Washington Prowler

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Talk about your unanswered Kerry questions. Plus: Not wanting to know about Kerry. Also: Hillary hovers over NYC.

By 8.30.04

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RECORD BREAK-IN
It appears that the Kerry campaign is finally getting some of its own medicine, as it is feeling heat to release the bulk of the Sen. John Kerry's service record.

For months, the campaign has been hiding behind Freedom of Information Act requests and what it has said was an exclusivity contract with its paid historian, Douglas Brinkley.

But Brinkley late Friday said that there was nothing holding back the campaign from releasing documents.

By some counts, there are more than 100 pages of documents related to Kerry's military service that may answer some of the many unanswered questions and mysteries about his time in Vietnam and the citations and awards he claims to have earned. For example:

Why are there three -- THREE! -- separate and differently worded citations for Kerry's Silver Star award. On Saturday, former Navy Secretary John Lehman denied that he ever signed that third, generously worded citation, which Kerry has posted on his website.

Why has Kerry claimed that he was awarded a "Combat V" for his Silver Star, when such an award has never been awarded?

Why are there two separate, differently worded citations for Kerry's Bronze Star? Again, with the second officially reworded by Lehman?

Why did Kerry seek a revision in 2001 to the number of campaign stars on his Vietnam service medal? Kerry's website claims Kerry had four, when the Navy says that he deserves only two. These stars are critical, because they indicate the number of military campaigns a soldier served in.

All these are issues are unrelated to the ongoing Swift Boat Veterans for Truth controversy, and raise similar questions about Kerry's apparent manipulation of his service record in recent years as he was seemingly positioning himself for a run at the presidency. Many of the changes appear to have occurred after 1986, when Kerry would have begun to mull his political future.

According to a former Kerry Senate staffer, Kerry made a request to the Pentagon sometime in mid-1986 for "new" copies of his medal citations, because his originals had been lost. "He wanted them suitable for framing," says the former staffer. "I don't think anyone went out of their way to ask for anything more. If anyone did, it would have been the Senator himself. Remember, in 1986, he was a junior senator two years into this first term. We're not talking high-powered."

RECORD DEAL
Republicans now find themselves in a position that Democrats were in eight months ago, when they were demanding that President Bush release his National Guard records, which Bush did. Now the Kerry campaign is preparing for the seeming eventuality when it will have to do so, as well.

But some Republican strategists are wary of pushing this issue too hard. "Some of us aren't sure we want to see what's in those files. If all they are glowing reviews of Kerry's service, then we're back to square one. And if there is damaging stuff, it looks like we're piling on. We have to be careful," says a Republican campaign adviser to Bush in New York.

The Kerry camp, for its part, is scrambling right now. "This is the first time we feel like we're in disarray," says a volunteer in Washington. "The last five days have been the worst ever. We feel just awful, because nothing we are doing seems to be helping. We look for a response from Senator Kerry, but then have to make sure with someone more senior that he didn't say something different. Usually he has, so we have to fashion a totally new response that doesn't leave us open to the flip-flopping charge."

HOVERING HILLARY
Sen. Hillary Clinton was a star attraction on Sunday, with media appearances all over the dial as Republicans converged on her second adopted home state. But Hillary's appearances were not at the behest of the Kerry campaign. "She wasn't part of the truth squad we wanted up there," says a senior Kerry adviser. "McAuliffe is the one who put her out there, along with President Clinton."

According to a DNC staffer, Sen. John Kerry's man in the DNC, John Sasso, attempted to remove Hillary from the DNC's "push back" crew in New York, but was overruled by Terry McAuliffe, who continues to have hands-on, operational control of the Democratic Party.

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