August 23, 2004
Swift Boat Story a Sad Chord
That we are still fighting about the Vietnam War is sad. Watching an old political fight try to finish itself thirty years later in either the wreckage of the Kerry campaign or its triumph over the attempt to wreck-- that's sad. William B. Rood of the Chicago Tribune spoke out Sunday; he was a commander of a swift boat who had first hand knowledge. Rood thought it was sad that we're still fighting about this.
Asked if Mr. Kerry had lied about his war record, Mr. Bush said, “Mr. Kerry served admirably and he ought to be proud of his record.” — New York Times, Aug. 24
It’s sad. That’s my comment on the Swift Boat Veterans campaign to impeach the honor of John Kerry and question whether he deserved his medals. The whole thing is sad. I admit it’s not a very interesting opinion. It adds nothing to the debate to say: how sad for all of us. How sad for Kerry to be subjected to this. How sad for the Swift Boat Veterans that they have to take such measures. “Vietnam has moved on and we haven’t,” wrote Jeff Jarvis.
That we are still fighting about the Vietnam War is sad. Watching an old political fight (among veterans, but involving the nation) try to finish itself thirty years later in either the wreckage of the Kerry campaign or its triumph over the attempt to wreck— that’s sad. I’m with Meep, a voice at Jarvis’s weblog, Buzzmachine: “Are boomers going to be eating their livers in retirement because of Vietnam? Sounds like it to me.” Me too. That’s a sad thing to say about boomers, and I was born near the crest of that boom.
Now if you like sad as the best mood for consuming Swift Boat stories, if you think it fitting, then pay especially close attention to what the Chicago Tribune published over the weekend: This is what I saw that day by William B. Rood, a brilliantly disciplined and moving work of first-person journalism, which is also a moral statement, for while it defends John Kerry and his military record—and thus makes news—that is not the heart of what Rood meant to say. He was there with Kerry on one of his Swift Boat raids. His moral statement begins with this:
Many of us wanted to put it all behind us—the rivers, the ambushes, the killing. Ever since that time, I have refused all requests for interviews about Kerry’s service—even those from reporters at the Chicago Tribune, where I work.
But with the Swift Boat Veterans campaign heating up, Kerry—who could become president—calls him and says: please, tell what you know. Rood’s intention never to speak comes under severe pressure. If he’s going to break with that policy, it requires a reason. We are free to speculate on the real reason; I’m interested in what William Rood says it was:
I can’t pretend those calls had no effect on me, but that is not why I am writing this. What matters most to me is that this is hurting crewmen who are not public figures and who deserved to be honored for what they did. My intent is to tell the story here and to never again talk publicly about it.
Rood is an editor on the Chicago Tribune’s metropolitan desk— a career journalist. His published account broke 35 years of silence about events on Feb. 28, 1969 that resulted in Kerry’s Silver Star. You cannot understand Rood’s statement Sunday unless you also attend to this earlier silence, through which he has been speaking since ‘69. It says: wars don’t end until we stop fighting in them.
And so part of Rood’s “statement” is his intention to speak once about Feb. 28, 1969, and be done with it— in other words, return to his silence after breaking form once because of the high stakes in an election for president. He made the same point in other ways, by setting limits you would not set if you wanted to “get your voice out there.” Rood did not want his voice out there; he did not want to keep fighting that war. But something compelled him to testify— loyalty to men other than John Kerry:
Kerry’s critics, armed with stories I know to be untrue, have charged that the accounts of what happened were overblown. The critics have taken pains to say they’re not trying to cast doubts on the merit of what others did, but their version of events has splashed doubt on all of us.
Rood’s point is that we need to stop this. And he’s defending his right to privacy (even while speaking publicly) by restricting his statements to a careful minimum: only what he knows from direct experience serving in battle with Kerry, and the background knowledge needed to understand that eyewitness account.
Thus he engages in anti-frenzy behavior, even though he knows his statement will contribute momentum to the Swift Vets story, via the news cycle. This is from the Tribune’s news account of the statement (emphasis is mine):
Rood declined requests from a Tribune reporter to be interviewed for this article. Rood wrote that he could testify only to the February 1969 mission and not to any of the other battlefield decorations challenged by Kerry’s critics—a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts—because Rood was not an eyewitness to those engagements.
It’s journalism as its most elemental: This is what I saw that day. It’s journalism at its most disciplined: Rood testifies only to what he knows, and declines to go beyond that. It is also a compelling and vivid eyewitness account that helps you understand war. For 35 years he had refrained from giving any account of that day, precisely because Kerry’s involvement guaranteed it would be politicized.
And politicized it was at the moment Rood finally wrote about it. Here is the lead his own newspaper ran when it extracted nuggets of news from This is what I saw:
Swift boat skipper: Kerry critics wrong
Tribune editor breaks long silence on Kerry record; fought in disputed battle
The commander of a Navy swift boat who served alongside Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry during the Vietnam War stepped forward Saturday to dispute attacks challenging Kerry’s integrity and war record.
That’s the news, right? “Skipper: Kerry critics wrong.” If you’re scoring the debate, William Rood comes down on Kerry’s side. But Rood was saying something else when he added: This is my one statement. I will give no interviews. I will make no television appearences. I will not elaborate. I don’t care if your radio show needs a guest who was there. I am not interested in continuing this story. I actually don’t want to be a party to it. I will make no more media from my story.
He notes that the “survivors of all these events” are scattered across the country, and he gives us little sketches of them in peacetime— people who are “not in the public eye.”
Jerry Leeds lives in a tiny Kansas town where he built and sold a successful printing business. He owns a beautiful home with a lawn that sweeps to the edge of a small lake, which he also owns. Every year, flights of purple martins return to the stately birdhouses on the tall poles in his back yard.
Cueva, recently retired, has raised three daughters and is beloved by his neighbors for all the years he spent keeping their cars running. Lee is a senior computer programmer in Kentucky, and Lamberson finished a second military career in the Army.
With the debate over that long-ago day in February, they’re all living that war another time.
And Rood finds it sad that we’re doing that too, “living that war another time” during a presidential campaign, via a scandal story. What I admire about his account is the way it limits itself to a small territory within the Swift Boat Veterans’ contested claims— the day Kerry won his Silver Star. (There were only three officers who commanded boats that day: Rood, Kerry and a third who was later killed in action in 1969.) He makes no attempt to evaluate the strength of the group’s case overall. He declines to characterize Kerry’s credibility overall. He does not speak in any way excessively, or in the manner of Ed Cone’s ingenius Sunday column, “Don’t talk while I’m interrupting.”
My candidate is a hero. Yours is a zero. One cannot compare the youthful hijinks of my guy with the youthful wantonness of yours. My guy makes mistakes, yours commits sins of the worst kind. And likes it. My guy was misquoted, or simply misspoke, while your guy was caught on tape saying exactly what I expected him to say.
The mainstream flows right by my house while you live somewhere way out past the flood plain with the other weirdos. You are not in touch with the values of America, which I and those like me just happen to exemplify. You and your ilk have poisoned the culture, and I know the antidote.
What is the opposite voice to that voice? I say it’s William Rood, practicing a journalist’s discpline: This is what I saw that day, what I recall from experience, what I could verify by checking the record and the recollections of others. To go beyond that is to contribute to the frenzy; I decline to do that.
Plus: “There’s no final authority on something that happened so long ago—not the documents and not even the strained recollections of those of us who were there,” he wrote. It’s sad when people forget this, and feel they have found that final authority. Their zeal is sad.
It’s sad to me that the Swift Boat Veterans named themselves “for Truth,” but it would be equally sad if a Kerry Defense Squad did that. The Swift Boat Veterans were built for politics, and for stressful action in the theatre of a presidential campaign. Some of that action has been successful.
It’s sad that Kerry seems to have lied about or misrepresented his experience in Cambodia, one of the stories on which his truthfulness has been attacked. (See John Leo. On the other hand see Fred Kaplan in Slate.)
It’s sad that Douglas Brinkley, an historian quite savvy in the ways of media, disappears and cannot be reached by the Washington Post when his research is called into question. Brinkley’s Book, “Tour of Duty” mentions an unfinished book proposal Kerry prepared sometime after November 1971, more than two years after he had returned home from Vietnam. Michael Dobbs, the Post reporter, had questions about it and other sources Brinkley used. It’s at least possible that he could shed some light about matters in hot dispute. So Dobbs tried to reach Brinkley, a man normally quite accessible to reporters seeking an authoritative quote.
Brinkley, who is director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans, did not reply to messages left with his office, publisher and cell phone. The Kerry campaign has refused to make available Kerry’s journals and other writings to The Post, saying the senator remains bound by an exclusivity agreement with Brinkley. A Kerry spokesman, Michael Meehan, said he did not know when Kerry wrote down his reminiscences.
This is sad because Brinkley (who is said to be writing an account for the New Yorker) should be in the business of giving out knowledge, and that doesn’t include eluding the press when you so often use the press to broadcast your work.
It’s sad that Kerry has based so much of his argument for election on his service in Vietnam, but I find it even sadder that he went ahead with this while expecting to avoid reflection on the anti-war chapter of it, which has now roared back into his campaign.
Its sad that he said in his speech from Boston, “I defended this country as a young man,” without realizing or caring that if the war in Vietnam was, indeed, defending the United States, then the anti-war movement’s arguments are rendered hollow. But those were Kerry’s arguments, so how could he say that?
