Guilty


  Thurlow thought he got the Bronze Star for rescuing men from the boat that struck a mine. As he explained between interruptions on Hardball, “I felt like I got the award because I saved some people's lives and saved the boat.” Kerry had nothing to do with saving the boat that had been hit because—again according to the accounts of all three living commanding officers, except Kerry—Kerry fled on his boat the moment the first boat hit a mine. It wasn't until Kerry was running for president that Thurlow saw the After Action Report and realized Kerry had claimed that the boats had come under enemy fire.

  On Hardball, Thurlow said he knew Kerry had written the After Action Report because the report mentioned “none of the action I took about saving the men or the boat,” but recounted in glorious detail how Kerry himself had come back and pulled James Rassmann out of the water. Rassmann had apparently fallen off Kerry's boat as a result of the rocking from the mine explosion. Kerry's boat, Thurlow said, “was the central figure in the report. The 3 boat was the one that was mined and badly damaged, but yet the report tells about John Kerry coming back to get Rassmann under intense fire and only casually mentions anything else that even happened that day.”75

  Until Kerry's self-aggrandizing After Action Reports came under scrutiny and were promptly hooted at by eyewitnesses, the only source of information about Kerry's military service were the After Action Reports he wrote himself. In the military, writing After Action Reports is like getting latrine duty. But apparently, Kerry was always the guy saying, “I'll do it!” The reports weren't passed around and checked for accuracy. The sheer number of medals Kerry won during a short three and a half months in Vietnam—one Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and three Purple Hearts—raises a strong suspicion of chicanery.

  Although the media briefly tried disputing that Kerry had written the report testifying to his own valor the day he won the bronze medal, it was soon proved by the DNA evidence of military code that Kerry was the author. The report's author was someone designated: “TE 194.5.4.4/1.” The inventer of that military code explained that “194” referred to Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, commander of U.S. naval forces in Vietnam; “5” meant Roy Hoffman's Swift Boat command; the first “4” referred to Adrian Lonsdale's command; the next “4” was Captain George Elliott's Swift Boat base; and the “1” narrowed the sender down to some officer other than the mission commander. A Navy communications expert determined that the report was sent at 11:20 P.M., the night of the mission from the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Spencer. The only officer on board the Spencer at 11:20 P.M. was John Kerry.76

  As for the Times's claim that some “critics of Mr. Kerry quoted in the book had earlier praised his bravery in incidents they were now asserting he had fabricated,” that is also explained by knowing just a few facts. The Swiftees who appeared to have changed their minds about Kerry were his commander, Captain Elliott, and the commander of shoreline operations, retired Coast Guard Captain Lonsdale. Their positive comments about Kerry were made during his 1996 Senate campaign in response to Boston Globe columnist David Warsh suggesting that Kerry's Silver Star may have resulted from his committing a war crime.77

  Elliott, Lonsdale, and other veterans leapt in to defend Kerry from the asinine accusation that it would be a “war crime” to kill a wounded enemy soldier. Even then, Elliott admitted that while he had written the draft of Kerry's Silver Star citation, he had no firsthand knowledge of the action: “The recommendation left over my signature. I was not an eyewitness…. I had no reason to question his motives or his actions.” Nor was Elliott portraying Kerry as Audie Murphy: “There was a dead guy there and John had a weapon. That's the way it is sometimes…. I took the stories down, what I considered to be corroboration … There may have been another guy. You try to spread the glory around. It's hard to describe what you try to do with decorations. It's part hype, part leadership.”78

  Only when Kerry ran for president and his After Action Reports came under scrutiny did Elliott realize he had been scammed. Kerry had written in the After Action Report that his own “daring and courageous tactic surprised the enemy and succeeded in routing a score of enemy soldiers.”79 But Kerry's crewmen, including those who supported him, said Kerry had killed only a single, already wounded, enemy troop. Elliott and Lonsdale didn't think Kerry had committed a war crime, but they didn't think he deserved a Silver Star for it either. None of the other Swiftees who had gone ashore that day in the same action and killed many more enemy combatants than Kerry had received Silver Stars. As O’Neill wrote in Unfit for Command, “Kerry did follow normal military conduct and displayed ordinary courage, but the incident was nothing out of the ordinary and to most Swift and Vietnam veterans, Kerry's actions would hardly justify any kind of unusual award.”80

