Patterico's Pontifications


New York Times Hit Piece on the Swift Vets Finally Comes Out

Filed under: Media Bias — Patterico @ 11:26 pm

Tomorrow, the New York Times will publish its expected hit piece on the Swift Boat Vets. The article accomplishes something that I would have thought impossible just two days ago. It makes the L.A. Times‘s coverage of the Swift Boat Vets look (almost) like responsible journalism.

To be sure, the New York Times takes a page from the L.A. Times playbook: prejudice the reader against the Vets before breathing a word of their actual accusations. But the New York paper takes this strategy to a new level.

I don’t think I have ever seen such a partisan hit piece in my life.

Blogger Impact on Big Journalism Continues

Filed under: Blogging Matters — Patterico @ 9:03 pm

My blogging friends continue to influence big-time journalism. First the Power Line guys print an op-ed in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Now a Washington Times editorial explicitly credits my good friend Ed Morrissey of the Captain’s Quarters blog for his excellent insights in this post. Way to go, Captain Ed!


Filed under: Blogging Matters — Patterico @ 6:24 pm

You know you’ve arrived when the Politburo Diktat has issued your Blog Stamp.

WaPo Story on Swift Boat Vet

Filed under: 2004 Election — Patterico @ 7:00 am

The Washington Post reports today: Records Counter a Critic of Kerry. The Post says that it obtained military records of Larry Thurlow, a Swift Boat Vet who has disputed Kerry’s account of his rescue of a fellow boatman. Although Thurlow has said that there was no enemy fire at the time the crew of a disabled boat was being rescued, Thurlow’s Bronze Star citation, obtained by the Post through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, says otherwise.

Thurlow was interviewed for the article and stands by his story. He says that if the basis for his own award was that the boats were under enemy fire, then his own award is “fraudulent.” He said that the language in his Bronze Star citation may have come from Kerry himself. He and other Swift Boat Vets have maintained that Kerry wrote the after-action report for the incident, a claim that the Post could not verify or refute:

Thurlow and other anti-Kerry veterans have repeatedly alleged that Kerry was the author of an after-action report that described how his boat came under enemy fire. Kerry campaign researchers dispute that assertion, and there is no convincing documentary evidence to settle the argument. As the senior skipper in the flotilla, Thurlow might have been expected to write the after-action report for March 13, but he said that Kerry routinely “duked the system” to present his version of events.

There remains a legitimate question as to why Thurlow accepted an award, the basis of which he now claims is fraudulent. (Thurlow says he hasn’t seen the award in 20 years, but he presumably read it when he received it.) However, this story, which is certain to be trumpeted as “proof” that Thurlow lied, is not absolutely conclusive on that issue — nor does it put to rest all of the other troubling questions raised by the Vets.

I am heartened to see some real reporting being done on the story, however it comes down. I note that the Post reporter didn’t simply ask Thurlow whether he could look at his records — he went out and got them:

[Thurlow] said he was unwilling to authorize release of his military records because he feared attempts by the Kerry campaign to discredit him and other anti-Kerry veterans.

The Post filed an independent request for the documents with the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, which is the central repository for veterans’ records. The documents were faxed to The Post by officials at the records center yesterday.

Hey — if the Post could do this for a single military veteran making allegations about John Kerry, maybe it could do the same for John Kerry himself, who (to my knowledge) still has not signed a standard Form 180 to allow the release of his complete military records.

UPDATE: A commenter explains that the Form 180 is necessary to release non-public information. So, Kerry’s failure to sign the form has the effect of denying voters the chance to review his complete military record. I wonder why he won’t sign it . . .

I also wonder why the initial refusal of former California gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon to release his tax returns was considered such big news by the L.A. Times — yet John Kerry’s refusal to sign the Form 180 doesn’t even merit a mention in the paper.

UPDATE x2: Beldar is completely unimpressed with the WaPo story, which he says establishes nothing. He points to a statement by Thurlow on the Swift Boat Vets’ site, which repeats Thurlow’s explanation cited in the story, and provides more detail to support his explanation that the language in the citation was probably written by Kerry.

I am still on the fence. My question remains the same: wouldn’t Thurlow have reviewed the language of the citation when he received it — and if so, why didn’t he speak up then?

I have posed this question to Beldar, and to the Swift Vets in an e-mail. If I get any enlightening responses, I’ll let you know. If anyone has any thoughts on the matter, please leave them in the comments.

UPDATE x3: Further reflection yields the following thought: which do you find more significant?

  • Assume the best-case scenario for the Kerry campaign. Thurlow receives a citation months after being shipped back. He reads it and fails to take any action to correct the record.


  • Kerry sees that the Swift Boat Vets are accusing him of making up the incident. Releasing military records would probably establish who is telling the truth. Yet Kerry, a candidate for President of the United States, refuses to take this simple step to correct the record.

Again: which do you find more significant? When I put it that way, it seems like a no-brainer.

If the Washington Post had provided its readers the full context (Kerry’s refusal to release relevant military records), this would be the obvious way to look at the issue. As it is, it took me most of the day to realize that this is the way to frame the issue.

UPDATE x4: And let’s not forget the evidence from Kerry’s own journal.

UPDATE x5: USA Today has more definitive information on when Thurlow read the language of the citation, and it was years ago:

Thurlow told USA TODAY that he assumed he had won the award for his efforts to assist injured sailors on the mine-damaged boat. He said he left Vietnam shortly after the incident and didn’t read the citation until he was back home in Kansas a few months later. “If being under fire is a requirement for getting that medal, then I didn’t earn it,” he said.

This is what I had assumed had happened: Thurlow read the citation when he got it. Wouldn’t you? I hope the Vets respond to my e-mail asking why Thurlow apparently didn’t take any action after reading this allegedly fraudulent citation.

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