Kerry and Swift Boat Debate, Again??
Posted by ssbg on May 28, 2006
The New York Times reports that John Kerry wants to re-fight the Swift Boat debate, two years after his serial exaggerations and outright lies about his military service cost him the presidential election. The only possible reason for raising this issue would be to clear the decks for another presidential run in 2008, but like 2004, it shows that Kerry's only strategy for elections is to live in a refashioned past:
Three decades after the Vietnam War and nearly two years after Mr. Kerry's failed presidential bid, most Americans have probably forgotten why it ever mattered whether he went to Cambodia or that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth accused him of making it all up, saying he was dishonest and lacked patriotism.But among those who were on the front lines of the 2004 campaign, the battle over Mr. Kerry's wartime service continues, out of the limelight but in some ways more heatedly — because unlike then, Mr. Kerry has fully engaged in the fight. Only those on Mr. Kerry's side, however, have gathered new evidence to support their case. …
His supporters are compiling a dossier that they say will expose every one of the Swift boat group's charges as a lie and put to rest any question about Mr. Kerry's valor in combat. While it would be easy to see this as part of Mr. Kerry's exploration of another presidential run, his friends say the Swift boat charges struck at an experience so central to his identity that he would want to correct the record even if he were retiring from public life.
Mr. Kerry portrays himself as a wary participant in his own defense, insisting in the two-hour interview that he does not want to dwell on the accusations or the mistakes of his 2004 campaign. "I'm moving on," he says several times.
Obviously, he's not moving on, and that was the problem with his whole presidential run. It would be inaccurate, to put it mildly, to say that the Swift boat veterans cost Kerry the presidency. What defeated Kerry was his insistence on focusing his campaign on his valor in Viet Nam and the repetition of stories like Christmas in Cambodia that failed the smell test. Instead of offering coherent policies on foreign and domestic issues, but especially about the war in Iraq, Kerry insisted on talking about his service in Viet Nam as opposed to Bush's National Guard service and Cheney's deferments. When the opposition engaged on those topics, seeing as how Kerry didn't want to talk about much else, he seemed shocked that people would question his assertions.
Had Kerry developed a coherent message on policy and left Viet Nam in the past where it belonged, he would never have had to deal with the Swift Boat vets at all. They only organized because Kerry stupidly put their photos on his campaign material and implied that these veterans supported him. When they angrily demanded a retraction, the Kerry campaign refused — and they set about telling their stories instead.
Interestingly, the Times never addresses the central Kerry fib that allowed the opposition to get a toehold on this issue. Kerry had pontificated during the 1986 debate over funding the Nicaraguan contras that he knew what it was like to be behind enemy lines, and told a story that he had often related regarding how he spent Christmas 1968 in Cambodia (March 27, 1986 CR 3594):
Mr. President, I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the President of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia.I have that memory which is seared — seared — in me ….
In an article for the Boston Herald written on October 14, 1979, Kerry wrote about this experience:
"I remember spending Christmas Eve of 1968 five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas. The absurdity of almost killed by our own allies in a country in which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real."
As has been pointed out time and time again, President Nixon took office a month after this incident supposedly occurred. Nixon was elected in 1968, but took office on January 20, 1969. Moreover, one of Kerry's crew has always insisted that the closest their boat came to Cambodia at Christmas was Sa Dec, about 50 miles away. That testimony comes from Stephen Gardner, who served with Kerry until mid-January 1969, when Kerry transferred to another boat. Trying to address Kerry's complaints without mentioning this obvious lie indicates a serious amount of bias in the reporter and leaves the story incomplete.
The Times reports that Kerry's supporters are gathering evidence that will prove the Swift Boat vets liars. The report contains no evidence supporting this conclusion except Kerry's assertion that William Schachte lied about his recollections of Kerry's service. In this case, the article seems rather premature. Why not wait until Kerry and his supporters actually have the proof?
My coverage of the Swift Boat controversy can be found in the category I created especially for it. I have not posted on this topic for eighteen months, believing that the story had been thoroughly told. If Kerry really wants to open the topic for debate again, there are plenty of questions contained within the category that have never been answered. Here are just a few:
2. Why did Kerry allow David Alston to appear at numerous campaign events and misrepresent himself as an eyewitness to Kerry's Silver Star engagement?
3. Why did Alston disappear from the campaign after this became public, and why didn't the Kerry campaign explain his absence?
4. If Kerry came under fire on the December 2, 1968 incident for which he requested and eventually received his first Purple Heart, why then did Kerry write in his journal on December 11 that he had not yet been shot at?
If he can explain all this with new evidence, I'll be glad to post it. Until then, this looks like the same bluster that his supporters have used all along — to claim that the Swift Boat veterans have been thoroughly debunked and that Kerry had been vindicated without producing a single piece of supporting evidence for either conclusion. It also proves that Kerry will never get past Viet Nam, and as long as he occupies a leadership position in the Democratic Party, neither will the Democrats.
And once again, let's point out that it's Kerry who's making this an issue — again.