It’s sad that his campaign appears to have been surprised by the Swift Boat Vets and their success in getting onto the public’s radar. The outlines of the attack on Kerry’s truthfulness have been known for many months. Just in the comments section at PressThink, I learned quite a bit about the coming charges and what made Swift Boat supporters think they would have legs. As Josh Marshall says today, “This was always in the cards. Always.” I agree. And there was a sad inevitability to the events as they played out last week.
Even so, this post by Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit was great blogging (and real journalism) while this page from the Chicago Tribune was web journalism at its Big Media best. (But you have to register.)
After Matter: Notes, reactions & links….
I got this e-mail the next day from Harris Meyer, a journalist in Florida:
Don’t you think the news media are now obligated to put aside the he said/he said form of coverage of Kerry’s war record and basically say in every story that reporting in the NY Times, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune in the last few weeks has documented that the key attacks on Kerry’s record —concerning how he shot the VC, whether he came under fire while rescuing Rassman, that he acted inappropriately in responding to the VC ambush — are not empirically supported and that those reports have demonstrated that substantial evidence supports Kerry’s version of these events, which also happens to be the official U.S. military version?
I’d say this is another example of how the “objective” school of journalism— which considers itself obliged to report all sides of a dispute as if they all had equal empirical support — has badly failed the public. Every time a news organization reports that Kerry is responding to the “dispute” over his war record, a reader or listener has reason to think there is some plausible empirical basis for the “dispute.” But that dispute essentially has been put to rest on the merits.
My reply: I am not sure how advice of this kind deals with the problem that zero disputes get “put to the rest” in a world where political actors are taught to dispute everything, just to slow down the other side, or confuse the press, or take up space. Journalists can still make decisions: charge X is bogus, Y’s case collapsed, Z has zero credibility, and so on. But they will be doing so in an atmosphere where no case is put to rest. This means they become a factor in the dispute.
What Harris advises is: become an actor, a judge of that dispute. Our press is not that bold. Michael Tomasky is on to the larger question when he writes: “If the conventions of mainstream journalism prevent our media from letting readers, viewers, and listeners examine the full truth in its broadest context, then it’s time to reexamine those conventions.” Sharp words.
Here’s Tomasky in the American Prospect: “Cowards All Around: The media should take a step back and remind us what Bush and Cheney were up to in 1969.”
Our media can sort through the facts in front of their nose and determine, at least some of the time, who’s lying and who’s not. But they are completely incapable of taking a step back and describing the larger reality. Doing that would require making judgments that are supposedly subjective rather than objective; but the larger reality here is clearer than clear.
… If the conventions of mainstream journalism prevent our media from letting readers, viewers, and listeners examine the full truth in its broadest context, then it’s time to reexamine those conventions. Until that happens, people who are willing to say anything, and who have the money to back them up, will be setting the agenda.
See Kaythryn Joyce in The Revealer on the vanishing of a scandal: “The story of how Bush’s top Catholic adviser resigned in anticipation of the publication of a report detailing his sexual abuse of an intoxicated and damaged young student.” (The article that started it all.)
The Los Angeles Times, editorial: These Charges Are False: It’s one thing for the presidential campaign to get nasty but quite another for it to engage in fabrication.
Bring a charge, however bogus. Make the charge simple: Dukakis “vetoed the Pledge of Allegiance”; Bill Clinton “raised taxes 128 times”; “there are [pick a number] Communists in the State Department.” But make sure the supporting details are complicated and blurry enough to prevent easy refutation.
Then sit back and let the media do your work for you. Journalists have to report the charges, usually feel obliged to report the rebuttal, and often even attempt an analysis or assessment. But the canons of the profession prevent most journalists from saying outright: These charges are false. As a result, the voters are left with a general sense that there is some controversy over Dukakis’ patriotism or Kerry’s service in Vietnam. And they have been distracted from thinking about real issues (like the war going on now) by these laboratory concoctions.
Belmont Club, Battle in the Clouds, is a brilliant analysis of one thing going on. (Aug. 24)
The undercard in the Kerry vs Swiftvets bout is Mainstream Media vs Kid Internet, two distinctly different fights, but both over information. The first is really the struggle over the way Vietnam will be remembered by posterity; whether its amanuensis will be John Kerry for the antiwar movement or those who felt betrayed by them. The victor in that struggle will get to inscribe the authoritative account of that mythical conflict in Southeast Asia: not in its events, but in its meaning. The fight will be as bitter as men for whom only memory remains can be bitter.
But the undercard holds a fascination of its own. The reigning champion, the Mainstream Media, has been forced against all odds to accept the challenge of an upstart over the coverage of the Swiftvets controversy.
Steve at Llamabutchers makes special reference to this post from Glenn Reynolds: “the photo showing the Congressional Record version of Kerry’s Cambodia speech I think was what crystalized this for many people.” The image of crystallizing opinion by extending the story, and opening up its contents, is a very useful way to think about the weblog sphere.
See The Note for a good round up of the Swift Boat coverage in the mainstream press.
There’s something sad, too, in this way of addressing it, from Tom Oliphant in the Boston Globe:
Discerning voters will notice that the more reputable organs of the national press have not cast doubt on Kerry’s Vietnam service. That is because political attacks on it don’t pass the smell test. We are influenced by eyewitnesses, not by people whose stories keep changing or are contradicted by official records. We are used to arguments over things like war records, but the burden of proof is with the accuser and Kerry’s accusers cannot shoulder it with the credible evidence required of credible stories.
Jeff Jarvis: Testing blog mettle
Think of the next 11 weeks until the election as a challenge: as a test of weblogs’ real value:
When we wake up after the election, will we be able to point to the ways and posts in which this new medium contributed, or at least tried to contribute, to improving the coverage of the campaign and the policies of the candidates and the wisdom of the electorate? Will we have made a difference at all? Or will we have made it worse?
Did we push the coverage and the candidates in ways that mattered? Or did we wallow in mud?
Via Instapundit, two interesting blog posts:
Let it Alone by Adeimantus: Conservative Political Commentary.
Years ago, wearied by their own arguments as much as by the arguments of their antagonists, sensible majorities of both the supporters and the opponents of the Vietnam war yielded to an unwritten domestic truce composed of two principles:
(1) Those who participated in the war, with the exception of anyone at or above the rank of general officer, are entitled to public honor for their service.
(2) Those who actively opposed the war, with the exception of the most extreme Jane Fonda-types, are not to be branded as cowards or traitors to their country.
Suggestion for keeping the peace by Dale Franks… “In order to move the presidential campaign away from what happened or didn’t happen in Vietnam 35 years ago, I offer a suggestion. Since the Kerry camp wishes to argue that official Navy records are conclusive proof that Kerry served honorably and with distinction, I suggest that those of us opposed to Kerry offer to accept that argument, as long as the Kerry people accept the logical corollary: the official Air Force records indicating George W. Bush was honorably discharged from his service is conclusive proof that he properly met his obligations as well.”
Posted by Jay Rosen at August 23, 2004 4:07 PM
I was first drawn to the fray this year by Kerry's anti-American remarks of which I had previously been unaware. Then the media went after Bush's National Guard service as though he had been service time for rape. As a Vietnam Veteran, Naval aviator and former reservist, I look on in shock as the dumbest of questions were shouted by a pressroom full of jackals at the White House. If there is anyone on this board with a shred of intellectual honesty, they have to admit that to this day, Bush's service was subject to far more scrutiny (and claims later proved wrong) than Kerry's has been.
Because my best friend was killed flying for the Air National Guard, and because I had been a military aviator myself who lost friends in stateside crashes, I was deeply offended by those attacks - for example, Terry McCauliffe informing us that the Guard "was the easy way out." - Certainly not true for guard pilots. My last flight in the reserves involved 3 major fires (which is why I got out).
I also found the AWOL charges absurd and disgusting. Anyone today who tries to find proof that I was ever present at my last duty station is likely not too. I haven't been able to. I guess I'm AWOL.
So first of all, this mess was started by people attacking Bush.
Then the Swift Boat guys came along with a letter, signed by everyone in Kerry's chain of command, requesting him to release his full records (he has not done so) and casting doubt on his ability to command. As I documented here, the main stream media gave these guys a brush-off. This should have been a major news event. It was historic. I wonder how subcribers would feel if they knew they were protected from it by their news sources?
And now you're angry because they're questioning Kerry's war record? After the Bush attacks and the suppression of the news comference? Does anyone see how unbalanced that is?
Furthermore, not one person has come forward from Bush's old unit (where he flew a lot of hours over 3 years) to trash him. Not one.
But from Kerry's old unit, every single commander, all but 1 or 2 of his peers, and a number of others have condemned Kerry. But hey, that's bad, that's horrible.
No, it is not. It is indicative that they feel this individual is bad, very bad, and that as people who saw him at critical times, they know that and they want to get the word out. He smeared them and he smeared me. He chose to run on his Vietnam record. It's fair game.
If you don't think what a man did while at war is relevant, then what the hell is? War reveals a lot about character, and if you think about it, character is critical in a candidate. If you have someone who is not to be trusted, who gives a damn what his policy positions are? They don't matter, because he can't be trusted.
What I truly do not understand is this outcry about how horrible it is to attack someone's war record. Why is that? Is there anyone on this board who has been in the military? Do you think you should be given a pass on everything you did there? Is it like Juvie... no records?
Or am I hearing a cooked goose? Are people upset about this controversy because it is hurting their favorite candidate?
David, deserting means a courts martial. Did you find a paper for that, or are you just beating on Bush? Did you check how many drills Kerry attended between 1970 and 1972? Was he deserting? He tried to hide those dates of service, since he was engaged in some highly questionable behavior for a commisioned Naval Officer at the time.
