Kerry has responded on his website by asserting that Boone Pickens has "moved the goalposts:"
I must remind you, however, that this was and is your “challenge,” not mine. You are, after all, the one who said explicitly at the dinner — in a way that was calculated to challenge any naysayer — that you would give one million dollars “to anyone who could show that anything the SBVT said was false.” (RedState.Com) These were your words — and nowhere did you ever suggest, as you are now trying to, that your challenge referred specifically and exclusively to any advertising by the SBVT.Well, Senator, how about a little less talk and a lot more action? Just prove up the lies now, in public, for all the world to see and then go after Mr. Pickens...
As you know, the lies of the SBVT were not confined just to their ads; they were a constant barrage of television, radio, Internet, speeches, and forums in which — significantly bankrolled by you — they launched and repeated lie after lie. Your challenge expressly stood behind all of their allegations.
It is disturbing that in reaffirming the challenge you issued, your parsing and backtracking seems eerily reminiscent of the entire approach of the SBVT — say one thing, put out an allegation, then duck and weave, hedge and bob when your words catch up with you. I want to believe that this was not your intent because I am told that you are a man of your word, not “all hat and no cattle.”
Honor and duty, which you purport to defend, demand that you not selectively back away from your original challenge. Your offer clearly said — boldly, unequivocally — to an audience of your friends and supporters — that you would give “a million dollars to anyone who could prove wrong anything the Swiftboat Veterans charged about Kerry.” (AmericanThinker.com) In my letter, that is the offer which I accepted.
I was interested to read in your response that you don’t want to see the SBVT “maligned,” and that you aim “to prevent this important part of American history from being unfairly portrayed.” I accepted your offer precisely because I want to prevent the honorable records of the courageous men who served with me from being maligned by the repeated lies of this organization. I want to see the word “Swiftboat” restored to its original meaning — synonymous with honorable service to country, not political lies aimed to distort and divide. I would hope that your interests should also be in protecting the record of all those who served our country.
As I’ve said to you before, I am prepared to prove the lie and marshal all the evidence, the question is whether you are prepared to fulfill your obligation — no variations, no back pedaling, no retreat, no new bets, no changing the subject.
And still no responses to my request for anyone to step forward who can verify Kerry's "flying dog" story. I don't have a $1 million bucks, but I will make a donation to any charity specified by anyone who comes forward.
UPDATE: Note the careful phrasing by Mr. Kerry - he doesn't deny the accuracy of the ads but challenges other, as yet unspecified "repeated lies."
I assume he taking the position that any misrepresentation completely deflates all the truths in the Swift Boat ads. On that basis, I again urge anyone who knows anything supportive of the "flying dog" tale to come forward to give Mr. Kerry the opportunity to prove the truth of that tale.
I also note that Mr. Kerry has already come up with one whopper about his service in Cambodia:
"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."Or here:
However seared he was, Kerry's spokesmen now say his memory was faulty. When the Swift boat veterans who oppose Kerry presented statements from his commanders and members of his unit denying that his boat entered Cambodia, none of Kerry's shipmates came forward, as they had on other issues, to corroborate his account. Two weeks ago Kerry's spokesmen began to backtrack. First, one campaign aide explained that Kerry had patrolled the Mekong Delta somewhere "between" Cambodia and Vietnam. But there is no between; there is a border. Then another spokesman told reporters that Kerry had been "near Cambodia." But the point of Kerry's 1986 speech was that he personally had taken part in a secret and illegal war in a neutral country. That was only true if he was "in Cambodia," as he had often said he was. If he was merely "near," then his deliberate misstatement falsified the entire speech.
Next, the campaign leaked a new version through the medium of historian Douglas Brinkley, author of "Tour of Duty," a laudatory book on Kerry's military service. Last week Brinkley told the London Telegraph that while Kerry had been 50 miles from the border on Christmas, he "went into Cambodian waters three or four times in January and February 1969 on clandestine missions." Oddly, though, while Brinkley devotes nearly 100 pages of his book to Kerry's activities that January and February, pinpointing the locations of various battles and often placing Kerry near Cambodia, he nowhere mentions Kerry's crossing into Cambodia, an inconceivable omission if it were true.
Now a new official statement from the campaign undercuts Brinkley. It offers a minimal (thus harder to impeach) claim: that Kerry "on one occasion crossed into Cambodia," on an unspecified date. But at least two of the shipmates who are supporting Kerry's campaign (and one who is not) deny their boat ever crossed the border, and their testimony on this score is corroborated by Kerry's own journal, kept while on duty. One passage reproduced in Brinkley's book says: "The banks of the [Rach Giang Thanh River] whistled by as we churned out mile after mile at full speed. On my left were occasional open fields that allowed us a clear view into Cambodia. At some points, the border was only fifty yards away and it then would meander out to several hundred or even as much as a thousand yards away, always making one wonder what lay on the other side." His curiosity was never satisfied, because this entry was from Kerry's final mission.
