August 20, 2004

NYT/Swiftees-My turn
Posted by McQ

Jon has commented on it. Dale’s commented on it. I'm sorry you have to suffer through another, but I feel the necessity to address this. It is, after all, the story of the day.

Having read both and the NYT article, I have to tell you that while I think the points Jon raises are valid and interesting, I mostly agree with Dale that this isn’t at all that damaging to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’s case, primarily because it really doesn’t address most of their points. Are there some inconsistencies? Yes, obviously. Is that a surprise? Well not to me, but apparently to the NYT. But only the inconsistencies on the SBVT side are of interest to the NYT… not the Kerry side.

Secondly, it doesn’t address any of the points brought up in “Unfit for Command” concerning Kerry’s activities after he left Vietnam. It is those activities which form the nut of why these guys think Kerry’s not fit to command.

Full disclosure: I’m not neutral in this. I’ve stated that many times. However, that being said, I'll call a spade a spade if I see it that way, even if its not helpful to the Swiftees. But it should be well known to regular readers that I’ve long thought Kerry to be unfit for command. So when reading my opinion concerning the NYT, keep that in mind.

Stipulated: Republicans have funded part of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign. No news or anything relevant in that revelation, anymore than Democrats have funded anti- Bush ads through However the NYT tie to Rove and thus to the Bush campaign is very tenuous if not outright strained. And that’s being kind.

Stipulated: The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have an axe to grind with John Kerry. That has to do with what he did after the war as much as it has to do with what he claimed during the war. The NYT piece doesn’t address those parts of the argument. Its clear that the author of “Unfit for Command” has had what he considers to be a legitimate gripe against Kerry since 1971.

The strategy the veterans devised would ultimately paint John Kerry the war hero as John Kerry the "baby killer" and the fabricator of the events that resulted in his war medals. But on close examination, the accounts of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth' prove to be riddled with inconsistencies. In many cases, material offered as proof by these veterans is undercut by official Navy records and the men's own statements.

So here’s the NYT’s version of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’s premise. But there’s one problem with this … John Kerry has already painted himself as the “baby killer” (not literally, but with is admission to having committed atrocities). And, of course, the unrefuted “Christmas in Cambodia” lends credence to him being a bit of a fabricator. I think we can agree that the SBVT do honestly believe Kerry fabricated part of his service in Vietnam. But there’s another part to this story, and that part deals with what he did after Vietnam. That is as much a part of their anger as what he did in Vietnam. The crux of the SBVTs anger stems from what he did after the war. Statements like the following need to be understood to give this group’s action’s context:

"I went to university and was called a baby killer and a murderer because of guys like Kerry and what he was saying," said Van Odell, who appears in the first advertisement, accusing Mr. Kerry of lying to get his Bronze Star. "Not once did I participate in the atrocities he said were happening."

As Mr. Lonsdale explained it: "We won the battle. Kerry went home and lost the war for us.

"He called us rapers and killers and that's not true," he continued. "If he expects our loyalty, we should expect loyalty from him."

On to the statements by members of the SBVT which the NYT questions:

In an unpublished interview in March 2003 with Mr. Kerry's authorized biographer, Douglas Brinkley, provided by Mr. Brinkley to The New York Times, Roy F. Hoffmann, a retired rear admiral and a leader of the group, allowed that he had disagreed with Mr. Kerry's antiwar positions but said, "I am not going to say anything negative about him." He added, "He's a good man."

Context: In March of 2003, Kerry was one of many thinking about running for the presidency. Brinkley asks Hoffmann about Kerry. At that time there was no particular reason to rehash the past. Hoffmann simply held his peace. Why vilify the man? There was no reason too. The book though, when it came out savaged Hoffmann. Guess who’s attitude probably changed in that regard?

In a profile of the candidate that ran in The Boston Globe in June 2003, Mr. Hoffmann approvingly recalled the actions that led to Mr. Kerry's Silver Star: "It took guts, and I admire that."

Again, context. In June of 2003, Hoffman was no more aware of the other version of Kerry’s Silver Star action than was Elliott, as Elliott admits. Based on the knowledge of the award as outlined in the citation, it was a perfectly legitimate comment. Just as legitimate are his comments since he’s learned the other version of the events as told in “Unfit for Command”.

