Kerry's Vietnam Record
Thursday, August 26, 2004; 2:00 PM
During the Iowa Caucuses, when John Kerry's campaign was behind Howard Dean's campaign, it was veterans who came forward and made the difference. When we were in Iowa, veterans from 16 different states paid their own way to come to Iowa to campaign for John Kerry. By the time we got to New Hampshire, veterans from 27 states paid their own way to come to New Hampshire and campaign for John Kerry. And that surge of support for John Kerry has continued into the general election.
Veterans are supporting John Kerry in an unprecedented manner. They are responding to his lifetime of service and strength. In him, they see a combat veteran like themselves.
By way of introduction, I would tell you that I have known John Kerry for 34 years. He is one of the most principled and honorable individuals that I have ever known. I do not regularly get involved in political campaigns, but John Kerry's campaigns are an exception, because he is an exceptional human being and will make a great Commander-in-Chief.
John O'Neill and Swift Boat Veterans for Bush claim to know about John Kerry's service in Vietnam. John O'Neill never met John Kerry for one moment in Vietnam. Nor did he even try to interview any of the men who served on those boats with John Kerry. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is an organization that has been discredited by the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and countless other newspapers across the country. As John McCain has said, their efforts to smear John Kerry are "dishonest and dishonorable".
The SBVT has been proven to be liars by their own words. For instance, Larry Thurlow has claimed that there was no hostile fire the day that John Kerry won his Bronze Star. The Washington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request obtained a copy of Thurlow's own Bronze Star citation in which the United States Navy made clear that they were under hostile fire on March 13, 1969.
This attack by SBVT is financed by Republican contributors in Texas and elsewhere. The web of connections between SBVT and George Bush's White House is extensive. The New York Times has reported on this web and two officials of the Bush/Cheney campaign have been forced to resign in the last three days because of their connections to SBVT.
Make no mistake about it. This attack is not about John Kerry's service and medals in Vietnam. This attack is a smear campaign that is designed to benefit President Bush's campaign.
They do not have a right to lie.
John O'Neill is going around the country ridiculing John Kerry's Silver Star. In doing so, he is dishonoring all those men who fought bravely and courageously with John Kerry that day, February 28, 1969.
Here are the facts. Three swift boats and 19 men fought with great courage and honor that day. The United States Navy awarded John Kerry a Silver Star and awarded those men who fought with him at least four Bronze Stars and 14 Navy Commendation Medals with Combat "V" for valor.
When the SBVT attack John Kerry's Silver Star, they are dishonoring the courage and bravery and service of 18 other men. That is why Bill Rood, Chicago Tribune editor, broke 35 years of silence to write a front page story honoring those men who fought with John Kerry because he was troubled by the dishonest attacks by men like John O'Neill who were not there.
It is for the same reason that John McCain has said the SBVT are "dishonest and dishonorable".
This is why these attacks are so offensive. They do not just attack John Kerry. They attack every man who fought bravely and courageously in Vietnam, and who were awarded medals for their service.
To come back now, after 35 years, and degrade the medals of all those who served in Vietnam, is a disgrace and SBVT should hang their heads in shame.
But that is not what this is about. This is about a front group for the Bush campaign that is trying to smear John Kerry's military service. The web of connections between the Bush campaign and SBVT grows wider every day.
John McCain has called on President Bush to specifically attack this terrible smear campaign. President Bush and his campaign - for over three weeks now - have ignored Senator McCain's call to condemn this specific smear.
The longer President Bush waits to specifically condemn this smear, the clearer it gets what's going on here.
The President is trying to gain political mileage out of a smear, and it is wrong.
John Kerry has made a firm commitment not to let the lies distract him from these issues. In fact, today, he is out on the campaign trail talking about his plans to make American stronger at home and more respected in the world.
As a father, I want someone as Commander-in-Chief who understands the sacrifices of those who have served. When a decision has to be made whether to send our sons and daughters into harm's way, I want someone who has been there. Someone who showed up when his country called. John Kerry understands what it's like to be on the battlefield. John Kerry will never go to war as a first resort - as he says, it will not be because we want to but because we have to.
I get calls from veterans across the country asking how they can help in John's campaign. There is a surge of support for John because these attacks on his service are backfiring. Two West Point graduates, both Republicans, have contacted me within the last few days to say that they are switching their vote to John Kerry because of these attacks by Swift Boat Veterans. Their story is repeated thousands of times across the country. Americans, particularly veterans, are appalled by these attacks against John Kerry, as this smear attacks all of us who served.
Americans want an honest discussion of the real issues facing our country such as the mess in Iraq. For instance, George Bush's "go-it-alone" foreign policy has forced the United States to bear the overwhelming share of casualties and cost associated with the war in Iraq. Right now, US taxpayers are on the hook for over 200 billion dollars with no end in sight. George Bush sent our troops to Iraq without proper equipment and body armor. He sought to cut combat and separation pay for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We need someone in the White House who understands what our men and women overseas and their families are going through. That man is John Kerry.
Did you see the segment where O'Neill spoke about his non visit to Cambodia interview with then President Nixon?
I'm sorry - I'm out of time. Thanks for joining me today and for those veterans among you, thank you for your service to our country.