Skip to comments.The Many Faces of John Kerry
Posted on 08/29/2003 1:06:47 PM PDT by Jean S
By John Pike
The Many Faces of John Kerry
This is the first of a two-part, in-depth report on Sen. John Kerry and the 2004 presidential race. To read the second part, come back to Insight Online on Tuesday, Sept. 2.
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, 60, was scheduled formally to announce his bid for the Democratic nomination for president in front of an aircraft carrier in South Carolina as this issue of Insight went to press. This is the same John Kerry who only a few months ago complained when President George W. Bush landed on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. The carrier was returning from the Middle East, and the president went to welcome home the warfighters aboard, but Kerry charged he used it as a stage prop for campaigning.
It is said in the Bay State that it may take extraterrestrial intelligence to figure out John Kerry. He has the backbone to fly a plane under a bridge, ride motorcycles at high speed and steer a warship toward enemy fire in Vietnam, beach it and earn the Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. Yet he does not have the spine to stick with a politically unpopular opinion, or even reveal his ethnic and family heritage. In Boston they say it is as if Kerry's backbone works for only half his body. Call him the man with half a backbone.
Granted, to win elections American politicians of every political stripe have for decades altered and bonded their positions to suit the zeitgeist of public opinion. But Kerry has been singled out by both Democrats and Republicans for saying without conviction or belief whatever will generate media attention and help win elections. Often he is ambivalent or obfuscates to try to satisfy those on both sides of antithetical issues. Many editorial writers and commentators have dismissed him as a transparent self-promoter, a phony and an opportunist. It has been reported widely that he has been running for president since his days at prep school, with every significant move in his life calculated to further that end. A local joke among Boston pols is that his initials, JFK, stand for "Just for Kerry."
At a time of few antiwar protests, Kerry had during a class speech at graduation questioned the wisdom of militarily engaging the North Vietnamese. But he knew the political value of military service. After being graduated from Yale in 1966 following years at prestigious New England and European boarding schools, Kerry did not delay or avoid service in Vietnam. Soon he commanded a patrol boat similar to that of John F. Kennedy, the mother of all JFKs, whose political career he sought to emulate. After a few months he requested and received a transfer out of Southeast Asia to become an aide to an admiral in Washington, and then maneuvered an early honorable discharge to run for Congress. But the district he picked was very liberal indeed, and he soon found it was impossible to get to the left of Robert Drinan, a Jesuit priest from Boston College Law School, and dropped out of the contest.
Kerry's first national media attention - and the first in which the epithet "phony" was directed against him - came on April 22, 1971, when he testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations as part of a carefully orchestrated buildup to an antiwar protest in Washington. The object was publicity, and a nationwide storm developed around this tall young man still in his 20s. He spoke as a member of an antiwar group called the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), some of whom felt kinship with Communist China's Chairman Mao. Testifying eloquently against the war and U.S. bombings using a speech prepared by Bobby Kennedy speechwriter Adam Walinsky, Kerry slipped away from the manuscript to add rhetorical bombs of his own design, saying he had heard U.S. soldiers relate how they had "personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war." Kerry also was quoted during this period as saying, "War crimes in Vietnam are the rule, not the exception." He spoke on television of "crimes committed on a day-to-day basis, with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."
Many veterans were outraged at these charges of American war crimes, which he later acknowledged he personally never saw, and which it developed had been spun out of the mouths of young Maoists. Michael Bernique, who served with Kerry as a swift-boat skipper, reportedly said, "I think there was a point in time when John was making it up fast and quick. I think he was saying whatever he needed to say."
War veteran John O'Neill, who publicly debated Kerry at this time, has been reported as saying Kerry's statements about war crimes were irresponsible, wrong, immoral and a "disservice to all the people that were there. ... The war didn't change [Kerry]. I think he was a guy driven tremendously by ambition. I think he was that way before he went and is that way today."