George Elliott, one of the Vietnam veterans in the group, flew from his home in Delaware to Boston in 1996 to stand up for Mr. Kerry during a tough re-election fight, declaring at a news conference that the action that won Mr. Kerry a Silver Star was "an act of courage."

Again, the context of the situation is left out or at least muddied. Elliott defended Kerry against charges of him committing atrocities. Kerry had admitted, or claimed, he’d committed them and was then engaged in backing off of those admissions. Elliott, as his commander, was of the firm conviction that none of those who served under him had committed atrocities. A perfectly plausible reason for defending Kerry for in so doing, he defended himself and his command.

At that same event, Adrian L. Lonsdale, another Vietnam veteran now speaking out against Mr. Kerry, supported him with a statement about the "bravado and courage of the young officers that ran the Swift boats."

"Senator Kerry was no exception," Mr. Lonsdale told the reporters and cameras assembled at the Charlestown Navy Yard. "He was among the finest of those Swift boat drivers."

Same event, same defense, boilerplate praise. He generalized and praised Kerry as one of many who did the same job. In a phrase, “big deal”.

Those comments echoed the official record. In an evaluation of Mr. Kerry in 1969, Mr. Elliott, who was one of his commanders, ranked him as "not exceeded" in 11 categories, including moral courage, judgment and decisiveness, and "one of the top few" - the second-highest distinction - in the remaining five. In written comments, he called Mr. Kerry "unsurpassed," "beyond reproach" and "the acknowledged leader in his peer group."

This fitness report has been adequately explained here. The analysis of those who know how to read a FITREP see it this way:

In his FITREP for his combat tour as Officer in Charge of a SWIFT Boat -– arguably the most important FITREP among those released by the Kerry campaign –- Kerry is not dinged but slammed in command, seamanship and ship handling and in all major leadership traits (28 JAN 69 ELLIOTT). To Kerry and perhaps to other junior officers, it is an okay FITREP. To detailers and selection boards, it is a negative fitness report that borders on the adverse. LCDR Elliott ranks him well below the norm in traits essential for command: force, industry, analytical ability, judgment and more.

Obviously no one at the NYT took the time to check with anyone in the military to see, if in fact, the report was considered to be a good or bad report. The “one of the few” is not a good rating when you have “not exceeded” as a category above it. A good FITREP would have had ALL “not exceeded” comments. The “one of few” are considered to be negative comments in the context of the report.

We then get a fairly flaky character assassination attempt by the NYT against Hoffmann.

But the book, Mr. Brinkley's "Tour of Duty," while it burnished Mr. Kerry's reputation, portrayed the two men as reckless leaders whose military approach had led to the deaths of countless sailors and innocent civilians. Several Swift boat veterans compared Mr. Hoffmann to the bloodthirsty colonel in the film "Apocalypse Now" - the one who loves the smell of Napalm in the morning.

It not only “burnished” his reputation, it apparently fabricated part of his reputation. It was in tour of duty where Brinkley relates entire conversations taken from Kerry’s journal which never took place. One of these involved Lonsdale, who changed his mind about Kerry based on that. Hoffmann too was left without the ability to respond. Meanwhile Kerry is building toward a presidential nomination.

While the NYT has no problem relating statements from Hoffmann and Lonsdale, it ignores a conversation between Kerry and Hoffmann, reported in “Unfit for Command” in which Kerry is alleged to have offered to rehabilitate Hoffmann’s reputation in subsequent editions of “Tour of Duty” if the Admiral would give him his support. Hoffmann refused.

I wonder, though, why “Tour of Duty” seems to be a perfectly acceptable source for the NYT, but “Unfit for Command” isn’t?

After this bit, we’re led through a very tenuous attempt to put Karl Rove, the left’s bete noir, as the man behind the plan. Obviously, if they can link Rove and company, even tenuously, they can write the whole thing off to a “Republican smear campaign”. Of course, its hardly likely Democrats would be interested in funding a group which attacks their candidate, so it stands to reason that any funding to be found among political types for this particular group is most likely to come from Republicans. That doesn’t, however, mean it was made at the behest and approval of the RNC or the Bush campaign, anymore that the funding of’s anti-Bush ads are linked to DNC or Kerry campaign. But they certainly aren’t funded by Republicans, are they?

