewhere. Recently I re-posted a piece answering allegations from the Right concerning John Kerry's Military Service Record. (It seems certain Right leaning elements had questioned the legitimacy of Sen. Kerry's Citations.) A good internet friend, Cait, from Caiterwauling posted a response in which it was claimed that John Kerry made 8 mm movies of his Viet Nam exploits and even went so far as to re-enact various missions where-in he portrayed himself as a Rambo-like Conquering Hero.

The first post Cait references comes from the Druge Report via Random Nuclear Strikes. The opening paragraph is as follows:

“Kerry would revisit ambush locations for reenacting combat scenes where he
would portray the hero, catching it all on film. Kerry would take movies of
himself walking around in combat gear, sometimes dressed as an infantryman
walking resolutely through the terrain. He even filmed mock interviews of
himself narrating his exploits. A joke circulated among Swiftees was that
Kerry left Vietnam early not because he received three Purple Hearts, but because he had recorded enough film of himself to take home for his planned political

Now let me say that the fellows at Random Nuclear Strikes are reasonable and welcome debate, so if you are Left leaning and visit them, please stick to the issues and refrain from childish name calling. (They respected me and my opinion and I ask the same of you. Do they bash the Left? Sure. Do I bash the Right? Absolutely. It's the nature of the beast. If you disagree and leave a civil post, you will get a civil answer. If you bait them, they will bite. But then, so will I. I don't promote myself as an Armed and Dangerous Liberal for nothing!) My problem with their post is their source - Drudge!

The second post Cait referred me to actually led to the final post on this subject. This post at also bashes John Kerry, but since it is long I must ask my readers to follow the link and read it there. It only supports my position that since George Bush can't stand on his own dismal military record, he and his supporters are reduced to finding fault, any fault, with John Kerry's record. The only thing I can glean from this is that if you are a combat veteran and you take pictures during your Tour of Duty then you are a loathsome, sickening human being! Well, a lot of us fall into that category, don't we?

I know that there are Veterans who are angry at Kerry for his activities after he returned home from Viet Nam. I am not one of them. I supported him then and I support him now, but I don't blame those Veterans who don't. Like John Kerry, they earned the right to their opinions and for that I respect them, even if I disagree with them.

So, finally, here it is. The article published in the Boston Globe on October 16, 1996, from which these rumors originate. I know it is long, but since it is archived and I cannot link to it without causing those of you who wish to read it the minor expense of purchasing it, I have posted it here in it's entirety. Read it and decide for yourselves. You already know where I stand.

For my next post I think I will research exactly what George Bush and Dick Cheney were doing during this same time period. Should be an interesting comparison, snort!




Author(s): Charles Sennott, Globe Staff Date: October 6, 1996 Page: A31 Section: National/Foreign Vietnam.

The Mekong Delta. February 1969.

US Navy boats glide through rays of sunlight glinting off cobalt waters. Lush green palms and mangroves sway on river banks, and just under them dozens of Viet Cong snipers are dug in deep. John Forbes Kerry, then a 25-year-old skipper of the six-man crew on Patrol Craft Fast 93, is about to be ambushed. The rattling of machine-gun fire jumps in loud bursts. Volleys of B-40 rockets splash just a few yards away. Then Kerry orders the boat turned directly toward shore, and the front gunner opens fire. The .50-caliber pounding forces an enemy retreat. Reaching land, Kerry jumps from the boat, charges into the jungle, pursues a Viet Cong soldier behind a hootch and shoots him. The enemy dies clutching a B-40 rocket launcher with a round in the chamber.

This action -- cited as heroic achievement by his commanders and considered reckless by some of his crew -- earned Kerry the Silver Star. In many ways, it was Kerry's defining moment, a gutsy impulse that turned a junior officer into a hero, launching him on a trajectory of fame. An experience of war reduced to its essence -- kill or be killed -- that would transform an aggressive soldier into a more reflective veteran against the war and, finally, into a young candidate who wanted to bring that experience to Washington.

And Kerry just happens to have captured it all on film.

"I'll show you where they shot from. See? That's the hole covered up with reeds," says Kerry, showing the films on a recent evening, his hand tightening on the remote control as he clicks the images down to slow motion.

