Friday, August 06, 2004

Not-So-Swift Boat Vets Attack Kerry!

Uh, yeah, thought so...


What a bunch of complete idiots! I never intended to have to go into shit like this again, where I either find myself defending John Kerry's Service Record or attacking George Bush's.

But a recent post on a Right Wing Blog led me to this:

Human Events Exclusive:Vietnam Vets Organization Blasts Kerry in New TV Ad

I absolutely cannot believe the depths some on the Right will sink to in order to discredit and de-rail the Kerry Campaign. But then, why should I be surprised. The same element involved here also torpoedoed one of their own, Sen. John McCain, in the Republican Presidential Primary of 2000.

I had intended to completely gut this bullshit by end of day today, however, a couple of things may prevent this.

First: I am having some difficulty with Blogger. I'm sure it is a small glitch and will be corrected shortly.

Second: Recent developments have added serious support to my arguments, as one of the Vets involved in the ad has just recanted his statements and has expressed regret over saying them! You know I have to have that statement included, so the search is on!

Please stay tuned. When I am satisfied with my post, and have, to the best of my ability, verified it's accuracy, I will post it here. If you're looking for the truth it will be worth the wait!



Enough has been said on this subject in the preceeding weeks for anyone with half a brain to figure out what's really at work here, but....just in case you've been living in a monastery in Tibet, this sohould clear things up for you!

(Thanks to Puggs at Random Nuclear Strikes for the excellent cartoon!)

From a letter from Mary Beth Cahill, Campaign Manager,Kerry-Edwards For President

Unfortunately, the disgraceful attacks by the Bush front group "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" continue. The Bush campaign denies that the two organizations are connected, but an obvious web of connections exists. I wanted to share with you a letter I sent today to Ken Mehlman, Bush-Cheney campaign manager, detailing the connections between the Bush-Cheney campaign and the Swift Boat Veterans for Bush.

Dear Mr. Mehlman:

For three weeks now, your campaign has been saying there
are no ties between the Bush campaign and "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." But
the web of connections grows wider and wider every day. Yesterday we saw
confirmation of another connection when your general counsel, Benjamin Ginsberg,
was forced to resign for providing legal advice for this group.

Enclosed you
will find a chart
that makes clear the web of connections between President Bush
and the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." Now that you have this chart ( a link to the chart is provided at the end of this post. -d.) and the
accompanying fact sheet to back it up, I wanted to ask you several specific
questions that deserve your prompt response.

Ken Cordier served on the Bush
Veterans Steering Committee and also stars in the latest "Swift Boat Veterans
for Truth" smear ad. As a member of the steering committee presumably he was
involved in policy development. What information about the Bush campaign's
veterans policy did he share with the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth?" Did he
ever discuss his activities with this smear group with anyone in the Bush
campaign? How many times did "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" activities come up
at Bush Veterans Steering Committee meetings?

Yesterday on Fox News, Karl
confirmed that he and Bob Perry are longtime friends. Bob Perry is the
largest contributor to the Texas Republican Party and a longtime supporter of
President Bush. When was the last time Karl Rove and Bob Perry spoke, and did
they discuss the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth?"

Based on newspaper
, we know Merrie Spaeth was involved in the underhanded shadow campaign
against John McCain in 2000. She also helped organize the "Swift Boat Veterans
for Truth" and did the debate prep for President G. W. Bush. She has also
admitted that she advised Bush administration officials in the White House as
recently as last year.
Was Merrie Spaeth ever contacted by anyone from the Bush
campaign, including you, about "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth?"

law firm, Clements, O'Neill, Pierce, Wilson & Fulkerson, has many
connections to President Bush. In fact, Margaret Wilson, Mr. O'Neill's law
partner, served as General Counsel to Governor Bush and followed him to
where she worked as Deputy Counsel for the Department of Commerce.
Did she ever discuss "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" with President Bush,
members of his administration or any Bush-Cheney campaign officials?

If you
say there's no connection
, why did the Bush-Cheney campaign office in Florida
pass out "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" flyers to promote a joint anti-John
Kerry rally in Gainsville, Florida last weekend?

According to news reports,
you have worked with "Progress for America," a newly formed 527 group that has
announced it's going to spend $35 million to attack John Kerry and whose
executive director is a top advisor to the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." Have
you had any additional contact with this group?
Have Karl Rove or other Bush
officials -- either in the White House or on the Bush-Cheney campaign -- had
contacts with this group?

