September 2, 2004
The New York Times has a new typewriter key for the Swift Boat Veterans story that reads: "the unsubstantiated charges of the Swift Boat Veterans."
Unsubstantiated? It was Kerry – not the Swift Boat Veterans – who told The Washington Post: "I wish they had a delete button on LexisNexis." The Swift Boat Veterans haven't been forced to retract any of their story. Meanwhile, John Kerry has been issuing about a retraction a day since the Swift Boat Veterans started talking.
Most recently, Kerry has had to backpedal on the circumstances surrounding his first Purple Heart. Kerry has described the action on Dec. 2, 1968, for which he received a Purple Heart as his "first intense combat." The Swift Boat veterans say Kerry came under no enemy fire that day and that his injury, such as it was, resulted from the ricochet of a grenade fired by Kerry himself. (This rules out the Purple Heart but does qualify him for another "Boy, is my face red" citation, with clusters.)
Among the eyewitnesses who say Kerry came under no enemy fire on Dec. 2, 1968, is John Kerry himself. According to Douglas Brinkley's book, "Tour of Duty," Kerry wrote in his diary nine days later, on Dec. 11, 1968: "We hadn't been shot at yet." His campaign is still trying to figure out how to claim that Kerry couldn't have known this because he wasn't even on his own swiftboat at the time.
A Kerry campaign official first explained the discrepancy by essentially explaining that it depends on what the meaning of "we" is. Kerry, the official said, apparently had a nontraditional understanding of the word "we" to mean: "others not including me." "We": another two-letter word successfully parsed by a Democrat!
Another Kerry campaign official, John Hurley, has since admitted that it is "possible" that Kerry's first Purple Heart came from a self-inflicted wound.
The Kerry campaign has refused to release Kerry's personal Vietnam archive, including his journals and letters, saying that the senator was contractually bound to grant Kerry hagiographer Doug Brinkley exclusive access to the material. But then Brinkley said the papers are the property of the senator and in his full control. Still, no records.
On the bright side, the Kerry campaign is considering releasing the director's cut of Kerry's own filmed re-enactments of his war "heroics" – which, by the way, makes Kerry the first person ever to form a war re-enactment club during the actual war.
Kerry had long maintained that he did not attend the 1971 meeting of Vietnam Veterans Against the War in Kansas City, Mo., where the assassination of U.S. senators was discussed. Kerry campaign spokesman David Wade said, "Kerry was not at the Kansas City meeting." Later, FBI files showed Kerry was at the meeting. Now Kerry admits he was there.
So I think that means John Kerry attended as many V.V.A.W. meetings at which the assassination of U.S. senators was discussed as he did meetings of the Senate Intelligence Committee on which he later sat.
And let's not forget that Kerry was caught telling a big, dirty, stinky lie about being in Cambodia on Christmas Eve, 1968. What kind of adult tells a lie like that? (Answer: The kind who carries a home-movie camera to war in order to re-enact combat scenes and tape fake interviews with himself.)
One of the principal witnesses for Kerry's version of his heroics in Vietnam is Jim Rassman, who says Kerry "saved his life" after a Viet Cong mine knocked Rassman off his boat. Though Kerry would have us believe that – in addition to being baby killers – his fellow servicemen were planning on leaving Rassman to die, several eyewitnesses say another boat was about 20 yards behind Kerry's boat in getting to Rassman. (Kerry's boat was positioned slightly closer to Rassman because the moment the mine exploded, Kerry's boat fled the scene and returned only when Kerry was certain there was no enemy fire.)
It is indisputable that other men were being pulled out of the water right and left after a Viet Cong mine blew one of the swiftboats four feet in the air. How come none of those guys got Bronze Stars? Did they pull men out of the water in a less heroic way?
The way Kerry and Rassman tell it, you would think Kerry saved Rassman's life by staging a daring, high-speed commando raid on a prisoner of war camp. I was pulled from churning surfs a dozen times before I was 10 years old, each time exclaiming, "YOU SAVED MY LIFE!" but I'm not seeking out the people who fished me out of the water and demanding that they run for president.
In determining whose memory is more accurate, it's worth mentioning that Kerry and Rassman can't even get their stories straight about whose boat Rassman was on. Among the many accounts out there are these:
In his own Aug. 10, 2004, Wall Street Journal op-ed, Rassman says he was on Kerry's boat: "The second blast blew me off John's swiftboat, PCF-94 ..."
But according to the Kerry campaign press release: "On March 13, 1969, Rassman, a Green Beret, was traveling down the Bay Hap river in a boat behind Kerry's when both were ambushed by exploding land mines and enemy fire coming from the shore."
On Page 106 of the book "John F. Kerry, The Official Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best," Rassman is on a boat behind Kerry's.
In his Kerry campaign pamphlet, "Tour of Duty," hagiographer Brinkley resolves the conflicting accounts by having Rassman fall off both the boat that hit the mine (PCF-3) and Kerry's boat. (What would we do without historians?)
Another account has Rassman on the S.S. Minnow stubbornly insisting that Kerry's service in Vietnam consisted of just a three-hour tour ... a three-hour tour ...
Perhaps like the many and various meanings of the word "we," liberals use the word "unsubstantiated" to mean "tested repeatedly and proved true."
Ann Coulter is a bestselling author and syndicated columnist. Her most recent book is Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism.