Friday, April 23, 2004

Leave Kerry's military record alone 

As silly as it was to flyspeck Bush's National Guard attendance records -- and it was silly and insulting -- this absurd parsing of Kerry's Vietnam records is also ridiculous. Both campaigns are demeaning military service notwithstanding their protestations to the contrary, and they should stop.

The forensic deconstruction of these bureaucratic records is a wasteful exercise for all kinds of reasons. First, both candidates have done more for their country than most people, including especially the vast majority of journalists who chase down the oppo-research leads that the campaign staffs feed them. Second, it sends a terrible message to the soldiers fighting for us today. How must they feel, knowing that the valiant or at least sincere contributions of one generation of soldiers become the object of ridicule in the next generation? Both campaigns are undermining the war we are fighting now by pecking each other to death over the military service of the candidates. Third, nobody who has served in the military, or any branch of government, believes that the record-keeping system is so robust that it should be decisively probative of valor, attendance, or anything else thirty years after the fact.

None of this is to say that the campaigns do not deserve this. Bush asked for it with the staged flight on to the Lincoln's deck, and Kerry asked for it by acting as though service in Vietnam was in some respect a qualification for serving as commander in chief. But enough already.


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