As to the action surrounding the first Purple Heart, Patrick Runyon is never quoted in the piece as saying they actually received enemy fire.

"It made it sound like I didn't believe we got any returned fire," he said. "He made it sound like it was a normal operation. It was the scariest night of my life."

Well it may have been the scariest night of his life, but it doesn’t mean he was fired upon. Those on the Swift boat in support of Runyon’s skimmer say there was no return fire, that the suspected VC sprinted into the woods when the skimmer opened up on them. And the other member of the skimmer, Bill Zaldonis, has previously stated he didn’t know if they were under fire. Take it from me folks … you KNOW when you’re under fire.

They also quote Runyon as saying that he and Bill “can count to three” pointing out that only three people were in the skimmer. But then William L. Schachte claims he was in the skimmer as well. He was the OIC of the skimmer and, if I'm not mistaken, the operation. Voss was on the Swift boat to which the skimmer was attached and which he supported. In other words, the NYT doesn’t understand, big surprise, that the skimmer was working for the overal OITC, Schachte as a subordinate unit and that the swift boat was right there in support.

We then move into the attempted destruction of Elliott’s credibility.

Mr. Elliott, who recommended Mr. Kerry for the Silver Star, had signed one affidavit saying Mr. Kerry "was not forthright" in the statements that had led to the award. Two weeks ago, The Boston Globe quoted him as saying that he felt he should not have signed the affidavit. He then signed a second affidavit that reaffirmed his first, which the Swift Boat Veterans gave to reporters. Mr. Elliott has refused to speak publicly since then.

Obviously, after his round with Kranish and the misquoting and misrepresentation which took place, its not surprising that Elliott has refused to speak publicly. However to the larger point ... one of the foundations of command is honesty, especially among officers. A commander expects to get an honest rendering of an action when it is reported. Unless he does, he’s unable to report accurately up the line and get the proper support required. This is true in combat situations and it is true administratively. It is a horrible breach of trust to lie to your commander about anything.

What Elliott has essentially said is he signed off on the Silver Star because he believed the Kerry version of the event, since, at that time, he had no reason not to believe him. Subsequent to that and with the revelations that have come to the surface from others who participated in that action, he feels betrayed by an officer who was under his command, namely John Kerry. That is why you are hearing him say that had he known what the Swift boat vets allege, he’d not have signed off on the award.

Then there’s the attempted trashing of the publisher and authors of “Unfit to Command”. Suffice it to say this is just poor journalism in my opinion. Who wrote it or published it is irrelevant to what’s in the book. Either what is presented as fact is accurate or it isn’t. The NYT mentions that Jerome Corsi, a practicing Catholic, made anti-Catholic, anti-Muslim and anti-Semetic remarks. Yes, he did, he admits that saying he thought he was being clever and has publicly apologized. In his apology he said, and I paraphrase, “while I thought the remarks were sarcastic and funny, my wife didn’t and my dog didn’t and I apologize to anyone who was offended”.

Of course the NYT never managed to report that, instead inferring that Corsi is an unrepentant bigot. While not at all condoning what Mr. Corsi might have said in the past, I couldn’t find a single reference to Catholics, Jews or Muslims in “Unfit for Command”. Nor do I understand what any of that has to do with the book. O’Neill gave him the information and Corsi put it in the proper wording. End of story.

Dr. Lewis Letson is then examined. The inferrence here is if his word is all that’s available, that’s not good enough. Or at least that’s how I read it. Letson was the only MD on staff. Just as when you go see your doctor and the nurse stands there and jots down what the doctor does or says, so Letson’s assistant, J C Carrone did for Letson.
Carrone was an “HM1”. That means he was a “Hospital Mate first class”. He may or may not have been qualified to work on anyone at that rank. That was up to Letson. And Letson’s word is all he as on that since Carrone has died. Interestingly the word of Jim Rassmann and Patrick Runyon aren’t questioned, but the word of a medical doctor is.

