When it comes to choosing leaders, integrity comes first–and no man showed more integrity in 2004 than John O’Neill, the 2004 HUMAN EVENTS Man of the Year. He helped to teach us the truth about John Kerry and counter the lies Kerry spread about the image of the Vietnam veteran, whom Kerry maligned three decades ago when, as an anti-war agitator, he presented slanderous testimony in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kerry wanted voters to see him as a war hero who stood by his “band of brothers.” But John O’Neill and the Swift Boat veterans had a different view–of a John Kerry who had a questionable record in Vietnam and betrayed his fellow vets when he came home to falsely accuse them of routinely committing war crimes. Matter of Honor For O’Neill and the scores of Swift Boat veterans who signed up with Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, it was a matter of honor not to let Kerry escape scrutiny. The Swiftees went public with their story in May 2004. Armed with solid evidence, they revealed that Kerry had exaggerated his Vietnam War record and lied about alleged atrocities committed by the American military. The liberal media mostly ignored the charges and the Swiftees. Undeterred, O’Neill took his message directly to the American people. He and Jerome Corsi co-authored the meticulously documented book Unfit for Command. Human Events Online released chapters just before the book’s publication. And O’Neill and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth raised funds to buy time on cable TV to run ads to make their case. After the book and the ads were launched, even some Republicans balked at defending them. They feared that the Swiftees’ efforts would backfire on the GOP and the President. But O’Neill was not cowed. I had the privilege of giving John O’Neill and the Swift Boat vets their first interview about Unfit for Command on our FOX News show “Hannity and Colmes.” Unfit for Command bolted to No.1 on Amazon and then No.1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Instead of addressing the substance of the book, the Kerry camp tried to discredit O’Neill. Kerry’s campaign demanded that Regnery, the book’s publisher (and a sister company of HUMAN EVENTS), pull the book off the shelves (something no one ever heard President Bush demand about the avalanche of liberal books attacking him). Television stations that aired the Swiftees’ ads were threatened with lawsuits. O’Neill, who had voted for Al Gore in 2000, was accused of being a long-standing Republican stooge, part of the “vast right-wing conspiracy.” O’Neill was undaunted. The truth was on his side and he never stinted from speaking it. While O’Neill routinely placed himself in the line of media fire, Kerry refused to give interviews on the subject, preferring instead for the liberal press to attack O’Neill on his behalf. And attack they did. On CNN’s Crossfire, host James Carville shouted at O’Neill and then refused to listen to O’Neill’s calm and measured responses. O’Neill knew why: “You shouted me down because you don’t want to hear the answer. You can’t survive the answers.” On MSNBC’s “Scarborough Country,” political analyst Lawrence O’Donnell repeatedly interrupted O’Neill to call him a “liar.” O’Neill remained calm and stuck to the facts. The abuse kept coming. On PBS’s NewsHour, Boston Globe columnist Tom Oliphant declared that O’Neill did not meet the standard of clear and convincing evidence. “Almost conclusive doesn’t cut it in the world’s parts of journalism where I live,” sniffed Oliphant. In fact, John O’Neill had interviewed some 60 people, compiled more than a dozen affidavits, and assembled a body of facts that put the Kerry campaign on the defensive, no matter how much the media tried to shield Kerry and fight on his behalf. In the end, no amount of liberal propaganda could negate the plain facts assembled by O’Neill. All the slights, tantrums and tirades of the liberal media couldn’t besmirch O’Neill’s integrity. His efforts helped turn the tide of the presidential election. For O’Neill, just as important was defending the honor of his fellow veterans. “For more than 30 years, most Vietnam veterans kept silent as we were maligned as misfits, drug addicts, and baby killers. Now that a key creator of that poisonous image is seeking the presidency we have resolved to end our silence,” wrote the Swift Boat Vets on their website. The veterans finally won. John O’Neill’s life, in its quiet dignity, is far more representative of Vietnam veterans than Kerry’s riches-to-power story. It is O’Neill–not Kerry and the anti-Vietnam War protesters–who speaks for the lives of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who came home from Vietnam, having served their country honorably. Honorable and Just Lost in all the liberal media’s vitriol is that O’Neill himself earned two bronze stars for his service in Vietnam. But unlike Kerry, he quietly put those medals away upon his return from Vietnam and enrolled in law school at the University of Texas. He graduated first in his class, clerked for then-Associate Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, and went into private practice in Houston, where he’s been ever since. John O’Neill raised a family and, earlier this year, donated a kidney to his wife. He made no money from the sale of Unfit for Command. He donated all his royalties to the Navy and Marine Relief Fund, which provides financial and material assistance to Navy and Marine families in need. O’Neill believes that the Vietnam War was honorable and just, and while America lost the battle in South Vietnam in which he took part, he’s proud of America’s triumph in the greater war against communism. He risked his life for the cause of freedom in Vietnam, and back home he risked all he had built in a 30-year career to advance the cause of truth. For this, he truly deserves to be HUMAN EVENTS 2004 Man of the Year.