August 11, 2004

KERRY/CAMBODIA UPDATE: I promised a while back to see if I could get a look at the October 14, 1979 Boston Herald story -- where Kerry says he remembers spending Christmas, 1968 in Cambodia and hearing President Nixon deny that troops were there -- in original form. The quote's genuine, and here's an image. Sorry it's a bit hard to read: it's a scan of a fax of a photocopy of a microfilm, sent to me by a helpful reader who works at the Herald.

But what's really interesting is the context -- see the full scan here -- which is all about Kerry's Vietnam experiences as they relate to Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. Unlike Al Gore and Love Story, Kerry doesn't claim that the movie is about him -- but he sure draws parallels. In fact, the passage that everyone has been quoting actually reads like this, when you include the prior sentence that people haven't been including:

On more than one occasion, I, like Martin Sheen in "Apocalypse Now," took my patrol boat into Cambodia

In fact, I remember spending Christmas Day 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 being killed by our own allies in a country in which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real. But nowhere in "Apocalypse Now" did I sense that kind of absurdity.

So Kerry's Vietnam experience was like Apocalypse Now, only it was more so.

How much this adds to the debate isn't clear to me -- but in case anyone was doubting the provenance of this particular quotation, well, I'm satisfied now that its authenticity, if not its veracity, is pretty clear.

Presumably, some big-time journalists are even now interviewing people and combing the records to see if this version of Kerry's 1968 Christmas was correct. (For other, inconsistent, versions, click here.) And for those -- apparently unclear on my age and suspecting me of draft-dodging -- who want to know where I was spending my Christmas in 1968, it was in Heidelberg, Germany. I got a train, and an SST model kit.

UPDATE: Reader Garnet Girl emails:

If Kerry really wants to avoid talking about Cambodia, he probably ought to take the word out of the meta tag on his service page.

And sure enough, if you go here and click "view source" you'll see this:

meta name=target content="military record, cambodia, vietnam, military service"


UPDATE: The Kerry Campaign is backpedaling now. Guess the memory wasn't that "searing" after all. "Near" Cambodia? Just modify the quote above, or this one, to reflect that Kerry wasn't in Cambodia, but "near" it, and see how that plays.

MORE: Reader Brian Berry emails:

The specificity of the phrase "five miles across the Cambodian border" kinda knocks the explanation of confusion (...maybe he was just near the border and got confused) right out of the picture. If Kerry had said that he was simply "in Cambodia," I think it plausible to say at a later juncture that the statement might have been a bit too concrete and that what he meant to say was that he was near Cambodia-- perhaps he could even claim that he did not know what sovereign territory he was in but fudged it a little for emphasis. However, by claiming to be "five miles" in Cambodia, Kerry created a specificity he can't back out of so easily. His statement suggest he knew exactly where he was, or, exactly where he wanted to claim to have been.

Yep. Expect the spin to seque to the "so what if he lied?" line shortly. And the answer to that comes from reader Daniel Aronstein:

WHAT IF... Porter Goss had lied about going into Cambodia during the Vietnam War repeatedly, over a few decades, in different media, and on the floor of the House)?

Would we want him as DCI? Would he get confirmed? NO WAY!

We should not hold Kerry - who is running for CIC - to a lower standard.


MORE: Michael Demmons observes: "You know? It's come to the point where I'm almost ready to believe that Kerry may never have even been in Viet Nam."