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August 26, 2004
Kerry Campaign Undermines First Purple Heart Story -- Again

Alert CQ reader Martin points out that the "clarifications" continually being offered by the Kerry campaign are boxing John Kerry into more and more contradictions in his Viet Nam narrative. Yesterday, in response to the revelation of Kerry's 11 December journal entry in which he wrote that "we had not yet been shot at" despite later putting himself in for a Purple Heart for a wound suffered on 2 December, a campaign spokesperson attempted this explanation:

A Kerry campaign official, speaking on background, told The Washington Times yesterday that the "we" in the passage from Mr. Kerry's journal refers to "the crew on Kerry's first swift boat, operating as a crew" rather than Mr. Kerry himself.

"John Kerry didn't yet have his own boat or crew on December 2," according to the aide. "Other members of the crew had been in Vietnam for some time and had been shot at and Kerry knew that at the time. However, the crew had not yet been fired on while they served together on PCF 44 under Lieutenant Kerry."

Mr. Kerry's campaign could not say definitively whether he did receive enemy fire that day.

That weak explanation won't hold water. First off, the 11 December statement, reported by Kerry's own biographer, was written into Kerry's personal journal, not an official Navy report. It described the feeling of cockiness each of them had in their trip to their first assignment, and he attributed that cockiness to not having yet been in a firefight, and he attributed that to himself as well as the men with him. To claim that Kerry used a rhetorical, reverse-royal "We" that specifically excluded Kerry shows the desperation and the remarkable consistency of the Democrats. They're back to debating two-letter words of plain English.

Taking this explanation a step further, however, the Kerry campaign just undermined its earlier argument that Kerry had been the only officer on board the Boston whaler at the 2 December incident. Earlier, when now-Admiral William Schachte insisted that he had been on the boat with Kerry and that no inbound fire of any kind occured that evening, Kerry produced two witnesses who insisted that they could not recall anyone else but the three of them being on board (Zaldonis and Runyon). However, if you accept Kerry's new explanation for his journal entry, then Kerry asserts (correctly) that he had no command assignment prior to PCF-44.

Then who was the OinC on the Boston Whaler?

Here's what John O'Neill said about that in his interview with David Limbaugh (emphasis mine):

John ONeill: We have to distinguish two things. First, two crewmen, Zaldonis and Runyon, both say that they did not see any hostile fire and do not know if there was any or not. That is my understanding of their current story. At least that is how they are quoted in Tour of Duty and other books. They say that they and Kerry were the only ones on the boat and they say Schachte was not present on the boat. Now, that is a different matter from what they told Dr. Letson and Grant Hibbard all those years ago.

David: As to Schachte or just as to the hostile fire?

John ONeill: As to the hostile fire.

David: Okay.

John ONeill: Admiral Schachte places himself on the boat. He was the acting Judge Advocate General of the Navy and was an Admiral in the Navy. In fact, the policies would have required his presence because an officer in charge had to be present on the boat. In addition to Schachte placing himself there, there are a variety of other witnesses that all place him on that same boat.

David: First hand knowledge witnesses, right?

John ONeill: Correct, first hand knowledge witnesses. People on the PCF that accompanied the boat, as well as people back at base at that time. People like Ted Peck who was a fellow officer in charge of a boat.

So now we have placed Schachte back on the skimmer with Kerry on 2 December and his testimony becomes that much stronger. And Schachte insists that no hostile fire occurred on 2 December, negating the entire basis for Kerry's Purple Heart. Meanwhile, Kerry's explanations become more and more tortured, and they still refuse to release the entirety of the records. They have not even produced an after-action report for 2 December that would support any indication of inbound enemy fire. Why? From all indications, it doesn't exist.

The more Kerry and his campaign staff try to explain away the contradictions, the deeper they dig themselves. Small wonder Kerry begged George Bush to change the subject this week.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 26, 2004 6:47 AM

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