  After four years of looking, the best liberals could come up with to discredit the Swiftees were “contradictions” that were not contradictions at all once you knew the details. Ten days after the Times finally gave even this scintilla of specificity to the claim that the Swift Boat Veterans had been proved to be liars, the paper went back to simply asserting that the advertisements of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth included “allegations since discredited.”81 The legends of Willie Hor-ton and the Swift Boat Veterans prove only that liberals will never, ever concede the most thoroughly proved facts. Soon liberals will be refusing to communicate in the English language.

  THE VERY REASON THAT SHOCKING FACTS ARE LIKELY TO COME out about Democrats, but not Republicans, during a presidential campaign is that the Media Attack Machine has inevitably given the Democrat a free ride for his entire political career, while a Republican can't run for town clerk without reporters poring through his divorce records and youthful high jinks.

  Everything changes when a Democrat becomes a candidate for president. Media bias alone can no longer censor inconvenient facts about the media's pet politicians—especially with the existence of the new alternative media. This is precisely why, in 2008, Democrats chose a presidential candidate with a thin record. A presidential campaign prompts people to do research and they will start to notice little things like a history of calling U.S. troops war criminals or a candidate's foaming-at-the-mouth spiritual adviser.

  But until a Democrat runs for president, there is no adversary press to call them on problem issues, and these liberal Walter Mittys get wilder and wilder. For years, the press had uncritically repeated every fantasy John Kerry told them. Members of the fourth estate were so awed by the jaw-dropping fact that one of their own had actually served in Vietnam, it didn't strike them as odd that Kerry had brought movie cameras to a war. The media spent months going through pay stubs for Bush's National Guard service in Alabama during the waning days of the Vietnam War, but if Kerry told them cockamamie stories of covert missions to Cambodia ordered by Richard Nixon, they couldn't be bothered to check if Nixon was president in December 1968.

  By coddling the Democrats, the media have turned them into a bunch of crybabies. If hundreds of veterans who were in POW camps with John McCain questioned his story, I promise you, Republicans would question his story. They wouldn't stomp their feet, cover their ears, and complain about a Democratic Attack Machine. But when nearly three hundred veterans who served with Kerry said he was lying about his war record and unfit to be president, Democrats, backed up by the behemoth media, attacked the veterans as lying partisans and wailed that Kerry was a victim of the Republican Attack Machine.

  It's getting a little old for the media to pretend Republicans have reached an all-new low every time Republicans quote a Democrat. As John Geer shows in his book In Defense of Negativity: Attack Ads in Presidential Campaigns, negative ads tend to contain far more facts than positive ads. Politicians want to make broad promises and issue meaningless bromides—I will fight for you!—without anyone looking at their records. “Negative advertising” is really just comparative advertising that, of necessity, includes actual information, such as: My opponent voted for X. Unless they're idiots, when people complain about “neg
ative ads” what they really mean is “unfair attacks”— claims that are either untrue or irrelevant. Genuine attack ads provide hard facts that highlight relevant distinctions between the candidates, which is obviously far more valuable than vague claims that they will fight for you. But actual information about the candidates is exactly what liberals do not want.

  It is simply treated as axiomatic that any fact Republicans adduce about Democrats—including Dukakis's furlough program, Kerry's Swift Boat career, or Obama's radical associates—is a “smear.”

