Eric Spratling wrote a pretty comprehensive bit for his paper early this new semester, hitting all the right points and just the right beats. The published product is just a little flawed so the perfect, as-intended article are published on the Dixonverse board by Mr. Spratling.

When a certain Vermont governor pulled his Screamin’ Dean act earlier this year, it heralded the impending death of a campaign always doomed to be nothing more than a historical footnote. Similarly, future historians might well one day mark John Kerry’s near-hysterical panic attack in reaction to his Vietnam service being questioned as the beginning of his campaign’s end.

Anyone following the election recently has probably heard of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group of 240 or so retired military men who served on or commanded Navy swift boats in Vietnam dedicated to taking down John Kerry, who himself served on a swift during his tour of duty. SBVT has thus far released two television advertisements and one book critically questioning Kerry’s war record.

Pretty blistering stuff, so Kerry reacted in the only reasonable way he could: by accusing the Swift Vets group of being a “front for the Bush campaign” doing the President’s “dirty work”. This argument is apparently based on the fact that a wealthy Republican has donated money to both the Bush campaign and the Swift Vets’ non-partisan 527-designated group. Considering how much the deep pockets of millionaire liberals like George Soros have come in handy for both Kerry AND leftist 527s such as MoveOn.org, that’s an awfully odd charge to make.

However, it’s Kerry’s other “defense” that really nudges his reaction into the gentlemen-doth-protest-too-much category. On Friday his campaign officially filed a complaint with the FEC against SBVT, alleging that their “inaccurate ads” have been “illegally coordinated” with the Bush campaign.

Incidentally, the prospect of President Bush actually taking (and getting away with) legal action to silence his mainstream political enemies is a far-fetched one, considering that the country we’ve lived in for the past couple years is one where any Republican couldn’t so much as roll his or her eyes after listening to the latest in “Bush knew about 9/11!” conspiracy mantra without immediate cries of “censorship” and “chill wind” ringing throughout the land.

But are the words of the Swift Vets not entirely accurate? Possibly. Several journalists and Kerry defenders have sprung up to demonstrate that many of the vets from SBVT who served with Kerry have made claims that are inconsistent or unsubstantiated. The story is still hot, but with any luck the whole truth will likely come out in the end. What’s worth noting right now, though, is Kerry’s reaction.

Or overreaction, more accurately. If you don’t think that the Kerry team is acting with undue panic, there is indeed a recent precedent for how a major politician should behave when his military record is unduly questioned. A while back, it suddenly became all the rage to claim that during the Vietnam years, a young George W. Bush had skipped out on his service in the National Guard. The Bush team reacted by calmly producing pay stubs and records of a military dental visit from the time frame when the President was supposedly “AWOL”. End of discussion.

Quite the opposite with John Kerry– he may or may not have behaved gracefully under fire back in Vietnam, but he certainly isn’t now. Criticizing your opponent for not condemning supposedly sleazy attack ads is maximum hypocrisy for a guy who let Michael Moore have a VIP seat at his nominating convention, and trying to legally silence commercials is just plain dirty pool.

But there’s a method to this madness: it’s an open secret that John Kerry has built his entire candidacy around his four months of service in Vietnam. Criticisms about, for instance, his voting record (the most liberal, anti-military, and consistently wrong about foreign policy issues such as the Cold War), his plan to get us out of Iraq (he’s got a great one, but he’s keeping it a secret!), or his flip-flopping desire to be both on sides of every issue (it’s called “nuance”, don’t you see) have all been brushed off because Hey, he’s John Kerry and he served in Vietnam. He spent four months in the bush so who are you to question him, you pansy-ass draft dodger?

Perpetually hiding behind four months of service from thirty-five years ago was obviously always a house of cards, but it’s been a fortress for John Kerry. SBVT are storming that fortress, and the Massachusetts senator’s inadequacies are bubbling to the surface, such as questions about his conflicting stories about being on a clandestine mission to Cambodia in Christmas of ’68, or the fact that his campaign team recently all but admitted that his first Purple Heart wound was indeed self-inflicted.

The most telling sign so far has come from poor, panicked John Kerry last Thursday. In between trying to sue his fellow vets and calling them liars and Bush cronies, Kerry was able to fit in some more feeble bluster at a campaign rally. “If [Bush] wants to have a debate about our service in Vietnam,” he puffed, “here is my answer: Bring. It. On!”

Of course, Kerry has proven that any attempts to “bring it on” to him will be met with whining and lawsuits, so his wannabe tough-talk falls just a little flat. Unlike screaming Howard Dean, that’s the way Kerry’s campaign will end: not with a bang, but with a whimper.

“Eric Spratling is a public relations senior who never served in Vietnam, so you probably shouldn’t listen to him. But you can email him at Eric.Spratling@asu.edu.”