Did Kerry Cheat?

We have gotten an enormous number of emails from readers who are incensed that John Kerry seemingly cheated in the first debate by pulling notes out of his coat pocket in violation of the agreed-upon rules. Several readers have even suggested that President Bush may have seen Kerry’s illegal ploy, and that may explain the annoyance that he showed throughout the debate.
The whole thing seems odd to me. These guys do nothing all day long but appear in front of groups, giving speeches about Iraq and related topics. By now, they can probably give them in their sleep. (Speaking for myself, I have an “on” button that I hit whenever I do an interview on our role in Rathergate.) I frankly can’t imagine that anything Kerry could have written on a small sheet of paper, as it appears from the video linked on Drudge, could have been of particular benefit.
Still, even though I happen to be an unusually experienced public speaker, I generally like to have notes in front of me. Whether I look at them or not, they impart some comfort. Nevertheless, even though there might have been some slight advantage to Kerry, even if merely psychological, from having a few scraps of notes, I don’t think this is an issue that merits a lot of attention. Compared, say, to reminding people about Kerry’s feckless twenty-year-long career in the Senate.
This flap is entertaining, however. It reminds me of an ancient joke about a sailor who rose through the ranks and became a ship’s captain. He sailed the seven seas for many years and was respected by all who sailed with him. He had one odd habit, however, which mystified his fellow officers. Every evening before he retired, he would go to a safe that he kept in his cabin and pull out a small sheet of paper. He would study it for a few minutes, and then return it to the safe.
The captain finally died, and his subordinates found the combination to his safe and, full of curiosity, pulled out the paper that they had speculated about for so many years. It said: “Port: left, Starboard: right.”
Maybe Kerry’s notes said something like: “Iran: mullahs; Iraq: Saddam Hussein.”
UPDATE: Despite my skepticism, this issue doesn’t seem to be going away. Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs has a Quicktime video that not only shows Kerry pulling notes out of his pocket, but also seems to show that he had something in his right hand–odd, since he had just shaken hands with President Bush.
I agree that there seems to be something in his hand, but I can’t imagine what it could be that would be of any significance. If I’m missing something here, I’m sure our readers will fill us in. But I’m afraid we’re getting dangerously close to Democratic tinfoil-land here.
FURTHER UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt takes Jacketgate seriously. He says: “If Kerry did cheat –if he did in fact use notes when the rules prohibited notes– he’s toast in all of the red states and many of the blues.”
The Trunk and I were with Hugh at a Patriot radio station forum in Minneapolis tonight. It was a great event, attended by more than 600 Patriot listeners. Along with Hugh, Jason Lewis, a former Minnesota talk show host now located in Charlotte, spoke. It was a fun time, and the Trunk generously hosted a Northern Alliance table.
Notwithstanding my respect for Hugh’s judgment, I’m not drinking the Jacketgate Kool-aid yet.
STILL MORE: The New York Post reports this morning that the object that Kerry pulled out of his pocket was a black pen. “We plead guilty to having a pen,” said Kerry spokesman David Wade.
ONE LAST UPDATE: The lefties are promoting the absurd theory that President Bush “cheated” by wearing an earpiece through which someone dictated answers to the questions. Kevin Drum’s explication of this theory is typical. I hate to break it to our friends on the left, but earpieces are…you know…visible. Not to mention that it is hard to imagine a dumber way to try to speak effectively than to repeat lines you’re getting through an earpiece.
This left-wing “tit for tat” reminds me of the left’s obsession with President Bush’s National Guard service, which was justified by them as payback for the Swift Boat Vets’ attacks on John Kerry. In that case, the left’s hysterical effort to claim that “Bush did it too” was driven by the fact that the Vets had the goods on Kerry. Is the same true here?

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