Just Above Sunset
August 22, 2004 - The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and all that...

Home | Question Time | Something Is Up | Connecting Dots | Stay Away | Overload | Our Man in Paris | WLJ Weekly | Book Wrangler | Cobras | The Edge of the Pacific | The Surreal Beach | On Location | Botanicals | Quotes

Well, the idea is out there now.  As far as I can tell, the idea that Kerry in Vietnam shot himself so he’d get some medals, as part of a larger plan to run for president thirty-eight years later here is, in fact, now being discussed.  No one will take credit for it, but everyone will discuss it.

Yes, there is this group that calls itself the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that has, as the New York Times puts it, “catapulted itself to the forefront of the presidential campaign.” It has indeed advanced its cause in a book (by one Larry Thurlow), in a television advertisement, followed by a second released on the 20th, and on cable news and talk radio shows, all in an attempt to discredit John Kerry's war record. Over at Media Matters you will find a rundown of all the controversy with links to all appropriate items – who said what and possible political and legal actions. (Click here for that.)

The Washington Post investigating the claims and undermining them is here.  The Times backgrounder the next day on who set this all up and how it was financed is here.  The Kerry folks said, a day later - Friday August 20th – that they would file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, charging that a Vietnam veterans group had been illegally coordinating its ad campaign about Kerry's military record with President Bush.

The Annenberg Political Fact Check project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania has the most balanced assessment of the facts of the matter here.  FactCheck.org is useful, and on nobody’s side.

And late in the week – this -


The commander of a Navy swift boat who served alongside Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry during the Vietnam War stepped forward Saturday [August 21st] to dispute attacks challenging Kerry's integrity and war record.

William Rood, an editor on the Chicago Tribune's metropolitan desk, said he broke 35 years of silence about the Feb. 28, 1969, mission that resulted in Kerry's receiving a Silver Star because recent portrayals of Kerry's actions published in the best-selling book "Unfit for Command" are wrong and smear the reputations of veterans who served with Kerry.


The Annenberg Political Fact Check project will be updating their page again.

Eleanor Clift in Newsweek adds this perspective regarding The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -


They never understood this aloof figure, and the day that he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—April 22, 1971—is as powerful a date to these veterans as the Kennedy assassination. They can tell you exactly where they were when they heard Kerry say he had witnessed war crimes sanctioned by commanders in Vietnam.

The fact that Kerry attributed the breakdown in military discipline to the policymakers in Washington is lost on these men, who take Kerry’s words personally.

This is not about Kerry’s performance in Vietnam; it’s what he said when he came home. Kerry has never made extravagant claims about his heroism in Vietnam. He never said his wounds were serious, and he never said he didn’t want to get out of Vietnam. After three wounds, under military rules, he was entitled to ship out, which he did after a combat tour of four months and 12 days. Nothing these so-called Veterans for Truth have come up with contradicts what Kerry has said, but that’s not the point.

… The Kerry campaign was curiously passive as the veterans gathered force in the media—as though responding would dignify the scurrilous charges. Kerry finally broke his silence this week, perhaps mindful that a lie unanswered becomes a lie that is believed. Flanked by firefighters in Boston, Kerry stripped the mask of patriotic valor from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth by pointing out the source of their funding: a Texas Republican who wrote two checks for $100,000 to the group.

… Questioning Kerry’s heroism fires up the GOP base, but it leaves “solid undecideds” cold. They’re not paying attention.

… For an incumbent president in as much trouble as Bush, fighting a war that’s been over for nearly 30 years takes voters’ minds off Iraq.


Perhaps so.  But is risky.  And it is getting even nastier.

Media Matters notes this -


Michelle Malkin, syndicated right-wing columnist and author of In Defense of Internment: The Case for "Racial Profiling" in World War II and the War on Terror, appeared on August 19 on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews. Speaking about the recent allegations against Senator John Kerry by Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth regarding the injuries he suffered while serving in the Vietnam War, Malkin alleged, "They are [sic] legitimate questions about whether or not it was a self-inflicted wound."


What?  A new line of attack?  A careful analysis of these claims will show Kerry in Vietnam shot himself so he’d get some medals as part of a plan to run for president thirty-eight years later here?  What a sly devil!  Michelle Malkin, the cute Filipino-American columnist, is saying this may be true – you never know, and it has been said.

The Media Matters item contains the transcript of this interview.

Keith Olbermann, also of MSNBC, comments on the 20th - here-


Michelle Malkin, the unfortunate and overmatched author of a self-loathing book that attempts to justify our World War II internment and robbery of Americans of Japanese heritage, became the harbinger of the next mucky smell of low tide. She raised the story— heretofore consigned largely to Robert Novak and everybody to his right— in that delightful, Teflon way of modern politics: ‘I’m not saying that John Kerry shot himself. But in the Swift Boat Veterans’ book, they ask whether or not his wounds were self-inflicted.’

If Ms. Malkin isn’t seen on television, or moving on her own power, in the next few days, it’s understandable. My colleague Mr. Matthews forced her to hang herself out to dry ten or eleven times (never prouder of you, Chris). He may have directed the momentum, but her wounds were ultimately, uh, self-inflicted.

