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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

A tale of two cities and two op-eds

Two of the largest and most influential newspapers in the home states of our two presidential candidates   have today published op-eds about Sen. Kerry and the SwiftVets.

Lee Cearnal, the author of the op-ed in the Houston Chronicle, is identified as the Chronicle's special projects editor, which explains the basis upon which his piece can be entitled "Where's my colleagues' interest in Kerry's war records?"  Despite being situated in a heavily Republican and conservative city in a heavily Republican and conservative state, the Chronicle is far from being reliably conservative or pro-Republican in its own editorial policies.  I don't know Mr. Cearnal's personal politics, but I suspect his viewpoint on the SwiftVets vs. Kerry fray may be more reflective of his personal history:  "A former Marine helicopter pilot, he served in Vietnam from mid-1968 through mid-1969."  [Update: I've preserved Mr. Cearnal's op-ed here, since it's already disappeared from the Chronicle's website.]

Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi, by contrast, makes no secret of her politics when she writes in her op-ed — entitled "Speak for yourself, John Kerry" — that "Bush is the known purveyor of false information," and that "Kerry offers the promise of a credible voice speaking truth to Americans and the world."  I believe the right modifier here is "unabashed," since she forthrightly takes Sen. Kerry to task for his recent straddles on various issues that, Ms. Vennochi thinks, add up "to an unseemly effort to side-step the label that best describes his voting record: liberal."

So it's quite remarkable that both of these two op-eds sharply criticize Sen. Kerry's approach to the SwiftVets' charges.  From Mr. Cearnal (italics his):

To those of you who say such questions [as those raised by the SwiftVets] are unseemly, consider that John Kerry's principal claim on the presidency is that he served four months and 11 days in Vietnam. OK, fine. Let's examine the records — all the records, which, unlike Bush and contrary to popular perception, Kerry has not released — and have a debate. We would be if it were George W. Bush. The media would see to it.

And from Ms. Vennochi:

Answers like [the Kerry campaign's responses so far to the Christmas in Cambodia story] aren't good enough. Kerry put his Vietnam service before voters as the seminal character issue of his presidential campaign. He should answer every question voters have about it — and he should answer them himself.

I agree with them both.  Sen. Kerry, release the records; gather your band of brothers who support your claims, if you wish; but then face your accusers yourself.  Heck, let's dust off Dick Cavett to moderate another go-round between you and John O'Neill!

I expect that if I had a chance to put this challenge to him in person, Sen. Kerry's response would be:  "Do you know who I am?"  Well, yeah, actually I'd normally agree with you, Senator, that a presidential nominee ought not be expected to respond personally to his accusers except in the most extraordinary of circumstances.

But these are such circumstances, Sen. Kerry — and you, sir, have created them.  You're a veteran of the United States Navy, sir, twice decorated for bravery and thrice decorated for your wounds.  What better way now to display political courage commensurate with the battlefield courage you claim to have displayed in Vietnam than by turning your campaign directly into the fire of your political enemies and confronting them?

Posted by Beldar at 12:51 PM in Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink


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(1) Birkel made the following comment | Aug 17, 2004 8:13:47 PM | Permalink

I just started reading your blog a couple of weeks ago. Big fan... big.

Keep up the terrific work

(2) kevin whited made the following comment | Aug 17, 2004 9:09:21 PM | Permalink

Harris County is conservative and Republican, but I'm pretty sure without those suburbs figured in that Al Gore narrowly carried the city of Houston proper. It's not accurate to characterize the city proper as heavily conservative and Republican in any case.

(3) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 17, 2004 9:22:09 PM | Permalink

Perhaps a somewhat better case can be made for conservatism than for Republicanism, especially if (as you point out) the suburbs and entire Chron readership area are included. But your point is well taken, Kevin, and my choice of the word "heavily" was a poor one. I suppose I was trying to make the point that the Chron isn't a right-wing rag, for my out-of-state readers who might have assumed otherwise.

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