To me, the most important issue is Kerry's misrepresentation of the realities of what our forces were doing in Vietnam during his Winter Soldier program in Detroit in Jan.'71 (which I am told Jane Fonda either funded or helped to fund), and his SFRC testimony that April.
In 2001 he appeared again on Meet the Press and declared " I think our soldiers served as nobly, on the whole, as in any war."
His 1971 actions played a major role in persuading Congress and the American people that our soldiers in Vietnam were "animals" and the war had to be ended. There is a growing realization today that by 1972 we were winning the war both in South Vietnam and over North Vietnam, and had Congress not "snatched defeat from the jaws of victory" in May 1973 we could have won. By making it unlawful for the president to spend treasury funds on combat operations on the ground, in the air, or off the shore of North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia, Congress threw in the towel and guaranteed a Communist victory. For decades thereafter unified Vietnam was ranked among "the worst of the worse" and in "the dirty dozen" human rights violators by Freedom House, and millions of people perished under Communist rule. (The Yale Cambodia Genocide Project estimated that 1.7 million people (more than 20% of the country's entire population) was killed in tiny Cambodia alone. John Kerry and his VVAW colleagues (at least some of whom were total imposters) played a key role in persuading Congress to abandon the solemn commitment America had made--first with ratification of the SEATO treaty in 1955, then in John Kennedy's famous inaugural address, and reaffirmed in August 1964 when 99.6% of Congress enacted a statute authorizing the war.
By his false statements, Kerry betrayed the sacrifice of the 2.7 million Americans who served in Vietnam and the 58,000 who died there--not to mention the millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians who lost their lives and the tens of millions who lost their freedom. The reputations of the Swift Boat Veterans for Peace who had the courage to tell the truth about him (assuming that what they said was true--which I do, although I can be persuaded if there is evidence I don't know about in his defense). This hearing is a great opportunity to revisit this issue if we can find one or more members of the Committee willing to raise it.
As the above link points out, Kerry appeared on Meet the Press alongside "Captain" Al Hubbard, the Executive Secretary of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. (I put "Captain" in quotes, because it was later revealed that Hubbard--a Black Panther who claimed to have been medically discharged from the Air Force because of wounds he received when the plane he was piloting came under fire while landing at Da Nang, Vietnam--had been a sergeant who never set foot in Vietnam while in the Air Force, and the scar he showed the media was from surgery following an injury during a soccer game.) I am told that FBI files show that Hubbard's travel to Paris and Hanoi was funded by the Communist Party, USA--suggesting he may have been a member. Without Kerry, the VVAW would have been far less effective.
As to his medals, on Dec. 2, 1968 (ironically, I was in Vietnam at the time) he went on an after-midnight operation along the coast to try to draw fire from VC so they could call in firepower. They fired a few rounds trying to draw VC fire, and during this period Kerry's M-16 jammed and he picked up an M-79 grenade launcher and fired it at a high arch. When the projectile came down it apparently struck a rock near the boat and Kerry received a tiny fragment in his arm--which the doctor who treated him said was less serious than some wounds he has treated from garden thorns. Kerry asked his CO for a Purple Heart and was basically laughed it, but when a new CO took over Kerry convinced him that they had been too busy to submit documents for the Purple Heart he earned and conned the Lieutenant to sign the form. (There was no enemy contact, so even if Kerry had blown his own leg off he would not have been eligible for a Purple Heart.) The commander of the boat that night (who eventually rose to the rank of Rear Admiral and the #2 lawyer in the Navy) has confirmed that Kerry's minor wound was negligently self-inflicted and there was no enemy contact.)
Kerry's authorized biographer writes that Kerry and an Army Special Forces lieutenant tried to destroy a cache of VC rice on land by dropping frag grenades into it (to scatter the rice all over the place), but while the Green Beret took cover Kerry simply walked away--and received a tiny frag injury to his buttocks that the two of them laughed about at the time. Since there was again no enemy contact, even had he blown his leg off he would not have been eligible for a Purple Heart. But later that day, back on the water, a mine exploded under the "No. 3 boat" across the river. Later that evening, Kerry submitted a request for another Purple Heart on the basis that a fragment from the mine injured his buttocks. (There was no other damage to his boat or anyone on it.) That was I believe his 3d Purple Heart, which gave him his free ride home. (He later told the media he debated for several days whether to take advantage of the rule that permitted people to return home after 3 Purple Hearts, but as I recall the request to go home was dated within 24 hours of the injury.)
As for his Silver Star, a teenaged VC reportedly popped out of a spider hole and fired an RPG at Kerry's boat. It did not explode, but the impact broke some glass. One of Kerry's machine gunners quickly engaged the shooter and hit him hard enough to knock him to the ground. The (apparently no longer armed) VC got up and tried to limp away, when Kerry ordered the boat landed and chased down the wounded kid--apparently killing him with his M-16. While (contrary to some allegations) that was not a "war crime," it does not appear to have been an act of conspicuous gallantry/courage under fire of the level appropriate for a Silver Star. I've read that the machine gunner allegedly said that Kerry had received a Silver Star for shooting an unarmed, wounded kid in the back." I'm not sure if that's true, and the sailor died years ago.
The link above provides a lot more information--including documenting the fact that Kerry was not just opposing the war, but parroting Hanoi's official line. He told the SFRC that 60-80% of American military personnel in Vietnam were "stoned" 24 hours a day, and that we were "behaving in a manner reminiscent of Genghis Khan." People had read about My Lai (which was actually worse than reported in the U.S. press), and with this handsome, articulate, highly-decorated "war hero" confirming that as the norm, large number of Americans turned against the war and pressured Congress to end it.
I don't care in the least whether Senator Kerry is confirmed to be Secretary of State. In general, I think presidents deserve the advisers they wish, and if we deny that and compel them to accept cabinet members they lack confidence it we cannot hold them accountable when things go wrong. (But another issue it might be useful to raise during confirmation hearings was Senator Kerry's 1984 trip to Nicaragua (see Boston Manifesto, above, p. 168-71) during which he negotiated an "agreement" that he (and others) brought back and tried to pressure President Reagan to accept. This was clearly a felony under the Logan Act. At minimum, he might be asked whether it would concern him if a "tea party Republican" in Congress decided to undermine the Obama Administration by attempting to "negotiate" a deal with, say, Israel to coordinate an armed attack on Iran? Perhaps he would even be willing to renounce some of his past behavior and express "regret" for his role in causing the deaths of millions of people in Indochina.
Senator Kerry brings a lot of baggage to this hearing, and the Committee would perform a great service by using this opportunity to get to the bottom of the charges against him. If they are false, Senator Kerry deserves his day in court to restore his reputation. If they are true, America owes a debt to the millions who served, the tens of thousands of Americans who were killed, and the millions of people in Indochina who died or lost their freedom because the U.S. Congress decided to abandon them.
Perhaps Senator Kerry will choose to defend himself by declaring the war to have been "senseless," "illegal," or "unwinnable." That would be great, because it would give us a chance to tell the truth about the war. Here is a brief summary you may have already seen: