STILL BLOWING SMOKE: This Rassman oped in the Wall Street Journal does the WSJ editors credit -- imagine the New York Times giving one of the critical Swift Boat Veterans an oped slot to state their charges -- but what it's lacking is any response beyond the "how dare you question his heroism?" line.
Kerry has faced specific criticisms and questions. His campaign is responding with ad hominems and generalities. Perhaps they're just hopelessly out of touch with events (Jim Geraghty asks: "don't these people read Instapundit?" -- they'd be doing better if they did!) or perhaps they can't respond with specifics. It's looking more and more like the latter.
And Rassman looks like a poor choice to defend these charges, as he wasn't there much. In fact, here's something that hasn't gotten a lot of attention:
Jim Rassmann, now part of the Kerry presidential campaign, was a Special Forces lieutenant spending a few days with Kerry when he fell or was knocked off the swift boat while under fire and was fished out of the Mekong River by the future candidate.
So Kerry's main defender can't really know much about the specifics because he was only there for a few days. Why don't they put someone forward who can?
August 10, 2004 -- WASHINGTON — John Kerry's claim that he was ordered to conduct an illegal combat mission in Cambodia on Christmas Day in 1968 is made up, Navy vets charge in a new book.
The veterans say Kerry "would have been seriously disciplined or court-martialed had he gone there."
Three of the vets quoted in the book were part of the five-member crew that served on Kerry's own boat: Bill Zaldonis, Steven Hatch and Steve Gardner.
They deny they or their boat were ever in Cambodia.
Well, that's pretty specific. Where's the specific response?
How badly is the Kerry campaign blowing this? So badly that his best defense comes, believe it or not, from Robert Musil, who argues: "Yes, there is considerable evidence - and always has been - that John Kerry has exaggerated certain aspects of his military record but so have a great many very brave and noble combat veterans throughout history - and it has always been that way, in and after every war."
I predict that this will be next weekend's spin from the Kerry camp, but thanks to the magic of the blogosphere you can get it today! And I actually do think that the Cambodia issue is relatively minor compared to other criticisms of Kerry, or even of Kerry's war record. It's just one that's very easy for people to pounce on because of internal and external inconsistencies.
As John O'Sullivan writes in the Chicago Sun-Times today, the truth is sure to come out:
Even if the major media decided to bury this story, they would probably not succeed -- and they know as much. The "blogosphere" -- that voluntary society of unpaid free-lance journalists -- is following the story avidly, correcting errors, producing original documents, sifting through different accounts. Some bloggers are for Kerry, some against, but all are together advancing the story by winnowing truth from falsehood. Unless the bloggers conclusively acquit Kerry before the story migrates outwards, the mainstream media will eventually be forced to devote serious resources to it.
I think the story has already "migrated outward." But what's astounding to me is that the Kerry campaign seems so disorganized, flabby and unprepared in responding to charges that it should have known were coming for months. Would a Kerry Administration be better organized than the Kerry Campaign? We have to hope so.
MORE: Reader John Frederick observes:
It's interesting to note that when the Bush was AWOL/deserter/liar story was in full play a few months back, the press went so far as to interview a dentist that had signed an exam record to question whether his signature had been forged. I guess the point was to try and establish that the record was altered to help Bush. Now we have the Swift Vets' charges and the press can't even be bothered to look critically at what they say actually happened. And there's 250+ of them! I've always felt there is media bias but even I am astonished by
the utter lack of analysis of anything Kerry has ever done in Vietnam or public life.
I guess the Kerry campaign was counting on that. Or maybe it's a brilliant strategy, as reader Joseph Fulvio suggests:
Keeping focus on endless quarrels over Kerry's Vietnam experience could be a net plus for him, as it distracts from examination of his Senate record, which provides unimpeachable evidence that his campaign rhetoric contradicts 15 years of behavior.
I swear Kerry saw Apocalypse Now during its first run and immediately began grafting parts of the story onto his own life. Boat into Cambodia? Check. Horrors and atrocities? Check. One tortured soul who sees through the lies? Check.
The fact that he made up his covert op time in Cambodia would come under the heading of neccesary evil. . . . He was working for the greater good, so the lie was not bad, it was neccesary. If Kerry didn't actually spend Christmas Eve on an illegal covert op, then someone did, and that rat-bastard wasn't man enough to come forward and admit it, like Kerry was. Yup, Kerry was man enough to admit he had done it, even if he hadn't really done it and was just taking the credit (see "thrown medals" above.)