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October 13, 2004
Questions About Kerry's Discharge Make The Mainstream Media

For weeks, speculation has swirled on e-mail regarding the discharge granted to John Kerry. Some have speculated that Kerry received a dishonorable discharge that only was reversed under Bill Clinton. As these charges have been largely unaccompanied by objective evidence, I've passed on mentioning them here at CQ. I know that the Swiftvets and their supporters such as River Rat and Bandit have been researching the issue more carefully, and that if anything reportable arose , we''d hear it soon enough, if an enterprising reporter or two didn't.

Now the ever-enterprising Thomas Lipscomb has pieced together some interesting information regarding Kerry's discharge and reported them in today's New York Sun (subscription only). I've received a slew of e-mails from my regular readers on this article, and it looks very interesting indeed:

An official Navy document on Senator Kerry's campaign Web site listed as Mr. Kerry's "Honorable Discharge from the Reserves" opens a door on a well kept secret about his military service.

The document is a form cover letter in the name of the Carter administration's secretary of the Navy, W. Graham Claytor. It describes Mr. Kerry's discharge as being subsequent to the review of "a board of officers." This in it self is unusual. There is nothing about an ordinary honorable discharge action in the Navy that requires a review by a board of officers.

According to the secretary of the Navy's document, the "authority of reference" this board was using in considering Mr. Kerry's record was "Title 10, U.S. Code Section 1162 and 1163. "This section refers to the grounds for involuntary separation from the service. What was being reviewed, then, was Mr. Kerry's involuntary separation from the service. And it couldn't have been an honorable discharge, or there would have been no point in any review at all. The review was likely held to improve Mr. Kerry's status of discharge from a less than honorable discharge to an honorable discharge.

As Lipscomb points out, there are all sorts of discharges other than honorable, and most of them imply no dishonorable conduct. A general discharge is often given for administrative reasons, and medical discharges routinely note those who are too disabled to continue their service, if that disability came under non-combat conditions. However, Lipscomb points to a particular item of interest that seems to indicate that Kerry's discharge status was a political-career-killing "dishonorable":

There is one odd coincidence that gives some weight to the possibility that Mr. Kerry was dishonorably discharged. Mr. Kerry has claimed that he lost his medal certificates and that is why he asked that they be reissued. But when a dishonorable discharge is issued, all pay benefits, and allowances, and all medals and honors are revoked as well. And five months after Mr. Kerry joined the U.S. Senate in 1985, on one single day, June 4, all of Mr. Kerry's medals were reissued.

Previously, we had asked why Kerry had three separate citations for his Silver Star medal, the last signed by John Lehman in 1985. We suspected that Kerry may have been trying to clean up (and pump up) his combat record shortly after joining the Senate and just before he tried to sacrifice the contras in order to appease the Sandinista communists in Nicaragua. (The more things change ...) Lipscomb's research makes the meaning clear, if correct -- he needed to get back those citations he lost when dishonorably discharged.

It also would clear up another mystery, that of the reserve time he never served after his release from active duty and the failed Congressional run that interrupted his commission in the Navy. Had he been dishonorably discharged, especially due to his anti-war activities during the time he should have been serving out his commitment, then obviously he never would have had to fulfill his reserve duty.

One thing is certain: until John Kerry signs the 180, we will never know for sure what's in his service record. All we know is that he has something significant to hide. We also know that Kerry has to be the dumbest son-of-a-gun to run for President in decades if his own record is so bad he can't reveal it, and spent months attacking his opponent's service anyway, making what would have been considered an irrelevancy a fair point for debate.

UPDATE: A couple of fair points have been raised about this article. In the comments, Rod Thompson thinks that Kerry may have been simply discharged for failing to be promotable, hardly a dishonorable issue for a reservist more interested in politics than in serving after several years. Via e-mail, though, comes this clarification from Raymond, an ex-AF JAG:

I believe that the only way one can receive a Dishonorable Discharge is as a result of a General Court-martial. A Dishonorable Discharge and a Bad Conduct Discharge are punitive discharges. An administrative discharge is one brought about by a board of officers. There are numerous categories of discharges including a General Discharge and Undesirable Discharge. Is it possible that kerry was discharged administratively because of his anti-war activities and issued a Undesirable Discharge?

This sounds more like what Lipscomb describes. However, Lipscomb's research shows that the Honorable Discharge was granted by the board in an apparent reversal of an earlier finding. That doesn't mean that Kerry wasn't court-martialed earlier -- in fact, it would be an even better explanation as to why he refuses to sign the 180. Also, does an Undesirable Discharge result in revocation of all commendations as the Dishonorable Discharge does?

