Veterans for Kerry Group forms in Bonner County
Jim Ramsey, a local Air Force veteran, recently returned from the Democratic National Convention in Boston, which he attended as a delegate from Bonner County. While there he met many of the crewmates who served with Presidential candidate John Kerry in Vietnam and was impressed with their obvious sincerity and devotion to their former skipper. It was during that convention that an onslaught of cleverly crafted attack ads appeared by a group claiming to be former shipmates of Kerry’s and which questioned his war record and patriotism. Ramsey learned from Kerry’s shipmates that they’d never even heard of, or met, most of these men who suddenly claimed to have firsthand knowledge of them.
Researching the matter further, Jim found the ads were financed by Bob Perry, a major Bush contributor, to the tune of $100,000, hiring the same PR firm (for another $500,000) who blasted former Senator Max Cleland’s patriotism, despite his losing three limbs in Vietnam. The same firm of hatchet-men produced anti-McCain ads in the 2000 primary accusing the Republican of fathering a black baby, a tactic many believe cost McCain the election in the southern states. Sen. McCain, responding to the blatant falsehoods in the Kerry attack ads, has stated, “I deplore this kind of politics. The ad is dishonest and deplorable. As it is, none of these individuals served on the boat (Kerry) commanded.” He further called on the Bush administration to condemn the ads but the White House has declined to do. This Monday President Bush stated advertisements from a broad swath of independent groups should be stopped, but the White House insisted Bush did not intend to single out the advertisement increasingly drawing ire from the nation’s veterans. In Bush’s defense, McCain says the White House had no involvement with the ad and added, “I can’t believe the President would pull such a cheap stunt,” although a Bush campaign official involved with the ad has now resigned.
Ramsey got in touch with Gil Beyer, a former Navy veteran from Sandpoint, and the two decided to form a local Veterans for Kerry group here in Bonner County to help combat those types of lies and falsehoods. Within a week more than 50 veterans of Bonner County had signed up, including Joe DeForest, a local advocate for disabled veterans, who was already furious about growing cuts in VA health care for area veterans as well as what he characterizes as the total ineptitude and unwillingness of the Republican Party to deal with these issues. Appearing before the Bonner County Central Committee last year on behalf of local veterans, Joe feels they were treated rudely and condescendingly, and he states he’ll, “be damned if I’ll ever go to another Republican gathering.”
“The Bush administration’s 2004 budget,” says Joe, “proposed gutting VA services by denying at least 360,000 veterans access to health care, asks for $250 annual premiums, increases pharmacy co-payments, creates a 30 percent increase in primary care co-payments and increases waiting times for medical appointments. Further cuts already scheduled over the next ten years call for a 6.2 billion dollar cut in health care and disability benefits. Veterans already wait an average six months for a review of disability claims, yet the Bush plan would even cut the number of employees processing those claims, leading to even greater delays. The cuts were originally scheduled at a staggering 28 billion dollars, and only a vigorous protest and letter-writing campaign by the DAV and other veterans groups forced the administration to reduce the cuts to “only” 6.2 billion. Bush-Cheney has, in essence, been an unmitigated disaster to veterans in this country.”
Many of the Veterans for Kerry, especially those who’ve been under fire, still resent what they term the “macho posturing” of the President, such as the now-infamous “bring it on” statement of Bush’s in which he seemed to taunt and urge suicide bombers and attacks on our troops overseas. “It’s very easy to be brave when you’re 6,000 miles away from the battlefield and the loss of a couple of Americans a day,” said Joe. “Those casualties, in the view of George Nethercutt and other neo-con wackos Bush has surrounded himself with, don’t really amount to much in the “great scheme of things.”
Perhaps the last word should go to Jim Wasser, (an actual as opposed to wannabe) crewmate of John Kerry’s in Vietnam. “If John Kerry came to us and said he had one more mission and we’re going to hell, he’d have a full crew!”
To get your name on a list of Veterans for Kerry volunteers or if you’d like to know more, please call Jim Ramsey at 208-265-0511 or Gil Beyer at 208-265-0950 or stop by the High Hopes Restaurant in Hope any Thursday at 7 pm. The group is planning a series of ads in the coming weeks for the Kerry/Edwards campaign.
Chuck Haddad, a former Tank Commander in Vietnam, is also a long time member of the local Disabled American Veterans.