How many times did Karl Rove and Benjamin Ginsberg
Did they ever discuss the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth?"

questions go to the heart
of why so many people now believe that "Swift Boat
Veterans for Truth" is nothing more than a front group for the Bush-Cheney
The longer President Bush waits to specifically condemn this smear,
the more it looks like he's behind it.

It's time for the president to stand
up and specifically condemn "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." Not only is this a
smear on John Kerry's distinguished military service; it's an insult to all
veterans who've served their country.

The American people want to hear an
honest discussion of the issues.
They're concerned about the economy and the
troubling situation in Iraq. Today, as we enter week four of this smear
campaign, I'm asking you to talk to the president and ask him to heed Senator
McCain's call and condemn this smear.
The American people deserve better.

Mary Beth Cahill

These tactics are nothing new for George Bush. It seems that every time he has found himself in trouble, he's smeared the honorable record of a Vietnam Veteran. Sign our petition and make this election about the issues that really matter.

Mary Beth Cahill
Campaign Manager


Here are the facts of the Bush-Cheney campaign's web of connections:

Karl Rove - Bush's White House political director; longtime associate to Bob Perry; consultant to Hutchison; most senior advisor to Bush campaign.

Ken Cordier - Former Bush-Cheney campaign advisor - forced to resign after appearing in Swift Boat Veterans for Bush commercial.

Benjamin Ginsberg - Former general counsel to Bush-Cheney - resigned after it was discovered he was advising both Bush and the Swift Boat Veterans.

Harlan Crow - Bush Foundation trustee; longtime friend of Bush family; longtime fundraiser for Bush family; donated at least $25,000 in seed money to the Swift Boat Vets for Bush.

Bob Perry - Largest Republican donor in Texas; donated hundreds of thousands to Bush family campaigns; donated at least $200,000 in seed money to the Swift Boat Vets for Bush; close colleague of Rove in Texas governor's race; longtime friend of John O'Neill.

Kay Bailey Hutchison - Longtime friend of Spaeth; former client of Rove; current co-chair of Bush campaign

John O'Neill - Longtime friend of Bob Perry; very close law firm connections to Bush as governor; close friend to Spaeth, former colleague to Spaeth's husband/Bush's 1994 running mate; front man for Swift Vets for Bush.

Merrie Spaeth - Provided media consulting to Swift Boat Vets; longtime friend of Hutchison; longtime supporter of/donor to Bush campaign; provide debate prep for GHW Bush; met with and gave media training to current, top White House officials; close associate to John O'Neill; advised smear campaign on McCain in 2000.

Tex Lezar - Late husband to Spaeth; former running mate with Bush in 1994; law partner to John O'Neill.

Harriet O'Neill - Close associate to John O'Neill, Lezar & Wilson; Bush judicial nominee.

Margaret Wilson - Law partner with John O'Neill, Lezar; Bush administration official; former counsel to Governor Bush.

Bush-Cheney Campaign HQ Florida - Regional Bush HQ in battleground state; coordinated activities with Swift Boat Vets for Bush rally; rally forced to be cancelled.

Minnesota RNC - Official Republican website in battleground state; coordinated linkage with Swift Boat website, providing direct link to Swift Boat commercial.

DCI Group - Political strategy firm with close connections to Bush campaign & Swift vets.

Charles Francis - Longtime friend/supporter of Bush; works for political firm with close ties to both Bush campaign and Swift Vets for Bush; colleague of Lacivita.

Tom Synhorst - Advisor to Bush campaign 2000; "major contracts" with Bush campaign 2004; works for firm with close ties to Swift Vets for Bush; colleague of Lacivita; worked on anti-McCain phone banking in South Carolina in 2000.

Chris Lacivita - Senior advisor to Swift Boat Vets for Bush; close ties to Bush campaign; associates with Synhorst & Friancis.

For a complete look at this insidious "Web Of Connections" in PDF Format, click this link:

Web Of Connections

'Nuff said.


Insert Hoof, uh, FOOT In Mouth

Or, Do Ya Think They Finally Got ONE Right?

Whut did Ah jest say...? Posted by Hello

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we," Bush said.
"They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

As Bugs Bunny would say..."What a maroon!"


Bush misspeaks during signing ceremony


(Thanks to AnyWhichWay for the photo!)

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Born In The USA!

Gotta love this! The Boss with the Hot Sauce!

Springsteen Gets Political with Attack on Bush

1 hour, 25 minutes ago

By Mark Egan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rocker Bruce Springsteen has stayed out of party politics for 25 years, but now he says the stakes are too high and he's urging fellow Americans to vote President Bush out of office in November.