With his testimony before the committee, Kerry was in the eye of a hurricane, providing visibility calculated to propel a political career in Eastern Massachusetts, a whirlpool of antiwar activism so powerful that in 1972 it was the only state to vote for antiwar candidate George McGovern. Years later, local journalists laugh, Boston's pol Billy Bulger gave Kerry the nickname "live shot" for his strenuous efforts to appear on the nightly news.
But did Kerry's private beliefs about the Vietnam War match his public statements of opposition? Was it all a fraud to ride the antiwar movement and gain media attention? President Richard Nixon's staff certainly thought Kerry was a phony. According to a secretly recorded White House conversation on April 28, 1971, Nixon spoke on the phone with his counsel, Charles Colson. Consider:
"This fellow Kerry that they had on last week," says Colson about a Kerry TV appearance, "he turns out to be quite a phony."
"Well, he is sort of a phony, isn't he?" says Nixon.
"Yes," says Colson, and mentions that in the antiwar demonstrations held that weekend Kerry stayed at the home of a Georgetown socialite while other protesters slept on The Mall. "He's politically ambitious and just looking for an issue. Yeah. He came back [from Vietnam] a hawk and became a dove when he saw the political opportunities."
"Sure," says Nixon. "Well, anyway, keep the faith."
A Kerry spokesman denies he returned from Vietnam a hawk.
In another reported conversation, White House chief of staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman is speaking to Nixon: "He [Kerry] did a superb job on it at the Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. A Kennedy-type guy, he looks like a Kennedy, and he, he talks exactly like a Kennedy." A reporter says Kerry deliberately affected his accent during the testimony to sound like John and Bobby Kennedy. For example, he occasionally "ahsked" questions.
And three days later Haldeman tells the president, "Kerry, it turns out, some time ago decided he wanted to get into politics. Well, he ran for, took a stab at, the congressional thing. And he consulted with some of the folks in the Georgetown set here. So what, what the issue, what, he'd like to get an issue. He wanted a horse to ride."
And there are others, this time within the antiwar movement itself, who also viewed Kerry as a fake. When he returned to the United States in April 1969 he was still a U.S. Navy officer and not protesting the war, though it was a time of many demonstrations. He first became involved in the antiwar movement that October after his sister Peggy, who was working for a radical group organizing a 250,000-strong Washington antiwar protest, contacted Kerry to ask if he could provide a plane and fly an activist around New York state to deliver speeches. He could, and he reportedly flew the plane himself to get a look at the burgeoning movement.
Soon afterward, in January 1971, Kerry attended a series of hearings of the radical VVAW in Detroit. He did not speak at the event, which received limited press coverage. He is said to have wanted a larger platform, the top role. It was here again that Kerry was labeled an opportunist, this time by radical members of the VVAW. He was not an organizer, yet he was seeking to become the spokesman and coordinator. He was called a power-grabbing elitist who generated internal friction within the group.
But some members also believed that Kerry - intelligent, clean-cut and college-educated - would be an especially effective representative for a group being labeled as hippies, traitors or communists. He also was seen as able to raise big money, which he did.
Within five months of becoming its leader, Kerry says he quit the VVAW to focus on a new organization that emphasized veterans' benefits. Others say he was told to leave. His personal arrogance was so notorious that a Doonesbury cartoon from the era, created by fellow Yale alumnus Garry Trudeau, pictured Kerry as a shameless self-promoter. Another displays him absorbing praise following a speech, beaming and saying to himself, "You're really clicking tonight, you gorgeous preppie."
From the start, Kerry's mouth has been a loose cannon. During his first run for Congress, trying to get to the left of Father Drinan, Kerry was quoted as saying he would like to "almost eliminate CIA activity" and declaring that he wanted U.S. troops "dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations."
Saying whatever he needed to say apparently came easily to Kerry during his failed 1972 second attempt for Congress. According to Anthony R. DiFruscia, who ran against Kerry in that race and now is a Republican state representative in New Hampshire, Kerry would say one thing in one town and something else in another. In the more Spanish and Catholic area of Lawrence, DiFruscia said recently, Kerry would give speeches saying he personally was opposed to abortion and finds it repulsive, leaving the impression he was opposed to abortion. But in the more socially liberal and protestant Concord area, Kerry would say he supports a woman's right to choose, so voters there would believe he supported abortion. "He set a pattern of providing to various groups what they wanted to hear," DiFruscia said. And, "Kerry would also show pictures of himself holding a gun" and then make vehement statements opposing the war.
