Roger L. Simon

"It Was Only a Flesh Wound, Kemosabe!"

Americans over fifty (and most others in reruns) grew up on those immortal words from Tonto to the Lone Ranger — and they may come back to haunt John Kerry, especially now that Bob Dole, whose wounds were most obviously not of the “flesh” variety, entered the fray:

“One day he’s saying that we were shooting civilians, cutting off their ears, cutting off their heads, throwing away his medals or his ribbons,” Dole said. “The next day he’s standing there, ‘I want to be president because I’m a Vietnam veteran.’ Maybe he should apologize to all the other 2.5 million veterans who served. He wasn’t the only one in Vietnam,” said Dole, whose World War II wounds left him without the use of his right arm.

Dole added: “And here’s, you know, a good guy, a good friend. I respect his record. But three Purple Hearts and never bled that I know of. I mean, they’re all superficial wounds. Three Purple Hearts and you’re out.”

I think Dole gets to the heart of it. Kerry sounds like a man who acts as if he were the only one who served in Vietnam. And for that matter, the only one who protested the war.

In the same AP report, the man I voted for in the primary and well might have supported were he nominated, John Edwards, ends up carrying water for a cause I suspect he strongly doubts — that is that Swiftie’s ads should be taken off the air.

“This is the moment of truth for President Bush,” Edwards said in North Carolina. “The American people have to hear directly that these ads need to come off the air.” Kerry also fought back in another new ad.

It’s certainly odd to see a former trial lawyer calling for suppression of speech. (Well, maybe it’s not.) But I wish he had stuck to the arguments, such as they are, although thus far there has been no response to the Swiftie’s most susbstantial charge, the “Christmas in Cambodia” issue. And of course the second ad is mostly Kerry’s own words. Does Edwards want to suppress that? Well, trial lawyers have tried time and again, but somehow I suspect the North Carolina Senator is thinking…. I didn’t bargain on this.

UPDATE: I didn’t think the Kerry Campaign was going to implode over all this, but reading this report from the Boston Globe on Command Post, I’m beginning to wonder. I guess this is what happens when somebody finally questions The Braggart Soldier in the ale house.

MORE: One last thing for the moment, it strikes me that Kerry is one of those who inadvertently subscribes to Hans Vaihinger’s fascinating “Philosophy of As If.” As a personal survival strategy, it has it points. But in the White House… whoa!