Bob Dole was faced with a choice over the weekend: Do like John McCain, another decorated Republican war veteran, and denounce the unproven allegations about John Kerry's war record, or use the respect he's earned over the years from members of both parties to give the anti-Kerry Swift Boat veterans that much more power. He chose the latter. It's just "political hardball," he said yesterday. "I wasn't trying to be mean-spirited. I was just trying to say all these guys on the other side just can't be Republican liars," Dole said in a follow-up interview with CNN.
That's putting a positive spin on not only helping to perpetuate unverified allegations about someone's record (some call them lies) but unfairly -- and wrongly -- diminishing a fellow veteran's war wounds. Kerry "never bled that he knew of" in Vietnam, Dole said on CNN on Sunday, questioning whether Kerry deserved his three Purple Hearts -- remarks that garnered lots of media attention for being made so bluntly by such a prominent Republican. "I mean, they're all superficial wounds," he said. In fact, Kerry still carries shrapnel in his left thigh. Dole insists that Kerry must understand why he said what he said -- it's a presidential campaign, after all, with only 70 days to go. Hardball.
In one of two editorials today on the Swift Boat issue, the Los Angeles Times chided Dole for his below-the-belt remarks and made a tongue-in-cheek suggestion that the two parties continue what Dole started and compare whose members left more flesh and blood on the battlefield.
"So give this round to the GOP. Next, the Democrats can be represented by former Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, and lost a Senate race to a Republican who questioned his patriotism. Two parties can play this game. But who on Earth would want to?"