  Isn't it a “smear” to call your opponent a liar? As the New York Times noted, one tradition presidential candidates had long observed was to never accuse their opponents of lying. John Kerry, for example, complained that Bush “had not been candid” or had “misled” voters, and John McCain's spokesmen said Obama was being “misleading” or “deceitful.” But every variation of the L-word—lie, lying, liar—was off-limits. Guess who was the first presidential candidate to break this tradition and call his opponent a liar? That's right: the Hope and Change campaign of Barack Obama. “Rarely does a day go by,” the Times said in the fall of 2008, “when aides to the Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, do not accuse the Republican ticket—John McCain, Sarah Palin, or both—of lies and lying.” One example was an Obama spokesman referring to “another flat-out lie from a dishonorable campaign.” But instead of marking the end of this gentlemanly custom with regret, the Times was tickled pink by the refreshing honesty of the Obama campaign. The article was titled: “Let's Call a Lie a Lie … Finally.”82

  In contradistinction to Obama's invigorating candor, the Times was deeply disappointed in McCain merely for criticizing his opponent. In a classic more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger line, Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that “if McCain loses, he will have contributed to his own downfall by failing to live up to his personal standard of honor.”83 Her one and only example of something McCain had said that shocked her conscience was “What has this man ever actually accomplished in government? What does he plan for America? In short: Who is the real Barack Obama?” If that was dishonorable, what could McCain say about his opponent? When McCain merely referred to Obama as “that one” in the second presidential debate, there was such a rending of garments in the establishment press you would think McCain had called him a “nappy-headed ho.”

  The most amazing thing liberals have done is create the myth of a compliant right-wing media with Republicans badgering baffled reporters into attacking Democrats. It's so mad, it's brilliant. It's one kind of lie to say the Holocaust was when the Swedes killed the Jews. But it's another kind of lie entirely to say the Holocaust was when the Jews killed the Nazis. Liberals have actually neutralized the incredible press orchestration of left-wing propaganda by acting as if they are the victims of the all-powerful Republican National Committee. By obsessively prattling about the “Republican Attack Machine,” the media convey their view of conservatives as absolutely evil, masters of the dark arts of character assassination and dirty campaigning. Meanwhile, an examination of the historical record suggests that it is those who pretend to believe in the Republican Attack Machine who are the most vicious attack dogs of all.

  4

  WITLESS WITNESSES

  TO HISTORY

  If the “Republican Attack Machine” is such a fearsome beast, why is it that the media have such an astounding record at luring erstwhile Republicans into denouncing their party? Despite the awesome power of our Attack Machine, actual humans don't seem to fear it that much. It is always Republicans writing backstabbing books about their bosses and being feted in the media. Meanwhile, the famed Republican Attack Machine has a pretty lousy record of luring Democrats into writing kiss-and-tell books about sitting Democratic presidents. Clearly, that's not where the glory is.

  When former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan released his book in the spring of 2008 resurrecting all the rote liberal attacks on Bush, the media were ablaze with warnings about incoming missiles from the Republican Attack Machine. Back on earth, McClellan was at more risk from a unicorn attack during a global warming–induced hurricane. The only “attacks” consisted of Republicans trying to defend themselves from the scurrilous charges in McClellan's book. Oh what a hideous beast! When attacked, it responds!1

  White House staffers in Republican administrations write spiteful tell-all books for literally the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks: because that's where the money is. If Republicans were the ones pulling the strings, a little worm like McClellan would be going for the easy glory by attacking Obama rather than endorsing him. Even stupid people—come to think of it, especially stupid people—will always take the path of least resistance. The young, the stupid, and the weak are invariably impressed with authority figures. College students in Weimar Germany emulated their Nazi-sympathizing professors just as college students in modern America emulate their America-hating professors and the stupid and weak in society at large emulate the liberal establishment.

  When Democrats become Republicans—and lots do—it's always a lonely philosophical conversion driven by a substantive disagreement with their party, not petty personal grievances. Zell Miller, Ron Silver, and Dennis Miller moved to the right after 9/11 because they were more hawkish on terrorism than the Democrats. A related phenomenon is that an intellectual in modern America is a liberal who, through years of study and cogitation, finally reaches some small point obvious to any ten-year-old conservative, but which is damnably impenetrable to liberals. By slowly explaining the manifestly obvious to their fellow liberals, the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Michael Kinsley, Thomas Friedman, and Malcolm Gladwell are deemed the Aristotles of our day.