But we have a special case here - a candidate running on his war record whose previous activity in that area was viciously attacking those with whom he served, and after meeting with enemy representatives, spread enemy propanda about the country - this have the enemy decided in 1968 (after their terrible losses in Tet) that the only way to win was to demoralize America. Also a candidate whose cats paws viciously attacked his oppoonent's service record.
So this is a candidate with two war records.
Furthermore,we have the historical novelty of all of a veteran's chain of command againt him - knowing the attacks that would be made on them.
Does anyone here think these guys are lying for the Republican Party? Does anyone believe the silly reporting that asserts this group is a republican group because Spaeth, a PR firm owner, had done previous republican work. Does anyone belief that rich Texas contributors could make these former Naval officers invent false charges? There are accounts from over 60 officers and enlisted men about Kerry's misdeeds. That's a hell of a conspircy - call Oliver Stone!
Personally, I am proud of my service, and deeply offended not only by John Kerry's behavior but also that of the maintream media, which belittled the work of all National Guard (and by implication) Reserve people. If you don't understand the military, damn it, find someone who does before mouthing off. That especially applies to inhterpretation of military records.
The press looked really dumb when some articles where published claiminng that the first purple heart claims by the SBVT were wrong because the doctor's name wasn't on the form. They were too frigging stupid to ask anyone what the HM1 on the form meant, or they would have realized that their conclusion was wrong. Of course, I'm sure some voters were subsequently convinced that the SBVT were liars, and since that is to Kerry's advantage, it's a win for the main stream press, no matter how dumb they look to those in the know.
Finally, let me comment that I anticipated helping fight Kerry on the grounds of his 1971 testimony and related activities. I had no idea that the guy was as opportunistic as he was while in the rivers (which, btw, he never signed up for), until O'Neill mentioned it to me.
And for those with visions of evil Republicans in their heads, the group held its first news conference at the insistence of Democrat members who wanted the party to have a chance to change nominees.
This group is composed of pretty normal people. I've talked with some, and people I trust have talked with others. They aren't a secret cabal, they haven't been hunkered down waiting for Kerry to pop up - they're just Americans, combat veterans who stayed a year there, who fought with Kerry, slept in the same barracks, ate at the same galley, and generally hung out together.
Anything in a candidate's past should be fair game. Character is important, and the past gives strong clues.
The Swift Boat Veterans are an honest organization. They had difficulty breaking through the iron curtain of the main stream media, so they tried two alternate attacks: a book and an advertisement. Had they been Kerry backersd, I am convinced the would not of run into the iron curtain in the first place.
There are enough swifties to make it clear that some of Kerry's claims are wrong. The only swifty claim I question is that of the silver heart episode.
Kerry left Vietnam after only four months. transferring his subordinates to safe postings. In most units, people carried out on a stretcher returned to their units as fast as possible.
After 35 years, some incidents may be hard to remember. However, Kerry's use of official records derived from his own reports is something those tending to be skeptical should keep an eye on. Too many times I've heard "Official naval records contradict what so-and-so said" and immediately assuming that truth has been reached. News people shouldn't be that gullible.
There are many veterans watching all of this. Unlike civilians, we are not happy with someone who has won an honor improperly (although it was common in some units in Vietnam), nor with someone who finds a way to escape combat through a trick.
I think you've given us a journalist's version of the "we deserve a politics worthy of the American people" argument.
On the one hand, it's pretty clear that G.W. is a bully by proxy throughout his political career who respects no one. It also seems that Kerry is something of a "P.T. Barnum goes to Vietnam" veteran who could only expect to see his anti-war activism complicate his "proud vet defending the nation campaign" (as you point out).
Yet those unpleasant truths do not change the fact that what is being regurgitated here for immediately political reasons is always also both a moral crusade (for the true believers on both sides), and a reopening of old wounds (for those old enough to remember Vietnam who felt they had come to some peace with it). There is surely a place for the elegiac longing for mutual respect that you have called for here.
Yet to my mind, our entire political process since at least Nixon and Agnew has been built on moralistic demonization of either side. Whether you want to point to the assassinations of leaders in the sixties, the Republican move to a neo-confederate alliance with the old south, or the cultural wedge issues designed to distract from economic exploitation or the Democratic perspective that the New Right is the New Taliban. Our political process has been almost entirely reduced to this sort of scorched earth moral demonization and finger pointing. Why else would it be that the favorite epithet of both parties vis-a-vis the other is to call them Nazis?
This situation bespeaks an utter loss of common national sympathy and understanding that leads me to feel that your elegiac mourning for the loss of our common civic respect isn't just a call to let Vietnam's bygones be bygones, it is a call to imagine that we haven't been in a culture war for fifty years that is beginning to rival the debates over abolition. EVERY political issue frames the other side as the devil incarnate. Vietnam is just one of the more bloody battlefields of a many-faceted ideological war.
I remember seeing Archie Bunker for president pennants at my local Penney's store in 1972. That had everything to do with Vietnam. But it also has everything to do with Zell Miller, Tom DeLay, and Trent Lott. The culture war goes on whether we want to retreat to safety or not.
This recent skirmish is one of the more shallow and embarrassing examples in a while. But the country I see around me was bitterly at war LONG before the Swift Vets showed up. And it will be long after their phony story has come and gone. The culture war is being fought over the sixties, and the sixties wouldn't mean what they do without Vietnam. What is Operation Rescue if not the Weathermen do fundamentalism? The battle over the sixties is all around us if we only have eyes to see. What is the Straussian accusation of relativism leveled at anyone who isn't a fundamentalist? It is payback for the 1960s. Indeed, that domestic war is far, far from over.
I would like to think of your post as calling for a Political Veteran's Day for the suffering we all have to go through as citizens of our deeply embittered and self-destructive country. Our two nations in one are no longer coherent enough to command common loyalty however much we all may desire it. It would be nice to have at least one day where we COULD sit back and respect one another to the degree that we still can, to live together in peace, at least for a day. I find THAT an inspiring thought--but it might take a peace and reconciliation board to get it done.
Jay, I'm not sure what you are referring to, but I'll readily admit to having attributed characteristics to the press that may or may not be correct.
As far as the SBVT, the question of their credibility hings in mind on how hard it would be to construct a conspiracy of over 60 people, most of whom have not been in contact for almost 35 years, to lie, in detail on complex subjects.
I suspect there areas of weakness of memory (just like I think Rassman sincerely believes he was being shot at when all the eviddence indicates otherwise).
However, the asymmetry between the wolfpack going after Bush's National Guard records, and the complete lack of investigation of Kerry was shocking. Does anyone know if Kerry did anything special to incentivize his "Band of Brothers" other than transferring them to safe spots on his exit from Vietnam? Has anyone even mentioned the latter? How about the rumoured trip to France last year - anyone check?
To get to the core of the issue: yes, it makes sense to examine someone's wartime service, just like it makes sense to examine his business career at the same age, although wartime service can be more revealing.
My main issue is with the Kerry testimony and speeches after he left the Navy. Someone informed me that all Kerry was doing was repeating what was told to him. I months ago analyzed all the testimony and the Q&A period afterwards, and that excuse doesn't wash. Yes, some but not all of his broad brush charges came from the Winter Soldier "Investigation." But does anyone think that Kerry was fooled into thinking the 150 "veterans" there were telling the truth? A congressional investigation, which offered amnesty, was not able to substantiate a single one of those charges. It did find many imposters and people who had lied about their background, but not one of the charges.
In questioning, Kerry states that he personally participated in war crimes. It was that statement that really got the swifties going, because they knew it not to be true.
If you read the questioning more closely, you will find intermixed some poiints that the enemy wanted to get across. For example, Kerry says we used weapons against "oriental human beings" that we would never use against Europeans. Since at the time we were prepared to use nuclear weapons against Europeans, I'd like to know what that weapon was. But the statement was useful to the North Vietnamese. In fact, that testimony IS STILL USEFUL to the communists.
There is a part where he speaks as an enemy representative, saying that our troops would be given safe conduct out of the country. He also recommends we immediately accept the enemy's negotiating points. How did a Navy LT come to this conclusion? He talked to the communists in Paris.
Ben, I'm not sure why I bother to respond, but of course my viewpoints are my own. It was Kerry, speaking before Congress in 1971, who arrogated the position of spokesman for all veterans.
I am a Vietnam Veteran. It gives me some insight into military matters, especially from that period. That's all.
Your characterization of the article linked by Jim was pure knee-jerk. The article is well worth reading, even if you don't believe the conclusions.
If you disagree with the data, then you have a problem. It is well sourced.
If you wander by my blog and dig, you can find answers to some of your questions, including a link to CSPAN's transcript of Kerry's testimony.
It is going to be hard to convince the partisans on here, but there are plenty of Democrat vets who are up in arms about Kerry - especially Vietnam Vets.
There are also a number of other Veterans Groups other than SBVT. I am part of Vietnam Vets for the Truth (another 527). We were formed independently of the swifties, but also for the purpose of redressing the lies directed at us by Kerry. There are many other groups, varying in size, organization, and national scope who are anti-Kerry veterans groups. When these groups (including SBVT) are attacked as part of the "Republican Smear Machine," the attackers are simply showing their ignorance. It would appear that the sophisticated press cannot conceive of true grass roots organizations.
Our group is totally grass roots. I know because there aren't many of us in the organizing loop.
