The Cambodia Whooper finally makes the Washington Post

Joshua Muravchik:

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However seared he was, Kerry's spokesmen now say his memory was faulty. When the Swift boat veterans who oppose Kerry presented statements from his commanders and members of his unit denying that his boat entered Cambodia, none of Kerry's shipmates came forward, as they had on other issues, to corroborate his account. Two weeks ago Kerry's spokesmen began to backtrack. First, one campaign aide explained that Kerry had patrolled the Mekong Delta somewhere "between" Cambodia and Vietnam. But there is no between; there is a border. Then another spokesman told reporters that Kerry had been "near Cambodia." But the point of Kerry's 1986 speech was that he personally had taken part in a secret and illegal war in a neutral country. That was only true if he was "in Cambodia," as he had often said he was. If he was merely "near," then his deliberate misstatement falsified the entire speech.

Next, the campaign leaked a new version through the medium of historian Douglas Brinkley, author of "Tour of Duty," a laudatory book on Kerry's military service. Last week Brinkley told the London Telegraph that while Kerry had been 50 miles from the border on Christmas, he "went into Cambodian waters three or four times in January and February 1969 on clandestine missions." Oddly, though, while Brinkley devotes nearly 100 pages of his book to Kerry's activities that January and February, pinpointing the locations of various battles and often placing Kerry near Cambodia, he nowhere mentions Kerry's crossing into Cambodia, an inconceivable omission if it were true.

Now a new official statement from the campaign undercuts Brinkley. It offers a minimal (thus harder to impeach) claim: that Kerry "on one occasion crossed into Cambodia," on an unspecified date. But at least two of the shipmates who are supporting Kerry's campaign (and one who is not) deny their boat ever crossed the border, and their testimony on this score is corroborated by Kerry's own journal, kept while on duty. One passage reproduced in Brinkley's book says: "The banks of the [Rach Giang Thanh River] whistled by as we churned out mile after mile at full speed. On my left were occasional open fields that allowed us a clear view into Cambodia. At some points, the border was only fifty yards away and it then would meander out to several hundred or even as much as a thousand yards away, always making one wonder what lay on the other side." His curiosity was never satisfied, because this entry was from Kerry's final mission.

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But Kerry has repeated his Cambodia tale throughout his adult life. He has claimed that the epiphany he had that Christmas of 1968 was about truthfulness. "One of the things that most struck me about Vietnam was how people were lied to," he explained in a subsequent interview. If -- as seems almost surely the case -- Kerry himself has lied about what he did in Vietnam, and has done so not merely to spice his biography but to influence national policy, then he is surely not the kind of man we want as our president.


Heros do not shout

Ralph Peters:

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There are three big problems with Kerry from the standpoint of those who are proud of their military service. And one of those reservations has been overlooked entirely by the parade of talking heads, so few of whom have served in uniform themselves.

As far as the swift-boat controversy goes, it's likely to remain a he-said-she-said issue through Election Day. The red flag to military men and women is that so many swift-boat veterans have come out against John Kerry. Not just one. Not 10. Dozens upon dozens.

This is as rare as humility in the Hamptons. Vets stick together. Kerry likes to play up his "band of brothers" image, but if he's got a band, his opponents have a symphony. And even if the first violinist turns out to be a "Republican stooge," it's nonetheless stunning for so many vets to denounce a former comrade publicly. It just doesn't happen unless something's really wrong.

As for Kerry's support from his own crew, that's normal military psychology. You get the most objective view of a junior leader from his peers — the other swift-boat commanders (and their crews) who had to fear a weak link in the chain.

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The first show-stopper problem with Kerry began after his return. He had the right to protest against the war — more than most, since he had served himself. But he had not earned the right to lie about the honorable service of millions of others.

Kerry's lies — and they were nothing but lies — about "routine" atrocities committed by average American soldiers and sanctioned by the chain of command were sheer political opportunism. Kerry knew that none of the charges were true.

He'd been there. He may have done some stupid things himself, but atrocities were statistically very rare. Contrary to the myths cherished by film-makers, American troops behaved remarkably well under dreadful conditions.