"This is just something that I improvised. . . . The point was not to just take an ambush, but to go directly at them," adds Kerry, pointing to where he brought the boat ashore, and explaining how he returned later with a Super 8 millimeter hand-held movie camera to record highlights of the mission. "That's me right there. One of my crew was filming all this."
The films have the grainy quality of home movies. In their blend of the posed and the unexpected, they reveal something indelible about the man who shot them -- the tall, thin, handsome Naval officer seen striding through the reeds in flak jacket and helmet, holding aloft the captured B-40 rocket. The young man so unconscious of risk in the heat of battle, yet so focused on his future ambitions that he would reenact the moment for film. It is as if he had cast himself in the sequel to the experience of his hero, John F. Kennedy, on the PT-109.
"John was thinking Camelot when he shot that film, absolutely," says Thomas Vallely, a fellow veteran and one of Kerry's closest political advisers and friends.
"He was thinking, `These are my moments fighting for a good cause,' " adds Vallely, now director of Harvard's Indochina-Burma Program. "But then he had to throw that away, Camelot and the whole thing, when he came out against the war. That is what makes John an interesting guy; it's what makes him real."

Kerry dismisses the film record of his war as "just something I did, no great meaning to it." But through hours of watching the films in the den of his newly renovated Beacon Hill mansion, it becomes apparent that these are memories and footage he returns to often. Kerry jumps repeatedly from the couch to adjust the Sony large screen TV in his home entertainment center, making sure the picture is clear, the color correct. He fast forwards, rewinds and freeze frames the footage. His running commentary -- vivid, sometimes touching, sometimes self-serving -- never misses a beat. At one point, his eyes well with tears when he talks about a close friend killed by a Viet Cong rocket in the spring of 1969 on the same rivers he had left only two weeks before.

The evening captures the Kerry conundrum: a man often tagged as a political opportunist -- aloof, insincere -- was also a young man of courage and high ambition, his inner life intense, emotional and filled with the raw experience that still shows in the severe lines of his face, the often-haunted look in his eyes.

In a five-hour interview, Kerry unloaded the intimacy of his war experience. He recounted the week in Washington in the spring of 1971, when he delivered perhaps the most memorable testimony against the war before Congress and became the hottest political prospect Washington had seen in a long time. Such precocious fame fueled a brazen, early ambition that to this day, Kerry admits, somewhat mars his image.

"There were a lot of early assumptions," he says, "and I compounded it with some stupid sort of brash, youthful, exuberant, un-thought-out things. . . . So I got some baggage. I spent a lot of time trying to put the baggage away."

Kerry, 52, also addressed questions that linger about his war years: Did he throw his own medals -- or someone else's -- over the fence at the Capitol during a famous anti-war demonstration? And was he, as some in his crew feared, an officer in search of glory who put his men in needless peril?

For at bottom, to understand who Kerry is is to return to the war and the fight against it, and to ask where all that passion is now. "I think it is still there," the senator says, citing "children and economic fairness" as his chief concerns today. "But you know, it is a different time. People don't allow for that sort of thing. That sort of thing -- I mean passion -- is somehow more suspicious today."

Childhood on the move

Growing up in the 1950s, America was all about neighborhoods, small farm towns, safe suburban tracts and ethnic pockets of cities. They defined you.
"I never had that experience of being from somewhere, you know, a neighborhood. When I was a kid, one of the big things I wanted was a Washington Star wagon for a newspaper route. I wasn't there long enough to have one," remembers Kerry.
He was a war baby born Dec. 11, 1943, in Colorado, where his father, an Army pilot, overcame a bout with tuberculosis. He was the first son to a father, Richard Kerry, who hailed from an upper-class Boston family of Irish and Scottish ancestry. His mother was a Forbes, a family which made its name and wealth developing trade routes to bring tea from China. Today, the Forbeses own most of the Elizabeth Islands off Cape Cod, where Kerry still goes to sail and ride horses. His mother, Rosemary Forbes Kerry, also is a Winthrop, descended from the Massachusetts Bay Colony's first governor, John Winthrop.
After the war, Richard Kerry became a diplomat, first in Washington, then Oslo, Paris and Berlin. John attended a string of Swiss boarding schools. The second of four children, he grew up largely away from his parents, creating "a sense of dislocation," as he puts it. He skied the Alps and vacationed at a family estate in Brittany.
Says Peggy Kerry, John's older sister: "There is a European kind of formality to us and to John that I would say has carried over. Like the French difference between `tu' and `vous,' John still sees the world that way, and sees the difference between his public life and his personal life that way."