There's another I started by accident - I put an anti-Kerry posting on my blog and before I knew it I had about 200 anti-Kerry Vietnam Vets - had to start a new website for it. This was an emergent event, unplanned and rather a surprise.
For those used to thinking in conventional political think, these groups just don't fit. They are grass roots and they are everywhere. They are non-partisan. All of this in spite of the fact that the VFW and American Legion are required by their rules not to show favoritism.
In any case, there is a phenomenon happening hear, what is is ain't exactly clear (reminds me of a '60s protest song).
THe biggest media screw-ups I have seen have been:
1) Ignorant reporting - drawing conclusions from documents that are inappropriate and obviously wrong to veterans. Some of this is sloppiness - using a document based on a Kerry report to support a Kerry position, saying that the document "is an official navy record' and thus should be believed.
2) One-sided reporting - again, where is the investigation of Kerry's band of brothers? Why wait 10 days to report important SBVT events? Why ignore or downplay the first SBVT press conference.
3) Denial - the failure to appreciate that SBVT could crack the Maginot Line. I was surprised too.
4) Confusion when unable to shape the public debate, again with the SBVT forcing their way in.
5) Failing to understand a new public view of Vietnam, where it is only some of the left who still vehemently believe that Vietnam was the wrong war. Almost all Vietnam Veterans (myself included) have said they would do it again if called.
6) The Bush National Guard feeding frenzy. This left the press looking like partisan fools to a whole lot of us. Veterans, including those from the National Guard, have relatives and friends, and many have been learning about the absurdity of the charges. Aviators like myself have also pointed out how dangerous Bush's choice was - his total service risk was probably higher than Kerry's.
Anyway, it will be interesting to see what happens with Kerry's anti-war activities. Was Kerry totally duped by the Winter Soldier witnesses? Or did he present the findings knowing they were false.
Sad. Interesting. I hadn't thought of something so simple. Thanks, Jay.
I'm afraid there is no way to get into these issues around Vietnam without inviting so much anger and intensity from all sides for one very obvious reason: we've never, in fact, resolved the various tensions and differences over the war itself.
John Moore tries to dress up the distinctions between Kerry and Bush and why he questions one and not the other, but it seems clear that the point is what his man did was okay and what the other guy did (and does) wasn't (and isn't). And that seems too easy (a la that brilliant Cone piece). As much as it may be worth wading into what happened in Vietnam and what Kerry did there, it's worth wading into, as Bush himself indicated in 1990, his decision to get into the Texas Air National Guard because it was a way not to go to Vietnam that didn't necessitate other draft dodging tactics.
It is sad that we haven't sorted out what it means that we were in Vietnam, why we went, why we left, what it means to have served, and what it means to not have served (as well as to conscientiously protest the whole operation) in Vietnam, specifically. I don't think it was necessarily weak or cowardly for Bush and Cheney to avoid going. I don't think Kerry is necessarily ennobled by having served. But I say that because I think the point is we shouldn't have been in Vietnam in the first place. And that's the ugly, sad topic no one wants to get into.
My own feeling is that, sad as it is, we all ought to come clean and talk about Vietnam. Or, deciding that it's too painful to revisit such a difficult, unsettled period, let's not. But this middle ground, where we pick apart the smallest details (really, I don't care whether he was in Cambodia in 68 or 69 or never... just as I don't care whether Bush was in Alabama... or not) as a way to ignore examining the larger issues, is just a painful, useless place to be. It tells us nothing. It teaches us nothing. And it's just, well, sad.
And as much as I'd like to say that's the media's fault, it's really rather all of our faults, now, isn't it?
You will be pleased to hear that I checked out some links related to the Winter Soldiers. I consider Neil Sheehan, whose Bright Shining Lie I read, to be a very credible source. Based on his review, I now agree with you that much of the Winter Soldier testimony was probably false.
You will not be pleased to hear that I have found an article in the Toledo Blade on the Tiger Force, and an article by Nicholas Turse (a Ph.D candidate conducting research on the matter) both of which are based on unimpeachable, declassified Pentagon documents that demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that precisely the sorts of things the Winter Soldiers falsely testified to ACTUALLY HAPPENED. They happened even more often than previously suspected, and even when charges were filed, the guilty parties were routinely let off with discharges. I would also recommend Christian Appy's Patriots: The Vietnam War From All Sides for your reading list if you ARE really interested in getting to the bottom of things.
Sorry. To say that war crimes were committed in Vietnam is a simple statement of fact: carpet bombing of civilians, anti-personnel bombs, bombing of dikes, napalm, free-fire zones, soldiers who treat "gooks," "slopes," and "dinks" like cockroaches, routine interrogation by torture at the hands of S. Vietnamese supervised by Americans.
Yes, there were a few war crimes committed. I even corresponded with Col. David Hackworth about it. He was a veteran, too. He was also there. I said I would put great stock in his opinion and would like to get his take on the question of war crimes in Vietnam. Were they widespread? Were they exceptions that were reported? Did it vary by unit commander (my guess)?
His reply: "The war was one raging atrocity."
At least one highly decorated veteran begs to differ. Are you going to claim that all of his medals are fake too? Or will you just call him a lefty who can't be taken seriously because he disagrees with you?
Jay and Tim have raised one serious question here: What could it mean for Kerry to run as a veteran "defending the nation" in a misguided war like Vietnam? That does cause debate between Democrats. It couldn't make Bush a remotely imaginable alternative, but it does cause debate. The pose requires him to pretend to John Moore's view of the war when he clearly doesn't believe it. John M. is right to hold him in contempt for that.
I hold Kerry in admiration BECAUSE of his testimony before the Senate. I hope that his cynical political self will eventually prove worthy of the speech he gave then--even if it was written by Robert Kennedy's speech writer.
Tim: Many things John Kerry said about his service in Vietnam I do not find particularly honorable. I also believe the Swift Boat Veterans are mostly engaged in a smear campaign, using trumped up, tricked up evidence, mixed in with some genuine points, and that this is very much the way the game is played these days.
On Kerry and Vietnam: It is not very honorable, from my point of view, to claim that your service under fire in Vietnam qualifies you for the presidency, but your service in the cause of stopping a cruel and senseless war back home does not. Both are honorable, but in different ways. They tell us different things about America, too, and appeal to different dreams we have about ourselves.
I think it was a mistake to make the convention "about" one side of that war, his service as a solider, and it exposes the hubris of the handler class in Kerry's camp, along with a certain measure of gall in the candidate himself. (Not that gall isn't necessary to win.) Kerry's political life began, in the sense that he first emerged as a figure in the national story, when he turned against the war as a veteran of it.
I think Kerry should run on many things, but in the degree that it's his Vietnam record, it has to include both-- see John fight in the war, see John fight against it, and I don't care if reconciling those two is tough without alienating swing voters in Ohio. He's running for President of the United States. The challenge of doing just that--reconciling his roles in the Vietnam War chapter of our history--might have been breathed life into the campaign, tested the candidate's skills, and deepened our knowledge of Kerry. Also: it's more honest.
The Swift Boat campaign was cooked up, cranked up and ready to go independent of any decisions Kerry and crew made to rely or not rely, emphasize a lot or just a little, his record during four months of duty.
I mean, it's effective and all to shout out, "he's running on his record in Vietnam, therefore..." and everyone will agree, you have a point. Even so, the Swift Boats were in formation and going to make their move--the 527, the book, the donors, the ads, the talk shows, the blogs were all ready--even if Kerry had based his campaign on coupons for health care.
On Bush's statement, which has not been explained well by anyone here, myself included, here's a different Q for you, Tim. If you were a Swiftie or supporter--hoping to make an impact in this election and prevail in the battle for public opinion--would you take President's Bush's exchange, I mean this one:
Asked if Mr. Kerry had lied about his war record, Mr. Bush said, "Mr. Kerry served admirably and he ought to be proud of his record."
as good news for the cause, or bad news? And why?
I agree with much of that, but ...
The Swift Boat campaign was cooked up, cranked up and ready to go independent of any decisions Kerry and crew made to rely or not rely, emphasize a lot or just a little, his record during four months of duty.
I'm convinced that the Swift Boat vets would have campaigned against Kerry whether he was a Democrat, a Republican, or the name of Kerry's opponent.
However, we must also note that there might not have been as many, as vocal, as fired up, if Kerry hadn't made his campaign a referendum on his status as Vietnam war hero. This was not a group that campaigned every 6 years against Kerry during his Senate campaigns, and has been pointed out as an inconsistancy, even defended him during one campaign.
If you were a Swiftie or supporter--hoping to make an impact in this election and prevail in the battle for public opinion--would you take President's Bush's exchange ... as good news for the cause, or bad news? And why?
Well, first let me say I'm not a Swiftie - or a Swabby - so I don't have a dog in this fight between Navy men. I'm not as much a supporter of the Swifties as a spectator, and my interest lies more in how veterans manage to eat their own, civilains seem to like to watch, and hypocritical changing of sides between honoring "your" war hero while bad mouthing "the war" (or war in general), and trying not to call veterans murderers and baby-killers while trying to both acknowledge, and not, that atrocities are part of war.
Having said that, if I was a SVBT advocate, or activist, I'd want Bush out-of-the-way. This is my fight with Kerry. I want to give it to Kerry as good as I feel he dished it out and profitted at my expense. I really don't want Bush jumping into the ring with me. It's way too personal for the kind of political control his campaign managers and spin meisters would bring.
