Senators' Letter to Dubya--and How He Should Respond
Written by Doc Farmer
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Editor’s Note: Yesterday, former senator and wounded Vietnam veteran Max Cleland went to Crawford, Texas, to deliver a letter written by seven Senators (who also were veterans), to ask President Bush to condemn the actions of the 527 committee, ''Swift Boat Veterans For Truth.'' Their letter is immediately below. Our resident curmudgeon, Doc Farmer, read the letter and wondered how President Bush might wish to respond. Here’s what he came up with [the text in blue]....)
Dear President Bush,
We, the undersigned members of the United States Senate call on you to specifically condemn the recent attack ads and accompanying campaign which dishonor Senator John Kerry's combat record in the Vietnam War. These false charges represent the worst kind of politics, and we agree with both Senator John McCain and Senator Kerry that a firmly established service record in the United States Military is fully above reproach. As veterans of the armed services, we ask that you recognize this blatant attempt at character assassination, and publicly condemn it.
Our outrage over these advertisements and tactics has nothing to do with the tax code or campaign finance reform efforts of this nation. Our pain from seeing these slanderous attacks stems from something much more fundamental, that if one veteran's record is called into question, the service of all American veterans is questioned. This administration must not tacitly comply with unfounded accusations which have suddenly appeared 35 years after the fact, and serve to denigrate the service of a true American patriot. The veterans serving today should never have to expect this kind of treatment, when the wars of their generation have passed into history. We brothers and sisters in arms expect our Commander in Chief to stand up and reject this assault upon John Kerry's honor, the honor of American veterans and that of the United States Navy.
As you yourself have said, there is nothing complicated about supporting our troops, and the leaders of this nation should make it clear that the members of our military will not only be supported when they wear the uniform, but also when they return home to the land they fought to defend. Their valor and their wounds, both physical and psychological, make them heroes for as long as they live, a status which should not and must not change simply because they seek to enter public service. We senators and congressmen who wore the uniform served in different branches of the military and belong to different political parties, but we join together today to defend a fellow veteran from attacks we know to be false, and politically-motivated slander that has no place in our democratic process.
Mr. President, as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, we believe you owe a special duty to America's combat veterans when they are under false and scurrilous attacks. We hope you will recognize this duty, and speak out against this group and their efforts to smear the reputation of a man who has served this country nobly.
Call on this group to cease and desist. We can return this campaign season to a discussion of the issues on either side, and restore faith in the political system. As Americans, we should expect nothing less.
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Sen. Ernest ''Fritz'' Hollings (D-SC)
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IO)
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI)
Sen. Tom Carper D-DE)
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ)
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Thank you for your letter today. I'm sorry I could not come to pick it up myself, but I was engaged in work that is more important. If Laura and I don't get the dusting finished in the den, well, the consequences just don’t bear thinking about.
I understand you wish me to specifically condemn the recent ads of a 527 committee which have been making claims about my opponent's military record while he served for four months in Vietnam. Although I have never made such claims, and indeed have praised Senator Kerry's service to our nation, you seven veterans have come to me to ask that I restrain the rights of over 250 veterans, and thousands more hardworking American citizens, which would be in direct violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America--a Constitution that I swore to preserve, protect, and defend. And, if you'll recall your oaths of office, you also swore to preserve, protect, and defend that selfsame Constitution.
As legislators, you should recognize that what you are asking me to do specifically violates the Campaign Finance Reform Act. For me, as a presidential candidate, to single out any specific 527 committee or group of committees and condemn or praise its actions, or to directly communicate to its members, would violate both the spirit and the letter of the McCain-Feingold Act. I would remind you that Senator Kerry, as a presidential candidate, has made specific condemnations of certain 527 committee advertisements, and that IS a violation of McCain-Feingold. He has even gone so far as to personally telephone at least one member of a 527 committee to express his opinion about the committee's actions. I am puzzled, quite frankly, why you would urge me to break a law that you yourselves were instrumental in passing through Congress, and why you do not speak out against your fellow senator’s breach of the Campaign Finance Reform Act.
For quite some time--almost a year now--527 committee ads have been running. They have been coming primarily from pro-Kerry or pro-Democratic Party committees, and have said some rather bad things about me.
To be described as a terrorist, a Hitler, a murderer, a tyrant, a murderer, and other vile metaphors has not been a pleasant experience, but I have not called out for those ads or those committees to be censured. To do so would have violated the law. As Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the United States, a president does not have that luxury.
