Aug 30, 2004
As if he had done nothing of interest since Viet Nam, Senator John Kerry reaches back 35 years, to base a large part of his campaign for the presidency on his war record on Swift boats.
The Bush campaign understands full well the unpopularity of George W. Bush's sitting in a "champagne unit" to avoid the risks of that war. Behind the scenes, Bush people put together a front group to attack Kerry's war record – hoping to keep the focus off Bush's own record.
The resulting media frenzy has actually had an effect helpful to both candidates. By re-fighting old issues of Viet Nam (but not the important ones!), both Bush and Kerry avoid the issue of the current war in Iraq.
For Bush, the war is going badly. The Iraqi people want the U.S. troops out. The U.S. troops want out. The more the U.S. population hears about the war, the less they support it. Bush benefits by every headline that distracts attention from Iraq.
Kerry also benefits. If he intended to end the Iraq war, of course he would do everything to keep the issue front and center, to take advantage of the widespread opposition to the war. But in fact his position on the war is called "Bush lite" for good reason. Kerry may want to run the war a bit differently – but he intends to see it continue, not stop it. So more focus on other issues suits Kerry just fine.
Jumping aboard the Swift boats is handy for candidates who both prefer to be AWOL when it comes to the hard problems that their society inflicts on the working class.