But, that's my read on it. That's more heat than what I've seen them display, but I think that's what's in their hearts and what motivates them to invest their time, money and reputation to take away from Kerry any glory for his Vietnam service - as they feel Kerry did to them.
Just for the humor of irony ...
Hackworth says error doesn't compare to Boorda suicide case
Part 2: Why Hackworth Left the Army
If this passage from Drudge http://www.drudgereport.com/dnc98.htm is true, Kerry realizes that he has a huge problem with veterans, as some polls now are beginning to show
"Kerry reached out to Robert "Friar Tuck" Brant Cdr., USN (RET) Sunday night, just hours after former Sen. Bob Dole publicly challenged Kerry to apologize to veterans.
Brant was skipper of the #96 and # 36 boat and spent time with Kerry in An Thoi. Kerry and Brant slept in the same quarters, and Brant used to put Kerry back to bed at night when Kerry was sleepwalking.
Brant received a call from Kerry at his home in Virginia while he was watching the Olympics on TV.
The call lasted 10 minutes, sources tell Drudge.
KERRY: "Why are all these swift boat guys opposed to me?"
BRANT: "You should know what you said when you came back, the impact it had on the young sailors and how it was disrespectful of our guys that were killed over there."
[Brant had two men killed in battle.]
KERRY: "When we dedicated swift boat one in '92, I said to all the swift guys that I wasn't talking about the swifties, I was talking about all the rest of the veterans." [Ed.--Emphasis added.]
Kerry then asked if he could meet Brant ["You were one of the best"] -- man to man -- face to face.
Brant declined the invite, explaining that Kerry was obviously not prepared to correct the record on exactly what happened during Vietnam and what happened when Kerry came back."
I also recommend this article from Dr. Larry Sabato of the University of VA http://www.centerforpolitics.org/about/staff_sabato.htm on how long we should expect Vietnam to remain a part of US politics http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/article.php?id=LJS2004082401
Tim, John Lynch, Roy Clark, Jeff Sharlet and others... I think this is whole thing is very much about the animosity of some Vietnam veterans and military people toward Kerry for his role in the anti-war movement, and, yes, for what he said and did then-- serious charges he made, chances he took, ways he had of positioning himself.
I agree they have a right to criticize him for that, and to band together for that purpose; and if he is about to possibly become the next president, then I would expect those criticisms and that banding-together to rise in intensity. Now is the logical time when those with such doubts and disagreements would try to speak about Kerry, as well as influence the nation's opinion.
I agree that this would also be a good time for the political press to take an in depth look at Kerry's different Vietnams-- there must be two, three four of the--and ask how they fit together.
So I have no desire to bury the past. Nor am I surprised that Vietnam and Kerry's role in it becomes an issue now. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (the name says a lot, I feel) became a smear group when they gave into temptation, threw caution away, let their anger get the better of them, and contacted the howling ghost of Lee Attwater, who told them they might have a chance (to destroy the target) if they were willing to try something truly outrageous, something with real shock value to it, a suggestion dark enough to stain Kerry in the minds of all who heard it, something instantly recognizeable as not only wrong, but unAmerican and perverse. Got anything like that? asked Lee's spirit?
And the Swift Boat Veterans decided they did have something they could say, something they could try, something they could--and would--put out there: Kerry didn't deserve his medals because he lied to get them and other veterans know about it. He's no hero. He's been lying and getting away with it. Yes, we're certain.
This is not "one of the things" in a list of complaints; this is the essence of the strategy, the heart of the attack, and it begins the anatomy of the smeer. Only by keeping your eye on that particular charge and what happens to it can you understand the unfolding of this event.
For if a group of angry and fed-up veterans decided they really wanted to criticize Kerry for his actions and arguments against the War, and they formed an association to do just that, would anyone have heard of them by now? Would a book like that be climbing the charts? Would the call lines light up over it? Would anyone be saying the Swifties dominated the week?
They went for it: the "Kerry is a monster of deceit" strategy. He got medals he didn't deserve. Everyone knows it. Yes, we're sure. And they created their own monster.
The problem with Hackworth is he totally missed the change in the war in 1969. He continued, and continues to this day honking the same horn. He was a colonel and knew how to fight. He despised those above him, such as those who tried to get him to obey some of the rules. In other words, he became arrogant, allowing himself to play general when he wasn't one. Also, from my readings, there's a good reason he didn't make general, other than his orneriness. He doesn't seem to be able to separate the tactical from the strategic. This means he emits a lot of opinions well above his capabilities, but his reputation lets him get away with it.
For example, if I wanted to know about a small battle - say the battle of Najaf - Hack would be very interesting (if you could talk him out of nuking the shrine). But if I was interested in whether a given war strategy was worthwhile, I wouldn't pay any attention to Hack.
My opinions only (and I should point out that I have never had rank anywhere close to his).
Kerry didn't smear veterans with the truth. He smeared us with communist propaganda. Nobody denies a small level of atrocities there.
The issue isn't that the media isn't revisionist enough (because the problem with the swift boat issue had nothing to do with that). It is that the media is biased pro-Kerry.
No, Mr. BF, if you are going to go around comparing us to Japanese soldiers in Nanking, then you are dropping to an unacceptably low level. There is no comparison. None. Zero. Zip. You are off by at least 4 orders of magnitude (for you, that means a factor of 10000),
Kerry reported that atrocities were a routine (day to day) occurrences approved by all levels of command.
That is a lie. It is not an exaggeration, it is a lie. That is why the communist Vietnamese used that line against our POWs. That is why they used it in June of this year to attack America.
John Kerry went around spewing untrue, vicious and divisive communist propaganda. I have as much respect for someone who did that as I do for a Ku Klux Klan grand wizard (or whatever they are). Instead of attacking blacks, Kerry attacked Vietnam Veterans, in a deliberate attempt to cause us to lose the war.
Wanting redress for this is not a wish for revisionism, its wanting people like you to learn that we weren't monsters, there were extremely few monsters, that an awful lot of American soldiers, like we do in every war, committed random acts of kindness, and that atrocities were indeed common and a policy - of the enemy, not us.
I realize the distinction may be difficult for you, but an enemy having a policy of atrocities is actually bad, worse than an army with an enforced policy against atrocities.
You tell us how we should feel. How arrogant. You have no earned to right for that.
The people who really need Kerry's apologies are those who died trying to minimize civilian casualties. There were some in the Swift Boats - they could do like Kerry and open fire at anything that moved, or they could go closer to verify that they weren't firing at civilians before cutting lose. The Swifties lost people doing the latter.
Your post in general appears to be designed to be maximally offensive. In fact, many of your posts have that characteristic. Do you get a thrill out of this? Or are you such a sap that you actually believe what you say?
I think you hit it pretty well. There is another factor, which is that many of the people involved were not aware that Kerry had received some of those medals until recently. He was there 4 months and then he booked.
The result was that Kerry could write up after action reports and other paperwork, add a few goodies (like the presence of enemy gunfire) and nobody who knew anything about the actual incident was aware that the exaggeration had occurred.
Another example is his first purple heart. The paperwork suddenly appeared three weeks after the incident, after he had gotten his other purple hearts. The presumed reason: the normal chain of command denied it, so Kerry found someone in Saigon to do the paperwork.
Soldiers do not like that kind of nonsense. On the bronze star incident, one of the other guys also got a bronze star. He just realized it was for action under fire - which he and all other skippers except Kerry denied happened. His bronze star was generated as part of the same process that generated Kerry's. He has said he would be glad to give the award back if hostile fire was the reasoning (he thought he had gotten it for some rescue activity).
I know that Kerry was disliked by his peers and superior officers. I think his anti-war actions, which directly indicted that unit, were considered a treasonous betrayal and led to deep anger.
I would point out that Kerry could have protested the war without some of his more eggregious charges. Millions did. Kerry was on the radical edge of things, and you have to wonder why.
Burkette in Stolen Valor says that Kerry used the VVAW as a steppingstone to national prominence. This is based on the opinions of some of the VVAW and also FBI surveillance, which concluded that he wasn't dangerous because he was just an opportunist.
This makes the insult even worse. He sold out his former comrades, all Vietnam Veterrans and his country for publicity?? What a great guy.
I have yet to see even an attempt to refute that charge.
I'm noticing that all of a sudden the message from believers in the book is that the charges of medal inflation and fabrication were never that important, aren't key to the case, that's the media's bias, etc. etc. Next we'll hear that the Swift Boat Veterans never questioned whether Kerry deserved his medals.
I haven't noticed that but I'll look for it now that you say so. My impression was the SBVT challenged Kerry's first Purple Heart and Bronze Star in their "Any Questions" ad that was accompanied by O'Neill's August 5 letter to the media. I haven't noticed that their position has changed much since their May announcement.
Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I couldn't help wonder if what you say about the SBVT is true, there isn't a parallel to the VVAW:
The Vietnam Veterans Against the War (the name says a lot, I feel) became a smear group when they gave into temptation, threw caution away, let their anger get the better of them, and contacted the howling ghost of Lee Attwater, who told them they might have a chance (to destroy the target) if they were willing to try something truly outrageous, something with real shock value to it, a suggestion dark enough to stain the war in the minds of all who heard it, something instantly recognizeable as not only wrong, but unAmerican and perverse. Got anything like that? asked Lee's spirit?
And they decided they did based on , put together the Winter Soldier Tribunal and Kerry went in front of the Senate and the TV cameras for weeks.
For if a group of angry and fed-up veterans decided they really wanted to criticize the War, and they formed an association to do just that, would anyone have heard of them by now? Would a book like that be climbing the charts? Would the call lines light up over it? Would anyone be saying that John Kerry dominated the week?
