Skip to comments.Complete Kerry / O'Neill Debate, 06/30/71
Posted on 05/10/2004 6:31:17 PM PDT by Nasty McPhilthy
The following transcript is taken from ABC's special June 30, 1971 broadcast of "The Dick Cavett Show," during which former Navy Lieutenant John Kerry represented Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He was opposed by fellow Navy veteran John O'Neill, representing Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace.
---------- MR. CAVETT: The fact is I don't have an opening monologue tonight because the subject of the show is quite serious, and I figured why make it more serious with one of my monologues, so I thought I would just start in. You know, I guess, who my two guests are tonight: John Kerry and John O'Neill, and they belong to Vietnam Veterans Against the War on the one hand and Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace on the other.
Both of them have been on my shows in the past. Not together, however. We did two shows a couple of weeks back on Vietnam veterans, and we picked a group of Vietnam veterans to talk about their various problems. This is a very touchy subject, as you know. The whole subject of this incites people to extreme feelings. We had an unprecedented amount of mail about those two shows. We really did. You always say unprecedented, but it was finally in this case. And all kinds of opinions, and just to show you a sampling of some of the reaction to that it has something to do with how we've done tonight's show.
These are excerpts from letters, but, "Congratulations on your thought provoking moving program with the Vietnam veterans. Excellent. A true public service."
Another one: "I'm writing in reference to June 11th show in which you had several Vietnam veterans as guests. I found the audience reaction to the young man from Anapolis disturbing as well as distracting. I did not agree with all he said, but I respect him for having the courage and conviction to express his own opinion as well as defend it. Perhaps he should have shouted out, interrupted more to be heard over the audience's unfavorable reactions, but it was obvious to me he did the best he could in view of the other mouths of competition."
"Congratulations on your recent conversations with the Vietnam vets. It was one of the most interesting programs I've heard on television, and very thoughtful."
"Dear Mr. Cavett, I'm a 51-year-old veteran of World War II Navy, and I'm one who thinks that Vietnam is a useless battleground."
There were other veterans who wrote in and said that it, of course, was not a useless battleground is not.
Another lady writes, "This war began as a political war and continues so today with our men not allowed to fight and not backed by the full power nuclear of the nation. The horror of this futile and therefore immoral effort was written in their words" meaning the men who were here "and on their faces these two nights. How more just it would have been to spotlight the real villains, McNamara, Gilpatrick, Rostow, et cetera, the whiz kids so aptly indicted by Lieutenant Kerry in testimony before the Fulbright committee."
In another part of the letter she says, "I was filled with incredible revulsion watching this charade. Not revolted by these four men who gave service to their country, but by your exploitation of their futile position. How does it feel to be a latter-day Madame Lafarge? How long will you sit there and knit while your country's head is on the block?"
"Your show against Vietnam soldiers is a perfect example of your workers' bias and also of your New York audience. I know what Mr. Agnew is talking about."
"I commend you, Mr. Cavett, on not intruding your personal views and allowing the veterans to speak for themselves."
Another one: "I can't imagine who you think you are. How dare you be so biased as to put four people against one in favor of your opinion of the war."
"Bravo. Thank you for showing both sides of the Vietnam picture from returned veterans, and thank you for balancing the program with the gung-ho sentiments of Sharp and O'Neill and the anti-war eloquence of Mueller" it's actually Muller "and Pickara" (phonetic spelling).
One more. "I dislike the war. I know no one who wants war likes it; however, I'm fed up with biased programs. You are so unfair. I believe you are warped. It appears that Mr. O'Neill has more guts than you will ever hope to have. It might be more fair and more American to have an equal balance of opinion in the future, or is that too democratic for you?"
"I do hope when you have your confrontation between Mr. O'Neill and Mr. Kerry that you won't have the entire studio filled with Mr. Kerry's followers."
Another one registered his support for the young man from Germany [unintelligible].
Well, this indicates, obviously I'm sorry everybody not everybody, but a lot of people decided to take a political reaction to the show. We did not pick the fellows on that show to represent whether they were for or against Agnew, for example, or that sort of thing, but to hear their experiences.
Tonight however we do have a kind of opposition, definitely. There's one of each, for the people who like to count the number of guests.
The way this came about was Mr. Bruce Kessler of the Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace challenged Mr. Kerry once in the newspapers about, oh, some weeks back, and I saw that and I offered them both time here. Mr. O'Neill has been picked as a spokesman for Mr. Kessler's group.
We have tried to be as absolutely fair as possible tonight because everybody is obviously uptight on that subject. The gentlemen will each have the same size chair, the same wattage and voltage of lighting, and a neutral makeup lady from Switzerland has been brought on.
So about the audience, both groups have asked for tickets and an absolutely equal number of tickets has been supplied to both groups and their followers, so the audience reaction is in the audience's hands.
I would caution them that 90 minutes is not all that long. It's really closer to 70 minutes of actual air time, and a lot of applause goes a little goes a long way, so I don't want to muzzle you, but be cautioned in that way.
When we come back, I will introduce the two gentlemen to you tonight. First, you're about to learn something that may save your next vacation. Watch.
If you have just joined us, my two guests tonight are, as I said before, they've been on the program separately in the past. They're both veterans. One of them, John Kerry, belongs to Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and John O'Neill belongs to a group called Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace. Will you welcome them both, please.
This is John O'Neill and this is John Kerry, and I even think that we both asked you which profiles you favor equally.
We will actually start, because it was requested that we do this this may seem ludicrous with the flip of a coin because this is not going to follow the actual outlines of a debate, but I thought it might be well for each of you fellows to start out with some statement of what your organization wants and is, if you'd like to do that.
Do you want to call it in the air?
(Excerpt) Read more at ice.he.net ...
The thanks are due to Alnick, who stepped up and did a very professional job with the transcript...