"Kerry is an opportunist, no doubt about it, and a carpetbagger" who moved to Lowell, Mass., only to run for office, says DiFruscia. "I do not think his stripes have changed much, but maybe they have."
After that 1972 congressional campaign - a race that also included future congressman, U.S. senator and presidential candidate Paul Tsongas - DiFruscia had lunch with the two men."Back in 1973, [Kerry] said he had presidential ambitions," says DiFruscia. "He planned his life around being president. There was sincerity with Paul that I did not see with John. Kerry would make statements according to only what he thought people wanted to hear, rather than how be believed the country should be influenced."
Another candidate that election year was Paul J. Sheehy, who said recently that Kerry was even more liberal in 1972 than he is now. According to his best recollection, Sheehy reports, Kerry said in a speech during that race that things were so bad someone had died of starvation in Lowell, an event that never happened. Kerry ran fourth in Lowell.
John Pike is a contributing writer for Insight. Part 2 of "The Many Faces of John Kerry" will be posted at Insight Online on Tuesday, Sept. 2.
[Kerry] had heard U.S. soldiers relate how they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war. Kerry also was quoted during this period as saying, War crimes in Vietnam are the rule, not the exception. He spoke on television of crimes committed on a day-to-day basis, with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.Under military law, what was the duty of an officer -- Kerry, for example -- if he possessed such information?
The liar had no information ...
Many veterans were outraged at these charges of American war crimes, which he later acknowledged he personally never saw, and which it developed had been spun out of the mouths of young Maoists.
It is the affirmative duty, under both the UCMJ and under the basic strictures of human decency, of any service member--commissioned, warrant, or noncommissioned officer AND non-rate enlisted person alike--to report any such action to higher authority if he witnesses any such action, or has reasonable cause to believe that such an action was committed.
If Kerry had real reason to believe this, then he is guilty of several serious felonies under the UCMJ, and can conceivably be recalled to active duty to stand court-martial.
"Following his investigation of the My Lai massacre for the Army, Lieutenant General William R. Peers and his investigative team made highly unusual and largely unprecedented recommendations. The Peers Commission proposed that charges also be preferred against a number of American staff officers, including the division chief of staff, the brigade operations officer, the task force operations and intelligence officers, and the division chaplain...
"One of the conclusions Peers drew following his My Lai investigation was that there was widespread failure to report suspected war crimes and civilian casualties, despite numerous directives and standing operating procedures (SOPs) requiring such reports. Even more damning was the conclusion that individuals within the task force headquarters took affirmative steps to conceal the massacre, including falsifying logs by changing the locations where civilians were reportedly killed. A staff officer involved in concealing a war crime may be prosecuted as an accessory after the fact in violation of Article 78, for misprison of a serious offense in violation of Article 134, or for dereliction of duty in violation of Article 92."
From "Staff Officer Responsibility for War Crimes,", LTC Michael J. Davidson, USA, published in the Mar/April 2001 issue of Military Review, the professional journal of the US Army Command & General Staff College. The full article is available at this link to the Military Review Website.
It's always nice to see the depth of fellow Freepers' knowledge on other subjects...
As someone who never served in the military, my knowledge of the UCMJ is pretty close to zero.
I think we need to bring this one BTT again
Thanks for the ping. Luckily for Americans, the internet makes it harder for switch-my-story-Kerry to employ his old tactics as effectively.
Kerry will have to address this VietNam stuff eventually if he moves ahead with the nomination. He will probably claim youthful disillusionment and much of the media will let him get away with it. A Republican candidate would be quite a different story though.
Thing is the media is afraid to question him on his service
What the media fails to realize, it's not his service that is in question
It's his actions after he came home