Dale has delt sufficiently with the Silver Star action in his review and I’ve talked about why Elliott now says he wouldn’t have signed the thing so I’m not going to rehash it. Instead I want to go to this paragraph.

A damage report to Mr. Thurlow's boat shows that it received three bullet holes, suggesting enemy fire, and later intelligence reports indicate that one Vietcong was killed in action and five others wounded, reaffirming the presence of an enemy. Mr. Thurlow said the boat was hit the day before. He also received a Bronze Star for the day, a fact left out of "Unfit for Command."

Nebulous “later intelligence reports” indicate 1 KIA and 5 WIA VC. What “later intelligence reports” and what was their source? Where are they? If the sitrep claims there was 5000 yards (3 miles) of fire from the banks as Kerry reported, why did only one boat get 3 bullet holes? Perhaps, as Thurlow says, it was damage from a previous engagement. It makes more sense than one boat in five, among that 3 miles of fire reported by Kerry only getting a total of 3 bullet holes. I don’t think so.

Thurlow received the award, a Bronze Star, after he’d left the Navy. He’s also, according to reports, now signed a Standard Form 180 which will release all the records surrounding that award. We’ll see how it turns out, but the bottom line is, Thurlow stands behind what he’s said in the past.

The article wraps with a mention of Kerry’s “Christmas in Cambodia” and the quotes I used above about how the vets were greeted when they came home from Vietnam and why they’re angry at Kerry. Fair enough. But I, like Dale, don’t find anything terribly damaging in this. A couple of inconsistencies, yes, but not any which, with patient digging, probably couldn’t be easily explained. Obviously the NYT didn’t have the time or the desire to do that.

What was most notable about the piece, though, is its avoidance such things as the sampan incident in which Kerry falsified a body count, or the account of him burning a village and killing all the animals or the request from Thomas Wright, a senior swift boat commander, to exclude him from future missions with Wright because he was dangerous. In fact, this piece is more notable for what it didn’t address than for what it did.

If this is the best shot the Kerry side has, he’s in a bit of trouble in my opinion.



The truth is that at the time of this incident Kerry was an officer in command (OinC) under training, aboard the skimmer using the call sign “Robin” on the operation, with now-Rear Admiral William Schachte using the call sign “Batman,” who was also on the skimmer.

from Chapter III of "Unfit for Command"

I want to hear from Schachte directly.

Posted by: gagarin at August 20, 2004 02:59 PM

gagarin: If you're all sitting in a 3 man boat, why do you need call signs?

If one of you is on a Swift boat and the other is on a skimmer, THEN you need call signs.

Posted by: McQ at August 20, 2004 03:37 PM

From the article:

The group says Mr. Kerry himself wrote the reports that led to the medal. But Mr. Elliott and Mr. Lonsdale, who handled reports going up the line for recognition, have previously said that a medal would be awarded only if there was corroboration from others and that they had thoroughly corroborated the accounts. "Witness reports were reviewed; battle reports were reviewed," Mr. Lonsdale said at the 1996 news conference, adding, "It was a very complete and carefully orchestrated procedure."

Thurlow in the Washington Posts parrots this "Kerry probably wrote it" line too. No doubt after intense coaching during the indoctrination session. Did Thurlow corroborate his own medal or submit a contrary battle report?

Posted by: Wm D at August 20, 2004 03:50 PM

Good question McQ. Batman and Robin were both on the skimmer per the Swift Vets.

Posted by: Wm D at August 20, 2004 03:52 PM

WmD: Apparently you missed the part where Jim Rassmann wrote Kerry up for the Silver Star for that action?

That's all the corrorboration needed.

Posted by: McQ at August 20, 2004 03:56 PM

Gagarin: I read the account and you're correct. It says Scahacte was on the skimmer and Voss was in charge of the PCF.

That is definitely an inconsistency in that I've not seen anywhere but there where 4th man was on the boat. Of course, it wouldn't surprise me if it were true (Kerry never having been on a mission before) but it seems Runyon and Zaldonis would have remembered the 4th.

