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Disclaimer: The author of this site maintained the campaign weblog of John Kline's opponent in the 2006 election, which made Congressman Kline a bit testy.

As with all blogs, review the facts carefully and draw your own conclusions.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Kline Record: More Election-Year Slime

Oy. Not content to answer attacks on Bush's military service by mischaracterizing them as attacks on our troops, on April 22, 2004, Kline took to the House floor to slime John Kerry. Specifically:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with many of my fellow veterans in this body to bring attention to a serious decision facing our Nation. Very soon the American people will be asked to make an important choice. We will be asked to decide who will best lead our Nation for the next 4 years. One candidate, John Kerry, would claim to have the best interests of America at heart. However, Mr. Kerry's history tells a different story.

Thirty-three years ago today, he stood before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee disparaging, disparaging our brave servicemen and -women as murderers. Yet today in pursuit of the Presidency of what he called a "hypocritical" Nation, he boasts of his service alongside them.

Every man and woman who has stood in defense of our Nation deserves our thanks. But John Kerry's service does not excuse him from joining ranks with Jane Fonda and others in speaking ill of our troops or their service then or now.

On the anniversary of these outrageous claims by John Kerry, I believe we must remind the veterans of our United States Armed Forces, past, present, and future of our appreciation, of our thanks for their service to our military and our Nation.


My first and most critical objection to Kline's statement is that it is naked partisanship. Kline certainly isn't speaking on any legislation facing Congress, and he's not (as is his specialty) introducing meaningless legislation honoring a college athletics team. Republicans like to talk about concepts like "decorum" and "comity" in the House and Senate, usually in the context of accusing Democrats of ignoring them. There is even a rule in the House (frequently ignored) that members of the Senate are not to be mentioned by name. And there is a supposed understanding that Congress is not the place to make statements for partisan advantage.

So there's that.

But beyond that, this is more standard GOP-issue slime. What Kline is referring to is Kerry's testimony regarding the Winter Soldier Investigation into allegations that hundreds of U.S. soldiers participated in war crimes in Vietnam. It's understandable that the Winter Soldier stories are controversial, and are of particular concern to Vietnam veterans like Kline. The important distinction to make is that Kerry never said that all U.S. soldiers in Vietnam were guilty of war crimes, even though that is how Kline and other of Kerry's opponents choose to characterize his statements. Rather, he only reported to the Senate on what he personally had witnessed in Vietnam, and what more than 100 Vietnam veterans and civilians personally admitted to seeing or doing while in Vietnam.

I don't know anything about Kline's experience in Vietnam. I have no reason to believe he committed war crimes, and indeed he may not have witnessed any. But Kline can't claim to know what Kerry's experience was, nor that of the 100+ others who testified in the Winter Soldier investigation. And it is beyond dispute that American troops did commit war crimes in Vietnam, and they were not isolated incidents. Certainly we know that today's military is capable of engaging in any kind of subhuman behavior.

Kline has no basis for doubting, much less condemning Kerry's statement apart from his certainty that Kerry's claims are outrageous --- and the fact that it is no doubt personally embarrassing for Kline to have served in a war where such atrocities were committed by Americans. Too bad. Both men served in Vietnam, and I have no reason to doubt that they both served honorably: they have each earned the right to speak out on that war in the manner they see fit. But Kline's condemnation of Kerry in an election year on the floor of the House of Representatives is the basest form of partisan sleaze attack.

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