For what it’s worth

The Boston Globe takes a look at the newly released military records of John Kerry: “Navy records detail Kerry Vietnam duty.” The records released are entirely laudatory. The Globe, however, notes that they are incomplete:

The campaign earlier this year showed the Globe a document verifying that Kerry was treated for a shrapnel wound that led to the first purple heart, but a campaign official was quoted by the Associated Press yesterday as saying Kerry did not plan to post that document on the website because it was viewed as a private medical record. Given that decision, it is not clear whether the campaign has other documents that it is not posting due to their personal nature.
The campaign also did not post a copy of the official card describing the first purple heart wound or the after-action report for that event, which occurred on Dec. 2, 1968. The Navy Historical Center has said that it cannot locate a copy of the card or after-action report for the first purple heart, although it has verified that Kerry did receive the award.
In that first purple heart event, Kerry and two sailors were on a small boat, similar to a Boston Whaler, when they spotted men running from a boat along a beach. Kerry has said he believed he was facing the enemy and ordered the crew to open fire. During this event, Kerry has said, he was hit by a piece of shrapnel. The Kerry campaign has declined to respond to a question about whether Kerry believed he was hit by enemy fire, and Kerry has been quoted as saying he didn’t know where the shrapnel came from.

The Globe is unable to unravel a mystery regarding a reference to 20 enemy killed in one of the performance evaluations:

One of the evaluations from that period says that Kerry, in an event during what was supposed to be Christmas truce, “effectively suppressed enemy fire and is unofficially credited with 20 enemy killed in action.” The report was signed by two of Kerry’s commanders: George Elliott and Joseph Streuli. But both said in telephone interviews yesterday that they did not recall the fighting.
“That number is so high I just don’t recall anyone coming back and saying we got 20 of the enemy,” Elliott said, adding that the timing of the fighting meant it would have happened when Streuli oversaw Kerry. Streuli, however, said, “I just don’t remember it.”
One of Kerry’s crewmates, Steven Michael Gardner, said he remembers the firefight but does not recall 20 enemy killed. He said the crew would not have been able to verify the deaths.
Kerry, in interviews with the Globe, has not claimed to have been responsible for 20 enemy dead. The Globe has previously described the event, quoting a Kerry crewmate who said the crewmate had killed an old man in the crossfire and citing reports that two South Vietnamese allies were wounded or killed and a machine-gun nest manned by a dozen Viet Cong was silenced. Kerry provided the Globe last year with a lengthy diary entry about the event. It describes the firefight, but it does not mention 20 enemy being killed.

The song playing in my head as commentary on Kerry’s treatment of his military records is “For What It’s Worth” by Stephen Stills, then of the Buffalo Springfield. Stills sings laconically, “Something’s happenin’ here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.” I deduce that Kerry would prefer not to make the documents evidencing the superficiality his wounds readily availiable, but who knows.
Inquiring minds want to know what might be learned from a review of the ketchup lady’s tax returns. The Kerry campaign’s refusal to disclose them makes one wonder why, and here again I suspect that appearances supply the rationale: the returns would make it apparent that Kerry is living off her.
I’m waiting for someone with the requisite knowledge to analyze Kerry as a literary character as a means of better understanding. Whereas Bill Clinton had walked unmistakably out of the pages of Willliam Faulkner (think Flem Snopes), Kerry seems to me to have walked out of a Henry James novel. I think Kerry is the soulmate of the Jamesian villains, inevitably European, who are in search of heiresses to marry and exploit. The ketchup lady, however, may be the more complex character for whom we need knowledge of late-period James (which I sadly lack) to understand.
Our radio hero Hugh Hewitt discusses the contemporary candidate Kerry in his Weekly Standard piece: “International man of apology.” Hugh identifies Kerry’s three great strengths as the Democratic presidential nominee:

Kerry has three things going for him. First, the press, like Tim Russert, isn’t listening very closely to the absurdities like “literally, formally rejoining the community of nations.” Second, his speaking style is so overwhelmingly self-important and so stultifying oppressive that most folks hit the off-switch when his lips begin to move, thus tuning out comments that would outrage them if they registered on the ears. And third, the “Bush Lied!” crazies wouldn’t care if Kerry simply declared the dissolution of American sovereignty and a merger with Canada.

As if to put an exclamation point on Hugh’s assessment, Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby compiles a numbing set of quotations from Kerry’s Meet the Press appearance, from which Jacoby deduces the operative axiom:

Kerry’s answers on Iraq always boil down to a single recipe: Shrink the US role in Iraq and defer to the United Nations instead. That’s it. That is the sum and substance of his thinking about Iraq. He doesn’t relate it to the war on terrorism, to the future of liberty in the Middle East, to America’s national interests. He repeatedly declares Bush a failure for not kowtowing to the UN and vows that in a Kerry administration, the UN will be given the commanding role it deserves.

On that subject, Kerry has achieved perfect clarity. Jacoby’s column is “Kerry’s UN fetish.”
UPDATE: On his Jim Miller on Politics site, Jim Miller links John Kerry’s compulsion to apologize to the world with his upbringing as the son of a diplomat: “John Kerry’s father.” The Washington Times has an excellent article by Charles Hurt on the Kerry military records: “Records on medals spark questions.”


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