Seems I got that part wrong in regard to the skimmer. However, note that both Zaldonis and Runyon cannot confirm they were under fire. Also note that Voss was in command of the PCF in support so there were indeed other eyes on the mission and any fire that ensued.

Posted by: McQ at August 20, 2004 04:11 PM

McQ: If you're all sitting in a 3 man boat, why do you need call signs?

i do not know. but SBVs claim he was on the boat. e.g. in letter to TV stations they write:

Unmentioned in Kerry's Tour Of Duty version are the actual surrounding facts. Kerry, Lieutenant William Schachte, USN, and an enlisted man were on the whaler. Seeing movement from an unknown source, the sailors opened fire on the movement. There was no hostile fire. When Kerry's rifle jammed, he picked up an M-79 grenade launcher and fired a grenade at a nearby object. This sprayed the boat with shrapnel from Kerry's own grenade, a tiny piece of which embedded in Kerry's arm.

i do not know what to make of all this

Posted by: gagarin at August 20, 2004 04:20 PM

Kerry made a fatal mistake per Drudge. He just filed an official FEC complaint alleging Bush is in charge of the SwiftVets.

Now Bush proves he has no control of it, making Kerry look like a whiner, and then Bush files at least of his own to counter. 1 regarding MoveOn, one regarding The Media Fund.

And what a whiny prick fuk Kerry is.

Posted by: shark at August 20, 2004 04:22 PM

as to who wrote after action report for March 13 incident it has to be Kerry since all distances are measured in meters. not yards, feet or nautical miles - meters. Kerry's European education gives him up IMHO

Posted by: gagarin at August 20, 2004 04:26 PM

gagarin: Interesting.

Now to me it makes sense to have a seasoned officer go with a FNG. Act an advisor but let the junior officer, in effect, command so you can see what he's made of, etc.

And the two callsigns make sense if he and Kerry were to communicate with the PCF commanded by Voss.

Good eye on the inconsistency. Why does no one recall Schachte? According to the letter you quote, one or the other of the enlisted weren't on there. Both claim they were.

Definitely needs to be clarified.

Posted by: McQ at August 20, 2004 04:29 PM

McQ said:

"Secondarily, it doesn’t address any of the points brought up in “Unfit for Command” concerning Kerry’s activities after he left Vietnam. It is those activities which form the nut of why these guys think Kerry’s not fit to command."

Those on the right who have complained about Kerry's war record have done so on the basis that he is making his war record the overarching theme of his campaign. Kerry, however, has not made his post-war activities the over-arching theme of his campaign. So these activities do not really form the nut of why the right-wing has taken issue with Kerry, at least if you take them at their word.

More to the point, Kerry was not in command of anything after the war, so how could his activities show he is unfit for command? (Indeed, given Bush's history as a failed business man, the 70's showed Bush can't run a hot dog stand, much less a country.) Now, you can say that by calling himself and others war criminals to stop an illegal and misbegotten war was the wrong way to go about doing it. But to the extent it had the effect of ending the war Nixon could not figure out how to win, the means justified the end.

What burns me though is how many of these guys previously have sang Kerry's praises. Each one of them is pathetic for jumping ship and becoming Bush's shill. The NYT has a good graphic on the subject today.

Posted by: mkultra at August 20, 2004 04:49 PM

here it is:

In Bob Novak's column this morning he says he spoke to two people who were on the boat when Kerry got the first Purple Heart, Zaldonis and Runyon.

O'NEILL: Right.

Are those the two people that you understand were on the boat at that time?

O'NEILL: There is confusion as to which of those two guys were on the boat. It is clear that John Kerry was on the boat. It is clear that Admiral Schachte was on the boat. As to [whether both Zaldonis and Runyon were on the boat] there is confusion as to that point.

In Novak's column he says: "I telephoned the two of Kerry's crew members who said they were on the whaler that night: Patrick Runyon and William Zaldonis. Each said they did not know whether there was enemy fire and did not know how Kerry was wounded. But each said he was certain that they alone were in the boat with Kerry, and did not even know Schachte."

O' NEILL: Yes, I disagree with that statement completely. Schachte was the executive officer of that coastal division and Schachte was on the boat that evening.

