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August 28, 2004
The Media Breakthrough Has Begun In Earnest

After waiting weeks for the mainstream news media to cover the collapse of John Kerry's narrative on Viet Nam, and waiting out the media attack on the testimony of over 200 combat veterans, two bellwether media outlets have suddenly reversed themselves and reported on Kerry's lies and prevarications in their news sections, as pointed out by CQ reader Bill Millan.

First, the Los Angeles Times publishes a profile of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth organizer John O'Neill which, surprisingly, remains positive and balanced towards its subject. Scott Gold cuts through all of the hysterical Republican-shill charges thrown about by the Kerry campaign and its sympathizers and presents a much more interesting look at O'Neill and what motivates him:

He portrayed himself as a political independent a Reagan Democrat, he said, if he had to have a label. Although he typically supports GOP candidates, he says, he voted for Democrat Al Gore in 2000. And although the "Swifties" have agreed to focus on Kerry and not to discuss President Bush, O'Neill made it clear he is no great fan of the president, whom he has described to several friends as an "empty suit."

He has become, effectively, a single-issue voter in this election, akin to an otherwise liberal Roman Catholic who cannot bring himself to vote for a pro-choice candidate. O'Neill's single issue is simple: He despises Kerry. Whether Bush benefits from the campaign, he said, is a distant concern.

"I know everybody thinks politics is the most important thing in the world," O'Neill said. "But it's not."

Interestingly, O'Neill gives little support to George W. Bush, whom he calls an "empty suit", and tells Gold that had he the opportunity, he would have supported John Edwards for President. O'Neill himself is a plaintiff's attorney and likes Edwards' track record of activist lawsuits holding big corporations responsible for their abuses of the little guy. In fact, O'Neill himself won over $400 million in a lawsuit representing investors defrauded by a corporation, and currently represents a group of elderly and disabled claiming to have been forced out of business by unnamed superstores.

Wow ... sure sounds like a Republican shill to me!

Gold closes with a quote from a Democrat that demonstrates the clueless nature of O'Neill's opposition in his campaign to expose John Kerry:

"I just think it is sad that we have people who served together in Vietnam maybe not next to each other, but together trashing each other," said U.S. Rep. Gene Green, a Houston Democrat. "I don't think it's good for the country."

Is he serious? John Kerry built his political career trashing his fellow Viet Nam veterans as mass murderers, rapists, and war criminals. It takes a special kind of twisted logic to use this tack as an argument for John O'Neill to shut up. And Gold's inclusion of this statement demonstrates something else, as Gold must have been aware of its bitter irony: even the Los Angeles Times has woken up.

And not just the Los Angeles Times, either. Today's Washington Post reports on the effect of the Swiftvet campaign by looking at Kerry's retreat on statements made during the course of the campaign and his conflicts with the facts even when issuing clarification. Michael Dobbs even makes a reference to the Phoenix Project:

Veterans who are sympathetic to Kerry say that the Democratic presidential candidate is vulnerable to political attacks on his antiwar activities because of an extensive public record that his opponents are now combing for any inconsistency. Kerry has already backed away from some of his more inflammatory antiwar statements and an earlier claim that he was not present at a meeting that debated a proposal to assassinate government officials and take over the Statue of Liberty. ...

Told about the FBI records earlier this year, Kerry said through a spokesman that he now accepted he must have been in Kansas City for the November meeting while continuing to insist that he had "no personal recollection" of the contentious debate. Many people associated with VVAW find this difficult to believe.

"There was no way he would have forgotten about being in Kansas City," said Nicosia, who is generally sympathetic to Kerry.

Former VVAW Kansas state coordinator John Musgrave, who served with the Marines in Vietnam, expressed extreme doubt about Kerry's stated recollection. "He had a tremendous confrontation with Hubbard at that meeting. How can he claim not to have any memory of it?"

It beggars belief that anyone who sat in a room while a proposal to assassinate eight US Senators for political purposes would not instantly recall the conversation at any point in their life. It also demonstrates a weakness of character that Kerry chose to keep it quiet rather than warn law enforcement or even the Senators themselves of the plot; even though it got voted down, such a proposal could surely have still been carried out by a minority of the VVAW. Apparently, Kerry's street cred with the radical activists and his political career outweighed his sense of duty to his country and the lives of those eight men, who fortunately were never targeted.

Nor is it the only Post news article targeting Kerry's life story. Ann Gerhart notes the problems in the carefully-crafted narrative and points back to one of its authors, historian Douglas Brinkley. Interestingly, the focus on Brinkley has forced out another Kerry campaign lie, this one designed to keep Kerry's journals private by blaming Brinkley's demand for exclusivity, which Brinkley strongly denies:

For the past three weeks, the dominant issue of the presidential race has been not the war we are in now, but the war of 35 years ago. A group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has been running television ads accusing Kerry of inflating or lying about his war record. Several of the men in that group said "Tour of Duty" enraged them and prompted their campaign. A best-selling book about their recollections, "Unfit for Command," tries to refute Brinkley's conclusions, charging Kerry with calculation and cowardice during his four months in battle.

The escalating attacks and counter-attacks find Brinkley, a 43-year-old presidential scholar at the University of New Orleans, trying to avoid collateral damage. ...

The Kerry campaign has refused to release Kerry's personal Vietnam archive, including his journals and letters, saying that the senator is contractually bound to grant Brinkley exclusive access to the material. But Brinkley said this week the papers are the property of the senator and in his full control.

"I don't mind if John Kerry shows anybody anything," he said. "If he wants to let anybody in, that's his business. Go bug John Kerry, and leave me alone." The exclusivity agreement, he said, simply requires "that anybody quoting any of the material needs to cite my book."

I expected the media to eventually get closer to the truth on the Swiftvet group and John O'Neill, although I never expected the Los Angeles Times to take the lead in doing so. I am stunned that the Post has, after six months of silence, started reporting on the Phoenix Project. It signals the end of the media's honeymoon with John Kerry and serves as a call for open season on the Democrat's campaign narratives.

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers!

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 28, 2004 7:43 AM

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