Sunday, January 25, 2004
Hey, Peter Jennings, do you remember this?
Kerrey-Inouye-Cleland Press Conference, November 2000
Press Conference by Senators and Veterans
Bob Kerrey, Daniel Inouye and Max Cleland
Senator Bob Kerrey: Well, I want to thank Bob Clemens for the very nice introduction and I want to thank the Tennessee Democratic party and all that you've done to put this together. I want to thank our good friend Max Cleland who has done such an outstanding job of making certain that we keep our word and commitment to America's Veterans. And, we're all real proud.
We are fortunate to have as our standard bearer a man who has not only served this country but has put himself on the line saying that we have to keep and honor the commitments that we have made to our Nation's Veterans and who has put before the American people spending proposals that call for putting more resources and more resources for taking care of our Veterans. It's not enough just to talk. It's not enough just to say I'm going to be compassionate. You've got to put your money where your mouth is or, otherwise, you're not going to be able to keep your word.
On the 27th of May when Governor Bush got out of Yale University, after having a four year deferment.
During May 1968, there were 350 Americans dying every week in Vietnam, and he applied, as was his right, to the Texas Air National Guard. He applied to the Texas Air National Guard. In spite of the fact that there were 500 people ahead of him; he was accepted on the same day he applied. Now, I'll let him explain how that happened. I don't question that both he and I were both given an opportunity to go to college, and we were not required to go to Vietnam while we were in college. When we got out of college, we were required to serve; he made a commitment to the Texas Air National Guard. And, God bless him for doing so. There have been many moments when Nebraska National Guard folks are on their way to Bosnia or some other deployment and they say goodbye to their families, too. They rip their lives as well. I'm not taking anything away for our Guard or our Reserve men and women. But, Governor Bush made a six-year commitment. And, he's making truth telling and character a big issue in this campaign. I heard him say recently in Pennsylvania, that the Vice President was guided by a controlling legal authority.
He said, I won't be, I'll be guided by my conscience and I'll do what's right. Well, if he's going to do what's right, he ought to release his military records, as John McCain did and let us know where he was during that six year period of time, because, there appears to be a period of time from June of 1972 to late until about October in 1973 (when he was given an early release so he could go to Harvard Business School), that he didn't report to meetings.
If you're going to make a commitment to join the Guard when a lot of us were given special privilege and special opportunities to go to college and given deferments while we did and didn't have to go into the service at the time, you've got to keep that commitment. Especially, if you're going to make character an issue in this campaign. So, I call on Governor Bush to tell us where you were and to release your records, as John McCain did, and let the American people decide. If you're going to be Commander In Chief, you may have to discipline people who did the same thing you did, and it may be difficult as a consequence.
Senator Daniel Inouye: All right, thank you very much, Bob. I'm sorry I can't be there with you. I wanted to be there in person to tell you how much I admire Al Gore. I wanted to be with my fellow Veterans to tell you we have something at stake here. I would have hoped that all of American could have heard what Bob Kerrey just said. The question is where were you, Governor Bush? What about your commitment? What would you do as Commander In Chief if someone in the Guard or in another service did the same thing? During my service, if I missed training for two years, at the least, I would have been court-martialed. I would have been placed in prison.
Senator Max Cleland: Thank you Congressman Tanner, Congressman Clement, Carl Wallace and Bill Manning. It is an honor to be with four of Tennessee's favorite sons, who all have done so much for your state and your country.
In 1967, I volunteered for duty in Vietnam. It was not a popular thing to do, but I felt it was my duty to go. It was a decision that changed my life forever.
As I said, it is wonderful to be here in the "Volunteer State." I know you're proud of that nickname, but what does it mean to you? I can tell you what it meant to one Tennessean. About thirty years ago, there were two young men about my age who faced a similar decision. They were both the sons of influential families. They both attended Ivy League colleges. They both could easily get a deferment or an easy assignment. One did, one did not.
It's still a little unclear what George W. actually did do, but I can tell you what Al Gore did. Al Gore was the son of a United States Senator who opposed the Vietnam war. He did not have to go, but he chose to go because he said he knew another young man from Carthage would have to go in his place. Not only did he go, he went as an enlisted man. An anonymous inscription on a bunker in Khe Sahn reads, "For those who fought for freedom, it has a flavor the protected shall never know." Al fought for freedom, and today, I consider him my brother.
posted by lazarus |