Kerry's Vietnam brother returns fire

Published July 30, 2004 1:01AM (EDT)

The '60s still returns at least every four-year presidential cycle in America. And it was back in force Thursday night at the Fleet Center. Near the dramatic oversize photo gallery of John Kerry's life that greets conventioneers as they arrive -- a preppy Kerry with JFK, Kerry in his Navy dress whites, Kerry with John Lennon -- we talked with Jim Rassmann, the Vietnam veteran who owes Kerry his life. With Kerry building his campaign around his courage and service -- and his conservative enemies trying to tear the ribbons off Kerry's chest -- Kerry is relying on his band of brothers, and veterans like Rassmann are eager to help. "I'd be a total fool to ever question John Kerry's heroism -- if not for him, I'd be dead," said Rassmann.

What does Rassmann think of President Bush's wartime service? "What wartime service?" Rassmann spat back. "He didn't serve in the war."

Does Rassmann have confidence that Kerry will be a better commander in chief than Bush? "Let me put it this way. I have two kids, ages 27 and 24. If they were ever called to serve in the military, I'd want John to be their leader, not George W. Bush. If you're in the military and you have an incompetent leader, you replace him. It's that simple."

By David Talbot

David Talbot, the founder of Salon, is the author of New York Times bestsellers like "Brothers," "The Devil's Chessboard," and "Season of the Witch." His most recent book is "Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of My Stroke."

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