How Bush And Kerry Spent Their Combat Years, And Second Chances
How George W. Bush spent his combat years:
Mr. MURPH ARCHIBALD (Nephew of Red Blount): Well, I was coming in early in the morning and leaving in mid-evenings. Ordinarily, George would come in around noon; he would ordinarily leave around 5:30 or 6:00 in the evening…George certainly didn't seem to have any concerns about my taking over this work with the campaign workers there. My overall impression was that he didn't seem as interested in the campaign as the other people who were working at the state headquarters…George didn't have any interest at all in talking about the military. In fact, when I broached the subject with him, he simply changed the subject. He wasn't unpleasant about it, but he just changed the subject and wouldn't talk about it…People have different ways of starting the days in any office. They're going to talk about their kids, they're going to talk about football, they're going to talk about the weather. And this was simply his opening gambit; he would start talking about that he had been out late the night before drinking…I mean, at that time, I was 28; George would have been 25 or 26. And I thought it was really unusual that someone in their mid-20s would initiate conversations, particularly in the context of something as serious as a US senatorial campaign, by talking about their drinking the night before. I thought it unusual and, frankly, inappropriate…He told us whenever he was stopped, as soon as the law enforcement found out that he was the grandson of Prescott Bush, they would let him go. And he would always laugh about that. "
How John Kerry spent his combat years:
Rassmann was 21 at the time, a Special Forces lieutenant in charge of a company of American and Chinese fighters. On that day, they traveled on a convoy of five patrol boats led by the 25-year-old Kerry, a Navy lieutenant — and they were on the run, being chased down the Bay Hap River by enemy soldiers firing guns and rockets.
The group had already lost one soldier that day. As they sped down the river, one boat was blown out of the water, and then another. An explosion wounded Kerry in the arm and threw Rassmann into the river. Rassmann dove to the bottom to avoid being run over by the other boats. When he surfaced, he saw the convoy had gone ahead.
Viet Cong snipers fired at him, and Rassmann submerged over and over to avoid being hit. The bullets came from both banks, and Rassmann had nowhere to go. He began thinking his time had come, but the fifth time he came up, he saw the convoy had turned around. Kerry had ordered the boats back to pick up the man overboard.
Kerry's boat, under heavy fire, sidled up to the struggling soldier. Rassmann tried to scramble up a cargo net at the bow but was too exhausted to make it all the way. He clung to the net as bullets whizzed past.
"Next thing I knew, John came out in the middle of all this," Rassmann says. "I couldn't believe it. He was going to get killed. He ran to the edge, reached over with his good arm [Kerry had been wounded in his right arm] and pulled me over the lip."
George W. Bush likes to tell us that when he was young and crazy, he did young and crazy things. And since his conversion to born-again Christianity, we are to accept those youthful indiscretions from his wild and carefree days into his early forties and only judge him on his current behavior over the last ten years. He says today that the real issue is who will be the better commander in chief in fighting the war on terror.
Yet those same people who say we should give George W. Bush a pass for his earlier days of the 1960’s and 1970’s now say that what John Kerry did in testifying before Congress over what he saw and others told him in 1971 should disqualify him from being commander in chief. The Swifties and those who want to believe whatever bad things they can about John Kerry while supporting George W. Bush are hypocrites, plain and simple. They can’t have it both ways. As David Broder notes tomorrow, this is a battle over what happened thirty years ago, when in fact we need to have a debate about what will happen in the next four years.
When you don’t have the issues on your side, as Bush and his supporters find themselves now, you grasp for whatever tactic and smear you can reach. But even with his testimony, John Kerry has demonstrated he is better prepared to lead this country as commander in chief the next four years than George W. Bush is, as evidenced by Bush’s conduct in office so far, no matter how one-sidedly forgiving his supporters are.