At 13, Kerry was sent to St. Paul's, the prestigious Episcopalian preparatory school near Concord, N.H. Though his mother is Episcopalian and his father Catholic, the children were raised in the Catholic church and Kerry says he often felt like an outsider at the school.
He was an avid hockey and soccer player. He also founded a political society, and it was obvious he was smitten by the Kennedy mystique. After a visit to Boston in the spring of 1960, Kerry was heading for North Station to return to St. Paul's when he saw a crowd gathering. It was a Kennedy rally.

"I was very taken. It just captured you, the whole excitement, and the possibility of change. The next day I gave a speech about why he should be president."

Kerry was mocked by some at St. Paul's as a Kennedy wannabe. He'd sign his papers and wear his Oxford cotton shirts embossed with his initials, "JFK," as if the political affinity were preordained. Behind his back, classmates rolled their eyes and, as one said, joked that the initials stood for "Just For Kerry."
He even briefly dated Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy's half-sister, and was at the Bouvier mansion in Newport, R.I., one summer day when his idol, Jack Kennedy, happened by and invited him out for a sail.

Kerry began his freshman year at Yale in 1962. He was playing in the final moments of a Harvard-Yale soccer game on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, when the news broke that the president had been shot. "I went into meltdown," Kerry recalls. "There was this feeling of numbness. I couldn't move."

Friends say he was more profoundly affected than most other students. He spent Saturday praying at a chapel on campus.

Kerry's busy Yale years reflect the social class to which he was born and the talents he brought with him. A serious but not outstanding student, he was a member of the secret society Skull and Bones, a star athlete on the soccer, hockey and lacrosse teams, and president of the Yale Political Union. But despite his achievements, Kerry generally was not well-liked.
"He was not easy to get to know, and some of that is still there," says Yale roommate David Thorne, twin brother to Kerry's first wife, Julia, and still one of the senator's closest friends. "Some of it was that he was shy, and some of it was that achievement became more important than personal relationships. . . . Since the day I met him, he's had his eye on politics. . . . He was consumed by a desire to achieve, and that would put people off. But I think he matured out of that."

In Kerry's senior year, US involvement in Vietnam was escalating. Kerry's father was skeptical of the war.

"I thought it a serious policy mistake," says Richard Kerry, now living in Groton, Mass. "His (John's) attitude was gung ho: had to show the flag. He was quite immature in that direction. As a senior, he matured considerably."

Vietnam loomed over the Class of '66. At his graduation, Kerry delivered a Class Day speech about Vietnam, a policy critique urging the US to restrain its involvement. Still, he enlisted in the Navy and in the summer of 1966 headed off to Officer Candidates School in Newport, R.I.
"I had a sense of duty and obligation. I could have gone to law school, like he (Gov. William Weld) did and many of my friends did. I chose not to," Kerry says. "I think those of us who were lucky enough to go to a place like Harvard or Yale owed something to our country. A sharing of the risks, if you will."

Aggressive style

Kerry began his tour of duty in a safe haven, aboard a frigate stationed in California, and then the Gulf of Tonkin. But he wanted action, and he got it.

He volunteered for service in Operation Sea Lords, skippering one of the so-called "swift boats," charged with navigating the Mekong Delta in search of the small craft that supplied the Viet Cong with weapons. Kerry's time "in country" with Sea Lords was less than four months.
Veterans who served with him portray Kerry as one of the more unorthodox and assertive young commanders in the operation -- both gallant and reckless. As he screened films of his Sea Lords experience, Kerry was asked if he ever felt he had put his own men in needless danger.

"I thought I was fighting the war and doing the best thing I could to win."
Did his crew ever complain?
"No. They liked winning. And they didn't want to . . . just sit there. At least they never complained to me."

Thomas Bellodeau, from a working class family in North Chelmsford, Mass., was a front gunner and radar man on Kerry's boat. He remembers the senator, whose radio name was "Rock Jaw," and the furious action that earned him Silver and Bronze stars and one of three Purple Hearts. The Bronze Star was awarded for the events of March 13, 1969, according to the Navy citation. With a graze wound in his right arm, Kerry turned back into enemy fire to rescue a soldier fallen overboard.