Please note: A number of people have posted the entire Sun article on their blogs, a copyright violation. I won't do that, as the Sun has hired me in the past as a free-lancer, and I hope they will in the future. The Sun is a subsciption-only publication, which can be a pain. I would challenge my colleagues and readers to pay the subscription fee, for a couple of reasons.

First, the subscription rate is not onerous and the website is beautifully engineered; it's a breeze to read the paper, much better than anything you'll see for other broadsheets. Second, if we want to create competition in the marketplace and support honest journalism, we need to support the start-ups and smaller-scale operations that one day will grow into positions of power. I don't know how people expect folks like Ira Stoll to battle the New York Times behemoth while we whine about subscribing to his paper, which regularly features excellent writers who expect to get paid. And me, who would also like to get paid once in a while.

Think about it, and while you do, spend about what you'd pay for one month dial-up service and subscribe for a three-month period. You'll be glad you did, and you'll be part of the effort to force our mainstream media to adapt to the competition.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 13, 2004 7:36 AM

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Questions About Kerry's Discharge Make The Mainstream Media:

» Was Kerry dishonorably discharged? from Posse Incitatus
The Posse reluctantly returns to the election campaign to note this New York Sun bombshell: Kerry may have had a dishonorable discharge from the Navy. Furthermore, this was changed only after the intervention of then-President Jimmy Carter. The Posse p... [Read More]

Tracked on October 13, 2004 8:22 AM

» This is Too Good to be True from Cranial Cavity
I'm going to assume the old adage: When news breaks,wait to comment. Wait for a second source, think, research, then comment. But I will say one thing. After 20 years service in the US Navy, my honorable discharge doesn't contain the phrase "subs... [Read More]

Tracked on October 13, 2004 8:26 AM

» Questions... from Milblog
Captain's Quarters, Powerline and Vodkapundit are all reporting on this, so I figure I should too. You know, I'm of the opinion that Kerry should be judged impartially on what he's done. For instance - I think his actions in... [Read More]

Tracked on October 13, 2004 10:17 AM

» Standard Form 180 from Chasing the Wind
Before I go any further, note this: John Kerry could answer these accusations instantly by signing Standard Form 180 that releases all of his military records. So far, he's refused to do that, and the Navy says they are still holding about 100 pages... [Read More]

Tracked on October 13, 2004 10:30 AM

» Was Kerry's original discharge less than honorable? from BeldarBlog
In a front-page article in today's New York Sun, reporter Thomas Lipscomb asserts that in all probability, Sen. John F. Kerry originally received a less-than-honorable discharge from the United States Naval Reserve [Read More]

Tracked on October 13, 2004 11:12 AM

» Was John Kerry Dishonorably Discharged?... from doctorzhibloggo
I posted a few months back that Senator Kerry was eligible to be discharged from the Naval Reserve in 1972, but didn't get it until 1978. Why? The New York Sun via Captain's Quarters has the goods. If he is [Read More]

Tracked on October 13, 2004 11:57 AM

» Dean Esmay Swiftie Interview from The Jawa Report
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Tracked on October 13, 2004 12:08 PM

» sKerry's Discharge? from Bob's Place
Thomas Lipscomb of the NY Sun provides an interesting and probably true analysis of the whys and wherefores of Lurch's discharge wanderings and awardings during the period after his original, undocumented (publically) discharge. The changed of a othe... [Read More]

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» I think we are missing the point of this election. from The Pink Flamingo Bar Grill
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Tracked on October 13, 2004 3:18 PM

» Kerry's Navy Discharge Questioned from CALIFORNIA YANKEE
The New York Sun reports that Kerry's discharge is surrounded in mystery: An official Navy document on Senator Kerry's campaign Web site listed as Mr. Kerry's "Honorable Discharge from the Reserves" opens a door on a well kept secret about [Read More]

Tracked on October 13, 2004 4:38 PM

» Political Wandering from Iraq to Magic Cell Phones from bLogicus
From my walk about several internet political blogs this is what I found. First, there is the issue of whether or not Kerry originally was honorably discharged before he was later honorably discharged (by President Carter's executive order in 1977)... [Read More]

Tracked on October 13, 2004 5:23 PM

» Kerry's Discharge from QandO
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Tracked on October 13, 2004 7:18 PM

» Was Kerry's Original Discharge Less Than Honorable? from Perfect Strike!
Interesting new developments. The possibility that Senator John Kerry's discharge from the armed forces could possibly have been less than honorable. Follow the links below for more information: http://beldar.blogs.com/beldarblog/2004/10/was_kerrys_ori... [Read More]

Tracked on October 30, 2004 6:08 PM



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