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Thursday, Sept. 9, 2004 08:30 pm

common sense 9-9-04

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See whether this sounds familiar: A sour and rabidly partisan Vietnam vet named John O'Neill is plucked from obscurity by the Republican White House to be used as an attack dog against John Kerry. O'Neill creates a hokey "citizens" group to pound Kerry over his war service.

But the assault I'm describing is not this year's effort by O'Neill to ambush Kerry with a dummy operation he has labeled Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Rather I'm talking about O'Neill's first tour of duty in service to a Republican president's campaign -- none other than Richard Nixon's!

Yes, Tricky Dick was the one who first unleashed O'Neill on Kerry, way back in 1971. Kerry then was the just-returned war hero who was so eloquently speaking out and helping turn public opinion against Nixon's expanding war. So Tricky Dick decided to try killing the messenger through a nasty personal attack on Kerry.

Of course, a president can't be seen doing such dirty work, so Nixon's top political hatchet man, the infamous Chuck Colson, recruited O'Neill specifically to make the hit on Kerry. Back then, O'Neill called his front group Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace, but it was the same kind of negative scam he's fronting today.

It's unclear whether George W. Bush has personally met with O'Neill to urge him on, as Nixon did in 1971, but it's clear that the Bush political operation and funding network are behind O'Neill's smear campaign. So is the knee-slapping irony of watching Bush shuck and jive around the smear. Bush can't even produce proof that he showed up for his National Guard duty in Mississippi. He should not be trying to spit on the five medals that Kerry earned in combat.

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