I've talked to a number of the enlisted men who served under Kerry on the swift boats he commanded. Although they didn't share Kerry's privileged background, most speak well of him. They considered him a leader who genuinely cared about them, a commanding officer who was brave but not reckless with his men's lives. "It took two or three days after he came on board the boat to know we had somebody special," says Jim Wasser, second in command on Kerry's first boat.
Nor have I heard anyone credibly suggest that Kerry wasn't a legitimate hero. Certainly James Rassmann thinks he was. He's the Green Beret a wounded Kerry plucked from the Bai Hap River in March of 1969. Del Sandusky, Kerry's number two at the time, says the rescue took place during "an intense firefight."
"Rassmann was bobbing up and down every 30 seconds," Sandusky says. The Viet Cong "would shoot at him and he would go back down and swim under water." Kerry, who had taken shrapnel in his left buttock and was suffering from a bruised right arm, directed Sandusky to steer the craft back to Rassmann, who grabbed a cargo net hanging from the bow.
"Rassmann couldn't pull himelf up -- he was too heavy, loaded with water and the flak vest -- so Kerry lay down on the deck and pulled him up," Sandusky says. "This is in the middle of a firefight. . . . He saved Rassmann's life."
That is the context that's missing -- and that demands consideration as the Republican campaign tries to paint John Kerry as a shifty, irresolute politician who simply can't be counted on in tough times.
Wednesday, April 28
Bush thinks he can lead because he was able to help his college comrades avoid getting busted for drinking and snorting. Kerry's got a lot more going for him. From Scot Lehigh in the Boston Globe:
Posted by Howard Hoffman at 7:58 AM