Are you going to claim that all of his medals are fake too?
I see great irony in someone asking today about accusing Hackworth of wearing fake awards.
I'm also interested in how I became an militantly ignorant revisionist? Are you smearing me with the truth or what appears to me to be a rather closed minded tirade of your own?
Kerry "smeared" veterans with the truth about the war. How dare he. Live with it.
That the Winter Soldiers testified that "They had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads." Did they? They didn't want to discuss it with investigators.
There is a distinction between the accusations that Kerry made 30 years ago and the accusations the Swift Boat vets are making today and it is the specificity of who is being accused of what acts and when.
From the BW article Jay links above: "You can quibble over the exact words Kerry used and whether he should have said them when he did, but in broad terms he spoke the truth."
The disingenuous nature of accusing the Swift Boat vets of a smear campaign while defending Kerry's characterization of those serving in Vietnam is profound. The Swifties named Kerry. The Swifties brought forward their own observations. Their accusations can be checked, discredited if not true, validated if true, and weighed against the accused and accuser.
Kerry did not accuse anyone by name. He avoids responsibility for his broadbrush tarnishing by saying he was only repeating testimony of others. Testimony not under oath. Testimony that they were not willing to repeat to authorities.
Everyone that served in Vietnam was a potential war criminal because the accusations were broad, and many treated that way based on the testimony Kerry gave.
So yes, let's quibble. Let's quibble about smearing all Muslims with 9/11, or whether we should demand and praise Bush and other leaders for not allowing that kind of broadening of guilt. Let's quibble about smearing all our servicemembers for Abu Ghraib.
Let's. Let's hear from the SBVT how Kerry's broad accusations affected POWs and returning vets. And let's hear those vets challenge Kerry's character over the accuracy of his war stories and medals.
Let's debate how to honor our war veterans service without being unAmerican by questioning the character of their service when they run for high office.
August has been a tough month for Kerry.
Ben, thank's for your condescension. Yes, in spite of your many posts assuming or stating that I am an absolutist, indeed that is not true. Just because I don't put a parenthetical about atrocities in every sentence doesn't mean I'm an idiot who assumes there were none.
On the other hand, the idea that the whole war consisted of war crimes is nonsense. Was the use of Napalm in World War II a war crime? In the Korean War? Carpet bombing (B-52 ARC LIGHT raids) were hardly indiscriminate. They had specific targets and took place in enemy territory. They were also very effective.
It is a common myth that our air power killed huge numbers of civilians. It is also nonsense. It would have been a heck of a waste of assets to blow up civilians instead of VC or NVA. And by the way, think of what they were being defended against. Do you know any refugees from the communist regime? I do, and he and all of his brothers fought in the SVN military to try to stop the communists.
One thing I found ironic then and I find ironic now is how the terrible policies of the enemy's are never mentioned but our supposed widespread atrocities are still plaguing us after all this time.
Do you know what a FAC is? Do you know how it ties into bombing? Did you know that a free fire zone did not, unlike Kerry's implications and his behavior, mean that you could shoot anyone in it. It meant you could use firepower without coordination with other units. That's all it meant.
It would appear that there is no way the US can fight a war, no matter how justified, without having a snearing section complaining about our atrocities, and filling the TV with pictures of dead civilians. Too bad our enemies are not inflicted with the same problems.
What would you have us do when the VC were killing tens of thousnds of village chiefs, their wives and their children? What the press did was ignore it. What a surprise.
Your comparison to Nanking is still extremely offensive. Nanking involved a huge number of rapes and murders. It involved the use of bubonic plague against civilians. The whole thing targetted civilians. It was a classic Ghengis Khan sort of operation, unlike ours, which Kerry, of course, characterized the same ways.
No event like this occurred in 'Nam except when the VC massacred people, after torture. I would appreciate it if you would not bring it up, because it is unnecessarily offensive and is wildly inaccurate.
Regarding the political effect of the apparent contradiction. It will be interesting to see.
I would guess that the kind of voter who matters will think that Bush is saying what he has to say, and the SBVT are saying what they believe. I think they would be right.
Regarding John O'Neill... I can tell you this. He wants Kerry to lose. He held the press conference early because he didn't want Kerry to be his alternative to Bush. He told me (and others) that if Edwards had been the candidate, he would probably vote for him. But of course, if that were the case, there would be no SBVT and O'Neill would not be in the middle of all of this.
I will assert that the SwiftVets are a non-partisan group. They are single minded: get the truth (as they see it) out about Kerry, as effectively as possible. They have members of at least two parties in there. If you think about it, and look at the numbers, it would be a shock if the whole group of officers over Kerry were all of the same party. That in itself would be a statistical fluke.
A more interesting question than being suspicious about their bipartisanship is: What does having big-pocket partisan contributors do to their freedom of action? The SBVT really are bipartisan. Their big contributors apparently are Republican. What does that mean? I don't know.
I think the best way to look at the issue is that SBVT is anti-Kerry. He could be running against Frosty the Snowman and they would be anti-Kerry. It's really that simple. However, being anti-Kerry is, only in a practical effect sense, pro-Bush. John O'Neill may not feel even slightly pro-Bush, but the money men would look at this organization and recognize that, regardless of the way the members think of the goal, they are useful to Bush.
So I would say O'Neill doesn't give a rat's ass who wins this election, but he cares a whole lot that Kerry lose it.
I'm just wondering from the average citizen's point of view, whom should said citizen believe?
I find it a pretty good question. If it makes no sense to you, then one of us is probably unable to think straight, politically. The trick is knowing which one.
Well, it's a good question, but I think you're exploring this issue from different angles:
- At first you seem to ask what was Bush thinking when he said it, or was he - thinking?
- Then you asked how the SBVT should interpret Bush's remark.
- Now you're asking how the citizen/voter should interpret Bush's remark.
They're all good questions, I'm just trying to keep up without being able to see you shift gears...
My view is (and I do not claim either politically straight thinking or average citizen spokesperson status) that there is a floor to how far Kerry's service can be deflated from the pumped up ceiling that his campaign has characterized it.
Remember that the Democrat campaign strategy had been to put John "Chest full of medals war hero" Kerry next to George "AWOL/Deserter" Bush.
Creating a big delta between the two has been the Democrat's narrative. But Kerry threw his medals away, including black-and-blue self-inflicted Purple Hearts that got him out of combat early, lied about Christmas in Cambodia for political partisan gain, ...?
Narrows the delta and takes some of the sacred shine off Kerry's Navy Whities.
Bush stated, or recognized, that there is a limit to where this challenge to Kerry's service should reasonably end up. "Mr. _______ served admirably and he ought to be proud of his record." is exactly the modest characterization of a war veteran that harkens back to the WWII vets. As Stephen notes - simply and quietly.
It also comes off as a humble admission that Mr. Kerry's admirable service compares favorably to his own, which is true, so why deny it? There is a delta.
It does not dispute the SBVT claim that Kerry inflated his war record, and almost admonishes Kerry for his bombastic fanfare - "you served admirably, you should be proud, now shut up about it".
Which, BTW, is what I think most people are thinking right now.
You are asking a framing question, and you have a rather poor opinion of your loyal readers if you think we will fall into that trap. The President said what he said because he must. He is the Commander in Chief, and it would be nearly unthinkable for him to say something against a veterans’ service. He praised Kerry’s record by way of saying all vets should be proud of their service. To do otherwise would be a terrible lapse. It would not be “Presidential.” You, I think, know that, though Kerry didn’t when he personally joined in the questioning of George Bush’s Guard service. That misstep made him look bad and earned him some critics among former Guard members. He gets it now though, which is one reason he is trying so hard to pin the SBVFT on the Bush campaign.
Does it harm the SBVFT’s credibility that Bush has seemingly refuted their claim? No. People who care about the issue know first that Bush can’t, for reasons above, say anything else, and second, that Bush wasn’t there so he wouldn’t really know anyway. He was merely speaking as Commander in Chief and reminding the country to honor our veterans. He also, however, said it in a way that left a question in the air. Kerry “ought” to be proud of his record. Why isn’t he? Conscience nagging him, perhaps?
But, the medal claim was just the introduction, the teaser if you will, designed to get people’s attention for the main body blow. That came with the second ad, featuring Kerry’s own words from his ’71 Congressional testimony juxtaposed with the very people he was slandering. But the medal controversy did something else too, and I think it shows the SBVFT’s savvy (or Machiavellian cunning, if you’re inclined to the Left).
They ran with the medal issue long enough to draw a response from Kerry’s camp, a response that was essentially “how dare you question my service, how dare you slander me. I deserve better for the sacrifices I made.” And as soon as Kerry began attacking them in that way, they rolled out the second ad, and lo and behold, there was Kerry questioning their service, slandering them, giving them less than they deserved thirty three years ago. Goose, gander, sauce.
And here Bush’s comment, with impeccable plausible deniability, slams Kerry and reinforces the SBVFT’s real message. Those vets served admirably too, and they ought to be proud of their record. But it’s hard to be proud of your record when you are still under the cloud of being falsely accused of war crimes. Maybe the folks who made those long-ago slanderous accusations ought to apologize so these men can be proud of their record once more. Maybe John Kerry “ought” to finally come clean about his lies three decades ago so that everyone who served in that war – including Kerry himself, can be proud of their record. Maybe he “ought” to clear up this misconception of the US Military as a bunch of high-tech Genghis Khans so the current crop of soldiers and Marines can go about the necessary business of winning a war.
