Kerry Ally Says Veterans Shouldn't Brag About Military Service

By Robert B. Bluey | July 7, 2008 | 8:30 PM EDT

New York ( - Longtime New York Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel had some critical words Monday for his party's presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry, telling reporters and others gathered for a Democrat-sponsored rally that veterans shouldn't boast about their military achievements.

"I don't think veterans ought to be running around saying what good that they've done or to believe that you have to be a veteran or hero to serve this great republic," Rangel told an audience at Grant's Tomb that had nearly as many journalists as spectators.

Rangel also spoke with disdain about President Bush, whom he accused of ducking out of military service during the Vietnam War. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard, but in Rangel's view, is no real veteran.

"What outrages us [veterans] is when someone who has this type of a record, for lack of a better word, can hire people to attack real heroes and real veterans," Rangel said in reference to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth charges disputing Kerry's military service.

Afterward, Rangel spoke to a small group of reporters about his disappointment in the Kerry campaign for not acting more "outraged" over the veterans' attacks.

"I have not seen any outrage," said Rangel, a Korean War veteran. "I think he ought to take the president on and bring the president into the ring."

When asked if he had been in touch with the Kerry campaign to offer advice, Rangel dismissed the suggestion.

"You don't coach somebody," he responded. "There should be more outrage about this. Take aim right at the president."

After the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth began airing a television ad Aug. 5, it took Kerry two weeks to directly respond to questions about the medals he was awarded in Vietnam. But by then, even some Democrats were wondering why it had taken so long to refute the charges.

Rangel, like many other Democrats, placed the blame on Bush for engaging in attack politics on the issue of Kerry's Vietnam service. The Bush campaign, however, has denied any formal link to the veterans' group.

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