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Bill Roper's Journal
I Have the Right to be Silly 
10th-Aug-2004 01:13 pm
The latest thing that's being discussed in the wake of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad has to do with whether Kerry was in Cambodia over Christmas in 1968. He's made this statement multiple times, including in the Congressional Record (where I've even seen the photocopied page posted):

"I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by the Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia. I have that memory which is seared – seared – in me."

Then there was the Kerry quote from an old Boston Herald article on the same subject:

"I remember spending Christmas Eve of 1968 five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas. The absurdity of almost being killed by our own allies in a country in which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real."

Now the only problem with this is that there seems to be nobody other than Kerry who believes that he was in Cambodia at that time. But I now understand what happened!

At some time after returning from Vietnam, our John Kerry was replaced by the John Kerry of Earth-N, a John Kerry from a world where Nixon defeated Kennedy in 1960 and was actually finishing out his second term of office on Christmas 1968, instead of not even being President at the time.

It'll be easy to find out if this theory is correct. All the reporters need to do is to ask Kerry who was elected President after Eisenhower...
Comments 
10th-Aug-2004 06:52 pm (UTC)
*shudder* This bears *way* too much similarity to the Twin Earth problems I have to deal with in my dissertation...and here I thought that I was doing stuff that would never impinge on reality...*grin*
10th-Aug-2004 08:25 pm (UTC)
I'll be interested in seeing how this one plays out.

I see some people are jumping on the "Nixon wasn't President in '68" theme, but that doesn't necessarily contradict the quotes as given. Nixon could have made the statement in 1969 referring to the previous administration.
10th-Aug-2004 09:15 pm (UTC)
Frontline points out, by way of Atrios, that there were in fact cross-border operations around that time. So it is quite possible that, in fact, he was in Cambodia.

Now, instead of picking at nits, can we either get Dubya to tell us what he was doing during his missing months in the Guard, or just blow this whole thing off and move on? Because if I have to start dragging out the deferment records for Cheney and Rush, it'll just make my stomach hurt.
10th-Aug-2004 09:43 pm (UTC)
Changing the subject?

Apparently, Kerry's biography says that he wasn't in Cambodia for Christmas. Here's one citation. (It's an opinion column, but -- if I were motivated to buy "Tour of Duty", the quote could be easily checked, so I'll trust it until it's proven inaccurate.)

There are after-action reports on Kerry's website, but none for the period in question. Apparently, some of Kerry's wartime records have been released, but not all of them.

Many, many people have spent a lot of time questioning Bush's National Guard record and every document that has been able to be found appears to have been released. Since Kerry is running, in part, on his record in Vietnam, is it picking nits to try to determine what in Kerry's record is truth and what is fiction?

Right now, the available evidence suggests that some people who served with him (not necessarily on the same boat, but in the same command) liked and respected him and others didn't. That shouldn't be a great surprise.

The problem is that some of the statements that he's made in the past aren't checking out well. It's possible that he's telling the truth and everyone else is lying. It's possible that he deliberately lied in order to make the political point that he wanted to make at the time. It's even possible that he dreamed that these things occurred and has integrated them into his memory. (I have, on occasion, examined a memory of mine and realized that it was a dream fiction, much like when Phoebe told Ross that "Then you pulled off your face mask and you were Cameron Diaz underneath." *oops*)

Given the degree of media interest in Bush's career during the Vietnam War, it would seem reasonable for the media to spend a little bit of time and effort determining what of Kerry's Vietnam career is truth and what is fiction.
10th-Aug-2004 10:07 pm (UTC)
"Given the degree of media interest in Bush's career during the Vietnam War,"

aka practically none. Well, other than _The Daily Show_. Seriously, I recall various columnists talking about it, but no real news articles went anywhere with it.

"it would seem reasonable for the media to spend a little bit of time and effort determining what of Kerry's Vietnam career is truth and what is fiction."

Yes, it would be reasonable. It appears that Fox is working on that.
10th-Aug-2004 10:36 pm (UTC)
I've seen a number of news articles about Bush and the National Guard in the Chicago Tribune. And a little Googling turns up a lot of partisan stuff (on both sides) and several supposedly reputable news organizations:

CBS News 5/23/04
ABC News 7/23/04
The Boston Globe is all over it
So's the Washington Post

Is that enough to refute "practically none"? :)
10th-Aug-2004 11:08 pm (UTC)
Actually, no. The CBS story still has everything in doubt, as does the ABC stories. The Globe collection and the Post piece are from mid-February, months before the whoops-they're-gone-whoops-they're-back fiasco. The press has failed miserably, because they made a big stink at first and then asked White House spokesperson Scottie "Pull My String And Hear Me Say Five Phrases" McClellan. They appeared to be tough on him, but didn't actually make him give them a straight answer. In their much-ballyhooed snogfest, Tim Russert gave Dubya a big pass. And there are still three months in question.