Do you believe Schachte will come forward and speak before the election?

O'NEILL: Without question, I believe so.

Posted by: gagarin at August 20, 2004 04:54 PM

mkultra: "these guys" are not "the right-wing". these guys are vietnam vets.

Posted by: gagarin at August 20, 2004 04:58 PM

mkultra: So since Kerry also hasn't made his 20 years in the Senate a part of his campaign, can they not talk about that? He sure didn't show any leadership during that time period and he wasn't in command of a darn thing. Does that mean its out of bounds?

BTW, Kerry jumped ship first, in 1971.

Gagarin: Interesting. We'll have to see what Schachte says when and if he comes forward.

Posted by: McQ at August 20, 2004 05:01 PM

OK, so Kerry got the idea of return fire from Rassmann who was too busy submerging himself to notice that the other swift boats had ceased firing since there was no one firing back and were calmly assisting the disabled vessel?

Posted by: Wm D at August 20, 2004 05:02 PM

WmD: Precisely ... good for you. You see you can't get a Silver Star unless there's hostile fire (real or otherwise).

Posted by: McQ at August 20, 2004 05:06 PM

What a bunch of assholes -- somebody should have told Rassmann on the trip back or cutting up back at base that there really wasn't anyone firing at him.

Posted by: Wm D at August 20, 2004 06:19 PM

Mkultra More to the point, Kerry was not in command of anything after the war.

Your correct, but as a member of the Naval Reserve he was still subject to the UCMJ.

Example I was a witness to one and a bailiff for another Court Martial. Both were "weekend warriors" that reported on board for their one weekend a month. As it happened a random drug pee-pee test was done both weekends. Based on their positive results they were both dragged back to the ship (a month later) busted, fined, and tossed out of the military.

Question, when Kerry attended "Peace Talks" that included reps for the N Vietnamese, and was still a member of the Reserve, did he violate the UCMJ.

Posted by: Marc at August 20, 2004 07:57 PM

Beautiful work, McQ, as has been your co-bloggers'. My one tiny quibble is with your inference that "O'Neill gave [Corsi] the information and Corsi put it in the proper wording."

We don't in fact know precisely what role Dr. Corsi took in writing Unfit for Duty, but O'Neill has described him as someone who helped edit and organize. As anyone who's seen O'Neill in the last couple of weeks can decide for themselves — and as I can definitely confirm from first-hand observation after cross-examining O'Neill as an opposing expert witness in a 1992 jury trial — John O'Neill, first in his class at Texas Law School in 1973, law clerk to Justice Rehnquist, doesn't need anyone's help to put things in "the proper wording." Although he's not an eyewitness to any of the events of Kerry's combat career, O'Neill knows the lingo and knows the circumstances from having served in the same unit, and indeed commanded the same Swift Boat, for a longer period than Kerry himself served and within a matter of weeks after Kerry shipped back stateside. And O'Neill is a genuine courtroom star who is well capable of writing powerful, precise prose. Whatever Dr. Corsi contributed to the book, it would, I think, be a mistake to assume that he was anything remotely like the kind of "ghost writer" who most career politicians use as their co-authors.

Re Rear Admiral William Schachte, O'Neill is quoted in a lengthy interview today, again, as saying:

I am absolutely certain that Schachte was on the boat. I know it from multiple sources. First of all, I know it from Rear Admiral William Schachte himself, the former acting Judge Advocate General of the Navy. Secondly, I know it from other crewmen who were available to testify that Schachte was on the boat. Third, I know it from the commanding officer of the unit, Commander Grant Hibbard, who detached Schachte for the purposes of commanding the boat.... I believe that Admiral Schachte will ultimately come forward at his own time and own his own pace to testify publicly about exactly what happened.

No courtroom lawyer of O'Neill's caliber would make this prediction, repeatedly, without being sure he could produce on it. Remember, folks, we're still in Act I of a multi-act drama.

