Recent newspaper articles have undercut the credibility of a book and TV ad attacking Sen. John Kerry’s war record in Vietnam without, however, demonstrating Kerry’s contention that the Bush administration was behind the ad or wholly demolishing all of the allegations concerning the Democratic presidential nominee.
The articles show that some of those providing money and guidance in the ad campaign have previously supported President Bush or his father, but that fact hardly tells us that the White House is pulling strings. And many of those involved in contributing money and framing the accusations have no political ties whatsoever to anyone connected to Bush.
Reporters have found that some of those now criticizing Kerry have praised him in the past. And they have found that while there is no evidence for some of the allegations, evidence does exist supporting Kerry’s version of some events. Not all of the charges in the book have been flattened, however. Kerry’s claim that he was on a Navy swift boat in Cambodia on Christmas of 1968 looks highly suspect, for instance.
Kerry says Bush should renounce the ad, but, of course, Kerry is not renouncing the scurrilous movie "Fahrenheit 9/11" or agreeing with the Bush campaign that both sides should discourage "soft money" ads by groups outside their campaigns. As a matter of intelligent politics, candidates spend little time kicking their supporters. Maybe they should in some instances, but they don’t, whether Republican or Democrat.
The fact-finding is not over yet. Between now and Election Day, voters may well learn more about how truthful Kerry has been about his four months of combat duty in Vietnam some 35 years ago.
The question matters, in part, because Kerry has made his service a centerpiece of his campaign — a demonstration of his fitness to lead the nation in a war on terrorism — but also because the question goes to the heart of whether he is or is not a man of integrity.