Hmmm... let's try some slightly more recent CBS (7-23-04),
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Actually, no. The CBS story still has everything in doubt, as does the ABC stories. The Globe collection and the Post piece are from mid-February, months before the whoops-they're-gone-whoops-they're-back fiasco. The press has failed miserably, because they made a big stink at first and then asked White House spokesperson Scottie "Pull My String And Hear Me Say Five Phrases" McClellan. They appeared to be tough on him, but didn't actually make him give them a straight answer. In their much-ballyhooed snogfest, Tim Russert gave Dubya a big pass. And there are <i>still</i> three months in question.

Hmmm... let's try some slightly more recent <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/07/09/politics/main628437.shtml" target="_blank">CBS (7-23-04)</a>, <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/wire/Politics/ap20040723_1622.html" target'+_blank">ABC (same date, actually close to the same text -- AP wire report)</a>, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A9464-2004Jul23.html" target="_blank">Post (ditto)</a>, aaaand... nothing in the Globe since <a href="http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2004/07/10/bushs_guard_records_destroyed/" target="_blank">the records were reported "destroyed" on July 10</a>.

So, yeah. "Practically none" in the sense that they aren't following it up. Kerry wasn't in Cambodia, Kerry threw away his ribbons, Kerry didn't earn his Purple Heart... <i>Dubya didn't show up for his bought-and-paid-for cush job</i>. The media even say in the above story(ies), "Well, this doesn't prove anything", and then apparently shrug as one and, with a faraway look, intone, "The world may never know...."

Bull. One excellent solution was provided in <a href="http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2004/07/15/missing_records/print.html" target="_blank">a Salon article</a>, though:<blockquote>The master microfiche was shipped to Gen. Danny James in Arlington, Va., who now commands the Air National Guard Bureau, and certain portions were printed and released to White House reporters -- but not all of it. That microfiche should also include a board of inquiry report on Bush's grounding, explaining what happened and why such action was taken. That report has never been released to the public. What's more, the president has said he returned to Houston and served at Ellington through the first half of 1973. That, too, could be proved with the microfiche, which ought to contain an Officer Effectiveness Rating Report for those months. No one has ever produced that document, either. It would be particularly compelling because Bush's commanders wrote Denver's Air Reserve Personnel Center in May 1973 that the young pilot had "not been observed" at his assigned base and had been transferred to Alabama a year earlier. The glaring contradiction between Bush's proclamations and the official record has never been clarified; nor has any witness ever stepped forward to say they saw Bush at the Houston base in the first half of 1973.

With the exception of IRS records, all of the information needed to determine the truth about the National Guard duty of 1st Lt. Bush is contained on the microfiche in St. Louis and at the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver. If the president simply authorized its release to reporters with his signature, as John McCain did with his records in 2000, we could all stop arguing about what's missing and what it all means. But Bush had better hurry with his authorization. There's no telling when someone might begin a project to "salvage" the only remaining microfiche.</blockquote>Ohhh, Kerry This. Ohhh, Kerry That.

<i>Kerry served</i>. And the Army isn't known for handing out Silver Stars based on the political aspirations of its soldiers.

To coin a phrase, Where was George? :)
10th-Aug-2004 11:32 pm (UTC)
Tom, you don't see me kicking Kerry about his service, do you? (Although I'll bet you a Pepsi that you voted for Clinton despite the fact that Dole and Bush the Elder served and Clinton didn't. :) )

Now, we know from an old article in the Harvard Crimson referenced here that Kerry applied for a deferment and was turned down. When that happened, he decided to join the Navy rather than wait to be drafted into the Army. This was a very reasonable thing for him to do -- I probably would have tried to do something similar under similar circumstances.

He did volunteer for swift boat duty, although this blog (with links through to an article from the Boston Globe) suggests that the duty became substantially more hazardous after he volunteered for it than it was when he asked for the duty. But once again, a good choice, a choice that I would have made in his position, even if it didn't work out the way he had expected.

