I have one message burned into my memory for everyone who cares about the outcome of this year's presidential election:
Respond quickly and powerfully to attacks from the other side.
We've got to step up and fight back before it's too late.
What makes 2012 different from when I ran for president in 2004 is that the other side doesn't have to wait for an outside group to come along with false attacks.
Consider this: Swift Boat Veterans for Truth spent about $23 million on smear ads against me in 2004.
Kerry's reference to his memory immediately triggered something in my memory. Here's the story from the Washington Post from 2004 [emphasis mine]:
Most of the debate between the former shipmates who swear by John Kerry and the group of other Swift boat veterans who are attacking his military record focuses on matters that few of us have the experience or the moral standing to judge. But one issue, having nothing to do with medals, wounds or bravery under fire, goes to the heart of Kerry's qualifications for the presidency and is therefore something that each of us must consider. That is Kerry's apparently fabricated claim that he fought in Cambodia.Whatever good John Kerry might be able to do for the Obama campaign, it's a good bet a reference to "burning" or "searing" his memory linked to the Swift Boat Veterans and the Vietnam War won't get the job done.
It is an assertion he made first, insofar as the written record reveals, in 1979 in a letter to the Boston Herald. Since then he has repeated it on at least eight occasions during Senate debate or in news interviews, most recently to The Post this year (an interview posted on Kerry's Web site). The most dramatic iteration came on the floor of the Senate in 1986, when he made it the centerpiece of a carefully prepared 20-minute oration against aid to the Nicaraguan contras....
"I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia. I have that memory which is seared -- seared -- in me."
However seared he was, Kerry's spokesmen now say his memory was faulty. When the Swift boat veterans who oppose Kerry presented statements from his commanders and members of his unit denying that his boat entered Cambodia, none of Kerry's shipmates came forward, as they had on other issues, to corroborate his account. Two weeks ago Kerry's spokesmen began to backtrack. First, one campaign aide explained that Kerry had patrolled the Mekong Delta somewhere "between" Cambodia and Vietnam. But there is no between; there is a border. Then another spokesman told reporters that Kerry had been "near Cambodia." But the point of Kerry's 1986 speech was that he personally had taken part in a secret and illegal war in a neutral country. That was only true if he was "in Cambodia," as he had often said he was. If he was merely "near," then his deliberate misstatement falsified the entire speech.