John Kerry's Role as a Vietnam Anti-War Activist Poses Challenges to His Campaign

Roundup: Media's Take

David Halbfinger, in the NYT (April 24, 2004):

When questions were raised last month about whether a 27-year-old John Kerry had attended a Kansas City meeting of Vietnam Veterans Against the War where the assassination of senators was discussed, the Kerry presidential campaign went into action.

It accepted the resignation of a campaign volunteer in Florida, Scott Camil, the member of the antiwar group who raised the idea in November 1971 of killing politicians who backed the war. The campaign pressed other veterans who were in Kansas City, Mo., 33 years ago to re-examine their hazy memories while assuring them that Mr. Kerry was sure he had not been there.

John Musgrave, a disabled ex-marine from Baldwin City, Kan., who told The Kansas City Star that Mr. Kerry was at the meeting, said he got a call from John Hurley, the Kerry campaign's veterans coordinator.

"He said, `I'd like you to refresh your memory,' " Mr. Musgrave, 55, recounted in an interview, confirming an account he had given to The New York Sun. "He said it twice. `And call that reporter back and say you were mistaken about John Kerry being there.' "

Such little-noticed moments in Mr. Kerry's past — including his decision at age 26 to meet the Vietcong emissaries to the Paris peace talks — are coming under new scrutiny now, as Mr. Kerry finally makes the presidential run that his comrades in arms, and in the antiwar movement, half-mockingly predicted decades ago.

In an interview about his antiwar activities, Mr. Kerry said that he knew nothing of attempts by his campaign to tinker with the past and that he disapproved. "People's memories are people's memories," he said, adding that he had no memory of the Kansas City meeting.

Mr. Hurley says he was merely asking Mr. Musgrave to be accurate, "because his memory was contrary to everything I was hearing."

Yet while Mr. Kerry is heavily accentuating his five months in combat in Vietnam, he rarely emphasizes his two years working against the war — though he first catapulted to fame 33 years ago this week when he electrified millions of viewers in asking the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "How do you ask a man to be last man to die for a mistake?"

And when Mr. Kerry appeared on "Meet the Press" last weekend, he disavowed his own remarks on the same program in April 1971, when he said he and thousands of other soldiers had committed "atrocities."

From its inception, Vietnam Veterans Against the War was a curiosity and an influential force in the Vietnam protest movement because of the novelty, and political potency, of antiwar demonstrators in uniform.

In the year and a half that Mr. Kerry belonged to the group, it was loosely structured and had its share of revolutionaries and provocateurs — including many secretly working for law enforcement — who pushed the writings of Chairman Mao and talked of tossing grenades, though they seldom did worse than toss bags of chicken droppings at the Pentagon....

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Jon Carleton Potter - 8/15/2004

Will John Hurley provide his DD214?


Jon Carleton Potter - 8/15/2004

Will Hurley please post his DD214.