THE TV spot slandering John Kerry's Vietnam War service is as odious a piece of propaganda as has ever fouled the American airwaves. But don't take our word. Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam and card-carrying Republican supporter of President Bush, calls it "dishonest and dishonorable."
Produced by a major GOP political contributor from Texas, the 30-second attack ad, now being aired in Ohio and several other states, purports to offer critical insights on the Democratic presidential nominee's character from people who served with him.
We will not repeat the charges, because it is obvious that they are fallacious. But it is important to note that not one of the people who appear in the ad served directly with Mr. Kerry, only on U.S. Navy "Swift" boats of the same type as his.
In contrast, the men who actually fought side by side with Mr. Kerry on Mekong River patrol - nine of them attended the Democratic National Convention - have consistently and without reservation testified to his bravery and leadership. They were his Band of Brothers 35 years ago, and they still are today.
Though you won't learn it from the ad, at least one of the Kerry critics, George Elliott, was a superior officer of Mr. Kerry in Vietnam who wrote a glowing fitness report about the future candidate in December, 1969. Quoted from the actual document, here's what Mr. Elliot said when he had no political ax to grind:
"In a combat environment often requiring independent, decisive action LTJG Kerry was unsurpassed. He constantly reviewed tactics and lessons learned in river operations and applied his experience at every opportunity. On one occasion while in tactical command of a three boat operation his units were taken under fire from ambush. LTJG Kerry rapidly assessed the situation and ordered his units to turn directly into the ambush. This decision resulted in routing the attackers with several enemy KIA [killed in action]."
The report goes on to note that Mr. Kerry "emerges as the acknowledged leader in his peer group," and had been awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts for action during his Vietnam tour.
Now Mr. Elliott says Mr. Kerry "has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam." But that only raises the question of whether Mr. Elliott was lying in 1969, when he wasn't involved in partisan politics, or whether he is lying now to tarnish John Kerry.
The men who appear in this ad come across as an embittered bunch who remain mired in the emotional aftermath of the Vietnam War. They obviously have never gotten over the fact that Mr. Kerry was right about the war when, having served with distinction, he led national protests against it.
Moreover, to falsely denigrate Mr. Kerry's impeccably documented service record only invites comparison to the military records (or lack thereof) of certain other candidates, namely the Republican ticket.
To disagree about who should be president of the United States is one thing, but to spread lies to create a false impression of a candidate makes us wonder if these disaffected Swift boat veterans surrendered their honor when they came home from Vietnam.