For George W. Bush's surrogates to question John Kerry's war record, as they have continued to do in recent days, requires a special Republican brand of super-high-octane gall. Why would the president want to draw additional attention to the most unflattering contrast between him and the Democratic challenger?And the Freepers call Hillary "PIAPS." Hughes is nothing more than a smear technician who's more than happy to wallow in the mud more than anyone else on the planet. Her Sunday equation of abortion rights with terrorism was nothing short of spectacular chutzpah.
Perhaps Bush and his strategists believe that offense is the only way to play defense on his spotty National Guard record. Perhaps they think that with enough money and enough noise, they can erase Kerry's medals and heroism. And perhaps they expect the mainstream media to assist in defacing Kerry's character -- just as important media organizations smeared Al Gore four years ago with Republican spin points.
Whatever plan the White House is pursuing, Karen Hughes proved last Sunday that the highly personal attack on Kerry is coming directly from the top. No one can doubt that Hughes speaks for Bush, sometimes quite literally, as she did in "A Charge to Keep," the Bush "autobiography" she ghosted for him in 1999. She claimed to be "very troubled" by comments Kerry made in 1971 about atrocities he witnessed during the war and urged the press to "follow up some line of inquiry" about whether he was inventing and exaggerating those concerns -- or whether he might even have committed war crimes himself. "I wish we knew a little bit more about that," said the troubled Hughes, as if deeply concerned whether Kerry tossed his ribbons or his medals over a fence at the Pentagon during a 1971 demonstration.
She deserves to be challenged, however, about her own role in the concealment of Bush's actual service record. Although she is currently peddling her new bestseller, the most pertinent questions concern "A Charge to Keep," that slim promotional volume with Bush's name and likeness on the cover.
The gripping but brief account of Bush's training and service ends vaguely, with this sentence: "I continued flying with my unit for the next several years." That's false; he quit flying after less than two years. He and his ghostwriter don't mention that he quit flying no later than August 1972, after he missed a flight physical and was suspended. His disappearance into Alabama to work on a Republican Senate race, when he was supposed to be pulling duty, is also left out.
On that chapter's concluding page, Bush proclaims: "I am proud of my service. Yet I know it was nothing comparable to what our soldiers and pilots were doing in battle in Vietnam." Having written those words, Hughes should remember them whenever she feels the urge to demean Kerry, who still carries a piece of shrapnel in his left buttock. And should she open her mouth about this subject again, someone should ask her what the president did with his medals.
Forget "PIAPS" - she's just another jackass.