But the battle Bellodeau remembers best was the one on Feb. 28 that earned Kerry the Silver Star. Especially vivid is his memory of the alarm he felt when Kerry turned their boat directly into enemy fire. It was an unusal strategy in a war in which cautious commanders tended to avoid direct assaults if air power or artillery could do the job. But it worked. The Viet Cong retreated, leaving behind a cache of weapons.

Bellodeau remembers thinking to himself: " `I'm never doing that again. We're going to have to talk to this guy (Kerry).' A lot of the new guys came in gung ho, and we had already seen one skipper shot. But just when I was thinking about all that, there was more fire from the banks and he ordered the boat turned back into shore once again."

Though some questioned his tactics, Kerry had the respect of the boat, says Bellodeau, now a union electrician. "It always seemed to be the right decision. We're all alive, put it that way."
Drew Whitlow, from a poor family in Oklahoma, was the back gunner on Kerry's swift boat. "He volunteered us for everything. He'd always step forward and say, `We'll do it. Load up men.' And we'd say, `Oh my God, here we go again,' " he remembers. "We called him the John Wayne of Vietnam."

Whitlow went on to a naval career, retiring after 26 years in 1991. He was surprised when he saw Kerry in the news in 1971, speaking out against a war he had so eagerly fought. "I thought it was kind of a betrayal. He did a 180 on me. But then he went into politics, and it all kind of made sense. . . . He was a guy with a plan, you know, and that's okay. I guess."

Painful memories

That Kerry took the trouble to film his war experience strikes many veterans, including some of his closest friends, as extraordinary -- even strange.

Kerry says he shot his war footage on a Super 8 camera he bought at the PX in Cam Ranh Bay. Asked how he filmed in the heat of battle, he demonstrated, gripping an imaginary ship's helm and thrusting his camera hand out to the side. "I'd steer, or direct, or fire my gun, and hold onto it when I could," Kerry says. "Sometimes the other guys would pick it up."

Watching the film and listening to Kerry's narration is to take a strange journey inside the war. There is Kerry in cutoff shorts, working on his suntan next to a Viet Cong prisoner bound and blindfolded. There are the splashes of incoming rocket fire. There is a mortar blowing a thatch hut into oblivion. Through the silent footage, there is a sense of a young man turning against the war as he filmed it.

"This was America's effort to win the war right here," he says as the film showed soldiers dousing gasoline on huts in a small village before setting them on fire. "There was always a kind of sick, sweet smell of burning wood."

Giving the films an air of the absurd was a color graphic that jumped out at the start of each VHS tape, flashing the slogan of the company that copied them from the original 8 millimeter films: "Memories Made Easy."

Speaking of friends he lost in the war, Kerry remembered the day he found out Richard Pershing, a Yale classmate, was killed. "I was on the deck of a ship on watch. An officer called me aside and said, `Do you know Dick Pershing?' And I knew," he says, words trailing off. He left and began doing dishes in the kitchen, brushing tears from his eyes. "My sacrifice was losing so many friends," he says. "That and the softness and the sense of innocence of life. The war took that away from all of us."

Turbulent times

When Kerry came home in April 1969, everything had changed. Anti-war demonstrations raged across the country -- even at Harvard and Yale. Veterans were coming out against it. When his family got together, there were long discussions about what John had seen and survived; the Kerrys were unanimous on the need to end the war. So was Julia Thorne, who that same year would become his wife.

After a brief stint working for an admiral in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Kerry decided to leave the service. On Jan. 1, 1970, he was given an early release and honorable discharge, leaving as a full lieutenant. He had already begun laying groundwork to run for Congress from what was then Massachusetts' 3d District, from Fitchburg to Newton.

But it proved a political misadventure. A "Citizens Caucus," a district vote of party activists, was held to see if there was a Democrat strong enough to oust Rep. Philip J. Philbin, a conservative Democrat and hawk on Vietnam who had held the seat since Kerry was born. Kerry, the first Vietnam veteran to run for Congress with a dovish platform on the war, was convinced he could pull it off. However, when Rev. Robert F. Drinan won the caucus, Kerry worked hard for Drinan's victory.

