- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 26, 2004

After months of nothing but praise for John Kerry’s Vietnam War service, President Bush’s campaign spokesman publicly made light of it, drawing a stern response yesterday from Democrats who called the remarks an insult to all veterans.

Terry Holt, appearing on MSNBC’s “Hardball” program Tuesday, was being pummeled by questions from host Chris Matthews about why, if Mr. Bush supported the Vietnam War, he didn’t join up and fight.

After repeatedly answering that Mr. Bush served as a fighter pilot in the National Guard, Mr. Holt then changed the subject to Mr. Kerry: “In John Kerry’s case, he went to Vietnam. He took his own photo camera, by the way, so he could get some good pictures.”

Mr. Kerry’s campaign was outraged, and demanded an apology.

“What Terry Holt said last night was an intentional effort to diminish John Kerry’s military service,” Kerry campaign chairwoman Jeanne Shaheen said. “Not only was it wrong, it shows a fundamental disrespect for the service and sacrifice veterans of military combat duty have given our country.”

Both the Democratic National Committee and veterans supporting Mr. Kerry, in a statement issued by the Kerry campaign, called the comments an attack on veterans and troops serving today.

“No one who serves in this country’s military — not John Kerry, nor the men and women serving in Iraq today — should ever have their patriotism or their courage questioned by one of George W. Bush’s political agents,” DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe said.

But Mr. Holt said his remarks didn’t do that.

“How is pointing out that John Kerry took a camera to Vietnam questioning John Kerry’s patriotism?” said Mr. Holt in an interview yesterday. “To point out he took a camera to Vietnam and took some good pictures is a simple statement of fact, and I thought he was proud of those photos — they appear in every one of his political ads.”

The two campaigns have been sniping at each other for several months, and this week Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, a Democrat, called for a truce.

“The thing I worry about in politics is all of these people hating one another [saying], ‘I hate Kerry,’ ‘I hate Bush.’ I wish the former presidents — Carter and Ford and Clinton and Bush — would all get up and tell people, ‘You may support candidates, but don’t hate the other candidates,’” he said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Mr. Daley’s scolding was based on a post from the “Drudge Report” that Mr. Kerry, upon hearing Mr. Bush had a bicycle accident over the weekend, said, “Did the training wheels fall off?”

“When someone falls … you should not wish ill upon anyone,” Mr. Daley said.

The Bush campaign and Republican Party officials have been very careful never to question Mr. Kerry’s service — something campaign Chairman Marc Racicot and party Chairman Ed Gillespie stress every time they are asked about Mr. Kerry’s war record.

Republican strategists said the campaign has also given clear direction to surrogates not to question the senator’s service, partly because they don’t want to be seen as attacking a veteran and partly because reporters have done so much work investigating Mr. Kerry’s record anyway.

Several Republican sources said yesterday that remains the direction from the campaign, and Mr. Holt also said he isn’t questioning Mr. Kerry’s record.

“John Kerry wore the uniform and was honorably discharged. We have never suggested anything other than that,” Mr. Holt said.

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