Sen. Kerry has been caught over-promoting his miltary service by Brendan Nyhan, and we can report new developments in a Kerry credibility crunch that we have been following. Kerry, his military history, and the truth - let's try to introduce them to each other.
Brendan Nyhan of Spinsanity probes the overstatements made by Kerry's supporters, and at Kerry's website, about the circumstances under which Kerry volunteered for service in the Swift boats.
Kerry has made his Vietnam service a centerpiece of his campaign, so this is not wholly unexpected. And as Collin Levey points out in the Seattle Times, Kerry has a bit of a credibility problem:
"It's an unhappy impression of unrivaled opportunism that continues to define Kerry now as it did then, and which strikes many voters as the most legitimate and adhesive charge against his qualification to be commander in chief."
On the subject of Kerry's credibility with respect to his service record, there has been a very quiet new development. And we imagine the Kerry people would prefer that it remain quiet, since once again we find the Senator at a convenient distance from the truth.
The puzzle - there was a time, prior to the release of his military records in April, when Kerry's press releases described an odd gap in his service:
As a Decorated Combat Veteran of the Vietnam War, John Kerry Knows the Importance of a Strong Defense - Kerry volunteered for the United States Navy after college and served from 1966 through 1970 rising to the rank of Lieutenant, Junior Grade. Afterwards, Kerry continued his military service in the United States Naval Reserves from 1972 through 1978.
What about that two year service gap? Did Kerry leave the military, spend two years as a leader of the anti-war movement, and then re-join the Reserves? Or was he in the Reserves the whole time?
These were the two years during which he met privately with a North Vietnamese delegation and accused his fellow soldiers of war crimes in Vietnam - is it possible that Kerry prefered to soft-pedal the fact that he was an officer in the Naval Reserve while he did that?
The release of his miltary records answered the "service gap" question - Kerry was transfered to the Naval Reserves in 1970, and Honorably Discharged in 1978. There was no two year service gap, despite the impression given by his press releases.
So how is this revision to his biography presented at the Kerry website? Characteristically, it is straddled. His bio page is hazy on dates, but a summary in the upper right hand corner informs us that he was in the US Navy from 1966 to 1970.
Kerry volunteered for the United States Navy after college and served from 1966 through 1970 rising to the rank of Lieutenant, Junior Grade. Afterwards, Kerry continued his military service in the United States Naval Reserves through 1978.
How about that? The early press releases were, hmm, misleading. His military records were released in April - the first accurate press release is from May 3. (Oddly, the last misleading release is from May 28, tied to an Hispanic ad campaign. Que pasa?).
So - the Kerry campaign launched in early 2003 and for more than a year ran the wrong information about their war hero's miltary service. Is it fair to wonder what other barnacles of mistruth have accumulated on the Good Ship Kerry over the years? And are the Kerry people in any hurry to publicize their correction of this record?
They might start with the NY Times, which wrote this last April in a piece titled "Kerry's Antiwar Past Is a Delicate Issue in His Campaign"
Two weeks later, he married Julia Thorne, and on a trip to Europe with his new bride, Mr. Kerry, the 26-year-old ex-lieutenant took a taxicab from Paris to a suburban villa. The son of a diplomat, Mr. Kerry had managed to arrange a private meeting with North Vietnamese and Vietcong emissaries to the peace talks.
A delicate issue, indeed. Do you suppose the Kerry people prefer the Times version, or would they prefer to see "and on a trip to Europe with his new bride, Mr. Kerry, the 26-year lieutenant in the Naval Reserve... managed to arrange a private meeting with North Vietnamese and Vietcong emissaries to the peace talks." You make the call!
And feel free to call the LA Times as well, which published this, also in April:
"Mr. Kerry, please move your microphone," Sen. Stuart Symington (D-Mo.) prodded the 27-year-old former Navy lieutenant during a climactic appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "You have a Silver Star, have you not?"
Former? The Kerry campaign has dropped that pretense. A bit later in the story, the LA Times recycles the mistake about the Paris meeting:
The war kept drawing him back. Newly married and on honeymoon in France, Kerry detoured from his vacation to meet with South and North Vietnamese delegates to the Paris peace talks. How a 26-year-old private citizen without a political track record connected with the negotiators is unclear.
How a major newspaper could fail to correct this is also unclear.
We posted on this last April when these NY Times and LA Times stories came out, and our themes remain the same - Kerry has been slippery with the truth, and the press has been complicit. Is it unrealistic to expect a reporter to read or understand a military record?
We also should point out that the "service gap" is a misapprehension that has been brewing for years, and seems to date back to a 1970 interview Kerry had with the Harvard Crimson, which reported that "Now 26, [Kerry] was honorably discharged from the Navy last month". Was the source for that Kerry himself? How many confused staffers did he have in 1970? We only wish that the reporter had asked whether Kerry was Irish - self-serving misunderstandings seem to follow Kerry around.
Obviously, some of these stories pre-dated the release of Kerry's records, although what Douglas Brinkley was looking at is a question worth asking, and which he won't answer coming from me. (And yes, my e-mails are quite polite).
Now that the Kerry campaign has embraced the truth, however discreetly, perhaps the major media could do the same.
MORE: Judy Woodruff of CNN lets a Swift Vet for Truth slug it out with a Vet for Kerry regarding one of Kerry's valorous acts. One wonders if these two guys are even describing the same day.