His emergence as a public figure continued. In February 1971, a historic gathering of a group of Vietnam veterans was held in a Detroit motel. They recounted "war crimes" -- from the killing of civilians to illegal incursions into Laos. They called for congressional hearings, and Vietnam Veterans Against the War was formed. More articulate and polished than most other members, Kerry was generally respected, but his obvious political ambitions also left some skeptical of his motives. He spearheaded the call for a demonstration at the Capitol and began raising money.

On April 19, veterans assembled in Washington. For days, the Nixon White House attempted to block them from using the Capitol grounds, and 100 were arrested.
Kerry was a leader among this angry band, but also not quite part of the group. Most were more outwardly rebellious, with longer hair and much more willingness to confront the powers that be. While they stayed in tents, Kerry spent most nights at a Georgetown townhouse owned by the family of George Butler, an old college friend and fellow veteran. There, Kerry was able to work the phones and lay his plan.

The scene back at the encampment was a confusing mix of angry veterans and angry young people pretending to be veterans. There were also, as Kerry would later learn, spies working for the White House under the direction of presidential adviser Charles Colson, who two years later would be implicated in the Watergate affair. (Some 25 years later, as a born-again Christian, Colson would write a letter to Kerry asking "forgiveness over any ways in which I hurt you in the past.")

On April 21, with pressure mounting for Congress to take notice of the protesters, Kerry was invited to speak the following morning before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
He entered the packed hearing room to sustained applause, wearing his green fatigues, his hair just long enough to make a statement, but clean and neatly groomed.
The speech, based on writings that Kerry had crafted for months, was filled with rhetorical jewels, delivered flawlessly. The most memorable line: "How do you ask a man to be the last soldier to die for a mistake?" His eloquence and evident sincerity would stun the committee -- and the national press. He was anointed a political comer, with Sen. Claiborne Pell, the Rhode Island Democrat, expressing his hope that Kerry would "someday be a colleague of ours in this body."

Critics have always claimed that Adam Walinsky, a speechwriter for the late Robert F. Kennedy and political mentor to Kerry, wrote the speech, that its polish and pacing had the mark of a pro. Kerry now concedes that Walinsky helped, but insists that the most memorable lines and the bulk of the text were his own.

The following day, the veterans gathered in front of a makeshift fence blocking them from the front of the Capitol. As a dramatic conclusion to the five-day protest, they were going to "return" their medals, tossing them over the fence. Kerry was tortured by this decision, both because he was proud of his medals and because he knew that discarding them was the kind of act that could damage a political career.

"He was ambivalent about it. It was very hard for him," said David Thorne, who stood by his side through the protest. "John never took his eye off the ball, and that was the political career. He worried about how it would look."

The protest quickly erupted in passion. Veterans hurled their medals high on the steps of the Capitol. Many cried. Someone put up a sign on the fence that read, "Trash." Soon, they began throwing not just Bronze and Silver stars and Purple Hearts, but citations, discharge papers, caps, jackets and canteens.

Kerry remembers: "I wasn't comfortable just hurling these things because they were all that was left of some people. It was a hugely emotional event. When it was over, I went and sat down and cried for over a half-hour."

Newspaper accounts described Kerry throwing his own medals, and in a speech immediately afterward to the veterans, Kerry said: "This administration forced us to return our medals. . . . These leaders denied us the integrity those symbols supposedly gave our lives."
But as it later turned out, the medals Kerry threw were not his own. Since that fact was revealed by the Wall Street Journal in 1984, it has dogged Kerry. It appears as a throwaway line in nearly every profile of the senator, usually used to paint him as a phony. In his recent interview with the Globe, Kerry added a new twist.

He says that the two sets of medals he threw had been handed to him by a wounded veteran in a New York VA hospital and by a World War II veteran from Lincoln, Mass., whom he'd met at a fund-raiser. Kerry says he can't remember their names. While he did not throw his own medals (they remain tucked away in a desk at his home in Boston), Kerry says he did throw the ribbons on his uniform that symbolized the medals he had earned. Asked why he didn't bring his own medals to throw since it was planned weeks in advance, Kerry said it was because he "didn't have time to go home (to New York) and get them."

