So what if the Post is about six months late to the story of John Kerry’s 1971 leadership of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War? And a little tardy attending to his presence at the now infamous Kansas City VVAW meeting at which the assassination of United States Senators was submitted for consideration and taken to a vote? (Kerry voted against.) And so what if the Post fudges the details of the proposal? There it is, toward the end of today’s long report by Michael Dobbs: “After decades, renewed war on old conflict.” Dobbs writes:
The FBI kept careful tabs on the protesters through a network of informers, who tracked Kerry’s movements. The FBI records help to disprove a long-standing claim by Kerry that he resigned from the VVAW leadership in the summer of 1971, before the organization began to flirt with proposals for radical civil disobedience and even violence.
The FBI records show that Kerry was present for a particularly contentious meeting in Kansas City, Mo., in November 1971, at which plans were discussed for the assassination or kidnapping of government officials or the takeover of the Statue of Liberty. The proposal was overwhelmingly voted down, and the files record that Kerry wanted VVAW “to stay strictly non-violent.” According to the FBI files, he resigned from the organization in Kansas City after an angry showdown with radicals led by a firebrand named Al Hubbard.
Told about the FBI records earlier this year, Kerry said through a spokesman that he now accepted he must have been in Kansas City for the November meeting while continuing to insist that he had “no personal recollection” of the contentious debate. Many people associated with VVAW find this difficult to believe.
“There was no way he would have forgotten about being in Kansas City,” said Nicosia, who is generally sympathetic to Kerry.
Former VVAW Kansas state coordinator John Musgrave, who served with the Marines in Vietnam, expressed extreme doubt about Kerry’s stated recollection. “He had a tremendous confrontation with Hubbard at that meeting. How can he claim not to have any memory of it?”
Dobbs concludes with telling quotes from a couple of gentlemen who speak from personal knowledge of the Democratic candidate for president:
“He doesn’t have the same courage of his convictions he had back then,” said Musgrave, referring to Kerry’s appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “When he gave that speech, he spoke for all of us. He should either stand up for it, or explain why he no longer agrees with it. He is doing neither, as far as I can see.”
“The John Kerry of 2004 is not the same as the John Kerry of 1971,” said David Cline, a southern VVAW organizer. “I think he was more truthful in 1971. Having said that, I know who I want to be president. The sad reality of American politics is that any candidate has to go for the center.”
Independent journalist Thomas Lipscomb first reported this story in the New York Sun in March of this year. We followed Lipscomb’s coverage in “John Kerry strongarms a vet” and “Kerry’s other war record.” See also “Kerry’s bodyguard of lies” and “Failures of memory.”
Once upon a time, the Washington Post prided itself on breaking major stories on candidates for the highest office in the land. But that was on another planet long ago, around the time John Kerry was demonstrating his leadership skills debating the assassination of officeholders like himself.