The Japanese vets also insist that the Chinese were so vicious in their method of fighting that what they got in return was a pale shadow of what they dealt out. They also claim that there were only a few hundred, rather than a few hundred thousand, people killed in civilian clothes. They say that these people were not civilians, they were Chinese soldiers who slipped into civilian clothes so that they were legitimate military targets. They also say that any Japanese who says otherwise is a self-hating "Useful Fool" of Japan's enemies. The medical experiments on prisoners you seem to be referring to are not related to Nanjing.
There is a lot of documentary evidence that challenges their claim, and much of it comes from disinterested foreign doctors. Much of the documentary evidence that is building up against what the US did in Vietnam also comes from doctors who were appalled by what they saw.
You very deeply mistake and misjudge your opponents if you think we are pacifists.
I DO feel more responsiblity to condemn war crimes committed in the name of my country under orders from the government that I supposedly have some democratic control over.
At the same time, I condemn war crimes by our opponents. Obvously, we disagree on whether many of these people SHOULD BE our opponents.
I think Eisenhower drove Ho Chi Minh to the communists by refusing his plea for the U.S. to align itself with Vietnamese independence when the French started their colony all over again after the W.W.II. Minh was not a communist to start with. We blew him off. You can't be too surprised if he appeals to our opponent in that context. That means Eisenhower was a bad strategist, not that Minh was an evil commie at birth. Minh fought for national independence with weapons from whoever would support his cause and we refused to.
You completely blew off the sources I cited that document war crimes based on declassifed Pentagon documents. Harping on
the credibility of the Winter Soldiers or whether Kerry named names when there is documented evidence from the Pentagon itself that there WAS widespread tolerance of war crimes might feel good, but it is a losing argument. According to Pentagon documents, he would have had to name several hundred names. Those Pentagon documents weren't available until just recently, so the idea that he could have done that in 1971 when the Pentagon was still covering up the records that absolutely proved the case is a straw man.
When the premise of your self-righteous anger--that the charge that war crimes occurred in Vietnam on a routine basis is a vicious smear--is proven to be true, that means the charge is not a "smear." That means it is an accurate description of hundreds of documented cases of war crimes that soldiers of conscience will join us in condemning if they are men of honor. It's not John Kerry's fault that war crimes were committed. You are shooting the messenger of truth in the name of honor. You've got it backwards.
So yes, let's quibble. I think you are refusing to make the hard distinctions.
Eric: This comment from which you quote does, I think, a pretty good job of saying precisely where I believe the line is between being critical and a smear.
Where did I take umbrage that somebody said I see a smear campaign at work? I have no problem pleading guilty to that, Eric. Let me re-state it:
I think the SwiftVets are engaged in a smear campaign in disputing whether Kerry deserved his medals, and fought honorably in Vietnam. They believe this is justified because Kerry and others in VVAW smeared them during the anti-war movement, and were never called to account for it.
When an attorney--a prosecutor, yet!--signs an affidavit saying "Kerry lied to get his Purple Heart," and, when questioned about it, admits that he has no direct knowledge, but this is what he heard from friends, so he figured he would swear to it... you have the dynamism of a smear campaign at work.
Moreover, the smarter ones in the group, and some of their smarter defenders, understood the smear part of the case as a tactic to create a media uproar and a sensational climate of attention, in which their second ad--the one they really care about--would have greater effect.
A bonus, from their point of view, was the opportunity to further de-legitimate the news media when it reacted to the smear.
If you find "who's to say what's a smear?" a persuasive line of argument, Eric, then by all means continue it.
If you find that using loaded, pre-formed, compounds like "smear campaign" (and its close cousin "Republican attack machine". The Democrats, apparently, make due without an "attack machine", or at least the press seems to think so because they never use that formulation.) with, still, no definition of what you mean to be a persuasive line of argument, then by all means continue it. Didn't Orwell write a little essay that was in part about how this tendency degrades political discourse once?
I sincerely had no idea, until now, whether by saying "smear campaign" you were expressing a complaint about: a) The veracity of the charges, or b)The way they were promulgating their message through the media, or c) The relevancy of all this, "Why don't we talk about the issues that really matter?" yadda yadda yadda.
I now see that you are saying that you have an issue specifically with a) the veracity of the charges, specifically with regards to the actions involved in attaining the medals etc. Yet you also admit that, because of the way that your profession works, the only way that they could get any hearing for the substantive part of their criticisms of Kerry - the anti-war activities part - would be to engage in this part of the attack.
There's a lot of conflicting information out there. Given all of it, I'm not sure how one could possibly come to the conclusion that everything that SBVFT are saying regarding the medal incidents is a lie, and everything that Kerry is saying regarding them is true. I mean, aside from reading the New York Times every day and absolutely nothing else.
So, I now understand that "smear campaign" means "lie". I wonder why professional journalists can't simply say "This is a lie". Or, "These men are liars" instead? To me it seems like deliberately obfuscatory language for those who lack the courage of their convictions. I've also seen journalists use the term "smear campaign" to refer to something that was true but was being touted in what they felt to be a sleazy manner, or something that they had simply decided was an improper subject for discussion. Still, the only common characteristic of "smear campaigns", as evidenced in your comments and in the LA Times article you quote, seems to be that they only happen to Democrats. For instance, I don't think I ever saw a mainstream journalist refer to the Bush/AWOL story as a "smear campaign". Hence my confusion as to what exactly the term meant.
Alfred French Affidavit
"Kerry has wildly exaggerated and lied about his record in Vietnam. By way of example, on two occasions Kerry obtain Purple Hearts under false pretenses from negligently self-inflicted grenade wounds in the absence of hostile fire. His first Purple Heart is the subject of widespread coverage. Thus, for example, his third Purple Heart of March 13, 1969 is attributed in his report of that day to a "hip wound" from an enemy mine while he himself admits on page 313 of Tour of Duty (by Douglas Brinkley; New York: Harper Collins, 2004) that he was wounded supposedly by a grenade placed in a rice bin by friendly troops. Kerry's commercials, for example, portraying him as a soldier with bandolier going through the jungle totally mischaracterizes his actual role in Vietnam.
Harping on the credibility of the Winter Soldiers or whether Kerry named names when there is documented evidence from the Pentagon itself that there WAS widespread tolerance of war crimes might feel good, but it is a losing argument.
Not at all, but I guess there is are two important differences that seem too nuanced for the broadbrush crowd. Or perhaps there is a "higher" purpose -- ending all war for example, or obtaining an acknowledgement that war means something more than the white hat/black hat storyline that fills history texts -- that would applaud Kerry's use of hearsay, unsubstantiated lurid charges, and stereotyping but criticize it when done by others.
I'm not in denial mode that war crimes were committed in Vietnam by forces on both sides. Nor am I arguing that the war crimes committed by both sides have all been documented, properly punished, and/or well publicized.
According to Pentagon documents, he would have had to name several hundred names. Those Pentagon documents weren't available until just recently, so the idea that he could have done that in 1971 when the Pentagon was still covering up the records that absolutely proved the case is a straw man.
I thought that was the purpose for the Winter Soldier Tribunal? That there were 150 witnesses of servicemembers committing war crimes? I guess what you are arguing is that it doesn't matter that none of the witnesses cooperated with investigators and many were frauds because 30 years later, over a 10 year period, war crimes were committed, many were covered up and that justifies characterizing hundreds of thousands that served in Vietnam as having participated in a "doctrine of atrocity" that routinely committed war crimes - invoking the name of Ghengis Khan.
When the premise of your self-righteous anger--that the charge that war crimes occurred in Vietnam on a routine basis is a vicious smear--is proven to be true, that means the charge is not a "smear."
My self-righteous anger is directed at those that deny war crimes that happened, or defend war criminals like Calley, and those that smear the military as war criminals.
Your argument conveniently jumps back and forth from Vietnam was one big war crime to you're a militantly ignorant revisionist that can't admit any war crimes.
Nothing I've written justifies accusing me of the latter, and nothing I've read about justifies the former.
Here's another interesting take on what the SBVT are not doing. The SBVT are accusing Kerry of exaggerating and lying about his service in Vietnam to appear more of a hero than he actually was. But what they are not accusing Kerry of doing/being is the Vietnam war criminal.
Let's take Kerry's statement(s) of truth, to their natural conclusion. Should the average citizen believe Bush, that Kerry served honorably and admirably (as many Vietnam vets claim they did, including the SBVT) or Kerry who claimed he participated in an immoral war, committed war crimes and other routinely committed war crimes as part of official policy?
Wouldn't Bush's non-war criminal service in the TANG seem more admirable?
How far should the anti-war Kerry reparations make up for Kerry's confessed criminal acts? How far does the Left's anger at Bush for this war (he's the bigger war criminal) tip that scale for the average citizen?
Let me see if I understand correctly.
Let's take this out of the military context and put it in a more "neutral" context.
I bring together 150 self-proclaimed, and self-selected journalists, and accept at face value their claims that plagiarism, misquoting and mischaracterizing of news stories is routine, widespread, widely known about and tolerated throughout the media industry.
I then point to Jayson Blair, Howell Raines and any number of other recent and past examples to justify my claims, even though the 150 "witnesses" later prove to have never been journalists, or never have done what they say they did or never have witnessesed what they say they witnessed?
Other journalists think I've smeared them based on lies told by frauds, and with the acts of people like Jayson Blair, unjustly.
You're going to defend me, and what I did, because - why? - all journalists really do that? I spoke truth to power? My wrong is justified because there were actual wrongdoers?
