Pressing work demands caused me to miss the fact that the L.A. Times on Wednesday wrote a story claiming that John Kerry has now released all his military records. Not only did L.A. Times reporter and Kerry sycophant Stephen Braun fail even to mention the fact that Kerry’s grades were lower than Bush’s (a fact emphasized by the nation’s other major papers), he’s once again making it sound like the complete file has been released.
Don’t trust him.
The article is titled Kerry Makes His Military, Medical File Available. The sub-head reads: “The former presidential candidate’s Vietnam records, including a missing document, offer no surprises. Critics say papers are incomplete.” And the beginning of the article wastes no time in telling us that the critics are liars, because (the article claims) the file is indeed complete:
All through last year’s presidential race, Vietnam-era critics of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) charged that he was trying to hide something by refusing to authorize the public release of his entire military and medical file.
On Tuesday, Kerry provided access to his complete records. The long-awaited documents contained no bombshells, and his enemies still were not satisfied.
Note that the article doesn’t say: “Kerry provided access to what he claimed were his complete records.” It says simply that the records are complete.
But wait, Stephen Braun! Didn’t you tell us during the election that Kerry had already made his military records available? Why, yes — you did! In an article published on August 17, 2004, you wrote:
[Kerry's] staff has directed critics to the Massachusetts senator’s military records, which have been posted on his website.
You didn’t say “some of” his records were posted on his web site, Mr. Braun. You said the records were posted on his web site — which any voter naive enough to trust your reporting would have taken to mean that Kerry had released all of his military records.
You were wrong then. Why should we believe you now?
Critically, the sheaf of documents reviewed by Braun was not provided to him directly by the government, but by Kerry’s office:
The 180-page sheaf of medal commendations, officer’s fitness reports and medical entries released under federal guidelines by Kerry’s Senate office provided a few new nuggets of information about his 1968 to 1969 stint as a Swift boat commander during the Vietnam War.
So how in the world does Stephen Braun claim to know that the documents he reviewed are “complete”? He doesn’t say. And what the “critics” say — buried far, far down in the story — sounds pretty convincing:
[A] former Swift boat officer who led the Navy veterans’ bitter public campaign against Kerry demanded more Tuesday, saying that the file was incomplete.
“We asked him to universally release his entire file, and what we’ve seen instead is a parceling out of incomplete records,” said John O’Neill, a Houston lawyer who was a founder of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The group last year mounted a well-bankrolled advertising campaign to undermine Kerry’s wartime pedigree.
O’Neill expressed doubt that Kerry’s latest document release included material from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. But David Wade, a Kerry spokesman, said that the request to Navy Personnel Command to release documents extended to all government record repositories.
That’s good enough for me! If a Kerry spokesman said it, it must be true!
In a phone interview from Houston, O’Neill said the Swift boat group was pressing for information about three unresolved controversies from the 2004 race: Kerry’s disputed contention that his Swift boat had entered Cambodian waters about December 1968; wording discrepancies among several versions of Kerry’s medal commendations; and a perceived lag between Kerry’s discharge from the Navy in 1970 and a later departure date in 1978.
“If he made a true universal release of his records and not through selective journalists, maybe we could get to the records that would answer some of these questions,” O’Neill said. “If there were orders, for example, that sent him to Cambodia, they should be in his file.”
Navy archives are sometimes incomplete, and Kerry’s latest document release contained no new information on any of those controversies.
That sounds like some decent evidence that the records are incomplete. I’m missing the part that substantiates the unequivocal assertion made in the second sentence of the article: “On Tuesday, Kerry provided access to his complete records.”
Once again, we are seeing a potentially selective release of records by John Kerry, and once again Stephen Braun is falling for it . . . or trying to get you to fall for it.
And you wonder why I want to file my own FOIA request.
UPDATE: Braun should sit down and have a talk with Thomas H. Lipscomb, who has a recent piece in the Chicago Sun-Times. He also has some real questions about whether Kerry has really released all his records.
UPDATE x2: I remembered that Braun did a pretty good story about Kerry’s sometimes awkward ad-libbing, described here. So, while he is overly credulous on the issue of the records, he is capable of writing a good story.
UPDATE x3: The post originally used the erroneous phrase “Thomas H. Lipscomb of the Chicago Sun-Times.” Mr. Lipscomb’s piece was an op-ed. The post has been corrected.
UPDATE x4 [9-14-06]: Apparently all of the Form 180s called for the documents to be sent to the journalists themselves; you can see them here. Braun simply worded the story poorly, leaving the impression that they had been released though Kerry’s office.