Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

A Little Bit Of Cambodia In My Life III

[T]oday, on Fox News' "Fox and Friends," Kerry Campaign Advisor Jeh Johnson had this to say to the show's co-host Brian Kilmeade:

JOHNSON: John Kerry has said on the record that he had a mistaken recollection earlier. He talked about a combat situation on Christmas Eve 1968 which at one point he said occurred in Cambodia. He has since corrected the recorded to say it was some place on a river near Cambodia and he is certain that at some point subsequent to that he was in Cambodia. My understanding is that he is not certain about that date.

KILMEADE: I think the term was he had a searing memory of spending Christmas - back in 1986 in the senate floor in Cambodia.

JOHNSON: 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.

[Link via Instapundit]

Well, Mr. Johnson can say he believes whatever he wants us to believe he believes - he's paid by Senator Kerry to do that and not laugh while he does it. But the Man Without Qualities believes that Mr. Johnson acknowledges that Senator Kerry is heading for a story very similar to the one that he was expected to craft:

So I wasn't actually in Cambodia at the time I said I was. That's a nice "gotcha" my opponents have come up with.

No, I was where I was ordered to go: Right at the border of Cambodia as part of the then-secret and now-well-known, illegal American incursion into Cambodia. ... In fact, at the time seared - seared, I tell you - into my memory I was personally intensely concerned that my unit had in the confusion accidentally crossed over into Cambodia, through the very national boundary to which my President had determined to show his utmost deliberate contempt. I later determined that had not been the case. ... But make no mistake about it: Even this minor point is one reason why the sacred bonds of trust I have always maintained and cherished with the American people have caused me not to bring up the matter up for more than 12 years. Yes, I may have stretched a minor point years ago to accomplish a larger good - and I ask your forgiveness if I did that. Many combat veterans get carried away on details in service to their country. ... And blah, BLAH, BLAH!

And, if I'm reading Mr. York right, he sees where the good Senator is headed, too, and is pretty concerned that it may be a fairly safe haven for the worst (although not all) of the "Christmas-in-Cambodia" storm:

On other occasions, Kerry has said he was not actually in Cambodia but rather "near" the country. In an interview with the Providence Journal-Bulletin that appeared in April, 1994, Kerry said "Christmas Eve I was up getting shot at somewhere near Cambodia." The account of Kerry's service in Douglas Brinkley's Tour of Duty says Kerry was on patrol near Cambodia, but does not mention him being in the country. "Because they were only an hour away from that neighboring country," Brinkley writes, "Kerry began reading up on Cambodia's history...." Brinkley also quotes from Kerry's Vietnam journal, in which Kerry wrote that he was "patrolling near the Cambodian line." .... Finally, another member of Kerry's crew, Jim Wasser, who supports Kerry in the presidential race, told the Dallas Observer last month that he wasn't sure where PCF-44 was at the time in question. "On Christmas in 1968, we were close [to Cambodia]," Wasser said. "I don't know exactly where we were. I didn't have the chart. It was easy to get turned around with all the rivers around there. But I'll say this: We were the farthest inland that night. I know that for sure."

Wasser's recollection introduces the idea that Kerry and some members of his crew might simply have been confused about where they were. While that conflicts with Gardner's recollection, it might still seem plausible if Kerry had, over the years, said only that he was in Cambodia at one time. Given today's questions, Kerry might now say that he simply believed he was there, but in retrospect sees that he might not have known his precise position at the time.
Yes, indeed, he might say just that. Now if only the perceptive Mr. York would control his urge to rely on the Senator's likely bad "pow/hat" joke to meet this line of argument.

Some of the Senator's most dramatic statements on this topic do assert that he was in Cambodia for Christmas - and he probably wasn't. In other words, the Senator has probably told some whoppers to obtain effects he desired at the time of the tellings. His inconsistent "near Cambodia" statements probably best indicate that he knew his "in Cambodia" assertions were whoppers, at least a long time ago (although he didn't expressly acknowledge the error then) and maybe at the time he told the whoppers. That may be enough to do some real damage to the Senator's image and story with a voters who are still focusing on his Vietnam heroism as a material reason for choosing him. All politics is ultimately intimate. The "Christmas-in-Cambodia" mess may help some office, poolside, dinner and cocktail party Kerry-Edwards advocates to acknowledge that the Senator's Vietnam service record is just not that important to the election, anyway. Those office, poolside, dinner and cocktail party effects can be as substantial as the effect Al Gore's whoppers had on transforming what he wanted to be taken as reasons for seeing him as a straight-talking, visionary renaissance man for the 21st century into mere anecdotes ("war stories", one might say) unimportant to the election - and into pretensions that tended to make him look insubstantial and less sound. The mess also may erode Kerry's image as reliable and a straight shooter. That would constitute a nice synergy with the Bush-Cheney "flip-flopper/no core beliefs" ads and arguments that have been working hard to work exactly such an erosion, but from entirely different facts.

One should not try to collapse this choice of a president to this one incident, or argue that this campaign is or should be essentially now over - or argue that "Christmas-in-Cambodia" is a huge issue for Kerry-Edwards. It's not huge. It's substantial. That's enough! Bush's supporters should get that message out, keep it out there and get on with the rest of the campaign.

And, by the way, Jim Wasser's comments to the Dallas Observer last month were made well after the SBVFT had served public notice of their intent to nail the good Senator on his Vietnam record. Doesn't the reader think it was a nice, professional touch on the part of Kerry-Edwards to have the "we weren't sure where we were" argument come from a Swift-boat brother a month ago and in a Dallas newspaper, instead of just having the Senator "clarify" his own prior faux-crystal-clear Senate-floor gobbledygook in an interview with some lapdog Boston Globe reporter after the crème-de-merde hit the fan? See, maybe that kind of thing is why they pay Mr. Shrum - or somebody at Kerry-Edwards - the big bucks.

So nice.

Comments: Post a Comment