I would remind you that I also am a veteran. I served with pride in the Texas Air National Guard. The National Guard is an honorable and vital part of this mation’s defense, and should never be taken lightly or dismissed as less important.
I have called, for quite some time, for all 527 committees to cease their hateful advertisements. This does not violate the law, since a blanket statement covering all committees (regardless of their message) violates neither the spirit nor the letter of the McCain-Feingold law. I don’t believe any of us expected this obscure IRS rule to be used in such a fashion, and I would hope that you would work with me in the next congressional session to amend the Campaign Finance Reform law to close this unfortunate loophole.
You spoke of Senator Kerry’s service to our nation, and I have never said a bad word against this. However, those who have made these so-called ''attack'' ads you have written to complain about would appear to have some serious questions about Senator Kerry’s service, including the circumstances surrounding his various medals. You stated that if one veteran’s service is questioned then all are questioned. This is not quite correct. If one veteran’s service is proven to be dishonorable, he or she has sullied not only his or her name, but the name of every man and woman who has worn our nation’s uniform with pride and excellence. If valid questions are raised about the service of any member of our military, those questions must be investigated in order to find the truth.
Gentlemen, the truth is more important than political ambition or ego.
Considering the fact that many decorated veterans have raised important questions about Senator Kerry’s service while in uniform, in Vietnam, and afterwards, I would believe that the honorable senator would not wish to rest until his service record were fully examined. As you recall, many had asked for my service records after several unfounded queries about my time in the Texas Air National Guard. Although I thought previously that all the records had been released, I was informed that this was not the case and took steps to ensure that every available bit of information was put forward to finally put the issue to rest. Perhaps Mr. Kerry should consider completing a similar action, and sign a Form 180 to release all of his records for public scrutiny. This might also help him in the investigations currently being raised by Judicial Watch.
Your letter states that veterans should expect to be supported not only when they wear the uniform, but also when they return home to the land they fought to defend. I heartily agree. Our military deserve no less than the best, especially during a time of war. This makes Senator Kerry’s action to vote against the $87 million military appropriation during the Iraq war quite puzzling to me. Further, Senator Kerry’s testimony before the United States Senate in 1971, under oath, where he described his fellow Vietnam-era soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines as '''war criminals'' or ''baby killers'' when there was no factual basis upon which to make those statements, I something I find quite disturbing (not to mention perjurous). These statements were used by the enemy to further coerce, harm, and torture American prisoners of war still in North Vietnamese custody. In addition, Senator Kerry, while still a member of the Ready Reserve of the United States Navy, apparently went to Paris, France, to engage in personal negotiations with the North Vietnamese. This occurred while America was still at war with the communist North Vietnamese government. Perhaps, the next time you see Senator Kerry (when will he be visiting the Senate chambers again? I’m sure you must miss him terribly) you could remind him of Article III Section 3 of the Constitution of the United States of America. Remember, the Constitution you (and he) swore to preserve, protect and defend?
By the way, it has come to my attention that Senator Kerry apparently never showed up for any of his required training and service dates while in the Navy Reserves. As veterans, you are probably aware that all members of the Navy at that time, when moved from active duty to the Ready Reserves, were required to attend 48 drills and 17 days of active duty per year. However, we’ve been unable to determine whether then Lt. (jg) Kerry completed those requirements. From all available evidence, it would appear that Senator Kerry was absent without official leave for those dates. Next time you see him, perhaps you’d give him a nudge and remind him gently of his obligation.
As President and Commander in Chief, it is my sacred duty and privilege to defend the rights of all those in uniform, as well as those who have served their country with honor. My duty is to defend all of them, and defend them I will with every last ounce of my strength. I will defend their honor, their service, and their word. If any of them have sullied that honor, service, or are found to have lied regarding their service or the service of others, I will take every action within my power to ensure that they are punished to the fullest extent of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and/or applicable federal statutes.
I’m sorry that I cannot fulfill your request to ask any individual or group to cease and desist their political ads. I hope you understand that I cannot, in good conscience, break the law just to salve another presidential candidate’s bruised ego.
About the Writer: Doc Farmer is a writer and humorist who is also a moderator on ChronWatch's Forum. He formerly lived in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but now resides in Indiana. Doc receives e-mail at