Just when we thought it was safe to get back in the water - Mercedes-Benz Forum

 
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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 05-28-2006, 08:21 AM Thread Starter
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Just when we thought it was safe to get back in the water

Kerry Pressing Swift Boat Case Long After Loss

By KATE ZERNIKE
John Kerry starts by showing the entry in a log he kept from 1969: "Feb 12: 0800 run to Cambodia."

He moves on to the photographs: his boat leaving the base at Ha Tien, Vietnam; the harbor; the mountains fading frame by frame as the boat heads north; the special operations team the boat was ferrying across the border; the men reading maps and setting off flares.

"They gave me a hat," Mr. Kerry says. "I have the hat to this day," he declares, rising to pull it from his briefcase. "I have the hat."

Three decades after the Vietnam War and nearly two years after Mr. Kerry's failed presidential bid, most Americans have probably forgotten why it ever mattered whether he went to Cambodia or that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth accused him of making it all up, saying he was dishonest and lacked patriotism.

But among those who were on the front lines of the 2004 campaign, the battle over Mr. Kerry's wartime service continues, out of the limelight but in some ways more heatedly — because unlike then, Mr. Kerry has fully engaged in the fight. Only those on Mr. Kerry's side, however, have gathered new evidence to support their case.

The Swift boat group continues to spend money on Washington consultants, according to public records, and last fall it gave $100,000 to a group that promptly sued Mr. Kerry, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, for allegedly interfering with the release of a film that was critical of him.

Some of the principals behind the Swift boat group continue to press their claims. John O'Neill, the co-author of the group's best-selling manifesto, "Unfit for Command," criticizes Mr. Kerry on television talk shows and solicits money for conservative causes and candidates. In a South Carolina newspaper, William Schachte recently reprised his allegation that he was aboard the small skimmer where Mr. Kerry received the injury that led to his first Purple Heart, and that Mr. Kerry actually wounded himself.

Swift boat message boards and anti-Kerry Web sites still boil with accusations that Mr. Kerry fabricated the military reports that led to his military decorations.

Mr. Kerry, accused even by Democrats of failing to respond to the charges during the campaign, is now fighting back hard.

"They lied and lied and lied about everything," Mr. Kerry says in an interview in his Senate office. "How many lies do you get to tell before someone calls you a liar? How many times can you be exposed in America today?"

His supporters are compiling a dossier that they say will expose every one of the Swift boat group's charges as a lie and put to rest any question about Mr. Kerry's valor in combat. While it would be easy to see this as part of Mr. Kerry's exploration of another presidential run, his friends say the Swift boat charges struck at an experience so central to his identity that he would want to correct the record even if he were retiring from public life.

Mr. Kerry portrays himself as a wary participant in his own defense, insisting in the two-hour interview that he does not want to dwell on the accusations or the mistakes of his 2004 campaign. "I'm moving on," he says several times.

But he can also barely resist prosecuting a case against the group that his friends now refer to as "the bad guys." "Bill Schachte was not on that skimmer," Mr. Kerry says firmly. "He was not on that skimmer. It is a lie to suggest that he was out there on that skimmer."

He shows a photograph of the skimmer being towed behind his Swift boat, insisting that it could barely fit three people, himself and two others. "The three guys who in fact were in the boat all say he wasn't there and will tell you he wasn't there," he said. "We know he wasn't there, and we have all kinds of ways of proving it."

Mr. Kerry has signed forms authorizing the Navy to release his record — something he resisted during the campaign — and hired a researcher to comb the naval archives in Washington for records that could pinpoint his whereabouts during dates of the incidents in dispute. Another former crew member has spent days at a time interviewing veterans to reconstruct every incident in question.

In February 2005, Mr. Kerry's supporters formed their own group, the Patriot Project, to defend veterans who take unpopular positions, particularly against the Iraq war. One of their first tasks was to visit newspaper editorial boards in defense of Representative John P. Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and veteran whose military record has been attacked by Republicans and conservative blogs since he called for pulling the troops out of Iraq.

The group has sent a letter to Mr. Schachte calling for a meeting with him, Mr. Kerry and two former veterans who maintain — as they did publicly during the campaign — that they were the only other people on the skimmer with Mr. Kerry and that he was wounded in a hail of enemy fire.

Members of the Swift boat group have not seen Mr. Kerry's newly gathered evidence. But they seem unwilling to cede much.

Mr. O'Neill said he "would be thrilled to look at anything he wants to send." Still, he added, "I'm sorry he never apologized for his 1971 speech," referring to Mr. Kerry's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which he told other soldiers' accounts of ravaging Vietnamese villages and citizens. "I think it would have been a very positive thing to do in terms of the many thousands of people who survived Vietnam and felt that was very hurtful."

Mr. Schachte said that he held "no animus," but that "if they crank this thing up again, I'm not going to be quiet." One of the two men who say they were on the boat — he does not recall which — might have been there, Mr. Schachte said, "but I was in that boat with Kerry."

