PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN Dole weighs in on Kerry medals
A newspaper editor who served with Kerry supported the candidate's account.
CRAWFORD, Texas -- The debate over Sen. John Kerry's Vietnam War service intensified Sunday, with former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole describing the Democratic nominee's war wounds as "superficial" and the Kerry campaign lashing out at President Bush's lack of a combat record.
The feisty give-and-take by Democrats and Republicans kept the race for president focused on the candidates' military records from more than 30 years ago.
Tad Devine, a senior adviser to Kerry's campaign, contended the nation would not have rushed ill-equipped troops to a war in Iraq if the president ever had served in an armed conflict.
Dole, who received two Purple Hearts for his injuries in World War II, questioned Kerry's war wounds: "Three Purple Hearts and never bled that I know of. I mean, they're all superficial wounds."
The former Kansas senator also criticized Kerry's anti-war activities after his return from Vietnam, suggesting that veterans might deserve an apology. Kerry's allegations of Vietnam War atrocities are the subject of an ad launched Friday by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group critical of the Massachusetts senator.
The Kerry campaign has unveiled a new TV commercial of its own, comparing the current attacks to what it said were similarly styled "smears" against Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., before the 2000 South Carolina primary.
The Kerry campaign has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging illegal coordination of activities between the Bush campaign and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The Bush campaign has denied any involvement with the group, saying in a response prepared for the FEC that the complaint is "frivolous" and a bid for "free publicity."
Still, in an embarrassment to the Bush campaign, it announced that retired Air Force Col. Kenneth Cordier no longer would serve as a volunteer organizer for Bush. The campaign said it had been unaware until Friday that Cordier appeared in an ad for the swift boat group.
Kerry was awarded the Silver Star for his actions Feb. 28, 1969, in fighting on a tributary of the Bay Hap River. Kerry's version of events has been questioned by critics, but a first-person account, written by Chicago Tribune metropolitan desk editor William Rood and published in Sunday's editions, backs up Kerry's story. Rood captained one of three swift boats that day under the tactical command of Kerry.
Kerry's running mate, Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., campaigning in McAdenville, N.C., said, "There is a story in today's Chicago Tribune from somebody who was there who supports Sen. Kerry, and says that he was courageous and a great leader when he was in Vietnam."
Rood, who is not commenting further on the article, has said that he wrote the account for those "hurting crewmen who are not public figures and who deserved to be honored for what they did" and that the criticisms have "splashed doubt on all of us."
Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Devine attempted to counter criticism of Kerry's vote against an $87 billion appropriation for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan by maintaining that the Bush administration had sent troops to Iraq without enough high-quality body armor.
"There's only one commander in chief of the United States who sent our troops to Iraq without the body armor they need to survive, and his name is George W. Bush," Devine said. "And if he had spent one day on the front line of a war, he never would have done it."