There is much more to Kerry's life and political career than Vietnam, of course. He has a strong record in support of gay civil rights, small business, environmental causes and campaign-finance reform. In the presidential race he has outlined programs to promote public service, boost alternative energy and expand medical coverage while seeking to contain health-care costs. He calls for repealing Bush's upper-income tax cuts in favor of a payroll tax "holiday" that would give more money to low- and middle-income earners and, Kerry says, put more than 1 million people back to work overnight.
But Vietnam is what sets Kerry apart, much as it did McCain, another war hero who ran for president chiefly on his resume.
Kerry weaves it into casual conversation - "I haven't seen things this screwed up since I got back from Vietnam," he says, kicking it around with the boys at the firehouse in Ottumwa, Iowa - and trumpets it from the stage at town hall meetings. "I can bring a voice to our party that is different from any other candidate," he tells a Friday night crowd of 200 in nearby Burlington,"because I know what it means to fight in a war."
The implicit message is that only a Democrat with unquestioned military credentials can hope to beat the nation's terrorist-fighting commander in chief. Or as Kerry puts it, less subtly, "It takes more than landing on an aircraft carrier with a Navy pilot to make up for a failed economic policy." He knows a few things about such landings, Kerry says to partisan whoops, "having worked with aircraft carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin."
"One of the reasons I am running for president is precisely to hold this president accountable" on issues like education, Kerry says.
Read more in The L.A.Times - The Massachusetts Senator, a Decorated Veteran, Mixes Strong Liberal Credentials With a Pro-War Stand on Iraq - June 15,2003
By Mark Z. Barabak, Times Staff Writer