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Washington Post Examines Swift Boat Stories (no really)

In a stunning sign that the apocalypse might be near, the Washington Post did a real news piece on the Swift Boat Vets claims. All it all it was a fairly good piece. As a hopeless right-winger there were 3 or 4 things I wished had made it but I'm sure my friends on the other side of the isle could say the same. It is fairly long but if you care about the issue -and at the moment it is the only issue in the campaign- you really should read it.

The spin of this single story is not nearly as important, politically, as its mere existence. The WaPo running this story legitimizes the issue and forces other news organizations to do the same. The Swifies' have what they want, a real political issue. Make no mistake, no matter what your political stripe, this story is bad news for Kerry. In the perfect Kerry world, he was every veteran's hero. Obviously he can't make that claim.

Politically speaking, I think it makes some big dings in Kerry.

When Kerry signed up to command a Swift boat in the summer of 1968, he was inspired by the example of his hero, John F. Kennedy, who had commanded the PT-109 patrol boat in the Pacific in World War II. But Kerry had little expectation of seeing serious action. At the time the Swift boats -- or PCFs (patrol craft fast), in Navy jargon -- were largely restricted to coastal patrols. "I didn't really want to get involved in the war," Kerry wrote in a book of war reminiscences published in 1986.

The role of the Swift boats changed dramatically toward the end of 1968, when Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., commander of U.S. naval forces in South Vietnam, decided to use them to block Vietcong supply routes through the Mekong Delta. ...

I'd bet you are going to hear that quote a few more times between now and November. Kerry's critics can easily frame Kerry as an opportunist who did not want to fight but had his number come up anyway. That contrasts sharply with Kerry's (other) version of events.

The other big loser in the story is Chris Matthews.

What his challengers say:

Kerry took a tiny fragment of shrapnel when he fired an M-79 grenade too close to his boat, inflicting his own wound, which was trivial. Self-inflicted wounds are ineligible for Purple Hearts.

As they were heading back to the boat, Kerry and Rassmann decided to blow up a five-ton rice bin to deny food to the Vietcong. In an interview last week, Rassmann recalled that they climbed on top of the huge pile and dug a hole in the rice. On the count of three, they tossed their grenades into the hole and ran.

Evidently, Kerry did not run fast enough. "He got some frags and pieces of rice in his rear end," Rassmann said with a laugh. "It was more embarrassing than painful." At the time, the incident did not seem significant, and Kerry did not mention it to anyone when he got back on the boat. An unsigned "personnel casualty report," however, erroneously implies that Kerry suffered "shrapnel wounds in his left buttocks"

While the story does answer many of the questions people have, it does leave many unanswered. (no I don't mean that in a moonbat way) Any story this size about events 30 years ago can never be complete. In fact, it leaves enough questions unanswered that a follow-up piece seems inevitable.

In many ways, the Swifties can almost declare success. I have said for moths that the political damage to this story is that it will "take Vietnam away from John Kerry." If the other media outlets run stories for a few days then Kerry will not be able to mention Vietnam without people also thinking of the 250 Veterans who oppose him and wondering about both 'Kerry the man' and his version of events. That can devastate a campaign built on one leg. Add to that an increased focus on his post war activities and I genuinely think Kerry's best days might be behind him.

It is not outrageous to say this story might just signal a major turning point in the campaign - or not.

(Semi-Update below the fold)

Because the subtlety of my argument might be lost on some let me repeat a point:

The spin of this single story is not nearly as important, politically, as its mere existence. The WaPo running this story legitimizes the issue and forces other news organizations to do the same. The Swifies' have what they want, a real political issue. Make no mistake, no matter what your political stripe, this story is bad news for Kerry. In the perfect Kerry world, he was every veteran's hero. Obviously he can't make that claim.

I don't care which side wants to claim victory at the tactical level -- at the strategic level, the news media running real news stories about this can only be bad news for Kerry.


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Comments (4)

BOOTED!I kind of a... (Below threshold)

BOOTED!

I kind of agree with the strategic claim of your post. I can see how some lefties might like the fact that the article calls into question the cred of some of the SVFT's attack angles, but it's also chipping away at "FORTRESS JOHN KERRY VIETNAM WAR HERO."

Realistically Bill- The day... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Realistically Bill- The day to day "who said what to who or to whom" does not matter to the public at large.

On any given day, 70% or more of the people in this country can't name the sitting Vice President. Those people don't follow it like we do.. They just know Kerry was in a controversy over Vietnam. That hurts. (btw that is true of any controversy on any candidate)

It's an added bonus that he's been caught in a few lies.

The liberals have lost their way on this one. They *think* they are campaigning against the swifites. Don't tell them, but the swifites ain't running for office.

Keep talking about this in ... (Below threshold)
Dave:

Keep talking about this in "Blogworld" and amongst the RW Faithful. The longer this topic is talking about what the vast majority of the people do not want to hear about the more it will be apparent that the "Emereror Does Not Have any Clothes" (GWB of course).

Dave

Nice try, Dave.I'm... (Below threshold)
KJC:

Nice try, Dave.

I'm sure YOU don't want to hear about Kerry's castle crumbling, but it IS crumbling. The SwiftVets have only just started their ad campaign, mind you. O'Neill's book Unfit for Command is a best seller, and it is a crushing, devastating insight into Kerry's actions before and after Vietnam. The after Vietnam is far worse than the during. I just finished reading the book last night---ouch.

At the same time, the Bush campaign will address Kerry's record in the Senate. Again---ouch.

The Bush campaign will also compare and contrast the stances on Iraq. Again---ouch.

By the end of it, Kerry and his campaign will be left blubbering "Halliburton Halliburton Halliburton!" until they all collapse in a pile of drool.

Have a great day!




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