Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Hoo-Ah survey trends presidential


Click here to e-mail Peter Bronson
The heck with Mr. Gallup and the horse he rode in on. To find out what's really happening in the presidential race, I'll bet my voter registration card on the "Hoo-Ah" survey, conducted right here in Cincinnati at the national VFW convention.

By my count, President Bush got three Hoo-Ahs, one "I love you, George" and four standing ovations. The cheers for his speech Monday morning were lusty for a group that has nearly as many canes per capita as the AARP.

But the VFW also has a high concentration of American flag pins, neckties and shirts. It looks like Bush country, and it sounded like it when I talked to people in the audience.

"Most are iffy on Kerry because he threw his medals over the White House wall," said Diane Rybicki, a VFW Auxiliary president from Dyer, Ind., as she admired a T-shirt that said, "Kerry For President - of France."

"He had three Purple Hearts and never lost time in a hospital. That's what we've been talking about. These guys know about Purple Hearts and they wonder if Kerry is lying."

Fred Wiegel of Kansas said he wants the candidates to "Talk about what's good for the country, not knock each other."

But Eugene James of Cincinnati wants more political hand-to-hand combat. In the back of his motorized wheelchair, he carried a copy of Unfit for Command, the book by Vietnam veterans who say Kerry lied about his war record.

For some strange reason, the allegations haven't received nearly as much media attention as the bogus claims about Bush's National Guard service. But there's plenty at swiftvets.com.

"I served under a few commanding officers like that who were unfit, and it was harder than hell," said James, a Marine veteran of DaNang. "To me, that man's not a vet. He's an ..."

He used a Marine Corps word that has seven letters and begins with "A," and it's not "acrobat."

"I'm sorry for using that word," he said, "but it's true."

While Bush spoke, World War II vet Al Feher of Lynch, Ky., did the play-by-play. "I hope Kerry doesn't get this reception," he said as the crowd rose to its feet and cheered. "His war record is a lot of baloney. I'm a Democrat, but I'm voting for Bush."

I'm sure there were many Kerry voters in the crowd. But some of the loudest cheers for Bush were triggered by his defense of the war in Iraq that Kerry has criticized.

Bush said he would do the same thing again, without waiting for permission from foreign leaders: "I will defend our nation every time." Big cheers.

He said only 12 senators voted against more military spending, "and two of them are my opponent and his running mate." Bigger cheers.

Kerry has said the issue was complicated. "There's nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat," Bush said. Standing ovation.

Bush also got loud cheers for throwing spending to the VFW like beads from a Mardi Gras float. But he said Kerry's promise to bring the troops home from Iraq in six months "sends the wrong message" to the troops, terrorists and Iraq.

Kerry visits the same crowd on Wednesday. "They will be polite, but nothing like this," Feher predicted. We'll see.

Maybe Kerry should quit telling colorized war stories about Vietnam and tell us which Kerry is reporting for duty in the war on terrorism - hero or hippie?

Right now it looks like Bush wins the Hoo-Ah poll, and Kerry wins the Hooey award.

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E-mail pbronson@enquirer.com or call 768-8301.



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