Sen. John Kerry’s campaign said yesterday that the Democratic presidential nominee is not hiding any of his war records and has, in fact, released them all to the public.
“Senator Kerry’s entire military service record is posted on JohnKerry.com. His entire record,” said Michael Meehan, adviser for communications to the campaign, at a press conference called to defend Mr. Kerry against recent charges that the former Navy lieutenant didn’t deserve some of his war decorations — three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star.
Members of the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, veterans who served duty similar to Mr. Kerry on PCF (Patrol Craft Fast) boats, have written a book and sponsored a television advertisement challenging Mr. Kerry’s version of events during his four months in combat.
The group wants Mr. Kerry to sign Standard Form 180, which it says would facilitate the release of records and help sort out which version of events is accurate.
John O’Neill, the man who took over Mr. Kerry’s command in Vietnam and a co-author of the new book “Unfit for Command,” said such records as after-action, hostile fire and casualty reports would show whether Mr. Kerry deserved one of his Purple Hearts.
Mr. Meehan, acknowledging that Mr. Kerry has not signed Standard Form 180, said the records have all been laid out nonetheless.
“Has he signed the form?” he asked. “No. What he’s signed is his release of privacy to the United States Navy to turn over his entire military record and he’s posted it up on his Web site, so the whole world can see his entire military record.”
Mr. O’Neill, though, said the campaign has acknowledged in the past it that has withheld some records.
“That’s a lie or a carefully calculated set of words,” he said yesterday in a telephone interview. “He continues to conceal, for example, his medical records. He’s provided virtually none of his medical records, only an interpretation of them by a friendly physician.”
Mr. O’Neill said the key is Standard Form 180, which, if Mr. Kerry signed it, would let reporters or anyone else write the Defense Department to ask for all of his military records.
“If he executes Standard Form 180, he would no longer be the gatekeeper, the gatekeeper would be the U.S. military.”
Mr. Kerry’s service in Vietnam and Mr. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard have both become issues in the presidential campaign.
MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy group, is running a television commercial calling on Mr. Bush to ask the Swift Boat veterans to pull the commercial. MoveOn.org accuses Mr. Bush of shirking duty.
“George Bush used his father to get into the National Guard, and when the chips were down, went missing,” the commercial says. “Now he’s allowing false advertising that attacks John Kerry.”
At yesterday’s press conference, Mr. Kerry’s surrogates echoed this charge.