After his discharge, Kerry became the leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). Once, he presented to Congress the accounts by his VVAW comrades of having "personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires . . . to human genitals . . . razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan . . . poisoned foodstocks." Later it was shown that many of the stories on which Kerry based this testimony were false, some told by impostors who had stolen the identities of real GIs, but Kerry himself was not implicated in the fraud. And his own over-the-top generalization that such "crimes [were] committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command" could be charged up to youthfulness and the fevers of the times.
But Kerry has repeated his Cambodia tale throughout his adult life. He has claimed that the epiphany he had that Christmas of 1968 was about truthfulness. "One of the things that most struck me about Vietnam was how people were lied to," he explained in a subsequent interview. If -- as seems almost surely the case -- Kerry himself has lied about what he did in Vietnam, and has done so not merely to spice his biography but to influence national policy, then he is surely not the kind of man we want as our president.
Fortunately for Kerry, the Swift Boat Vets arrayed against him have wasted a lot of time arguing about the validity of Kerry's various medals. Any veteran knows all too well that where there are awards there are injustices. The Marquis in Stendahl's Red and the Black put it this way to the ambitious young social climber, Julien Sorel, the antihero of the novel: 'Medals are not earned, they are bestowed.' Any veteran hearing that line will nod ruefully in agreement.A sorta counter view here, saying, essentially, it was an honest mistake, maybe:
However, the Swiftvets may have scored a hit below the waterline on Kerry's candidacy with the collapse of the florid 'Christmas in Cambodia' fairytale Kerry has been flogging for 30 years to the press, in speeches, and in his own campaign publications and webpage. In a speech on the floor of the Senate Kerry called it one of the defining moments of his life.
But the Swiftvets forced Kerry to admit what his own journal and historian Douglas Brinkley's Tour of Duty showed—Kerry spent Christmas 50 miles from Cambodia in Sa Dec. So now Kerry says he misremembered —— his trips into Cambodia actually took place in January or February of the following year. His campaign has to back this up to save what is left of Kerry's credibility, before the embarrassed silence of the major media gives way to a real desire to find out what else Kerry may have lied about. And it's not going to be easy.
Kerry's memory failed earlier in March explaining that he couldn't remember his participation in a vote by a national meeting of hundreds of members of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War considering the assassination of six US Senators supporting the war effort in Vietnam back in November of 1971. He had been placed at the meeting by eyewitnesses, some who currently worked for his campaign, and contemporaneous FBI reports. Kerry was on the VVAW Executive Committee at the time, and when he was asked about it, he was a US Senator himself. He had denied being present. Now he admitted it must have slipped his mind.
This time Kerry has done exactly what he did the last time. He never personally answers the accusations. At least Bush replied directly to NBC's Tim Russert about the AWOL charge. Kerry leaves that task to his ever—changing spokesmen. And now the thankless job of trying to prove Kerry went on secret operations in Cambodia has been left to Kerry's official biographer Douglas Brinkley while Kerry goes on yet another vacation.
The available facts make Kerry's comment quite understandable. Given Kerry's stance on the war, it's safe to assume he was aware of and appalled by the Nixon administration's decision to expand the war into Cambodia. While he may or may not have ever actually entered Cambodia, Kerry probably went upriver far enough to have been near the border. And the incident regarding his being shot at (or near) by South Vietnamese troops probably happened as well. So, twenty-plus years later, his memory conflated those events during his Senate speech. Memory does that all the time. Is it possible Kerry intentionally lied to make his point about Nicaragua? Sure. But is there any evidence he did, as opposed to his simply making an error? Personally, unless there's a little more evidence showing that Kerry's statement was a calculated lie designed to advance his position, I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt.Of course, the comments get to the meat:
I don't know, Andrew. I'm a bit concerned that he didn't just conflate several real events, but that he also folded in the better part of a movie. And I disagree that there wasn't a big distinction between "near" Cambodia and "in" Cambodia.Over to you, Senator. Report for duty.
What concerns me is not so much that he "lied," which he probably did... but it's hard to determine intent. The real concern goes to judgment. What kinds of executive decisions are required of a President, and what does this say about Kerry's tendency to "fuzz the line" to an extraordinary degree. What decision involving war and peace in this "War on Terror" does not involve making judgments about the lesser of a number of evils, or the choice of a "guilty until proved innocent" paradigm vs. an "innocent until proved guilty" method? Hans Blix got completely lost in nuance, and simply couldn't distinguish between the two. And he's a bastion of clarity compared to Kerry and this "Xmas in Cambodia" thing.
More to the point, as Lileks observes, he claims this as a formative event in his life. Yet it appears to be an event that didn't actually happen. Was he ever in Cambodia, and just got the date's wrong? Was he watching the scene from Apocalypse Now as the swift boat pulled into the USO Christmas Party, and just allowed his memories to be rewritten?
This fellow was motivated by these false or at least seriously flawed memories to some rather significant anti-American behavior. What else is locked up in that inscrutable Boston blue-blood psyche? What might it motivate him to do, when confronted with a critical turning-point?
I don't know whether there's electoral gold in it for the Republicans, but it sure scares the hell out of me.