Sunday, May 28, 2006

A “Swift” Return

John Kerry is still fighting the Swift Boat Veterans.

Three decades after the Vietnam War and nearly two years after Mr. Kerry’s failed presidential bid, most Americans have probably forgotten why it ever mattered whether he went to Cambodia or that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth accused him of making it all up, saying he was dishonest and lacked patriotism.

But among those who were on the front lines of the 2004 campaign, the battle over Mr. Kerry’s wartime service continues, out of the limelight but in some ways more heatedly — because unlike then, Mr. Kerry has fully engaged in the fight. Only those on Mr. Kerry’s side, however, have gathered new evidence to support their case.

The Swift boat group continues to spend money on Washington consultants, according to public records, and last fall it gave $100,000 to a group that promptly sued Mr. Kerry, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, for allegedly interfering with the release of a film that was critical of him.

Some of the principals behind the Swift boat group continue to press their claims. John O’Neill, the co-author of the group’s best-selling manifesto, “Unfit for Command,” criticizes Mr. Kerry on television talk shows and solicits money for conservative causes and candidates. In a South Carolina newspaper, William Schachte recently reprised his allegation that he was aboard the small skimmer where Mr. Kerry received the injury that led to his first Purple Heart, and that Mr. Kerry actually wounded himself.

Swift boat message boards and anti-Kerry Web sites still boil with accusations that Mr. Kerry fabricated the military reports that led to his military decorations.

Mr. Kerry, accused even by Democrats of failing to respond to the charges during the campaign, is now fighting back hard.

“They lied and lied and lied about everything,” Mr. Kerry says in an interview in his Senate office. “How many lies do you get to tell before someone calls you a liar? How many times can you be exposed in America today?”

To some it may sound like sour grapes, to others it may sound like the rumblings of a presidential bid warming up, and to the 101st Fighting Keyboards and the rest of the right-wing chicken-hawk regime it may sound like bait for them to show their true sniveling colors.

But to me I’m reminded of the fact that the only thing a person can truly call his own is his good name and reputation. It may be two years too late to win the presidency, but it’s never too late to take back that which was stolen by men who aren’t worthy enough to polish John Kerry’s boots. Remember that on Memorial Day.