Excerpts from Kerry's speech yesterday to the International Association of Fire Fighters:
....Over the last week or so, a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has been attacking me. Of course, this group isn’t interested in the truth – and they’re not telling the truth. They didn’t even exist until I won the nomination for president. But here’s what you really need to know about them. They’re funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Republican contributor out of Texas. They’re a front for the Bush campaign. And the fact that the President won’t denounce what they’re up to tells you everything you need to know—he wants them to do his dirty work. Thirty years ago, official Navy reports documented my service in Vietnam and awarded me the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. Thirty years ago, this was the plain truth. It still is. And I still carry the shrapnel in my leg from a wound in Vietnam.
As firefighters you risk your lives everyday. You know what it’s like to see the truth in the moment. You’re proud of what you’ve done—and so am I. Of course, the President keeps telling people he would never question my service to our country. Instead, he watches as a Republican-funded attack group does just that. Well, if he wants to have a debate about our service in Vietnam, here is my answer: “Bring it on.” I’m not going to let anyone question my commitment to defending America—then, now, or ever. And I’m not going to let anyone attack the sacrifice and courage of the men who saw battle with me. And let me make this commitment today: their lies about my record will not stop me from fighting for jobs, health care, and our security – the issues that really matter to the American people.
....The issues I’ve been talking about today – these aren’t Republican issues or Democratic issues. They’re American values. And frankly, it doesn’t make one bit of difference to me what party you belong to or who you’ve voted for in the past. That’s not what this election is about. This election is about building an America that’s stronger at home and respected around the world. Where families sleep soundly at night knowing you have what you need to do your jobs. An America where we once again honor those who serve our communities and protect our families.
....There’s a simple rule you follow in every fire you fight: You never go in alone – you always have a brother or sister by your side. Well, today, I want you to know that come next January, you will have a brother in the White House who stands with you every hour of every day. I will be a president who goes into the Oval Office every morning knowing that my job is to help you do yours. I will work my heart out for you, and I will never let you down.
....This isn’t going to be easy, but firefighters are no strangers to tough challenges. I know that working together, we can take back America for its heroes. We can reach for the next dream. We can look to the next horizon. For America, the hope is there. The sun is rising. Our best days are still to come. Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
Political pundits have criticized Kerry for his failure to respond quickly to these vile Swift Boat smear ads that are implicitly supported by Bush. They say he's consequently lost some votes.
But look at the bigger picture. By delaying his reactions he has allowed his supporters to respond on his behalf, further empowering and energizing his base. If he quickly responded to every hit from the Right, his supporters would eventually just sit back and wait for his retorts. No, this Kerry guy is a shrewd politician and I am daily increasing my respect and admiration for his political prowess.
(Originally posted at Left is Right.)