A day after he announced he would join two dozen other stars in nine "battleground" states for a rock 'n' roll tour aimed at ousting Bush, the man known as "The Boss" explained his decision in a sharply worded editorial.

"Personally, for the last 25 years I have always stayed one step away from partisan politics," Springsteen wrote in The New York Times, noting he built a career singing about universal issues like human rights, dignity and freedom instead.

"This year, however, for many of us the stakes have risen too high to sit this election out."

Republicans and Democrats both asked to use Springsteen's 1984 hit "Born in the U.S.A." -- a song about how unwelcoming America was to returning Vietnam veterans but often mistaken for a patriotic anthem -- for use in political campaigns. Springsteen declined the requests.
And in June, when a concert promoter urged Springsteen to headline a large concert to upstage Bush's nominating convention in New York, he insisted he would not play any events tied to the Democratic or Republican conventions.


But now Springsteen, whose blue-collar roots have resonated through his music for 30 years, making him the quintessential American rock hero to the working class, is taking sides.
He says Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards, "are sincerely interested in asking the right questions and working their way toward honest solutions."

Of the "Vote for Change" tour -- 34 shows in 28 cities -- in the first week of October, one month before the U.S. presidential election, Springsteen said, "Our goal is to change the direction of the government and change the current administration come November."

He then launched a blistering attack on Bush for undertaking an "unnecessary war in Iraq," running record budget deficits, cutting spending on social programs and giving a massive tax cut for the richest Americans -- a group that includes Springsteen himself.

"Our American government has strayed too far from American values," Springsteen wrote. "It is time to move forward. The country we carry in our hearts is waiting."

Six concert lineups will play simultaneous shows in a blitz of swing states which could go either Democrat or Republican in November: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin.

Dave Matthews, James Taylor, the Dixie Chicks, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., John Mellencamp, Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt are among the other performers.

While Springsteen has stayed out of politics, in May he posted the text of an anti-war speech by former Vice President Al Gore on his official Web site, calling it "one of the most important speeches I've heard in a long time."


This is a piss!!! Literally! Go. Read it now! I guarentee you won't be sorry! Scroll down 'till you see the above title!



No Wonder There's No Work!

Instead of cranking out screenplays for movies and TV shows, Hollywood Screenwriters have been busy working for the CIA! Hmmm, wonder if they need any Sets built?

CIA Checking if Life Imitates Art

(1 hour, 34 minutes ago)

By Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When the plot thickens, the CIA calls in the professionals -- Hollywood screenwriters.

Addressing what the Sept. 11 commission said was one of the main failures of government -- imagination -- a senior CIA official said Wednesday the spy agency was willing to "push beyond the traditional boundaries of intelligence."

"We had our terrorism and counternarcotics analysts meet with Hollywood directors, screenwriters and producers. People who are known for developing the summer blockbusters or the hit TV show that often have a terrorism theme," said Jami Miscik, CIA's deputy director for intelligence.

"It was an attempt to see beyond the intelligence report, and into a world of plot development," she told a House Intelligence Committee hearing on the Sept. 11 commission's recommendations about analysis and the need for imagination and creativity.

The CIA also ran a round-table discussion with 10 science-fiction authors so intelligence analysts could see how the writers spun possible scenarios.

"An invaluable opportunity for analysts to push the envelope on where a nascent development might lead," Miscik called it.

"To truly nurture creativity, you have to cherish your contrarians and give them opportunities to run free," she said.

"Leaders in the analytic community must avoid trying to make everyone meet a preconceived notion of the intelligence community's equivalent of the 'man in the gray flannel suit'," Miscik said.

To address a key election-year issue, House and Senate committees are holding hearings during their summer recess on the recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission for an overhaul of the intelligence bureaucracy.

The hearings come amid heightened alert in the United States for a possible al Qaeda attack in the run-up to the November presidential election.

For Cait & Yoshi!

daBoo! Posted by Hello

Meet Kitten daBoo! daBoo is the newest staff member of Any Which Way and a recent addition to scroff & Ruthalla's family! I thought it was time to lighten things up a bit around here and what's more enjoyable than kitten antics! You can visit daBoo at his new home, the AWW Gallery! Stop by and say "hello"!


deuddersun "scooped by Cait! Yup. Cait had it first. Sigh...that's what I get for being lazy! Well, if you love Cats and Kittens there's plenty of both at Caiterwauling! Stop by and check it out! There's always something there to make you smile!


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.