Swiftboating the New York Times

That’s “Swiftboating” as John Hinderaker defines it — “when a veteran says somehthing that liberals disagree with.” Kate Zernike is John Kerry’s latest mainstream media stenographer regarding his service in Vietnam. I wrote briefly about her New York Times article in “Return of the magic hat” and called on Tom Lipscomb to rise to the bait:

Preparing for another grab at the brass ring, John Kerry seeks to engage the claims of the Swift Boat veterans. In today’s New York Times, the “magic hat” — the hat that Kerry claims was tossed to him by the “special forces” (apparently Navy SEALS) he dropped off on his journey to Cambodia (formerly dated to Christmas Eve 1968, now to February 1969) — magically reappears. The story by Kate Zernike is Kerry pressing Swift Boat case long after loss.”

The “magic hat” made its last appearance in Laura Blumenfeld’s June 2003 Washington Post profile of Kerry. In Blumenfeld’s piece, Kerry stated it was his “good luck hat” and that it had been given to him by “a CIA guy as we went in for a special mission to Cambodia.” Does Kerry save it to impress the lady reporters? I’d like to see him pull it on Tom Lipscomb…

Today Lipscomb — a real journalist who served as New York chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program — reports for duty with a fine column: “The truth, John Kerry and the New York Times.” Here’s the beauty part:

Zernike appears to have made no effort to look at any record besides listing Kerry’s latest assertions with obligatory quotes from the usual Swiftie suspects to provide “balance.” She doesn’t appear to be aware of the hilarious inconsistency of the Kerry hat story she recites dutifully as if this was the very first time the hat had appeared in print. As the clips should have shown her, Kerry first pulled the famous hat out of a “secret compartment” for Washington Post reporter Laura Blumenfeld’s feature story in 2003. “My good luck hat,” Kerry told Blumenfeld, “given to me by a CIA guy.” Now he tells Zernike a “special operations team” member gave it to him on a secret “mission that records say was to insert Navy Seals” in February.

Once again Zernike cites a Kerry claim as fact, this time directly conflicting with the Washington Post account on the record. But the facts on this are already on the record and no matter what Kerry “researchers” may come up with they should be addressed by any reporter attempting a review of the dispute. Admiral Roy Hoffman may have been head of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, but he was also in command of all the Swift Boat operations in Vietnam, directly under the commander of all sea operations in Vietnam, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt.

Any tasking for insertions of special operations troops across borders by sea, whether Seals, CIA, Army Special Forces or Vietnamese troops like CIDG had to come through his command. Hoffman stated he was never asked to handle missions for the CIA. “They had their own teams for that. And none of my Coastal Commands ever inserted any troops of this kind into Cambodia. We had some operations we ran north that I am not at liberty to discuss.”

Orders for sensitive incursion operations like this don’t appear by magic. And an individual boat commander, whether it is Kerry or anyone else, doesn’t simply head across a border with a boatful of Seals on his own. Kerry’s direct commander at An Thoi, George Elliott, has denied ever being asked to run such a mission out of his base and three of Kerry’s PCF 44 crewmen have denied ever being in Cambodia with Kerry.

Tedd Peck, accompanied Kerry’s PCF 44 on his PCF 57 from Cam Ranh down to their new assignment at An Thoi where they arrived on December 8, 1968. Peck served there with Kerry until he was wounded and med-evaced out on January 29, 1969. Douglas Brinkley states that “Kerry liked Peck.” So what does Peck have to say about secret missions out of An Thoi to Cambodia? “There never was one. And I never saw a Navy Seal at An Thoi the whole time I served there with Kerry”

What does it take to wake up a good reporter that there are some issues here besides one junior lieutenant’s latest assertions on the basis, once again, of totally undisclosed records? It isn’t simply a matter of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth “lies.” The facts recited by Kerry make no military sense, fly in direct opposition to authoritative testimony, and are yet to be backed by any records anyone has seen. And Kerry keeps changing his story.

The mission Kerry described to Laura Blumenfeld was the famous “Christmas in Cambodia” trip since disproved by Kerry’s own log. Zernike ledes with “showing the entry in a log he kept from 1969: ‘Feb 12: 0800 run to Cambodia'” and swallows it unquestioningly. The only authority that “Kerry log” has ever had is that it has been in the sole possession of John Kerry and carefully kept away from objective research that may or not have disclosed changes or heavy editing over time.

Everything that Tom Lipscomb writes about Zernike applies in spades to hacks such as Star Tribune deputy editorial page editor Jim “Boydot” Boyd, who castigated John Hinderaker and me as immoral smear artists in a signed column on the Star Tribune editorial page after the Star Tribune had published our August 2004 op-ed column on Kerry’s bogus journey to Cambodia. Over the weekend Boydot seems to have rejoined the fray with a typically fact-free and inaccurate Star Tribune editorial that would be an embarassment to a serious newspaper (“No candidate should have to endure what Kerry got”). Our own close encounter with Boydot in August 2004 gave rise to an extended series of posts providing a glimpse into the wacky world of the fellow we dubbed the cowardly lion of Portland Avenue:

“The Empire strikes back”

“A further response to Jim Boyd”

“Waiting for Boydot”

“Boydot’s hermeneutics”

“Boydot’s epistemology”

“Boydot’s judgment”

“Boydot’s paradox”

“The Star Tribune’s putrid verbiage”

At Democracy Project Bruce Kesler takes up Lipscomb’s column today: “The New York Times can’t handle the truth.” And over at Swanblog Peter Swanson briefly recalls: “Kerry, Boyd and 2004.”


Books to read from Power Line