- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2004

Is it not curious that in major media there is not a trace of humor or even irony perceptible in the hullabaloo over Sen. John Kerry’s latest self-inflicted wound, to wit: the controversy over his Vietnam record?

Oh, one fellow has shown a proper sense of the absurdity of it all. James Taranto, editor of the Wall Street Journal’s “Best of the Web Today,” has for months made a running joke of Mr. Kerry’s reckless boasts about his service in Vietnam. Whenever he introduces this insufferable braggart into his column, Mr. Taranto is wont to write “who by the way served in Vietnam” or “who I am told served in Vietnam.”

Now, as a growing number of Vietnam veterans file their objections to Mr. Kerry’s boasts, the suave Mr. Taranto e-mails me: “Have you been following the news the past couple of weeks? And are you finally ready to admit I was right about John Kerry serving in Vietnam?”

As the waggish Mr. Taranto knows, I have never doubted Mr. Kerry served in Vietnam, for I remember with the utmost clarity his return from Vietnam whereupon he played a star role opposing the war, often disloyally. I even recall his appearance before a Senate committee where he accused his fellow veterans of “war crimes” — or as he said then, “Crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.” He even said on “Meet the Press” that he had committed war crimes. I rather doubt he did, but here is still more evidence Mr. Kerry is a fraud.

He is another of the politicians visited on us recently who lie flagrantly, get caught in their lies and are given a dispensation in the media because the media’s journalists somehow believe the liars are preferable to their opponents. That is how Bill Clinton got his many passes in the 1992 election when he lied about dodging the draft, about demonstrating against his country in London, about smoking marijuana, about Gennifer Flowers and general philandering.

Notwithstanding all those obvious lies, Mr. Clinton went on the White House and to eight years of lies and scandals — or to continue my theme, self-inflicted wounds.

In nominating Mr. Kerry as their presidential candidate the Democrats have nominated another fantasist.

You can be sure the absurd controversy over his Vietnam record will not be his last. Any sensible observer has by now perceived Mr. Kerry’s opponents among Swift boat veterans have proven he wildly exaggerated his Vietnam service.

The more important question is not Mr. Kerry’s veracity but his judgment, and that word has not even been mentioned in the media debate. For that matter, there has not been all that much talk about Mr. Kerry’s mendacity, though he has been caught in petty lies since the primaries, lies that contribute to the perception Mr. Kerry has very poor judgment.

There was his early lie he never made an issue about being Irish. Then there was his lie to feminists that his first speech in Congress supported abortion rights. In both instances, fact checkers exposed him.

Then there was the imbroglio over his skiing exploits where he denied he suffers the occasional mishap while skiing. At a Colorado ski resort in his boastful (and vengeful) mode Mr. Kerry claimed, “I don’t fall down. That son of a bitch ran into me.” From his bruised gluteus maximus, he pointed to an embarrassed member of his Secret Service detail. His falls were a matter of record. And forget not the dispute over his claim that “foreign leaders” told him they endorsed his presidency, though his travel records revealed his claim to be preposterous.

Since then, Mr. Kerry has been caught lying about the vehicles he owns. He has been ensnared in lies about policy and legislation. There have been other scrapes: schedules revised for $100 haircuts and times he has been overheard calling the Bush administration “crooked.” Now we have all his conjurings with his Vietnam record and the records of his combat critics.

What ought to be raised is the issue of his judgment. What does it tell you about this fantastico that he has made his controversial service 35 years ago the fulcrum on which to wage his campaign for the presidency?

Surely he remembered the dishonorable and untrue things he said about Vietnam. Surely he should have had the self-awareness to recognize the possible dispute over his medals and the obvious lie he spent a faraway Christmas in Cambodia.

Yet this megalomaniac blundered on, boasting of an episode in his life that had best be referred to only in passing.

Now he is running to be president. Do we really want a reckless self-promoter governing us in time of war? Do we want a man with so little judgment and regard for the truth overseeing American foreign and domestic policy? The vast majority of those who served with him in Vietnam do not. Those in the media who continue to give him a pass do.

I hope his media friends are not surprised or offended if Mr. Kerry is elected and presides over another presidency of self-inflicted controversies. Yet who will conduct our war on terror while a President Kerry schemes to disentangle himself from one scrape after another?

Character was the issue never weighed in the 1992 campaign. Judgment and character ought to be weighed in this campaign.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the editor in chief of the American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun, and an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute.

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