John F. Kerry: Still Unfit for Command
|In 2004, the American public had grown impatient with the war on terror, especially the Iraq Theater. At that point, the nation appeared willing to at least consider alternatives to the Republican stranglehold on the White House and the U.S. Congress.
For their part, Democrats were willing to politicize the war if such a tactic would help depose President George W. Bush. Even so, pragmatic Democrats sensed the danger of campaigning too vigorously against the war because Americans had also grown impatient with politicians whose only solution to conflict seemed to be appeasement.
To the dismay of many party leaders, in early 2004 Howard Dean had emerged as the favorite to capture the Democratic nomination for president. A Dean candidacy was seen as a potential disaster by politically savvy Democrats.
After some brass-knuckled battles at the Democratic National Committee (DNC), presidential candidate Howard Dean was eventually jettisoned out of his position as the favorite for his party's nomination. In his place, the party advanced the name of Senator John F. Kerry.
Senator Kerry, a liberal from Massachusetts, was thought to be more moderate on the war and less vulnerable to being dismissed as "soft" on national security. After all, Senator Kerry had voted in support of using military force in Iraq.
Moreover, John Kerry had an important quality that Democrats were anxious to show case: A record of credible military service.
Kerry had served as a Lieutenant in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War. His last tour in Vietnam was four months as officer in charge of a Swift boat in 1969 during which Kerry received several combat medals, including the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts.
Thus, Senator Kerry appeared to provide Democrats with the best of both worlds: He was an unabashed liberal as well as a decorated war veteran. Who could ask for a better combination in post-9/11 America?
However, there were storm clouds on the horizon for the senator who wanted so desperately to be president.
On May 4, 2004, a group of Viet Nam veterans lead by John E. O'Neill and Jerome Corsi held a critical press conference in the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Calling themselves the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," these men challenged Senator Kerry's military record, including the length of actual service in Viet Nam, the nature of Kerry's war wounds, and the legitimacy of his combat medals.
The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth created a firestorm of controversy around presidential candidate John Kerry with their book titled "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry." That book played a major role in the rejection of candidate John Kerry and the re-election of President Bush.