When tricky Dick played it straight

Like most of the MSM, MSNBC was, um, slow off the mark when it came to the Swiftvet story. That’s a polite way of saying that it wouldn’t talk about the subject until the story gained enough traction to make it helpful to John Kerry for MSNBC to take the story on. MSNBC did so by sending Chris Matthews into battle with John O’Neill. As reported here Matthews “lost it,” and I don’t just mean the argument.
More recently, MSNBC aired a documentary that tries to discredit O’Neill by claiming that he got his start as a stooge of Richard Nixon and his henchmen, Haldeman and Colson. The piece recounts how the Nixon team encouraged O’Neill, and worked to make sure he got major air time in which to counter John Kerry’s well publicized claims that U.S. troops were systematically commiting war crimes in Vietnam. MSNBC plays tapes of Nixon discussing O’Neill’s efforts with Haldeman and Colson, of some of O’Neill’s press conferences, of his appearance with Kerry on the Dick Cavett show, of his meeting with Nixon in the oval office, and of O’Neill speaking up for Nixon at the 1972 Republican convention, which narrator Brian Williams calls one last favor for Nixon. Most of the cuts are designed to make O’Neill look bad. Thus, we see a crippled veteran berating O’Neill for purporting to speak for veterans (precisely one of O’Neill’s major criticisms of Kerry). We also see Kerry scoring a cheap point against O’Neill: Kerry read an unidentified quotation to the effect that the use of free fire zones violates the Geneva Conventions, O’Neill asked Kerry what his source was, and Kerry replied, “the Geneva Conventions, you’ve heard of the Geneva Conventions, haven’t you John?” But, of course, the full quotation was not from the Conventions, since it stated that the U.S. was violating them.
MSNBC’s main attack on O’Neill, however, is based on his association with Nixon. MSNBC apparently believes that mere mention of the names Nixon, Haldeman, and Colson still send shivers down the spines of all right thinking Americans. I seriously doubt that this is the case. As it happens, such references tend to send shivers down mine. But when it comes to John Kerry, I give Nixon great credit. This was a veteran who was accusing the U.S. of heinous criminal conduct. As Mackubin Owens has pointed out, there had long been “a veritable war crimes industry” supported by the Soviet Union, but in this country it had been limited mostly to intellectuals willing to take any allegations of American misconduct at face value. However, Kerry and his 7,000 Vietnam Veterans Against the War, “Americanized” the war crimes propaganda. Thus, in helping get air time for an articulate veteran who dened the truth of that propaganda, Nixon was merely defending the nation’s honor. This wasn’t auditing people’s tax returns; it was making sure that devastating charges against our country were publicly answered by someone with first-hand knowledge. (Nixon, by the way, told his aides that Kerry was more articulate than O’Neill, but that O’Neill was more eloquent).
MSNBC allowed O’Neill to discuss his relationship with Nixon. He made the obvious point that, while grateful for Nixon’s help, he did not take on Kerry as a favor to Nixon. Indeed, no one can doubt that O’Neill took his stand based on personal outrage at Kerry’s allegations. But why let that simple truth stand in the way of a little guilt by association?


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