Companion site:


Google search...


Daily Howler logo
UNFIT FOR COMMAND! On cable, your hosts are unfit for command. They make this quite clear every night: // link //

MUST-READ NYT: Doo-doo-doo-doo/Doo-doo-doo-doo! Yes, the theme from Twilight Zone ran though our heads as we read Kate Zernike’s piece this morning. How do those Swift Boat veterans reason? Kerry-accuser Larry Thurlow explains how he knows that Kerry wrote the after-action reports that produced his own Vietnam medals:
ZERNIKE (8/20/04): Several veterans insist that Mr. Kerry wrote his own reports, pointing to the initials K.J.W. on one of the reports and saying they are Mr. Kerry's. ''What's the W for, I cannot answer,'' said Larry Thurlow, who said his boat was 50 to 60 yards from Mr. Kerry's. Mr. Kerry's middle initial is F, and a Navy official said the initials refer to the person who had received the report at headquarters, not the author.
Doo-doo-doo-doo/Doo-doo-doo-doo! To Thurlow’s way of thinking, if it contains a K and a J, that must mean that John Kerry wrote it! Yes, it seems that Thurlow will follow the evidence anywhere his imagination might lead. But so what? Thurlow was all over cable last night, insisting that Kerry wrote (and faked) these key reports (although, when pressed, he said he couldn’t prove it). No, sometimes the Swift Vets don’t reason real good. But then, if Zernike’s following paragraph is accurate, it seems they sometimes invent their facts too. Zernike writes about the action for which Kerry received his Bronze Star:
ZERNIKE: A damage report to Mr. Thurlow's boat shows that it received three bullet holes, suggesting enemy fire, and later intelligence reports indicate that one Vietcong was killed in action and five others wounded, reaffirming the presence of an enemy. Mr. Thurlow said the boat was hit the day before. He also received a Bronze Star for the day, a fact left out of ''Unfit for Command.''
Say what? Thurlow’s boat had three bullet holes? Last night, John O’Neill was all over cable, saying something totally different. But then, he always makes this pleasing point. Here he was on Hannity & Colmes, a bastion of careful fact-checking:
O’NEILL (8/19/04): Not a single person was wounded after the original mine explosion. There's not a bullet hole in any of those three boats, not one.
O’Neill has said this again and again. It helps him claim there was no hostile fire the day that Kerry got his Bronze. And cable hosts never challenge the claim. It tends to be like that on cable.

So O’Neill may have a fake/phony fact. And Thurlow seems to enjoy loopy logic. But one other point is worth reviewing in Zernike’s lengthy piece today—a point about Kerry’s first Purple Heart. Doo-doo-doo-doo/Doo-doo-doo-doo! We’re back in The Zone once again:

ZERNIKE: The [Swift Boat group] also offers the account of William L. Schachte Jr., a retired rear admiral who says in the book that he had been on the small skimmer on which Mr. Kerry was injured that night in December 1968. He contends that Mr. Kerry wounded himself while firing a grenade.

But the two other men who acknowledged that they had been with Mr. Kerry, Bill Zaladonis and Mr. Runyon, say they cannot recall a third crew member. ''Me and Bill aren't the smartest, but we can count to three,'' Mr. Runyon said in an interview. And even Dr. Letson said he had not recalled Mr. Schachte until he had a conversation with another veteran earlier this year and received a subsequent phone call from Mr. Schachte himself.

Mr. Schachte did not return a telephone call, and a spokesman for the group said he would not comment.

Doo-doo-doo-doo! Until recently, everyone agreed that only two men were on the craft with Kerry that night. But uh-oh! Zaladonis and Runyon both supported Kerry’s account of the Purple Heart incident. So presto! Schachte now says he was on the boat, too—and he claims that Kerry wounded himself. And wouldn’t you know it? If you try to call Schachte up to discuss it, you’re told he just won’t have a comment!

Doo-doo-doo-doo! Doo-doo-doo-doo! What are the facts about these cases? Zernike’s piece can’t settle all that. But on cable, uninformed hosts slumber and swoon, unable to deal with the claims of the vets. In a word, they’re unprepared. You might call them “unfit for command.”

