The bigger picture
John O'Sullivan reprises the flow of the Swiftvets story, how the old media first ignored it and then attacked it and discusses why all the old media angst has erupted. I think he makes an excellent point that the old media has much more at stake then just the unraveling of the Kerry campaign.
What the Swiftvets have done is revive the debate over the Vietnam War. Was it a moral war? Was it winnable? And if it was winnable, who lost it? And why?As O'Sullivan points out, the "Authorized Version" is now being challenged in a way that threatens to collapse its preeminence and perhaps even relegate it to the ash heap of history. What more compelling reason could the old media have to treat the Swiftvets with all the venom and vituperation they can muster? (I read an editorial in the Denver Post that called the Swiftvets "cesspool vets"). The very foundation of old media's present regnency is being challenged.
Commentators from different points on the political spectrum have agreed on half the explanation: that the Vietnam War remains the grumbling appendix of American politics. It is an unhealed wound, a persisting trauma, a nightmare that every now and then erupts into our waking hours. But why? Neither the Second World War nor Korea is still traumatic, even though the latter ended in an unsatisfactory draw.
The second part of the explanation is that Vietnam was also an American moral civil war in which the antiwar counterculture, led by the establishment media, defeated the rest of America. The war was settled on the counterculture's terms — Saigon fell and "Amerika" was humiliated. And to clinch the permanence of this victory, the counterculture labored to ensure that its own history of the war would become the Authorized Version.
That is why the Swift-boat veterans will ignore pleas from Bush or anyone else to halt their campaign. And why that campaign will dominate the election for some time yet — whatever the papers say.I'm not certain O'Sullivan goes far enough.
Or don't say.
I think this may continue after the election has come and gone. Vietnam veterans are angry. Their children are grown. Their careers are settled for the most part. Another generation of America's fighting men and women is at stake as well. (Think of Abu Ghraib.) Vietnam vets may have the time, energy and anger to carry this well past the election, right up to the point that the record of Vietnam is corrected forever and America never again spits on its fighting men and woman or curses their return home.
If they do, I'll be standing right beside them, checkbook in hand and blog at the ready, to do my part to remove the evil stain once and for all.