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Cracker Squire

THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

I love it when someone agrees with me; is it great minds thinking alike or the answer being so obvious? -- Time for Kerry to say I'm sorry.

On Sunday, August 29, I entitled a post "Sen. Kerry, the Olympics bring to mind the Greek Tragedies and the word catharsis -- And we Americans are a forgiving people."

I know what Kerry needs to do, and when I post it I hope someone can get it to Kerry. I am going to send it to the group Veterans for Kerry of which I am a member, but all are afraid to tell the Emperor he is naked. He needs to get his mess straight. Time is our enemy. Bush should not be a factor now, and he is more than ever. Kerry must do something and do it now.

What must Kerry do?

My Sunday post continues:

Because of something Kerry said over 30 years ago, he has picked a fight he cannot completely win, in my opinion, because of something he said during his Congressional testimony in 1972.

Any thoughts over the next day or so before writing my own will be duly noted, but the title of this post is a hint to my suggestion of the only thing Kerry can do at this point to put Vietnam behind him and move on.

Kerry needs to eat some crow and apologize about saying, years ago (1972) as a youth, something he didn't really mean and he knows now and knew then was and is not true.

Saying it was a disservice to all who have served this great country, and with this said, Kerry stands behind his record, and is moving on. With this behind him, Bush will attack Kerry's volunteering for duty and his service in Vietnam at his peril.
_______________

Well, for starters I threw you off. I said 1972. The year Kerry -- as a youth said things I do not believe he meant then or now -- was 1971. The setting was the photo you see of the Senator in his fatigues with his long hair, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

At that hearing he said that all American soldiers had committed war crimes as a matter of official policy. "Crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command" were his words.

The words were incendiary. They were viewed as the words of an anti-war activist accusing his fellow veterans of committing atrocities on a daily basis with the full knowledge of their officers. That is, atrocities of the type represented by what was known as the My Lai Massacre were commonplace and condoned.

The My Lai Massacre occurred in 1986 in Viet Nam. It involved the massacre by United States soldiers of as many as 500 unarmed civilians -- old men, women, children.

For those of you who have not heard of it, ask someone older who was Lt. William Calley. He or she will remember this is the officer who was court-martialed for the incident.

I was an Army officer at the time Kerry made this remark. All of my training was for going to Vietnam as a 1st Lieutenant and a platoon leader. Such training was under the tutelage of officers and soldiers who had served in Vietnam, and the war, Charlie (the Viet Cong soldiers), and war stories were very much an important part of our unofficial training.

When I heard his words, I was incensed. If this were my reaction sitting in front of a TV in America, imagine the reaction of those that were and had been there and knew knew he was lying, and in the process helping to turn the country against them. "Baby-killers" guilty of committing war crime were what some called our soldiers.

There were other post-war activities by Kerry, but none of this magnitude.

Does Sen. Kerry still holds this view today? He has not told us otherwise.

A wsj editorial I read said: "Mr. Kerry has never offered proof of those charges, yet he has never retracted them either. At his recent coronation in Boston he managed the oxymoronic feat of celebrating both his own war-fighting valor and his antiwar activities when he returned home. This is why the Swifties are so incensed, and this is why no less than World War II veteran Bob Dole joined the fray on the weekend to ask that Mr. Kerry apologize for his unproven accusations."

Since the Abu Ghraib prison incident, much of the public has perceived the Bush administration of arrogance. Is Kerry guilty of the same by not sucking it up and saying hey, I'm made a mistake. Catharsis is good for the soul, and Americans are a forgiving people.

Why did I decide to do this post today? Because today there is a column in the Washington Post by Richard Cohen that has the same advice for Kerry and says it a hell of a lot better than I can.

It is a must read, and excerpts will leave something important out. Thus the whole column follows below.
_______________

Today in the Washington Post is the following column entitled:

Needed: Straight Talk From Kerry, by
By Richard CohenTuesday, August 31, 2004

John Kerry, the Democratic Party's not-so-happy warrior, is breaking with tradition this week and making at least one campaign appearance while the Republicans dominate the news and hold their nominating convention (a real cliffhanger). In a sense, I applaud this aggressiveness, because Kerry could use every day he's got left until the election. On the other hand, now would be the time to pause and wonder what has gone wrong and what can be done about it. Kerry could start by clearing his throat.

At the moment, the Democratic nominee seems to be speaking from under water, making glub, glub sounds as he tries to explain his original vote in support of the Iraq war resolution, his subsequent vote against funding the war and now his conduct in Vietnam lo these many years ago and what he said afterward. The man carries a heavy burden -- a long and complicated public record that can be mined for the occasional negative nugget. It does not help any that as a public speaker he is no public speaker.

It just so happens that a man has appeared among us here who can show Kerry what to do. Sen. John McCain has been the toast of the town in New York this week, his birthday (68) being celebrated like the 12 nights of Christmas, only maybe a bit longer. On Sunday, though, McCain was all business when he appeared on "Face the Nation" and was asked right off the bat whether Kerry's recent dip in the polls was attributable to those wretched TV ads attacking his war record. McCain did not launch into praise of George Bush as almost any other politician would have done, but instead ripped the muggy air with candor. "I can think of no other reason," he said. Maybe you heard the thunder.

The irrepressible blurting out of the obvious, a McCain trait for many years, not only stood in marked contrast to what I had been watching before he came on -- George Pataki and Rudy Giuliani in full insincerity about the marvels of the Bush presidency -- but to politicians in general. It is a magical thing McCain does: Tell the truth, tell it simply and get on with life. The formula is so obvious, you'd think more politicians would adopt it, if only because it works -- never mind any silliness about truth being its own reward. Bluntness is, bluntly speaking, what Kerry could use in abundance.

At the moment the issue is Kerry's Vietnam service. He was first attacked for being a hot dog and a phony who did not really earn his medals. George Bush himself has now sort of put that matter to rest by conceding that Kerry is a hero -- although apparently not enough of one for Bush to denounce the ads. Now a second front has been opened. New ads attack Kerry for what he said after returning from Vietnam and becoming a leader of the antiwar movement.

This is a moment for Kerry to speak plainly, to embrace all Vietnam veterans and say that any suggestion that they were war criminals does not represent how he feels now and how he felt then -- and if he gave the opposite impression, he's sorry. If it takes an apology -- if it takes saying he was once an angry young man who saw blood spilled in a dubious cause -- then that's what he should say. Otherwise Vietnam and its immediate aftermath will stick to him as has his complicated and too-nuanced position on the Iraq war.

Kerry's inability or refusal to walk his cats back to the origin of his problems -- a wrong vote on Iraq and some incautious words on Vietnam -- has trapped him in a kind of rhetorical molasses. He's always trimming weeds that need to be yanked out by the roots.

Either by happenstance or design, I've been with John McCain for three nights in a row and have watched the magic he works on people. At a dinner one evening, someone asked the secret of his appeal. A colleague and I looked at each other in disbelief. It's his honesty, his willingness to (mostly) say what's on his mind. He just clears his throat and says what has to be said. John Kerry ought to try it. It could make him president.

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