John Kerry lied. Without remorse. To advance his budding political career. He tarnished the reputation of his comrades when the military was out of vogue.

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Kerry might have won support had he apologized frankly for what he said in the early 1970s. But he no more disavowed his lies than he disclaimed the lies of Michael Moore.

Which brings us to problems two and three.

John Kerry doesn't show a trace of integrity. Those constant flip-flops to suit the prevailing political winds are more troubling to military folks than many of the issues themselves.

Integrity matters to those in uniform. You have to be able to depend on the guy in the next foxhole — or swift boat. Trust is more important than any technology.

And John Kerry just doesn't seem trustworthy.

Finally — and this is the one the pundits have trouble grasping, given the self-promoting nature of today's culture — real heroes don't call themselves heroes. Honorable soldiers or sailors don't brag. They let their deeds speak for themselves. Some of the most off-putting words any veteran can utter are "I'm a war hero."

Real heroes (and I've been honored to know some) never portray their service in grandiose terms, telling TV cameras that they're reporting for duty. Real heroes may be proud of the sacrifices they offered, but they don't shout for attention.

This is so profoundly a part of the military code of behavior that it cannot be over-emphasized. The rule is that those who brag about being heroes usually aren't heroes at all. Bragging is for drunks at the end of the bar, not for real vets. And certainly not for anyone who wishes to trade on his service to become our commander-in-chief.

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Kerry says many of the right things. But I can't believe a word of it. I just can't trust John Kerry. I can't trust him to lead, I can't trust him to fight — and I can't trust him to make the right kind of peace.

I have reservations about voting for George W. Bush. But I have no reservations about voting against John Kerry. And I'm not alone.


How low have the Dems sunk

Debra Saunders:

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How low the Democrats have sunk. Now DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe, one- time enforcer for the draft-evading Bill Clinton, crows about Kerry's military prowess while bashing Bush for being "AWOL." When party biggies are reduced to arguing that their guy is better because he served in a war to which they objected, truly they have run out of compelling issues.

Note that Kerry's charges -- that the Bushies are behind the Swift boat ads -- come as the new Swift boat spots attack, not Kerry's military record, but what Kerry said in public testimony before the U.S. Senate in 1971. In that testimony, Kerry spoke of atrocities committed by American soldiers -- this is testimony for which some vets never will forgive Kerry.

Now Kerry is outraged that his critics are repeating what he said -- quoting the speech with which he launched his political career.

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It shouldn't be this personal, but it is because the race has become all about personality. It's odd: America is at war. Kerry and his fellow Democrats have disagreed with Bush on many aspects of the war. But rather than argue on the big issues, Camp Kerry has focused on nasty little digs. Take Kerry campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter's response to Bush spokesman Scott McClellan's statement that Kerry was "losing his cool" on the Swift boat controversy. Cutter shot back, "Mr. McClellan needs to understand that John Kerry is not the type of leader who will sit and read 'My Pet Goat' to a group of second-graders while America is under attack" -- a shot at Bush for remaining in a Florida classroom for several minutes after learning of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Talk about thin-skinned. I guess that's what happens when you are fed a dose of your own medicine.


Dems give the worst of all possible combinations

Belmont Club:

John Kerry's troubles have largely been forced on him by the Democratic Party platform. He has been given the unenviable task of presenting it as the War Party when in fact it is not, nor does it want to be. The Democrats could have chosen to become a real anti-war party, in which case it would have nominated Howard Dean or it could have elected to become a genuine war party and chosen Joseph Lieberman. Instead it chose to become the worst of all combinations, an anti-war party masquerading as the war party.

To carry out this program, it required a Janus-like figure and found it in Senator Kerry; the only man of sufficient stature who could look two ways at once....

But the Democratic Party decided to package this man, who was decent on his own terms, in the most dishonest possible way: to use his Vietnam service to deodorize the monstrous fraud at the heart of their own platform. Kerry's problems with Swiftvets are not because his credentials as a warrior are insufficient. Rather they are because no credentials are sufficient to foist this bait-and-switch on the American electorate without exciting adverse comment.

