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Thursday, February 12, 2004
Sad Sack & Hanoi Jane

As the whole hullabaloo about Bush's Guard Service (or lack
thereof) continues to unfold, supporters of the President have been
hard pressed to come up with any solid counterargument in his
defense. The response has been a weak and murky twofold strategy: accusing the
accusers of “mudslinging,” and slinging a little mud themselves.

Both strategies were evident at Tuesday's press conference. The
administration's official response (“stop slinging mud at us!”)
was conveyed ad nauseum by Press Secretary Scott McClellan,
while the chosen tactic of its talk radio/winger media shock troops
mud back atcha, sucka!
”) was represented
by this little vignette in the transcript

Since there have been so many questions about what the President was
doing over 30 years ago, what is it that he did after his honorable
discharge from the National Guard? Did he make speeches alongside
Jane Fonda, denouncing America's racist war in Vietnam? Did he
testify before Congress that American troops committed war crimes in
And did he throw somebody else's medals at the White
House to protest a war America was still fighting? What was he doing
after he was honorably discharged?

MR. McCLELLAN: We've already
commented on some of his views relating back to that period the other
day. And, obviously, this was a time period also when he was going to
get his MBA at Harvard. But the President was certainly proud to
serve in the National Guard.

For the record, the President's chief activities in the years
immediately after his (early) release from the National Guard were:
through Harvard Business School
, drinking
himself into a stupor
, and wasting
other people's money
through ruinous
business arrangements
. It is true that none of this involved war
protesting; but it was 1974 by the time he mustered out, and Dubya
would have been more than a little behind the curve if he'd tried. At
any rate, the nation was already deeply
with other critical
by that time, anyway.

Meanwhile, back in the present, the right wing is trying to work the rest of the nation
into a tizzy over the fact that somebody has uncovered a dusty
photograph of Hanoi
speaking at an antiwar rally, with John Kerry lurking
somewhere in the background. There is also renewed interest in
Kerry made before Congress
outlining atrocities committed by
American soldiers in Vietnam. CNN, for its part, bit on the very
issue this morning:

BILL HEMMER: Let's kick this
off with Jane Fonda on CNN yesterday. Listen to what she said about
that photo surfacing yesterday ...

tired of the government lying. I'm tired of people pulling out —
desperately pulling out anything they can do to hurt another
candidate, and I think that the American people feel that way, too. This is a — it's a bunch of hogwash.

HEMMER: Jane Fonda with Kyra
Phillips yesterday afternoon here on CNN. Cliff, start us off —

CLIFF MAY [former
RNC Communications Director]
: Well, I
think there is a lot of silliness and a lot of mud slinging going on.

Certainly the National Guard charges are that. I think the fact that
he was at a rally with Jane Fonda doesn't tell you much. I think he
does need to address at some point some of the views he held back in.
He went before the Senate in 1971, and he said his fellow veterans
were routinely committing atrocities
, were acting like Genghis
Khan, were acting like terrorists in Vietnam. I assume he doesn't
believe that anymore, and I think he should address that. He also
said at one point that he thought the CIA should be eliminated. I'm
sure he doesn't believe that any longer.

Nicely done, Cliff! See how he neatly folds both lines of defense
into a single, semi-coherent whole? He clucks his tongue at all the
“mud slinging going on” regarding Bush's National Guard
duty ... takes a deep breath ... and then pitches off a big ol' slog
of mud at John Kerry — as if Kerry's testimony in 1971 has
anything to do with the price of coke in Tijuana in 1972.

At least he's willing admit what “hogwash” the whole
Jane Fonda association is. Seriously, fellas, using gnarly old Hanoi
as a way to tar a Democrat in this day and age is a pretty
desperate tactic, considering that you'd have to sit down and explain
to about half of the electorate exactly who
the Hell Jane Fonda was
in the first place.

As for Kerry's testimony
before Congress in 1971
, he said all those things back then
they were true
. With each passing year, we learn a little
about exactly how unnervingly
truthful his statements were
. People like Cliff May may not like
to admit that these
things went on
, but that doesn't make them any less a part of the

If Kerry did take up May's advice and denounce his 1971 statements
today, then he'd be a hypocrite — a politically expedient one,
but a hypocrite nonetheless.

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