During the 1988 presidential campaign, there was a brief controversy concerning George Bush Sr.’s service during World War II.
Bush Sr., who was a Navy pilot, had said his airplane was in flames when it plunged to the ocean on Sept. 2, 1944, according to the New York Times. In his autobiography, Mr. Bush wrote that his Grumman Avenger torpedo bomber began burning after it was hit in an attack on a Japanese radio installation and that he ejected after radioing his gunner and radioman to jump.
But Chester Mierzejewski of Cheshire, Conn., a turret gunner on another plane in Mr. Bush's squadron, said that the plane was not engulfed in flames, as the Vice President has recounted, and that Mr. Bush might have saved the lives of two other men on the plane had he tried a water landing.
But the Democrats did not give Mierzejewski hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce television ads and books to spread his story across the media. There was no WWII Tailgunners for Truth set up by big Democratic donors to smear Bush. Instead, here was Gov. Dukakis’ reaction in the same NYTimes story:
"Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, questioned about a World War II gunner's challenge to Vice President Bush's account of being shot down over the Pacific, said, ''I don't think that kind of thing has any place in the campaign.''
The Democratic Presidential nominee said the challenge to Mr. Bush's war record was ''unfair'' and ''unfortunate.''
Mr. Bush ''served this country,'' Mr. Dukakis said. ''He served it well and with tremendous courage, and you don't fly 58 missions without enormous courage and tremendous patriotism.''
Yep, Dukakis was a class act.
Now, fast forward to today and listen to Bush Sr. commenting on the Swift Boat Veterans smear against John Kerry:
Pressed about advertisements by a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Mr. Bush called "rather compelling" the claims of some veterans who have attacked Mr. Kerry's service, and he noted that others had accused these veterans of lying. "I have great confidence in Bob Dole," he added. "I don't think he'd be out there just smearing."
So what is the lesson here? Are Democrats doomed to electoral failure because they are too decent to embrace the dirty games that Republicans like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove specialize in? This is really sad.