- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 24, 2004

When John Kerry went postal last week, the major media’s preferred strategy for dealing with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth — to ignore them — went down the toilet.

Mr. Kerry melted down because the Swifties’ exposure of Kerry’s “Christmas in Cambodia” fantasy has struck a nerve, and is gaining traction, despite the major media’s refusal to report on it.

Mr. Kerry has claimed on dozens of occasions — most notably in a speech on the Senate floor in 1986 — to have spent Christmas eve, 1968, five miles inside of Cambodia on a mission in violation of international law. Mr. Kerry said that incident was “seared” into his memory, and was the catalyst that turned him against the Vietnam war.

The Swifties have provided evidence that Mr. Kerry spent Christmas eve 55 miles from Cambodia. None of the sailors who served with Mr. Kerry on the two Swift boats he commanded, PCF-44 and PCF-94, have supported his claim, though Mike Medeiros, a crewmate on PCF-94, said they may have strayed into Cambodian waters inadvertently.

But this was impossible, according to Doug Regelin, a Swift boat commander in 1969, but who is not a member of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. PCF-94 was part of Coastal Division 11, which was stationed at An Thoi.

“There is no way to enter Cambodia from the An Thoi patrol area,” Mr. Regelin wrote in the Augusta (Ga.) Free Press. “That patrol area started at the coastal fishing village of Ha Tien and ran parallel to the Cambodian border, but there was no way into Cambodia. Any good map will show this to be true.”

Mr. Regelin also dismissed the possibility that Mr. Kerry’s boat could have wandered into Cambodia by accident: “The claim that there were so many rivers and canals, and that no one knew where they were, is ludicrous. We had detailed maps and overlays that showed everything right down to movements in fishing stakes.”

After Mr. Kerry blasted the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in a speech to firefighters, and filed lawsuits to block publication of their book and broadcast of their ads, the Swifties were impossible for the major media to ignore. So it was time for Plan B: Blow smoke.

The New York Times published its first story on the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth on Aug. 20. It was a doozy: 3,500 words beginning at the top of the front page.

The gist of the New York Times’ story is that Houston lawyer John O’Neill, principal author of the book “Unfit for Command,” knows Republicans who know other Republicans who know George Bush. It’s purpose is to shore up Mr. Kerry’s charge that the Swifties are a GOP front group.

It is necessary for Mr. Kerry to claim the Swifties are Republican tools because to discuss the real reason why they despise him — for falsely accusing them and other Viet vets of grisly war crimes — would not enhance Mr. Kerry’s appeal to swing voters.

Mr. O’Neill says he is an independent who voted for Al Gore in 2000. The New York Times does not mention this. The Times does not mention Christmas in Cambodia until the fourth from the last paragraph of the story, describing it only as “the one allegation that Mr. Kerry’s campaign has not been able to put to rest.”

The challenges to Mr. Kerry’s medals have been put to rest, the Times and other major newspapers said, because “official records” — chiefly Mr. Kerry’s medal citations — support him. The Swifties’ charge that the medal citations were based on highly imaginative reports written by Mr. Kerry himself apparently were not investigated.

Mr. Kerry’s meltdown is a triumph for the Swifties, whose meager budget permitted them to place only a handful of ads on a few mid-market TV stations in Ohio, Wisconsin and West Virginia. Now lots more people have heard of them, and will be curious about what they have to say. (The Swifties say Internet contributions jumped the day Mr. Kerry attacked them.)

It’s a triumph also for the blogosphere which reported on a story the major media were trying to bury. Congratulations to Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit), Ed Morrissey (Captains Quarters), John Hindraker and Scott Johnson (Power Line), Hugh Hewitt and many others for doing the job “mainstream” journalists are supposed to do, but would not.

Jack Kelly, a syndicated columnist, is a former Marine and Green Beret and a former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. He is national security writer for the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette.

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