Saturday, August 28, 2004

What They Should Have Said About the SwiftVets

You know how a day after you say something, you come up with what you wish you have said. With the benefit of a week to think about it, I submit the following. In general, I think both Bush and Kerry should have come up with an idea to hug every veteran, and still seem fairminded about the whole dispute.

W: I'm glad you asked me. I'm grateful for the service that every service man and woman has provided this country, especially the veterans. That includes John Kerry.

Our campaign didn't encourage or fund the Swift Vet ads, and we didn't encourage anyone else to do so. For myself, I would have preferred that the Swift ads not run. Our campaign isn't interested in talking about what John Kerry did while he was in Vietnam, or after he got back. We want to talk about our plans for the future and about John Kerry's plans, and we want to talk about our record in the White House and his record in the Senate.

Even though I wouldn't have run those ads themselves, I'm not going to call on the Swift Veterans to stop showing the ads. First, under McCain-Feingold, neither candidate is permitted to coordinate with any of the so-called "527" groups. Based on that, I don't intend to encourage anyone to run ads, to stop running ads, or to change the ads they're running.

Finally, it's a free country, and the people in the ads are citizens, and veterans, just like John Kerry. I may not agree with the ads, and as I said, I don't, but its not my place to tell these guys what they can say.

JFK: I'd like to address the two ads that a group of Swift Boat veterans have run.

First, many of the members of this group have a complaint with my decision to protest the war after my return from Vietnam. That's their right. To those veterans who harbor a grudge because of my decisions, I can only say that I honor your service to your country, and I'm sorry that I don't have a chance to sit down with each of you and explain my reasons. I can promise you that I served with honor while in uniform and that, upon my return, I believed that protesting the war was the right thing to do, for our soldiers and for the Vietnamese people. I still believe that today, as do many many veterans.

Second, some of the veterans have argued that I'm not entitled to my medals. That is not something I would not do to another veteran, but again, that's their right. If the American people want to know more about my service, or about my decisions after I returned, I and the men who served with me will be happy to answer their questions.