August 21, 2004

THIS PIECE in the Chicago Tribune doesn't seem to add all that much considering how it was being spun. William Rood, who served with Kerry, weighs in strongly on the Silver Star medal debate, in Kerry's favor. But as I've mentioned before, the medals are something of a distraction.

Did Kerry deserve the Silver Star? Ultimately, that's a subjective decision that is unlikely to be resolved 35 years later. If it turns out that Kerry put himself in for the Purple Heart, that will be embarrassing for him, but that's not addressed here. (We'll find out, of course, if Kerry ever releases the records, something that he seems rather reluctant to do). But although putting himself in for a medal would make Kerry look self-serving, it's only an embarrassment. As for the rest, well, it's degenerated into a he-said / he-said argument that suits the spinmeisters.

Meanwhile, Cambodia isn't mentioned -- but of course, the Kerry campaign has already admitted that the Christmas-in-Cambodia story is false. It would provide a bit more perspective, though, if the Tribune noted that he'd been caught out on that one.

And, of course, none of this bears on Kerry's post-war activities. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: This story from tomorrow's Washington Post illustrates the problem with the medals:

The Post's research shows that both accounts contain significant flaws and factual errors. This reconstruction of the climactic day in Kerry's military career is based on more than two dozen interviews with former crewmates and officers who served with him, as well as research in the Naval Historical Center here, where the Swift boat records are preserved. Kerry himself was the only surviving skipper on the river that day who declined a request for an interview.

Things like this aren't readily susceptible of resolution. But it's interesting that these questions are getting much more attention than the Cambodia story, which was susceptible of resolution and which was in fact resolved -- in a fashion that showed that Kerry wasn't telling the truth.

And there's another paragraph from the Post that's worth noting:

Although Kerry campaign officials insist that they have published Kerry's full military records on their Web site (with the exception of medical records shown briefly to reporters earlier this year), they have not permitted independent access to his original Navy records. A Freedom of Information Act request by The Post for Kerry's records produced six pages of information. A spokesman for the Navy Personnel Command, Mike McClellan, said he was not authorized to release the full file, which consists of at least a hundred pages.

Kerry could clear this stuff up by releasing the records, and he ought to. There's also some embarrassment for Douglas Brinkley:

In "Tour of Duty," these thoughts are attributed to a "diary" kept by Kerry. But the endnotes to Brinkley's book say that Kerry "did not keep diaries in these weeks in February and March 1969 when the fighting was most intense." In the acknowledgments to his book, Brinkley suggests that he took at least some of the passages from an unfinished book proposal Kerry prepared sometime after November 1971, more than two years after he had returned home from Vietnam.

In his book, Brinkley writes that a skipper who remains friendly to Kerry, Skip Barker, took part in the March 13 raid. But there is no documentary evidence of Barker's participation. Barker could not be reached for comment.

Brinkley, who is director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans, did not reply to messages left with his office, publisher and cell phone. The Kerry campaign has refused to make available Kerry's journals and other writings to The Washington Post, saying the senator remains bound by an exclusivity agreement with Brinkley. A Kerry spokesman, Michael Meehan, said he did not know when Kerry wrote down his reminiscences.

Releasing everything would do a lot to clear this up. (And Hugh Hewitt notes that Kerry promised to release all this stuff months ago, but hasn't.) Refusing to simply fuels suspicion -- logically enough -- that it's being held back for a reason. More comments on the Post story here, noting that it's more supportive of the Swift Boat Vets' story than the headline would suggest.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Ed Clark notes that although we're talking about the past, we've actually learned rather a lot about the Kerry of today:

While I'm glad the vets are finally getting their chance to be heard, it's not the Vietnam stories that bother me. It's Kerry's reaction to the books and ads. This is showing his character today, not in the past, and it's not pretty.

For almost a year there have been attack ads against Bush. Bush displayed much more character by not demanding that the books and movies and ads that have been attacking him be banned the way Kerry is trying to do. Bush stood up for the rights of even those who opposed him and lied about him.

Kerry tries to silence any opposition, in much the same way as portrayed in Fahrenheit 451 (the original book). That is frightening!

And to make matters worse, the mainstream media is in collusion with him.

Yes, the notion that the answer to speech is more speech doesn't seem to have found a home at the Kerry campaign. Or, as Mickey Kaus noted, at The New York Times.

More on the Tribune story here, and read this too.