Sep 072004
Authors: Sara Bahnson

Jim Rassmann feels comfortable putting his life in presidential candidate John Kerry’s hands.

Rassmann is a Vietnam veteran whom Kerry saved from imminent gunfire during an ambush in 1969.

Rassmann addressed John Straayer’s State and Local Government class Tuesday about his involvement in events for the Kerry-Edwards campaign in Fort Collins and Denver.

“It’s important to put a face that’s related to contemporary politics in the classroom,” said Straayer, a professor in the political science department.

Rassmann, a former Army Green Beret, retired Los Angeles County Sheriff and expert orchid grower, spoke to the class about his experiences in Vietnam with Kerry and about Kerry’s plan for America.

Rassmann was aboard a swift boat with Kerry in March 1969.

“We were in a major ambush, I got blown off the boat and I later got rescued by Kerry,” Rassmann said. “I was just grateful he pulled me out of there.”

During the class Rassmann addressed claims by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group of 250 Vietnam veterans who support four witnesses who say that Rassmann and Kerry are lying.

According to the group’s Web site, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth accuse Kerry of using his service in Vietnam as “the centerpiece for his bid for the presidency.”

“What (the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth) are saying is that there was no gunfire,” Rassmann said. “Everybody that was on John Kerry’s boat said that there was gunfire.”

Rassmann has traveled around the country since January helping to promote Kerry’s presidential nomination. Rassmann feels that Kerry’s behavior in Vietnam reveals a great deal about his character and ability to become president.

“He was honest. I could trust anything he told me he was going to do. I trusted him with my life,” Rassmann said.

However, some students were skeptical of Rassmann’s intentions.

“(Rassmann) seemed to skirt around the questions. He’s playing politics, not trying to find the truth,” said J.T. Davis, a junior sociology major and director of Students for Bush.

Rassmann fielded questions from students in the class, many regarding the war in Iraq. Rassmann believes Kerry’s experience in Vietnam would help him in dealing with the war in Iraq.

“We have a situation now that has so many parallels to Vietnam. I believe that we are destined to lose the war in Iraq,” Rassmann said.

Rassmann is not employed by the Kerry-Edwards campaign, but he does receive some monetary benefits from them.

“They pay for my travel, my lodging, and I get $30 per diem to offset food and incidentals. What that means is I’m about $3,000 in the hole,” Rassmann said.

Following his presentation to Straayer’s class, Rassmann joined the CSU Young Democrats’ table on the Lory Student Center Plaza, where he encouraged students to vote.

Later in the day, Rassmann traveled to Denver to speak with Jim Russell, a Telluride resident and former Navy lieutenant who saw Kerry pull Rassmann out of the water and onto his swift boat.

Stephanie Gibbs, a sophomore political science major, appreciated the timeliness of Rassmann’s visit in light of recent swift boat controversy and the upcoming election.

“I was thrilled that he came to speak. It puts a face on the issues,” Gibbs said.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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