- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 25, 2004

A new book questioning the service of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry as a boat captain in the Vietnam War is a swift seller.

Bookstores in the Washington area report that demand for “Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Captains Speak Out Against John Kerry” has been so strong that they are sold out of the book or are scrambling to order new shipments to keep copies on shelves.

“I can tell you it’s selling very briskly and usually sells out as soon as we receive it,” said Julie Wiggins, manager of the Borders Books & Music store in White Flint mall in North Bethesda. Ms. Wiggins said she could not release exact sales figures, but said the store has received at least three shipments of the book since its Aug. 11 release.

“Unfit for Command” is the top seller on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com and is ranked third among nonfiction books this week on the New York Times’ best-seller list.

The book by John E. O’Neill and Jerome R. Corsi features interviews with Vietnam veterans who question the accuracy of Mr. Kerry’s recollection of his time as a Swift Boat captain. They say Mr. Kerry did not deserve the three Purple Hearts that he was awarded as a result of being injured in the war and are critical of Mr. Kerry’s post-war comments charging atrocities by American soldiers.

The book has been a hot topic on cable news networks and talk radio because its accusations coincide with television advertisements produced by a group called “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,” of which Mr. O’Neill is a member. The ads — and others sponsored by groups critical of President Bush — have triggered debate over the influence of “527” advocacy groups, which are not officially affiliated with any candidates or bound to campaign-finance rules.

Barnes & Noble announced Monday that it had sold out of its original order of “Unfit for Command” nationwide, but is expecting new shipments this week. The book’s publisher, Regnery Publishing Inc., cut Barnes & Noble’s original order in half, the bookseller said.

Regnery, based in Washington, is one of the nation’s largest publishers of books featuring conservative authors and commentators, including Patrick Buchanan, David Horowitz and Ann Coulter. It has printed 325,000 copies of “Unfit for Command” and plans to have 550,000 copies on order or in print by next week, spokeswoman Kelley Keeler said.

“The demand has been huge, tremendous,” she said.

The Books A Million store in Dupont Circle received a shipment of about 100 books last week and already is waiting on another.

In Annapolis, the Hard Bean Coffee and Booksellers store immediately sold the first three copies it received last week and is waiting on a second shipment of 20 books, which it also expects to sell out.

“I’ve probably had 20 people ask me personally in the last week if we had it,” said store manager Mary Flickner. “Those probably would have been sales.”

But sales of the book are not brisk everywhere. At Politics and Prose Bookstore and Coffeehouse on Connecticut Avenue NW, shop managers said they have yet to sell any of the 39 books in the store. Ten people have requested the book but have not picked up their copies, and a shipment of 10 more is on the way, manager Shane Cagney said.

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