John Kerry appeared on NBC News’ Meet the Press this morning and MSNBC has posted the transcript. On the matter of today’s election and our efforts in Iraq it makes predictably painful reading.
On a matter of special interest to us, Tim Russert gets around to asking Kerry questions about Kerry’s bogus journey to Cambodia with an unfortunately lengthy windup. Russert is a little late to this particular party, but I wonder if Kerry didn’t have the thought running through his mind — “What are these crazy questions they’re asking of me?” — from the old Randy Newman song. Here’s the exchange:
MR. RUSSERT: You cast yourself as a potential commander in chief during the campaign, particularly at the convention, “I am John Kerry reporting for duty.” What effect do you believe this book, “Unfit for Command,” and the Swift Boat Veterans had on your candidacy?
SEN. KERRY: Well, that’s for others to judge, Tim. I don’t know. I mean, obviously I could have and should have responded faster and more forcefully, I think, to that. But lies and smears were proven in the front pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal. My crew, others, all spoke to those lies and will continue to. But, you know, there’s a new communication structure in America. And I think we could have done a better job of addressing it obviously. But that wasn’t–you know, what decided this race in the end was really 9/11. And, you know, I am not going to worry about the past. I am going to go forward to the future.
MR. RUSSERT: See if you could clear up one issue that I think has been left over from the campaign. And that is Steve Gardner, who was a foregunner on your PCF-44 boat, cut a commercial for the Swift Boat Veterans and made a very specific charge. Let me just show that and you can come back and talk about it a little bit.
(Videotape, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad):
MR. STEVE GARDNER: John Kerry claims that he spent Christmas in 1968 in Cambodia, and that is categorically a lie. Not in December, not in January, we were never in Cambodia on a secret mission ever.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, the New York Daily News editorial wrote an editorial, and it said this. “As for Kerry, he might ask why the Swifties’ attacks have been effective. The answer is his propensity to exaggerate. … It’s looking more likely that he exaggerated, if not worse, when he claimed through the years that he was in Cambodia on Christmas Eve ’68. He said the memory was `seared’ into him, but it’s now clear Kerry was elsewhere, at least at that time. He has yet to explain. Until he does, the Swifties will have a powerful weapon in their arsenal.”
And they refer, Senator, to a speech on the floor in which you said that you were there, that the president of the United States was saying you were not there, that there were troops in Cambodia. You have the memory seared in you. In a letter to the Boston Herald, you remember spending Christmas Eve ’68 five miles across the Cambodian border. You told The Washington Post you have a lucky hat given to you by a CIA guy “as we went in for a special mission to Cambodia.” Were you in Cambodia Christmas Eve, 1968?
SEN. KERRY: We were right on the border, Tim. What I explained to people and I told this any number of times, did I go into Cambodia on a mission? Yes, I did go into Cambodia on a mission. Was it on that night? No, it was not on that night. But we were right on the Cambodian border that night. We were ambushed there, as a matter of fact. And that is a matter of record, and we went into the rec– you know, it’s part of the Navy records. It’s been documented by the other guys who were on my boat. And Steve Gardner, frankly, doesn’t know where we were. It wasn’t his job, and, you know, he wasn’t involved in that. But we did go five miles into Cambodia. It was on another day. I jumbled the two together, but we were five miles into Cambodia. We went up on a mission with CIA agents–I believe they were CIA agents–CIA Special Ops guys. I even have some photographs of it, and I can document it. And it has been documented.
MR. RUSSERT: You’ll release those photographs?
SEN. KERRY: I think they were shown. I gave them to the campaign, but…
MR. RUSSERT: And you have a hat that the CIA agent gave you?
SEN. KERRY: I still have the hat that he gave me, and I hope the guy would come out of the woodwork and say, “I’m the guy who went up with John Kerry. We delivered weapons to the Khmer Rouge on the coastline of Cambodia.” We went out of Ha Tien, which is right in Vietnam. We went north up into the border. And I have some photographs of that, and that’s what we did. So, you know, the two were jumbled together, but we were on the Cambodian border on Christmas Eve, absolutely.