And, as I said before, it appears that some of the folks that he worked with thought he was great and others didn't. This doesn't surprise me. Some of my co-workers have thought that I was great and others haven't.

What I'm tweaking Kerry for here -- and I believe that "tweaking" is the right word -- is that some of the stuff that he's said on the record doesn't appear to be supportable based on the facts that we have in front of us. (At least, so far.)

Now, as far as Bush's service goes, I found a bunch of articles that indicate that the media has reported on this story frequently, keeping it before the eyes of the voters. I haven't found anyone who wouldn't fall in the category of the usual evil suspects (Fox News, Washington Times, New York Post) who has reported on the Kerry in Cambodia story at all yet. I know I didn't see it in today's Chicago Tribune.

And it's not as though they haven't had since the weekend to get something into print on the subject.

Maybe they'll have something to say tomorrow.
11th-Aug-2004 12:08 am (UTC)
You'd win that bet, my friend, although the point was that Clinton never denied not serving. No matter what you or I think of their politics, Dole and Bush the Elder were legit war heroes. And, no matter what you or I think of his politics, Clinton didn't particularly want to go, but ended up having his name in the draft... and got a high number.

And, yeah, "tweaking" is the right word. The Cambodia thing is odd. One of the little-known and underappreciated facts of this campaign is that every once in awhile our guy says or does something that does indeed make us go a little nutso. The one today is that he's saying he would've invaded Iraq even without the proof of WMD, which disturbs me greatly.

My real problem is the Rotweiller Right-Wing press corps and their double standard of savaging the Left on odd details and ignoring what we feel is the Big Picture on the Right... as well as all the little details over there, and all the stuff in between, and basically acting as if, gosh darn it, BushCo was the greatest thing to happen since they stopped charging for air, and why do we hate America so much that we don't appreciate him? And I reflexively go questing for rebuttals.

And, yeah, no question, the media certainly kept the AWOL story in the public eye for awhile... but they kept asking the same questions, and Scottie kept giving the same answers, and, like so many other stories, it got boiled down to "well, no one knows"... which would be understandable, except it seems there may be easy ways of finding out the facts that the press corps isn't following up on. It makes it look as if the scandal has blown over and been resolved, when what has in fact happened is it's been shoved under the rug.
10th-Aug-2004 11:20 pm (UTC)
Unlike Tom, I'll give it to you on that one. It sure didn't seem like much at the time though, and I really suspect it pales next to 'travelgate' et al. under the previous administration.

That's it! It's not that the media is right wing and that's why they were harder on Clinton than G.W. Bush. It's that they simply exhausted themselves and became jaded. (do I need a smiley here?)
10th-Aug-2004 11:26 pm (UTC) - Smileys! Get 'Em While They're -- oops, too late ;)
Goodness knows I'm exhausted and jaded. I think I need to spend a few relaxing hours playing Doom 3.
10th-Aug-2004 10:11 pm (UTC)
Not changing subject if you don't want to. It's just getting pretty annoying (not you, the press gabble), given that there seems to be a whole lot of accusation, counter-screaming, evidence producing, debunking, yadda yadda yadda, and it's coming down to he-said-they-said.

And, frankly, after years of those of us on the left screaming about the news media doing exactly squat about the reams of shit over the past three and a half years, including not following up Dubya's still-bolluxed Guard records (the "degree of media interest" still doesn't involve getting a straight answer for Bush regarding, oh, where he was and what he was doing and who he might've served with), this truly nasty, petty stuff is pissing me off.
10th-Aug-2004 11:06 pm (UTC)
  This is what nonpartisanfactcheck.org has to say on the subject of the swiftboat ad and Kerry's record.
10th-Aug-2004 11:09 pm (UTC)
Yup. Saw that earlier today. It seems like a reasonably balanced report, but doesn't discuss the Cambodia thing at all. (Or, at least, when I searched for "Cambodia" on the page, it came up empty.)
10th-Aug-2004 11:15 pm (UTC)
I admit we may never nail the Cambodia thing. But one simple and obvious possibility -- the citation from Frontline I gave above references the fact that the US denies there were any activities across the border in Cambodia. They still might not want to declassify anything along that lines. And Kerry was reportedly close enough to the border that some missions may have crossed into Cambodia.

Hell, maybe he got a "Visit Scenic Cambodia -- While It's Still Here" postcard at a gift shop. :)
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