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Hugh Hewitt - Principal Contributor

Mr. Hewitt is senior member of the editorial board. [go to Hewitt index]

Kerry's SWIFT Meltdown
And where's the big time media?...

[Hugh Hewitt] 8/12/04

At this writing, the Kerry campaign has not yet responded to the media meltdown that is occurring around John Kerry's four decades of stories built on his secret, illegal missions into Cambodia during the four months he skippered a SWIFT boat.

It is impossible to stonewall a story that broke out of the blogosphere and into the major media on Monday night and Tuesday morning, so eventually John Kerry is going to have to stand by his wildly implausible tales of cross-border excellent adventures, or he's going to have to apologize for inventing personal history.

Here are the facts. Not long after returning from Vietnam, John Kerry began telling people he had been sent into Cambodia on an illegal patrol on Christmas Eve 1968. He repeated that story on the floor of the Senate in 1986, to an AP reporter in 1992, and as recently as June 2003 was regaling a Washington Post reporter with a story of how he had ferried a CIA man secretly into Cambodia, and how he'd kept the man's hat as a reminder of that journey.

The Christmas-Eve-in-Cambodia story has already been completely shredded by the SWIFT boat vet critics of Kerry, and it is hard to imagine how Kerry is going to defend the CIA man who was never there, given independent testimony from Navy vets that the SWIFT boats never went into Cambodian waters. If Kerry was sent on a secret drop-off mission, he's going to have to come up with some proof, especially with the Christmas Eve narrative now so discredited.

The blogosphere pushed this story forward, with an early flare going up at KerryHaters on May 21, and then a gang tackle of the facts by Instapundit, RogerLSimon, JustOneMinute, Powerline, CaptainsQuarters and, of course, me.

We teed it up after the publisher of Unfit for Command released a sample chapter from the new book which brought the Cambodian myth to light. I spent all day Thursday, Friday and Monday on the story on my radio program, and Monday night Carl Cameron ran with a story on "Special Report" with Brit Hume, followed by an "O'Reilly Factor" segment with Steve Gardener, a SWIFT boat vet who served on Kerry's boat. Gardener denied ever having been to Cambodia. The Kerry campaign first denied that Kerry had ever claimed to have been in Cambodia, and then recanted upon being shown the 1986 Congressional record, promising to get back to Fox News with an explanation.

No explanation has shown up more than 12 hours later. In the interim, the New York Post has run a story, as has the London Telegraph, and the Washington Times' editors have produced a powerful editorial on the subject.

Why all the attention? Simply put, if John Kerry can be conclusively demonstrated to have lied about aspects of his Vietnam service, the media has to ask what else has he been lying about. The voters have to ask if he can be trusted. In short: Free fall.

The lefty bloggers and talking heads are stunned into silence, and have gotten no help from the Kerry people. It's hard to spin a story that hasn't been spun by the campaign since Kerry could elect to go in completely different directions. If he hangs tough on the Christmas Eve and CIA man stories, his allies will know to hang tough as well. But they can't do that without a clear signal, because if Kerry comes out and apologizes for a tall tale, the commentators are cut off at the knees.

A nasty dilemma. Perhaps the lefty pundits should try sticking with the truth: It looks very bad for Kerry. It looks like he's been lying and padding his Vietnam resume for decades and that the elite media was so in love with the story they didn't bother to check it out. It looks like Kerry's selective release of his military and health records was smoke, and that the big-time journalists at the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post fell for it.

Now we get to see if there's any pride left in the newsroom. Do any of these writers, reporters and producers resent getting played by Kerry? If so, payback will be stiff. Too early to tell whether Bush-hatred trumps anger at getting suckered. More to follow ... CRO

§ Principal Contributor Hugh Hewitt is an author, television commentator and syndicated talk-show host of the Salem Radio Network's Hugh Hewitt Show, heard in over 40 markets around the country. He blogs regularly at and he frequently contributes opinion pieces to the Weekly Standard.

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