Read the evidence and then tell me who's on first.
I've read it. I've read reports of atrocities that no one wanted to believe and were true, and reports that many wanted to believe that were not true.
On more comment. I spent too much time here yesterday when I should have been working. I will try to avoid it today. And yes, I know you read Roger's blog, and I sometimes link here from there.
As far as the affidavits go - if the whole campaign is based on non-first hand information, then it is wrong.
How many affidavits meet that criteria? How many witnesses have shown up on TV to discuss their personal experiences.
Why they went after Kerry's medals is a mystery to me. That their campaign is not all wrong is testified to by the fact that Kerry's first purple heart is now impeached by Kerry's own words (the wound was Dec 2 and Kerry wrote in his diary that he had not come under fire as of 9 days later.
If it were me, I would have gone after that purple heart and left the rest alone. Just destroying the validity of that purple heart (now done) is enough to make Kerry a shirker - a person who got out of combat by fraud.
But when these guys looked at everything, they found other things that contradicted their memory: the bronze star event. They had three other officers who were on the scene who all remembered that lack of enemy fire, and they had a good reason to believe that - the situation would have evolved very differently under enemy fire. Kerry's campaign has been forced to change their depiction of that event radically.
Now, I'm curious why you think going after Kerry's medal and service in 'Nam is a smear campaign, while going after his anti-war behavior is not.
Finally, nobody here has discussed whether the press has investigated the veterans who follow Kerry around, whether there was an quid pro quo, etc?
Why such deep and pre-judged scrutiny of the swifties and none of Kerry's people? I will certainly admit to being biased towards SBVT, but maybe that's because I have more respect for the truthfulness of Navy Officers than those who didn't serve in the Navy.
John Moore: "I wonder if you would answer a question or two...
1) If you believed everything the Swiftees said, or at least that they were in general correct, would you still have strong negative feelings about them? In other words, is there a problem with the subject or the behavior of those making allegations?
Not sure which is which. There is a problem with the Swiftees and their truth claims, put it that way. And no, I am not going to argue them chapter and verse with you because this is part of how the SwiftBoat media virus works. You're in a political conflict, a fight, in truth a war zone, but it's presented to you as a factual dispute, about "the record." That's how the virus enters its host, the news system.
2) Do you believe they are part of a coordinated Republican attack?
Attack, yes. Coordinated? Definitely. Republican? Depends on what you mean. I would assume they are probably legal in their arm's length relationship with the Bush campaign and RNC, unless shown otherwise. The people who made this group happen as a campaign event were the ones with the money, expertise and party connections.
3) If they had confined themselves to Kerry's anti-war behavior, would you have the same feelings?
Depends on how you use and marshall evidence, how much certainty you claim for yourself, how badly you twist, jam and force facts to fit the pre-determined conclusion. How much of a bomb-thrower type you wanna be.
4) Do you see any similar smears from the other side?
It would not surprise me if they have been attempted. But nothing that seized hold of the campaign story like this, no. Also, you have to keep in mind this is betweem conventions, a very "live" window in politics.
5) Do you have any comments on the relationship between their activities and the relatively small and negative amount of press they got from their first press conference?
Actually, it's an excellent point. Someone should go back to that first press conference and look at what was available then--ignored, probably--that would help the press flailing about with the Swift Vets now.
Thanks. I definitely did not want to draw you into a point by point argument. Frankly, I'm tired of that.
My issue of coverage was indeed aout the first event - the press conference. The SBVT made it clear that something unusual was going on but it was basically ignored. Do you know of the last time that the entire chain of command of an officer came out thirty years later and said he was unfit? That was the core of the press conference, and was a clue as to what was to come.
Those guys and I were a bit naive. They thought that such a historic event would have a major impact, which is why they timed it early - in hopes of having the Democrats switch candidates. It was when that didn't happen that they decided to do the book. I have no idea when they decided to do the commercial.
Your understanding is radically flawed. Out of a book full of evidence, a few contradictions and confusions have arisen. That was to be expected.\
What you get from them (with an exception or two) is eye witness testimony of 60 combat veterans about one man. Given that some were influenced by others, you might want to cut the number down some. If you hold the Navy paperwork as automatically superior to the witnesses, you are falling into a trap - it depends on the sourcing of the paperword. A lot of what Kerry wrote was taken as is, and only this year found out to be contradictory. So the "official record" is Kerry's words and therefore of course supports his position.
The Kerry campaign has already had to retract some of their claims, including about the first purple heart and Cambodian Christmas. Some are trying to confuse the latter issue by ignoring the timeline - Kerry was near Cambodia, but not on Christmas 1968, a date "seared into his memory." Some supporters also get it confused when they talk about barricades on the Cambodian border (which existed on the Mekong but not on another river where they later operated).
As to honor and untruths, I have yet to see one fabricated untruth by the Swifties. I have seen disagreements (were the three skippers of swift boats in the bronze star incident telling the truth about no fire, or was Kerry and Rassman right that there was fire). I happen to think that there is honest misunderstanding on the part of Rassman - swimming is not the greates location from which to figure out the tactical situation. As a Navy Vietnam Veteran myself, the idea that these folks have constructed a gigantic conspiracy to lie about Kerry is very hard to swallow. It's out there in Oliver Stone country.
As for praises in the past, there are two types:
1) FITREPS - essentially report cards. If you have not been in the military, you probably don't know how to read them. I was not an officer, so I didn't eithere. I sent them to my father (WW-II Navy) and he said they were lousy. I ran them by two other officers, and got the same. The military writes those things in a code - it's almost impossible to get one that doesn't sound outstanding to a civilian. So if someone wrote in 1969 a report that has all sorts of great words in it, and now says the guy was a skunk, it takes a real knowledge of those reports to sort out whether there is a conflict.
2) More recent, especially 1996 - Kerry was attacked for war crimes in 1996. Some of the Swiftees stood up for up and even said some nice things.
The medal issue is very complex. The strategy of the press and the Kerry campaign is to look for apparent contradictions. In the process, some real ones turned up, and a lot of hay was made of meaningless ones also. I expected and forecast all of that. As I understand it, the attack on medals happened when the swiftees discovered, for the first time, some of the paperwork involved in the medals, and Kerry's claim in his book.
The original intent, and the intent of many other groups is based on his anti-war behavior, which goes far beyond "war protester."
No Ben, I am already awake, and frankly Mr. Franklin, it's late and I'm going to go to bed. A good night’s sleep is much more appealing than trying to argue you out of your heart-felt belief in American venality, especially since I’m certain I couldn’t budge you half and inch from your position.
And that’s another blame I lay at Kerry’s feet, though not his alone. I didn’t serve in Vietnam (I’ll come clean here and admit I finagled a deferment – not sure how I managed, though being all of nine years old when Saigon fell might have helped) so I don’t have the personal stake the SBVFT have in Kerry’s untruths – he never called me a war criminal. But I do recognize the horrible damage he – along with the rest of his anti-war crowd – did to this country, my country, and my future, by perpetuating those lies.
A generation and a half have grown up with these notions of America as a villainous, imperial brute, no better than any two-bit tin-horned dictator with an army of thugs. Our military – the salvation of civilization in the twentieth century, responsible for the liberation of more souls than any other force in human history – is tainted as a barbarian horde, reminiscent of, how did he pronounce it, Jen-Jiss Khan. I think those who point to Europe’s estrangement as an artifact of their relative weakness are right, but I suspect Kerry’s lies made it that much easier for them to scorn us, despite all we did for them. It gave them a fig leaf for their ingratitude. His lies contributed to the rise of hateful creatures like Michael Moore, and gave sustenance to discredited philosophers like Chomsky who otherwise would’ve already followed their beloved ideology into history's dustbin.
Kerry’s lies didn’t just dishonor men who deserved better, they dishonored an idea – America – that deserved better. And they helped lead a lot of people down the wrong path since then.
But I'm sorry Jay, I think I'm straying from what you're interested in here, and it's your bandwidth so I'll take my own advice and turn in for the night. But maybe my thoughts above explain something at least about my own point of view - I believe Kerry did enormous damage to perhaps the most precious possession of the entire human race - the American ideal. Call me a jingoist patriot or a hopeless fool if you want, but I really believe in this country and its ideals as the last, best hope of mankind.
And I also believe John F. Kerry spit all over it for petty personal gain.
Tim: I think there is no question that the SwiftVets were unwisely ignored as a news story, and they weren't given much creedence, or respect, by journalists.
And I think you--but not only you--are trying to make them look more innocent by asking: what about this lapse by the press, and that bit of bias from the press, and the way they were dismissed here, and ridiculed over there. Journalists-- they're the ones who did something way, way wrong here.
This is your "message speak," I think.
Well, the press has a lot to answer for in this campaign, and maybe that does have something to do with the SwiftVets' decision to go for the full smear, and become a demagogic tool in the election. (The only one? NO.)
Of course, half the people here, in this thread, totally disagree with "smear" and "demagogic" as terms for the SwiftVets.
Big surprise, right?
And with that I am going to close this thread. Not because it got out of hand; actually, it was pretty calm and serious most of the time. But I'd like to move on to other things, like the Republican National Convention! My sense is that this debate could, like Vietnam, go on forever. But at a resting point, and "frozen" like this, the discussion may have some modest archival value.
We'll see if anyone points to it.
Thanks to everyone who participated. And if you have suggestions for stories, angles and ideas as I try to decipher the RNC, hit me up in the next post, introducing Sky Box. Cheers.