Special Report

Senator von Munchausen and the One That Got Away

Think of John Kerry as a fabulous fabulist -- and Boston Marathoner.

By 10.12.04

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This month's Field and Stream features a pair of interviews with the presidential candidates in which the two men discussed their mutual love of huntin', fishin' and the great outdoors. All fine and good, and to be expected in an election year, and as I read through the interviews I couldn't help but be pleased that both men at least paid lip-service to maintaining my Second Amendment rights.

And then, I came upon the following exchange.

Field & Stream: What's the biggest deer you ever killed?

Kerry: Probably an 8-pointer, something like that. Nothing terribly big. I once had an incredible encounter with the most enormous buck -- I don't know, 16 points or something. It was just huge. And I failed to pull the trigger at the right moment. I was hunting down in Massachusetts, on the Cape.

At that instant, it struck me: the "F" in John F. Kerry stands for "fabulist".

Like most folks I'm willing to cut a little slack to a fisherman or hunter who claims to have just missed the big one, as long as that big one is within the natural margin of error for big ones. Which, my friends, a Cape Cod sixteen-pointer is clearly not.

In other words, John Kerry was telling a tale. He was fibbing. Prevaricating. Stretching the truth. All to make himself seem a little more impressive, a little more manly, a little more like a regular guy to the regular guys who read Field and Stream.

JOHN KERRY IS NOT a regular guy. He's a Swiss-boarding-school-educated man who's bagged a billionairess widow woman, and as a consequence could spend all of his summers from here to eternity tracking the truly big ones up in the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho, a comfortable family-owned SUV drive from his wife's opulent ski chalet. But he doesn't do that. And because he's not a real hunter, he doesn't know enough to say that that mythical sixteen pointer was spotted on a guided hunt in Montana, or Idaho, or Wyoming, or anywhere but Massachusetts, where the largest buck ever taken measured out at only 12 points.

So he lied about a hunting trip. Who hasn't? In fact, the more I looked at what John F. Kerry said about himself, the more apparent it became that John F. Kerry is a man given to puffery. Like some insecure drunk you meet at happy hour in a cheap bar, he has a bad habit of gilding the lily where his own accomplishments are concerned.

By now most everyone knows about the charges leveled at Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, charges that he inflated both his own war record and the severity of the wounds he received in Vietnam. Much of this is still in dispute. However, what is not in dispute is Kerry's claim that he spent Christmas of 1968 upriver on a secret mission in Cambodia, a claim he repeated on several occasions, most famously in 1986 on the floor of the Senate.

"I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the President of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia. I have that memory which is seared -- seared -- in me."

The "Christmas in Cambodia" story is not in dispute because it's been thoroughly debunked. Kerry was never, despite his seared memory, in Cambodia. Even his hagiographer, Douglas Brinkley, had to recently admit that Kerry was probably at base camp that day, writing letters home.

What you may not know about this widely reported story, however, is that it has props. Like all good fabulists, Senator Kerry has mastered the art of turning everyday objects into holy relics, relics that support his tall tales, this one included. In a June 1, 2003, Washington Post profile, it was revealed that Senator Kerry had a secret compartment in his briefcase, one that contained a well-worn, green camouflage hat.

"My good luck hat," Kerry said, happy to see it. "Given to me by a CIA guy as we went in for a special mission in Cambodia."

Kerry put on the hat, pulling the brim over his forehead. His blue button-down shirt and tie clashed with the camouflage. He pointed his finger and raised his thumb, creating an imaginary gun. He looked silly, yet suddenly his campaign message was clear: Citizen-soldier. Linking patriotism to public service. It wasn't complex after all; it was Kerry.

He smiled and aimed his finger:

"Pow."

Pow indeed.

There's a phrase that describes men who feel compelled to claim that they served with the Green Berets, Navy Seals, or CIA special ops units when they had not. It's called the Stolen Valor Syndrome.

THEN THERE'S THE MATTER of whether or not Senator Kerry actually ran the Boston Marathon. On more than one occasion he says he has, and the way he's phrased it, "my first Boston Marathon," indicates that he'd done the feat more than once.

But, of course, no one has ever found a record of this, not in the newspapers, not in the various photographs of the young Kerry, not even, especially not even, in the records of the Boston Athletic Association, the group that organizes and sponsors the Boston Marathon.

When queried by e-mail about Senator Kerry's marathoning, Jack Fleming, the director of communications of the Boston Athletic Association gave the following response.

"It was reported (Summer 2004) to the B.A.A. by aides of the John F. Kerry campaign for President of the United States that the Democratic nominee ran the Boston Marathon in the late 1970s [1977, 1978 or 1979 most likely]. He reportedly ran as an unofficial entrant and finished the entire 26.2-mile race (i.e., without an official bib number); as an unofficial participant, his performance (name, place, time) would not appear among the official record or in any results book publication."

Don't you love that phrase "he reportedly ran"?

So, in other words, in the Summer of 2004, as questions about Senator Kerry's veracity grew, John Kerry's campaign aides contacted the Boston Athletic Association and told them that the Senator ran the race sometime in the "late 70s," but not officially, although he did finish, just that you didn't see him do it….honest.

By the way, for the record, in January of 1993, President Bush completed the Houston Marathon in exactly 3:44:52, a respectable 8:30 pace. You can look it up.

WHY DOES JOHN KERRY feel the need to brag on his imaginary exploits? Is he so insecure? I mean the man actually does have some accomplishments. He has been a United States Senator for the last 20 years, although a singularly undistinguished one.

But then again, being a Senator is plainly not proof against puffery. Case in point, Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, who claims to have flown numerous combat missions over Vietnam, but actually only occasionally ferried planes into the country from his more relaxed station in Japan. Harkin has recently taken to calling himself a "Vietnam era veteran"

Speaking of flying, did you know that John Kerry claims to be a stunt pilot, (Atlanta Journal Constitution, August 3, 2004) rated to fly everything from seaplanes to the Millennium Falcon?

But who knows if that's really true or not. At this point I just can't be bothered running down every unsubstantiated claim Senator von Munchausen makes. I've got more important things to do with my time, like trying to invent a carburetor that gets 200 miles to the gallon.

My ironclad policy is this: when, towards the end of the evening, the pompous drunk on the next barstool turns to you and claims to have dated Morgan Fairchild, as both Senator Kerry and Jon Lovitz's Saturday Night Live character Tommy Flanagan the Compulsive Liar have done, you just shrug your shoulders, say, "Yeah, that's the ticket," and turn away.

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