The veterans group, led by Mr. O'Neill, a former Swift boat commander who was recruited by the Nixon administration to debate Mr. Kerry on "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1971, began its campaign in early 2004 by criticizing Mr. Kerry's protests against the Vietnam War. But backed by Republican donors and consultants, they soon shifted to attack his greatest strength — his record as a military hero in a campaign against a president who never went to war.

Naval records and accounts from other sailors contradicted almost every claim they made, and some members of the group who had earlier praised Mr. Kerry's heroism contradicted themselves.

Still, the charges stuck. At a triumphant gathering of veterans in Fort Worth after the election, Mr. O'Neill was introduced as the man who "torpedoed" Mr. Kerry's campaign; the Swift boat group spent more than $130,000 for a "Mission Accomplished" celebration at Disney World. The president's brother, Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, sent a letter thanking the "Swifties" for "their willingness to stand up to John Kerry." Even people within the Kerry campaign believed that the attacks had cost their candidate the presidency.

Some of Mr. Kerry's friends and former Swift boat crew members made advertisements during the race to try to shoot down the group's charges. But the campaign declined to air them widely because some strategists said that directly challenging the charges would legitimize them.

They approached Mr. Kerry after the election with the idea of setting the record straight.

So they have returned, for instance, to the question of Cambodia and whether Mr. Kerry was ever ordered to transport Navy Seals across the border, an experience that he said made him view government officials, who had declared that the country was not part of the war, as deceptive.

The Swift boat group insisted that no boats had gone to Cambodia. But Mr. Kerry's researcher, using Vietnam-era military maps and spot reports from the naval archives showing coordinates for his boat, traced his path from Ha Tien toward Cambodia on a mission that records say was to insert Navy Seals.

Mr. Kerry's supporters have also frozen frames from his amateur films of his time in Vietnam and have retrieved letters and military citations for other sailors to support his version of how he won the Silver Star — rebutting the Swift boat group's most explosive charge, that he shot an unarmed teenager who was fleeing his fire.

Another photograph provides evidence for Mr. Kerry's version of how he won the Bronze Star. And original reports pulled from the naval archives contradict the charge that he drafted his own accounts of various incidents — which left room, the Swift boat group had argued, to embellish them.

Mr. Kerry's defenders have received help from unlikely sources, including some who were originally aligned with the Swift boat group but later objected to its accusations against Mr. Kerry. One of them, Steve Hayes, was an early member of the group. A former sailor, he was a longtime friend and employee of William Franke, one of the group's founders, and he supported the push to have Mr. Kerry release his military files. But Mr. Hayes came to believe that the group was twisting Mr. Kerry's record.

"The mantra was just 'We want to set the record straight,' " Mr. Hayes said this month. "It became clear to me that it was morphing from an organization to set the record straight into a highly political vendetta. They knew it was not the truth."

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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 05-28-2006, 10:09 AM
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Is Kerry running again?
post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 05-28-2006, 10:47 AM Thread Starter
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Looks like he's clearing the decks for action. So is Al Gore.

It looks to me like the leading lights of the Democrats smell a presidential victory in 2 years. So they are starting early to clean out any bits of goo that could mess with their machine later on.

On the flip side, some of the Repo senators are beginning to jockey for position, mostly by demonstrating "independent thinking" (disagreeing with the president on this or that issue that they believe will win them votes) from the current administration. The coming mid-term will separate a lot of wheat from chaff. If it is a rout by the Democrats of the Repos, then we can count on wholesale defections within the Repo party. But if the Repos only loose a few seats but don't lose either the House or Senate, then the Repos will continue with the present strategy of carefully selecting contrasting views.

IMO, the big decider in November will be (1) if Osama gets killed in Sept/October or if troops start coming home in Aug-October. In both cases, the Repos would be bouncing around like happy puppies trying to take some credit for either or both occurrences and the Democrats would be in the unenviable position of trying to say something bad about either event.

If neither of those events happens (troop withdrawal/Dead Osama) then I'll bet the Repos lose the House and will hold a 2-seat majority in the Senate.
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 05-28-2006, 11:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Botnst
Looks like he's clearing the decks for action. So is Al Gore.

It looks to me like the leading lights of the Democrats smell a presidential victory in 2 years. So they are starting early to clean out any bits of goo that could mess with their machine later on.

On the flip side, some of the Repo senators are beginning to jockey for position, mostly by demonstrating "independent thinking" (disagreeing with the president on this or that issue that they believe will win them votes) from the current administration. The coming mid-term will separate a lot of wheat from chaff. If it is a rout by the Democrats of the Repos, then we can count on wholesale defections within the Repo party. But if the Repos only loose a few seats but don't lose either the House or Senate, then the Repos will continue with the present strategy of carefully selecting contrasting views.

IMO, the big decider in November will be (1) if Osama gets killed in Sept/October or if troops start coming home in Aug-October. In both cases, the Repos would be bouncing around like happy puppies trying to take some credit for either or both occurrences and the Democrats would be in the unenviable position of trying to say something bad about either event.

If neither of those events happens (troop withdrawal/Dead Osama) then I'll bet the Repos lose the House and will hold a 2-seat majority in the Senate.
Is Al Gore serial?
maybe he should run with Hillary, would that not piss off Billy? just an idea
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