As Chris rightly pointed out, nobody has produced an iota of evidence that John Kerry’s wounds were anything other than the result of combat. Even in the book, the references to it are speculative and without provenance. Ms. Malkin wouldn’t even go so far as to attribute the suspicion to herself. It was in the book.

Late Thursday, the Swift Boat gang announced a second commercial to premiere in the morning, and to this writing, nobody’s been tipped about what it contains. Yet the Thurlow comment (“he had a plan”) and Malkin’s humiliating performance reek of a trial balloon. The story of the wounds will appear somewhere— probably soon.

When I raised this prospect with John Harwood of 'The Wall Street Journal,' several viewers e-mailed to chastise us for not recognizing the difference between wounds that are “self-inflicted” and those that are deliberate attempts to injure one’s self. Throw a grenade, wipe out an enemy enclave, and get a piece of shrapnel in your head in the blow-back, and you’ve received a self-inflicted wound. It isn’t intentional and it isn’t dishonorable.

But of course that’s not what Thurlow said. He spoke of some vast Swift Boat Conspiracy in which Kerry steered not a crew of soldiers through hell, but rather, steered history. “A plan,” Thurlow said. “Included not only being a war hero,” Thurlow said. “But (also) getting an ‘early out’,” Thurlow said.

He’s not talking about an inadvertent blow-back wound. It was all a plan. And if the wounds weren’t deliberately self-inflicted (again, kudos Chris— he immediately told Malkin that such an act constituted a criminal offense), they must have occurred thanks to the timely cooperation of the Viet Cong, who were good enough to shoot Kerry on cue so he could go back home with all those medals and ribbons. You know, the ribbons he threw away in protest.

We’ll save the logical disconnect that pops up right there for another time.

This is about the politics of the Smear Thrice Removed. I’m not saying this, but questions have been raised by others.

It is a perfected version of what many of President Bush’s opponents have tried in the murky depths of his reservist days. It is execrable no matter who presents it, no matter which party benefits from it.

We will hear from the very jaded that it is nothing new. It was Winston Churchill, 70 years ago, who so succinctly, and so English-ly, noted “Politics are foul.” But with instant communications, the internet explosion, and the 527 Groups, they are foul at warp-speed. The blur between an accusation with at least a thimble of evidence upon which it can rest, and the whole cloth fabrication, is so rapid as to appear as a solid line.

It is remarkable to think that we are living in the same country where a vast majority of the population never knew that Franklin Roosevelt was in a wheelchair, and where four different Republican presidential challengers, successively more and more distant of electoral chance and more and more desperate to close the widening gap, actually believed it inappropriate and unfair, just to mention it.

And that one was true. ...


This is all madness.  As Willie Brown said in the Malkin discussion on MSNBC – “He volunteered twice. He volunteered twice in Vietnam. He literally got shot. There's no question about any of those things. So what else is there to discuss? How much he got shot, how deep, how much shrapnel?”

Well, that is now coming up, actually.  And as much as all of this will damage Kerry, badly, it will remind people Bush himself has no medals, and his own service was a tad light, if not questionable.  He checked the box on the form that said he’d rather not go to Vietnam, and that form is in the public record.

How will it all play out?  Who knows?  The Bush side is taking risks here – and the Kerry side is getting hurt at the moment.  But it may be many weeks before we see who hurt whom.



One of my friends asked me exactly where is this Malkin person from?

Michelle Malkin according to Fox News -


Malkin, the daughter of Filipino immigrants, was born in Philadelphia, Pa. in 1970 and raised in southern New Jersey. [Pre-Journalism, if that's the term....] she worked as a press inserter, tax preparation aide, and network news librarian; she is also a lapsed classical pianist. Malkin is a graduate of Oberlin College.


What does she looks like?  You could Google on the “images” tab using "Michelle Malkin" - but I like this one - where's she's sitting next to her husband, the shaggy white-bread all-American guy with the American flag pin on his blindingly white shirt.  It's classic.

So Malkin thinks those Japanese evil folks really should have been locked up in WWII out here?

Well, of course. Don't get me started on how the folks from the Philippines feel about the other Asians - particularly about them Japanese. Her disgust with the Japanese is a Filipino thing. It's a long feud of many, many generations. They were on the right side in WWII, and the evil Japs were not. Thus this book, even if penned by an "Asian," is not surprising. These folks are the "good" Asians - or so they say. And their language, Tagalog, isn't Asian at all.

So you have to see this in context.  And even now, out here in Los Angeles, these two groups never mix.  Ever.

Odd?  Not really.

Los Angeles is like that.  I lived for years in San Pedro, a mostly Croatian port city, across the harbor from Long Beach. No Serbs anywhere.  Out here the Serbs all live in the San Gabriel Valley - the biggest Serbian Church (Eastern Orthodox) is out there in Alhambra, two blocks north of the I-10 freeway.  All the Croatians in San Pedro are, of course, good Roman Catholics (the real Church).  The two groups despise each other - and the Church itself split in two in 1054 over the insertion of the filioque clause into the Nicene Creed by the Roman church, among other matters.  Geez.  And then too the Croatians use the Roman alphabet, while the Serbs write in that Cyrillic crap - even if the spoken language is pretty much the same.  I listened to a lot of this animosity from my Croatian friends over the years.  These two communities are fifty long miles from each other out here - and that's fine by them.  Makes you kind of admire Tito - sort of - for holding the former Yugoslavia all together for so long.