MR. RUSSERT: Nixon was president-elect, not president, at that particular time. He wasn’t sworn in until…
SEN. KERRY: In 1968, he wasn’t sworn in yet.
MR. RUSSERT: But he was president-elect, not president.
SEN. KERRY: That’s correct.
Kerry fails to name a single individual who was on the bogus journey with him and Russert apparently doesn’t know that none of Kerry’s band of brothers has backed his story. Russert appears not to be aware of the absence of any such story in the account of Kerry’s Vietnam service by Kerry’s authorized hagiographer Douglas Brinkley, or in Kerry’s diary of his service as rendered in Brinkley’s book or the Boston Globe’s series on Kerry. That’s where Russert leaves Christmas in Cambodia; not exactly a model of rigorous preparation or questioning.
Russert then picks up the question of Kerry’s unreleased military records — the records that will document his bogus journey, I guess. They might have come in handy for Kerry last year. Wonder why he didn’t sign that Form 180 and publicize the records. Here’s the exchange on Kerry’s military records immediately following the last answer above:
MR. RUSSERT: Many people who’ve been criticizing you have said: Senator, if you would just do one thing and that is sign Form 180, which would allow historians and journalists complete access to all your military records. Thus far, you have gotten the records, released them through your campaign. They say you should not be the filter. Sign Form 180 and let the historians…
SEN. KERRY: I’d be happy to put the records out. We put all the records out that I had been sent by the military. Then at the last moment, they sent some more stuff, which had some things that weren’t even relevant to the record. So when we get–I’m going to sit down with them and make sure that they are clear and I am clear as to what is in the record and what isn’t in the record and we’ll put it out. I have no problem with that.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you sign Form 180?
SEN. KERRY: But everything, Tim…
MR. RUSSERT: Would you sign Form 180?
SEN. KERRY: Yes, I will. But everything that we put in it, Tim–everything we put in–I mean, everything that was out was a full documentation of all of the medical records, all of the fitness reports. And I’d call on those who have challenged me, let’s see their records. I want to see the records of each of those people who have put up a challenge, because some of them have some serious questions in them, and it hasn’t been appropriate…
MR. RUSSERT: So they should sign Form 180s for themselves as well?
SEN. KERRY: You bet.
It would have been nice if Russert had noted that Kerry had promised to release all his records during his last appearance on Meet the Press during the campaign. We’re still waiting, and I’m not holding my breath.
HINDROCKET adds: It’s interesting that Kerry backs off the obvious lie that he spent Christmas Eve of 1968 in Cambodia, but he still can’t bring himself to tell the truth. He doesn’t want to admit that he simply fabricated the Christmas Eve story that was “seared into his memory,” so he tries to pretend that the story is almost true: “[W]e were right on the Cambodian border that night. We were ambushed there, as a matter of fact.” But, as Kerry himself recorded contemporaneously in his journal, he spent that Christmas Eve at Sa Dec, fully fifty miles from the Cambodian border. And his boat wasn’t ambushed that night; he wrote that he had “visions of sugar plums” dancing in his head.
Only because mainstream reporters are so lame can Kerry get away with these serial lies.
ONE MORE THING: Many readers have written to point out the absurdity of Kerry’s claim that he “delivered weapons to the Khmer Rouge,” a Communist insurgent group. Previously, Kerry has said that he was shot at by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, a slightly more plausible claim, although it is not clear that there were any Khmer Rouge conducting military operations as early as December 1968. Presumably Kerry’s claim to have delivered weapons to the Khmer Rouge was a slip of the tongue, but it highlights the inconvenient chronology of Kerry’s Cambodian fantasy. There was a time, as Kerry related in his famous “seared, seared” Senate speech, when President Nixon assured the American people that there were no military personnel in Cambodia. But that was years later, long after Kerry had left Vietnam. During Kerry’s truncated, four-month tour of duty in Vietnam, nothing was happening in Cambodia that could explain why he would have been “gun running” in support of anyone. On a number of levels, Kerry’s fable makes no sense.