Mkultra: Surely you're joking about the NYT's "good graphic on the subject" of the Bush-Rove connection and the SwiftVets, aren't you? Lemme give you an example of how strong those connecting lines are from personal experience. One of my former law partners is Richard Ben-Veniste, lately famous from the 9/11 Commission. The NYT's standards would therefore put me in the heart of the Clintonistas. Never mind that I voted against Clinton twice or that I'm one of those evil Texas Republicans who's contributed ($25, plus indirectly, whatever my blog's TypePad bandwidth surcharge is gonna be for this month) to the SwiftVets. I guess the line goes from Ben-Veniste, to me, to Karl Rove, huh?

Posted by: Beldar at August 20, 2004 08:51 PM

Beldar: Thanks for the kind words. They're appreciated.

I characterized Corsi based on how he described himself and his role in an interview I heard. I also heard his apology in the same interview.

I also agree with your point about Schachte, but again, until I see or hear the "proof" I'll have to maintain that it remains a inconsistency which needs clearing up.

Posted by: McQ at August 20, 2004 09:07 PM

About Getting Distracted

I have spent about 50 hours over the last 10 days following Kerry 68/69 on about 20 blogs, plus news sites. One one end of the spectrum I have followed blogs like Atrios, Josh Marshall, Brad DeLong and MediaMatters, etc. On the other, I have followed Q&O, Captainsquarters, PowerLine, Slings and Arrows, Mudville Gazette, et al.

Almost without exception, the anti-Bush blogs cannot discuss the possibility that Kerry may have told half-a-dozen different versions of just about every event of note during his Vietnam service. What they can do is spew vitriol about BushLiedBigOilHaliburtonNatGuard. They do not have the moral courage to admit there is an issue, much less address it. The conservative commenters on these lefty sites have been considerably more civil, and have made plea after plea to have the lefties engage on the question of Kerry's multiple stories. No dice.

On the conservative blogs, commenters talk the nuts and bolts of the breaking stories, track down leads, every blog I've followed. Now, to be sure, they take great delight in the discomfiture of Kerry, but for the most part avoid simply spewing CowardLiarArrogantClimber, except in one general circumstance: upon provocation by lefty trolls.

And that brings me to my point. The vast majority of commenters to conservative blogs who are themselves clearly anti-Bush, are there merely to vandalize. They appear to desire nothing more than to tear up the room, distract other folks from passing information and leads. I see it here.

This is more than a tired "Do not feed" plea. I'm suggesting that people not respond to an obvious provocation. Not to keep things nicer (that's merely a pleasant fringe benefit), but to keep us from getting distracted or disrupted. Now, if all we were here for was to hear ourselves type, it wouldn't matter. But this seems a fairly serious blog, with fairly serious discussion. The same snarling from the same louts just needs to be ignored: they want us to spend our time on them, not Kerry.

Posted by: Jumbo at August 20, 2004 10:20 PM

These "later intelligence reports" would seem to be the major obstacle to the swift-vets version of the #3 boat incident.The NY Times article is the first I've heard of it; is this part of the Freedom of Information request they're said to have made?

Posted by: david53 at August 21, 2004 12:08 AM

gargarin quotes the SBVT letter as saying,

Kerry, Lieutenant William Schachte, USN, and an enlisted man were on the whaler.

So the SBVT also agrees there were only three people in that boat.

Not four. Three.

So, let's see.

Kerry says it was him, Runyon, and Zaladonis.

Runyon says it was him, Kerry, and Zaladonis.

Zaladonis says it was him, Kerry, and Runyon.

That's three. They too are firm about the number three.

They also agree with each other that the three were Kerry, Runyon, and Zaladonis.

Now who does the SBVT say was the lonely "enlisted man"?

Runyon? Or Zaladonis? Or some amalgamation of the two?

And why would Kerry AND Runyon AND Zaladonis all have such clear recollections of the incident if one of them actually wasn't there?

And why would they all have agreed, for lo these many moons, that Schachte wasn't there?

Did they engage in a great conspiracy 35 years ago, in preparation for this year's controversy?

If so, we should put Kerry in charge of our nation immediately! Anyone who can foretell and prepare for situations 35 years in advance has skills of prognostication that put every intelligence agency and think tank to shame.

Posted by: Raven at August 22, 2004 10:09 AM

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