NEW YORK — John Kerry is desperately trying to slide safely away from the collapse of his “Christmas in Cambodia” fairy tale. Two embarrassing “failures of memory” now permanently scar Senator Kerry’s campaign to gain trust and demonstrate strength as he tries to move from war hero to war president.
In March, reliable witnesses came forward who placed John Kerry at a November 1971 Kansas City meeting where the Vietnam Veterans Against the War secretly voted on a proposal to kill six pro-war senators. This appeared especially odd because Kerry had told two historians, Gerald Nicosia and Douglas Brinkley, that he was not there and that he had resigned from the organization before the meeting was held. He denied eyewitnesses’ accounts as well, even when six witnesses had appeared, several of whom were working for his presidential campaign.
As the story developed, and was widely ignored by the major media, several things emerged that reflected favorably on Kerry’s conduct at the meeting. He had argued strongly against the assassinations and prevailed in the final vote. But Kerry still denied the accounts. He stuck to the resignation story as well, even though there was clear evidence in the New York Times and other papers that Kerry had continued as a spokesman for the VVAW, making media and speaking appearances for a year and a half after his supposed resignation.
When FBI files emerged establishing Kerry’s presence in Kansas City, the campaign conceded that Kerry somehow must have forgotten his involvement in the plot to assassinate U.S. senators while still on the executive committee of the VVAW. What might have been an unforgettable experience for a man who was now a Senator himself turned out to be just one of those little memory lapses we all have.
And now the new book by Kerry’s fellow Swiftboat veterans, Unfit for Command, has inspired another “failure of memory.” Kerry has maintained for years that he was forced to go on a secret mission to plant a CIA agent in Cambodia during Christmas 1968 under President Richard Nixon.
He mentioned it in the Boston Herald in October 1979, saying he had been in Cambodia “on more than one occasion.” He referred to it at length on the floor of the U.S. Senate in 1986 and said, “I have that memory which is seared-seared into me… .” And in a touching sidelight to a Washington Post profile as recent as June 2003, Kerry revealed that his briefcase has a secret compartment that held a “frayed” souvenir he actually showed reporter Laura Blumenfeld. “My good luck hat, given to me by a CIA guy as we went in for a special mission in Cambodia.”
It did seem odd that Douglas Brinkley’s best-seller Tour of Duty, which came out a few months after the Post profile, placed Kerry in Sa Dec, inside Vietnam about 50 miles from the Cambodian border. And now with the publication of Unfit for Command, so do three of Kerry’s Swiftboat crewmen at the time.
As the Cambodian fantasy began to look ridiculous, the “explanations” got positively surreal. Kerry apologist Jeh Johnson was sent to appear on Fox to explain. It seems that Kerry has had another memory failure, “a mistaken recollection,” and Johnson spoke of a retraction of the Cambodia story. “”I believe he has corrected the record to say it was some place near Cambodia he is not certain whether it was in Cambodia but he is certain there was some point subsequent to that that he was in Cambodia.” Got that?
John Hurley, head of the Veterans for Kerry campaign operation, had a totally different explanation on Tony Snow’s radio program. Perhaps Kerry was not in Cambodia that Christmas after all, just close by. Perhaps he was confused about the date and unsure exactly where he was. “I don’t know how anyone can say if they were in or near Cambodia.” And Christmas is so easy to mistake for any other day of the year. Perhaps he had not been “under fire” there by South Vietnamese, Viet Cong, or the Khmer Rouge. It was so long ago. How is one to remember everything? We shouldn’t be “shocked, shocked” in spite Kerry’s Senate-floor assertion that his memory was “seared-seared.” And how about that “lucky hat” in the secret compartment in the briefcase?
IT IS NOW CLEAR THAT Kerry spent many years trying to build his record. His political ambitions were obvious even as a Yale student. One former classmate relates a story about how a group of his fellow students had decided while they would support him as far as senator, but they had doubts about his making a good president. Like the young Jimmy Gatz “he always had some resolves.” And like the Jay Gatsby young Jimmy grew into, Kerry’s life is all about his ambitions and the green light at the end of the White House dock that has been drawing him to his destiny for 40 years.
Somewhere there are those hidden journals whose contents have been selectively shared with Douglas Brinkley. And as Brinkley puts it: “Kerry saves everything.” To the amazement of supporters and opponents alike John Kerry elected to make his four-month service in Swiftboats 35 years ago the centerpiece of his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. One can understand why. He thought he had that period of his life boxed and ready for presentation.
Selective memory is everyone’s’ secret enemy. Kerry hadn’t been challenged in his selective recall since he left Vietnam, and his stories kept getting better and better. No wonder Kerry told the Washington Post interviewer, “I wish they had a delete button on LexisNexis.”
But what is now clear is that Kerry has gone a step farther. Kerry lies. He not only lies to the Senate, the press and historians, he lies to his own press people, and he lies to himself. And he has been lying for years. And whenever one of Kerry’s lies is under attack, he attacks every one else — as liars.
And there is a pattern to his responses as well. When the lie becomes undeniable, the sources are attacked. In the case of the VVAW plot, John Hurley, head of Veterans for Kerry and a former VVAW member himself, pressured eyewitnesses, like totally disabled vet John Musgrave, to change their story. In the case of the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth, there has been a direct attack by lawyers for the campaign trying to silence their advertising as containing “outrageous lies.” And yet no specific lie is ever charged. Nor does Kerry ever take the chance of actually bringing charges against his accusers for libel which would open the issue to a courtroom trial of the truth.
When the lie becomes unsustainable, it is attributed to a memory failure. Kerry never appears. He never tries to make an explanation. He takes no responsibility. He even hides from the press as he has for the past several days.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?