"It is frustrating.," Kerry says of the criticism he's received. " People said things, you know, about the medals. And I mean, I led that march, I stood up at the goddamn thing, and I took my ribbons off my chest and I threw them over the fence. I was the last person there, the leader of the event. I waited till everyone had done their duty, then fulfilled mine."

Duty done, but doubts persist. Perhaps the larger question, politically, is why, even as Kerry has assembled an imposing resume of achievements from war hero to 14 years in public office with strong stands on matters ranging from foreign policy to the local economy, do these nagging perceptions of him as insincere persist?

It's not just the medals. For years, Washington gossip columnists have whispered about Kerry's once-bulging jaw -- that he had plastic surgery to make it look more telegenic. Kerry insists it was a necessary operation to correct a "malocclusion," or bad bite, that he'd had since childhood. He offers a letter from the doctor who did the procedure to prove it. And he grows visibly angry about lingering whispers that Walinsky ghost wrote the 1971 speech he gave to Congress. After 25 years in the public eye, he is tired of the skeptical gaze.
So why does it follow him?

"Because people have to have a way to tear down, or to find flaws, or to find a negative, or to eat you up," Kerry says.

His friend George Butler had another explanation: "Jealousy. A lot of people just hate John because he has had a charmed life. They figure there's just no way he is that good."

Utilizing notoriety

Kerry was in the middle of much that was going on at the turn of the decade, leading peace rallies with the likes of John Lennon and Peter, Paul and Mary. He was of the time and, like most of his generation, partook in all that it was about, including smoking marijuana. He says he tried it several times between 1970 and 1971, but, "essentially, the smoke bothered me. I didn't cotton to it."

The overnight fame that came to Kerry in 1971 after his speech was extraordinary. "60 Minutes" did a profile. He went on the Dick Cavett show. Newspaper columnists were hinting he was the next Kennedy. A bill to lower the age for senator to 27 was dubbed the "Kerry amendment."
In 1972, Kerry took the national momentum to the local stage. After some embarrassing "district shopping," he decided to run for a congressional seat in Lowell, claiming his parents' Groton home as his residence. The conservative Lowell Sun was merciless, challenging Kerry's patriotism. The Kennedy guns came out on his behalf. Even George McGovern. But Kerry still lost.

"I admired him before, but the first time I felt I really got to like John was the night he lost," says Vallely, who was his campaign coordinator that year. "He stood up and said, `If I had to do it over again, I'd still be standing there with the veterans.' When I heard that, I said, `This is a real guy.' "

From 1973 to 1976, Kerry attended Boston College Law School and began working in the Middlesex District Attorney's office, the first step in his political maturation. By then, he and his wife had two daughters. He worked hard at the DA's office, building a more traditional political resume that would ultimately lead to a successful run for lieutenant governor in 1982. He was divorced from Julia that same year, and says he has remained close to his daughters, now in college at Yale and Brown.

Two years later, he left the State House and prevailed in the brutal contest to succeed Paul Tsongas in the Senate, after Tsongas resigned due to illness. He was one of few freshmen ever to win a spot on the Foreign Relations Committee, and a prophetic Sen. Pell was there to greet him.

He has remarried to Teresa Heinz, the very rich, philanthropic widow of Sen. John Heinz III, the Pennsylvania Republican. To this day, friends and family say, Vietnam haunts Kerry with nightmares that regularly stir him from his sleep, screaming.

In one recurring dream he is consumed by snakes in the Mekong Delta. In another, according to Heinz, he shouts: "Get down! I got the women and the children! Get down, get down!" In the throes of such a dream, Kerry often leaps out of bed and crashes into bedroom furniture, Heinz told a gathering of the senator's supporters in New York recently.

But in his waking hours, Kerry today seems comfortable -- living both in Heinz's grand Georgetown townhouse in Washington and in the $3 million Louisburg Square mansion in Boston which the couple had converted from an old convent. He also seems comfortable in the role of senator, and with the power and trappings that come with it. Some friends wonder if somewhere along the line he became too comfortable.

"Some of the passion may have faded, but the fighter in him hasn't," Vallely says. "John is real good when it comes time to lock and load. When this election gets to that point, look out. All the intensity of the war comes back, and that is the place that he needs to find within himself right now. John is best when he is danger.

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