Wednesday, August 11, 2004

swift perspective

I heard Steve Gardner on a local talk show today, and I'm sorry to report that he sounds extremely believable. I may be a pushover, but I'm nearly convinced that he believes he's telling the truth.

Gardner is particularly damaging because he actually served as the gunner on Kerry's boat for the first 2 month Kerry was skipper. He tells very detailed stories that show Kerry in an extremely unflattering light, the common refrain is always that Kerry's a coward and he panicked, he always cut and run, he always shied from danger, etc.

Not being completely clueless about this issue, I was able to catch some blatant untruths. For example, he claimed, several times during the interview, that his group had "proven" that Kerry's first two Purple Hearts were the result of self-inflicted injuries, that Kerry had twice "turn[ed] a self-inflicted injury into a Purple Heart". He claimed that in spite of their "proof" they're getting shut down by everyone. As far as I can tell, the proof he's talking about is the sort of alternate interpretation of documents and personal recollections that only serve to convince the already inclined.

However, one thing they're being extremely clever about. On several occasions I've researched a particular accusation and discovered that Kerry's own accounts provide an opening for these alternate interpretations they're offering. For example, one story I heard concerned the Bronze Star incident, in which several boats were traveling together, 3 on the left and two (including Kerry's) on the right. The SBV story was that when the left lead boat hit a mine, Kerry immediately hightailed it away from the "kill zone", but then somehow reappeared after the fact to rescue Rassman. If you read Kerry's account, he also says he directed his boat away from the explosion, until Sandusky, who was piloting the boat, pointed out that the damaged boat's passengers were in trouble, at which point he directed Sandusky to turn around and go back to the scene, at which point they rescued Rassman.

If I were a suspicious person, I'd wonder if this new book was the result of exhaustive research into Kerry's statements and records over the past 30 years, looking for likely openings.

In the end, though, what I know--because they keep telling us--is that Gardner and others feel absolutely betrayed by Kerry's actions after returning from Vietnam. They consider him a traitor and, as Gardner mentioned, directly responsible for POW suffering at the end of the war. Whether Gardner believes his stories, or whether he believes Kerry deserves to be taken down for his post-war actions, his belief lends an unfortunate credibility to his stories that facts cannot.