So the Filipinos and Japanese don't get along - and we get the Malkin book. T he Croats and the Serbs don't get along.  One of my old bosses at Hughes, Annie, used to snort at the uppity Mandarin folks who would look at a string of ideograms and pronounce it utterly differently than she did in Cantonese.  What was wrong with them?  Jean Cocteau one said, of course, "When I was little I believed that foreigners could not really talk at all, but were only pretending."  Annie would understand the Frenchman.

Maybe Malkin would too.

Such madness.



Bob Patterson, who appears here as the World’s Laziest Journalist, throws in a baseball analogy (Kerry on the mound and Bush taking a long lead of first) –

If Kerry is ready to "put everything on the table" and rake Bush over the coals about his military record, this could be like when a pitcher lures a runner at first base too far off the bag. There's a point where if the base runner takes one more step, he will be too far away from first to get back safely if there's a pick-off throw.

A good pitcher can sometimes "psych" a runner into taking that step.

Now, if Bush takes it to "everything on the table" and Kerry fires back with all the details of Bush's training, he can win. If Kerry isn't careful, the runner will be half way to second base and Kerry will be lobbing the ball over to first.

Kerry is either very, very clever and about to spring an ambush, or he is very, very dumb and inept. If Kerry tags Bush during the Republican National Convention, he could "turn the tide" – i.e., turn the corner. If he does not have a good counterattack ready to go, then he deserves to lose.

Isn't watching history unfold fascinating?



Joseph, our expatriate friend in France, adds this –


Your conservative friend once said that I would say anything to win.  I don't ever recall suggesting that someone else has suggested that Bush branded himself a Yale.  [See August 15, 2004: The Bad-Boy Vote for details of that business.]


If you are going to make an accusation, then MAKE IT, FOR GOD'S SAKE.  But no, Tokyo Rose suggests that someone else has made it.  How Gutless.  Bushco never accused Saddam of trying to buy Yellowcake; he said that British Intel accused them. I am DISGUSTED.


If I had a silk-screen gizmo, like the one with which we used to make t-shirts in college, I would print up some shirts that read, convincingly, "COWARDS FOR BUSH".


Well, Joseph is not shy here.


Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, adds a media perspective –


Would truth take a hit if anyone were to point out on air that, up to this point, not even Kerry's critics claimed that the so-called "self-inflicted wound" question of his purple heart meant that he did it "on purpose," or that he was following some premeditated plan?  The story has only been that his wound occurred after he fired off a grenade launcher too close to shore and was the result of "blow-back" from this.  Any charge that he did it on purpose is staking out a new claim that needs to be justified.


I didn't read this book; is this new claim in there?  If so, let her say so.

If not, what's this woman talking about?


I'm certainly not defending her, but I must admit one of the reasons I'm not a big fan of Chris Matthews is that his style too often reminds me of Conservative talk-radio types (okay, maybe not so much "Conservative" as "Anti-Liberal") - the ilk of Neal Boortz in Atlanta and Bill O'Reilly on Fox.


I wish Matthews could've just shut up and let her answer the question, and then nail her for her answer, specifically that she hasn't even the guts to make the charge herself but is only referencing someone else's questionable opinion - and possibly even adding the follow-up question, "Is there any chance that your own stupidity is self-inflicted?  (Pause)  Mind you, I'm not saying it IS self-inflicted, or even that you ARE actually as stupid as you seem to be, I'm just asking a question that apparently needs to be asked!"


Well, the idea is out there now.  As far as I can tell, the idea that Kerry in Vietnam shot himself so he’d get some medals, as part of a larger plan to run for president thirty-eight years later here is, in fact, now being discussed.  No one will take credit for it, but everyone will discuss it.


And as we found out last week from the Pew Research Center– more that half the country still believes Iraq did have there here Weapons of Mass Destruction, and a large part of that group believes we found them, while a smaller block of the same people believe Saddam used them on our troops when we working to take control of  Baghdad – and they’re pretty mad about it.  And they don’t understand Kerry’s problem.

Well, to be fair, the number has dropped from sixty percent to fifty-four percent.


But what Malkin was up to here is, indeed, saying she didn’t say that Kerry in shot himself so he’d get some medals, but she thinks the book says that, and maybe it could be true.  And too, maybe John McCain is mentally unstable and fathered an illegitimate child with a black crack addict prostitute, as the independent Republican groups asserted in the South Carolina primary back in 2000 – which Bush won unexpectedly.  Maybe Max Cleland caused his own wounds that cost him two legs and an arm in Vietnam, as suggested by Ann Coulter here and here - and does love Osama bin Laden and hate America.  Funny how he lost his senate seat in Georgia when he was ahead in all the polling. 


Say it and people will believe it.  That’s the way it is.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....