  Even when Democrats only split with their party on one big issue— say, Bill Clinton's impeachment or the war in Iraq—they say they are holding firm to their liberal beliefs. Tammy Bruce, former head of the Los Angeles branch of the National Organization for Women, thought she was just being a good liberal when she assailed O.J. and Bill Clinton for their treatment of women, but her sisters promptly demanded that she be kicked out of NOW. Christopher Hitchens claimed to be a truer liberal than other Democrats when he supported Clinton's impeachment and the Iraq War. Pat Caddell still calls himself a Democrat, despite disagreeing with his party on Clinton's impeachment, the Florida recount, and a number of other issues. Joe Lieberman would still be a Democrat if he hadn't lost his party's primary—indeed, he still votes with the Democrats on all but the foreign policy issues.

  If anything, liberal converts try to bring their former comrades along with them—they don't try to alienate them by telling tales out of school. But the point is, their arguments are open to everyone; they don't storm out on the Democrats and announce that they overheard a secret conversation in which prominent liberals admitted they hate black people.

  By contrast, when Republicans flip, it's almost never the smart ones and it's never for intellectual reasons. Useless conservatives seek to be catapulted to fame and fortune by vilifying their former colleagues, using arguments that are always suspiciously similar to Democratic talking points.

  Scott McClellan claimed to have overheard Bush telling someone on the phone that maybe he had done cocaine after all! Richard Nixon's White House counsel John Dean wrote a book claiming that he had overheard Nixon suggesting he had framed Soviet spy Alger Hiss. Part of David Brock's purported reason for becoming a liberal was his claim that conservatives were mean to him because he was gay. Low-level White House employee David Kuo became disgusted with the Republican Party based on private conversations that proved Karl Rove secretly hated Christians. At least nine insider accounts of the Bush administration attacked Bush for invading Iraq—all at the precise moment the war became unpopular with most Americans! (Why didn't any of them tell us that before we invaded?)

  Our incompetent press secretaries go bad, theirs never do. The weakest of the Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices always go bad; Democratic-appointed justices never do. Our soporific pundit
s go bad; theirs appear regularly on Larry King Live. Our unsuccessful conservative writers go bad rather than suffer poverty and disrespect; their loser writers never suffer, but the rest of us suffer when they're hired by Newsweek, Time, the New York Times, or, if they are completely illiterate, Rolling Stone magazine. As the expression goes, when a Republican becomes a Democrat, the average IQ increases on both sides of the aisle.

  On the bright side, look at how low the mainstream media have had to stoop lately to find their Republican heretics. The most famous “former Republican” is Kevin Phillips, who attended Bronx High School of Science, Colgate University, the University of Edinburgh, and Harvard Law School. Even John Dean was at least a practicing lawyer. The 2008 version is Kathleen Parker, who went to Converse College and the University of San Francisco. The educational attainments of Republican turncoats may change, but curiously, their gender always remains the same. They are women, not limited to the biological sense.

  Meteoric rises are available to any Republican who claims to be disgusted with the Republican Party for one or another reason. The heretofore unknown Kathleen Parker was the media's favorite Republican in 2008, after she called on Sarah Palin to withdraw from the campaign on the grounds that: She “filibusters. She repeats words, filling space with deadwood.”2 This might not have been manifestly insane if Palin's Democratic counterpart had been anyone other than Joe Biden— who filibusters, repeats words, and achieves a personal coup every time he merely fills space with “deadwood,” rather than one of his usual deranged pronouncements.

  But Parker had attacked Palin, so suddenly a conservative writer no conservative had ever heard of was being quoted as if she were Milton Friedman. Parker was far from the first Republican woman to acquire what Tom Bethell calls the media's “strange new respect.” Back in the 1980s, Tanya Melich had been toiling away in obscurity for years, putting up streamers for National Women's Education Fund parties and hanging out her shingle as a “political consultant.” Melich first tasted mini-media stardom by denouncing the Republican platform on abortion in 1988, bringing her hundreds of mentions in an admiring press, which called her a “Republican analyst” and “Republican consultant.” Melich was a complete unknown to Republicans—but she was on the speed dial of political reporters throughout the land.

 
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