If any proof were needed that the Sixties were dead, the subterfuge of the Democratic Party would be Exhibit A. Instead of running under their own colors, or barring that, changing them, they have decided to sail beneath a false flag, as if under a cloud of shame. That in itself is tacit admission that they can no longer walk in their own guise; and what is worse that they cannot look themselves in the face, nor go into battle daring to win nor willing to lose in their own name, as is the mark of men.


Kerry calls another Swiftie

Drudge Report:

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The call lasted 10 minutes, sources tell DRUDGE.

KERRY: "Why are all these swift boat guys opposed to me?"

BRANT: "You should know what you said when you came back, the impact it had on the young sailors and how it was disrespectful of our guys that were killed over there."

[Brant had two men killed in battle.]

KERRY: "When we dedicated swift boat one in '92, I said to all the swift guys that I wasn't talking about the swifties, I was talking about all the rest of the veterans."

Kerry then asked if he could meet Brant ["You were one of the best"] -- man to man -- face to face.

Brant declined the invite, explaining that Kerry was obviously not prepared to correct the record on exactly what happened during Vietnam and what happened when Kerry came back.

Kerry's bait and switch

Frank Gafney:

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Could a man who serially told an untruth about one critical aspect of his military career — including on the Senate floor — be prevaricating as well about other aspects of his service? Before we take the bait, we had better be sure the candidate could not have fabricated after-action and medical treatment reports.
Finally, there is the matter of Mr. Kerry's seemingly desperate bid over the past few days to suppress his former colleagues' criticism. First, he asked the Federal Elections Commission to prohibit Swift boat vets from airing ads questioning his performance before and after he left Vietnam.
Such a stance is preposterous insofar as John Kerry has benefited hugely from "outside" expenditures spent on vicious attacks on President Bush by the likes of Michael Moore and MoveOn.org. On the rare occasion when the senator has disavowed and denounced such "independent" expenditures on his behalf, they (or similar ones) continue to be aimed like saturation bombing campaigns at key voters, especially in the swing states.

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The truth is that any unwarranted damage being done to the reputations and sensibilities of John Kerry's former comrades-in-arms by his critics among the Swift Boat veterans scarcely compares to the wholesale sullying of the Democratic candidate's former colleagues during his now-infamous congressional testimony in 1971. Indeed, it is the profound affront caused by his charges of daily war crimes by Vietnam-era servicemen and their leaders alike that has given rise to the activism and latest ad of his harshest critics.
John Kerry has made his service in Vietnam the leitmotif of the campaign in a conscious effort to obscure other behavior that might disqualify him. If, as his post-Vietnam record suggests, this amounts to a bait-and-switch trap for American voters, it is understandable that he would object to close scrutiny of the bait. His objections, however, should only redouble the critical attention that his behavior during and after Vietnam is given by the press and public alike.
Two possibilities on Kerry's response to Swiftvets

Tod Lindberg:

There are two possibilities: Either the Kerry campaign actually believes that the Bush campaign is behind Swift Boat Veterans for Truth; or the Kerry campaign just thinks it's good politics to blame President Bush personally for the Vietnam veterans who served in proximity to Mr. Kerry and have decided he is "unfit" to be commander in chief. The question, then, is which of these two views is the dumber?

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Kerry has said worse about Swiftvets

Rich Lowry:

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Kerry refuses to admit that he burst onto the national scene by telling a shameful falsehood about American servicemen. In his testimony, he even traded on the notion that the vets had been made into war-damaged freaks -- the country has created "a monster, a monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence." Kerry is perfectly happy to stand with members of this monstrous body of war criminals, victims and misfits now that they suit his political purposes. As for those vets who don't, they are "liars." The Swift Boat veterans seem unfazed by the charge, since they, after all, have been called worse by John Kerry.

Kerry is taking an enormous risk in basing his Swift Boat defense on a lie -- that the Swift Boat veterans are an arm of the Bush campaign. This is a civil war between Vietnam vets, one group of which is not going to forget what Kerry said about them 35 years ago. In 1971, Kerry said, "We wish that a merciful God could wipe away our own memories of that service [in Vietnam]." He owes the country an explanation of why, sometime between then and his need for footage for a campaign biography film, he changed his mind.



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