The following is an excerpt from my book, With Christ in the Voting Booth (6th in a series).
It was 1971. Over 150,000 hamstrung American soldiers continued to battle bravely against the Communists of North Vietnam and the Viet Cong, while many of their comrades returned home and faced humiliation from some of their own countrymen. Instead of getting a pat on the back and a warm handshake, they got the cold shoulder and spit in the eye. Deserving merry welcome-home celebrations, they found themselves denounced at the airport as traitors and baby-killers.
In the spring of that year, God would use the keen ears of a lonely captive in the Hanoi Hilton and the mumblemouth of a future Senator from Boston as agents to carry out His plan to keep a Republican President in the White House.
The dispassionate voice blaring through the PA system at the Vietnamese concentration camp seemed unreal to Prisoner-of-War, Navy Commander Paul Galanti. What he heard was purported to be a former Navy Lieutenant, who had returned home from Vietnam and was now speaking to Congress. Galanti had spent about 5 years as a POW and wished he too could go and build a happy and peaceful home with the woman who had become his wife shortly before he was taken captive by the North Vietnamese. Now he was forced to listen to this prevaricator on a loudspeaker telling made-up stories about American troops, suggesting they had routinely done awful and unthinkable things, from bombing villages of innocent civilians to shooting at them like sport. He was portraying his compadres as vicious and sadistic. In short, the man’s testimony was being broadcast into Galanti’s ears to demoralize him and his fellow POWs by getting them to believe they were serving an evil regime or to confess to war crimes they did not commit.
The gist of what Galanti heard that day would stay in the forefront of his thinking, even after his joyous return home upon his release in 1973. But one seemingly insignificant detail from that speech would be buried in his memory, only to return on the day of God’s choosing thirty years later.
In 2003, Galanti was invited to a meeting of veterans to discuss the possible candidacy of Senator John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts, who was seeking to oust President George W. Bush. Someone at the meeting offered to play a few audio clips from Kerry’s past anti-war days, including Kerry’s Winter Soldier testimony before Congress. Galanti had understood there were many hearings, many testimonies and many false claims being made against American soldiers while he was a POW, so he took no special note of Kerry’s involvement. There was no reason for him to think this was the anti-war speaker he heard back when he was a prisoner, until the following clip was played:
They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan…. (emphasis mine)
Kerry had mispronounced the name of that barbarian as “jen-jus” Khan rather than “geng-us”. When Galanti heard this tape played, the memories of his mental torture flooded back. He immediately knew this was the man whose voice was used to torment him and his fellow soldiers. He had never heard anyone else pronounce that name in that way. Galanti immediately volunteered to do anything he could to oppose Kerry’s candidacy. Knowing nothing else about him, it was enough. This wasn’t just any anti-war protester. This was THE traitor, as Galanti saw it. This was personal.
After this meeting, Paul Galanti and others formed a 527 organization called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. They would eventually run millions of dollars’ worth of television and radio ads, including one ad which featured Galanti. These helped ignite opposition to Kerry and kept him on the defensive the rest of his campaign. It blunted the effect of a decorated veteran’s opposition to the Iraq War which might have been a winning issue for him otherwise (just as the American people were starting to grow weary of the war). Instead, questions about Kerry’s anti-war protests and the legitimacy of his medals were the issues that dominated the campaign. I am not arguing for the truth or falsity of the ad campaigns, rather, I am pointing out how one mispronounced word may have cost Kerry the election. Certainly the Swift Boat campaign made a profound impact:
The single most effective ad campaign of the election cycle has thus far cost only about $500,000: the campaign launched at the beginning of this month by the new anti-Kerry group, Swiftboat Veterans for Truth.
Within less than a week, polls found that half of all registered voters had heard about the Swiftboat vets’ advertisements. Close to half, 44%, of all independent voters surveyed say they find the ads “credible.” In the two weeks since the ads first aired, Kerry’s support among veterans has collapsed by some 19 points: President Bush has now gained a 55-37 lead in this group.
According to some reports, the Swiftboat vets’ site is now drawing more traffic than the official Kerry-Edwards Web site, and the little group’s servers have been overwhelmed.
Why has this one group drawn so much notice—especially as compared to groups like MoveOn.org, which have outspent them by 20 or more to one?
In their devastating second ad, “Sellout”, they first air tape of a young John Kerry alleging that U.S. forces in Vietnam committed atrocities “reminiscent of Ghengis [sic] Khan.” They intersperse his voice with clips of men like Paul Galanti, an officer who spent seven years in a POW camp. Galanti says: “John Kerry gave the enemy for free what I and many of my comrades in the prison camps of North Vietnam took torture to avoid saying.” 
Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts wanted to be president of the United States. God opposed it, so it didn’t happen. I’ve got a long list of people God didn’t want to be president. Let’s start with Mike Huckabee. I don’t know why God didn’t want one of His own preachers to be president in 2008; I certainly did. The Lord raised up Barack Obama to be president instead.
It was not because I had a vision from God or a visit from angels that I can say that God selected Obama, I got it from the Bible. No, I didn’t crack the code (there is no code). I don’t have a special set of magical reading glasses, nor did I twist some difficult-to-understand prophecy to fit my own preconceived notions. I did what any political prognosticator could do: I read and applied a simple passage of Scripture. Here it is:
“He removeth kings, and setteth up kings” (Daniel 2:21).
 This was the name given in irony to a prison camp holding captured U.S. military personnel, which was nothing like a luxury hotel. Our enemies had frequently used torture and inhumane treatment to brutalize Paul Galanti, John McCain and many, many others captured during the war.
 Nixon would be reelected the next year, but that is not who I am referring to.
David is currently an adjunct instructor of Composition and Speech at Marshalltown Community College in Iowa. His wife and he have also owned a business selling antique and collectible postcards on eBay since 1999. David was an activist with Operation Rescue in the early 1990s. He is a member of Trinity Presbyterian Reformed Church in Johnston, Iowa.
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