August 25, 2004


John Kerry's own wartime journal is raising questions about whether he deserved the first of three Purple Hearts, which permitted him to go home after 4 months of combat. . . .

Mr. Kerry has claimed that he faced his "first intense combat" that day, returned fire, and received his "first combat related injury."

A journal entry Mr. Kerry wrote Dec. 11, however, raises questions about what really happened nine days earlier.

"A cocky feeling of invincibility accompanied us up the Long Tau shipping channel because we hadn't been shot at yet, and Americans at war who haven't been shot at are allowed to be cocky," wrote Mr. Kerry, according the book "Tour of Duty" by friendly biographer Douglas Brinkley.

If enemy fire was not involved in that or any other incident, according to the Military Order of the Purple Heart, no medal should be awarded.

Maybe one of the reporters traveling with him will ask about this, and about Cambodia, now that The Daily Show has given them permission to address the subject. Certainly this answer seems a bit squishy:

A Kerry campaign official, speaking on background, told The Washington Times yesterday that the "we" in the passage from Mr. Kerry's journal refers to "the crew on Kerry's first swift boat, operating as a crew" rather than Mr. Kerry himself.

"John Kerry didn't yet have his own boat or crew on December 2," according to the aide. "Other members of the crew had been in Vietnam for some time and had been shot at and Kerry knew that at the time. However, the crew had not yet been fired on while they served together on PCF 44 under Lieutenant Kerry."

Mr. Kerry's campaign could not say definitively whether he did receive enemy fire that day.

Presumably, Kerry could.

UPDATE: Greyhawk emails:

I wouldn't make too much of that quote - when I first saw it (many days ago) I thought immediately he was referring to the crew as a whole - it is a military frame of reference. I would say "we were inexperienced" refering to any new team I led, even if every member of the team had significant experience individually.

On the other hand - Kerry certainly hasn't exhibited much 'team player' mentality before. But I'd give him this one.

Er, okay -- though do people have to have been shot at as a team to lose the feeling of invincibility? Still, as I've said before, the medals issue is largely a distraction.

But -- as I've also said before -- Kerry could clear this up by doing what everyone from me to the editors of the Washington Post have called on him to do: release his records. By failing to do that, he raises questions about everything, and they're clearly questions that his campaign can't answer.

Greyhawk has posted further thoughts here.