I was on the road yesterday, but had the opportunity to see swift-vet spokesman John O’Neill square off against Chris Matthews and a pro-Kerry vet on Matthews’ show. O’Neill was impressive, to say the least. He had complete command of the facts and, just as importantly, of himself. The latter came in handy after the former drove Matthews nearly berserk (the Kerry guy just kept calling O’Neill a liar and incanting the name John McCain).
Matthews’ main arguments were that the Navy gave Kerry medals, the people on his boat backed Kerry, and Kerry showed more courage than most. The first argument was not responsive to O’Neill’s central thesis that Kerry obtained the medals fraudulently by making false claims. The second argument was irrelevant with respect to those medals awarded to Kerry based on events that did not occur on his swift boat. The third argument was irrelevant to the central issue of Kerry’s credibility, a point that Matthews willfully refused to grasp. Matthews seemed to become particularly upset when, in response to his browbeating style questions, O’Neill calmly conceded that Kerry had shown some courage in shooting “the Viet Cong kid in the back,” but not enough to deserve a medal. At that point, Matthews resorted to accusing O’Neill of being a Republican. But he couldn’t even make that stick. In response to questions about his past voting, O’Neill said he voted for Perot in 1992 and 1996 and Gore in 2000, and supported a Democrat for mayor of Houston, Texas, his hometown. O’Neill was gracious enough not to ask Matthews about his voting record.
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