UNFIT FOR COMMAND: We couldn’t help chuckling as we watched last night’s Hardball. Amazing! Host Chris Matthews is now upset by the trivial issues that drive our elections! Chris was chatting with David Gergen. Try to believe that he said it:

MATTHEWS (8/19/04): My concern is that if we’re going to have a serious election in this country, not one about personality like last time—and I was as affected by that personality issue as anybody, I can tell you that—how are we going to get back to talking about the war that’s going on now?...How come we’re talking about a war that’s thirty years ago?
All of a sudden, Matthews wants to have “a serious election,” “not one about personality like last time.” But why is that such a total laugh? Because, as Matthews obliquely acknowledged, no one made a bigger joke out of Campaign 2000 than he did, with his bald-faced lying about Candidate Gore and his two solid years of nasty name-calling. Matthews clowned as few others did—and his cohort’s War Against Gore eventually put George Bush in the White House. But now Matthews wants to see Bush replaced—and he hopes for a “serious” campaign.

But readers, if Matthews wants a serious election, why won’t he do some serious homework? Last night, he battered Thurlow around, challenging him about several claims. And indeed: Right off the bat, another shaky claim was offered. But Matthews, hopelessly unprepared, didn’t know how shaky it was. The host was unfit for command.

The battle was joined fairly quickly. Quickly, Thurlow made a charge—Kerry’s first Purple Heart was a hoax:

MATTHEWS (8/19/04): Tell me about the time you discovered that [Kerry] wasn’t honest about his account of events. When did you first discover that habit of his, as you say?

THURLOW: Well, on a first-hand basis, I understood that the Purple Heart that he received at Cam Ranh Bay was fabricated and wasn’t based on any factuality at all, but—

MATTHEWS: How did you learn that, sir?

THURLOW: I learned that from the people who had been with him at that time, when he reported that he received an injury from hostile fire, when in fact, there was none.

So Thurlow learned Kerry’s first Heart was a hoax. And wow! He learned this from “the people who had been with him at that time, when he reported that he received an injury from hostile fire, when in fact, there was none.” In response, Matthews struggled to get a name. With apologies, we’ll provide the whole exchange:
MATTHEWS (continuing directly): Who was the person who told you this, that he didn’t deserve the Purple Heart?

THURLOW: The people—keep in mind—

MATTHEWS: Can you give me a name, sir?

THURLOW: The name I would give you, after the fact, is Dr. Letson.

MATTHEWS: No. At the time. At the time. You said at the time this happened you discovered he had a habit of fabricating the truth.

THURLOW: I can’t give you a specific name. It was a crew member that came from Cam Ranh Bay to our division.

MATTHEWS: But could you help us figure out who it might be? You’re saying the man had a record of not being honest about his battle bravery. I just want to know how we know this is true or not.

THURLOW: OK. The only name that comes to mind now is a guy that is actually a member of our group. But what I’m telling you is the story—

MATTHEWS: What‘s his name? We want to talk to him.

THURLOW: Steve Gardner.

MATTHEWS: Since he’s your—since he’s your source, we just want to know who he is.

THURLOW: Steve Gardner.

MATTHEWS: Steve Gardner. And he told you at the time that John Kerry received his first Purple Heart that he didn’t deserve it?

THURLOW: Well, what happened is he said that he received an injury due to a mistake he made when he fired an M-79 close aboard and was hit by his own shrapnel. That doesn’t constitute a Purple Heart. You‘ve got to be injured by hostile fire.

MATTHEWS: And he told you that at the time? Steve Gardner—in other words, if I get him on the show, he’ll say he told you, Mr. Thurlow, at the time this happened, that he didn’t deserve—

THURLOW: He’s going to say—

MATTHEWS: —that John Kerry got an award he didn’t deserve?

THURLOW: He’s going to say that he reported—John Kerry was awarded the Purple Heart eventually. Or actually, he‘s going to tell you that John Kerry applied for a Purple Heart that he did not merit.

MATTHEWS: At the time he told you. OK, let’s go on to the issue of the Bronze Star, which is far more important here.

Under pressure, Thurlow coughed up a name—Steve Gardner. But alas! If Matthews was even minimally prepared, he’d have known that Gardner wasn’t present, in any way, during the incident in question. (This fact is not is dispute. Only Zaladonis and Runyon—and now Schachte—were there.) But you know Matthews! He’s been stressing this story for over a week, but hasn’t done even minimal prep. Thurlow named an irrelevant name. And Matthews jumped to the next topic.

But this is happening all over cable as “liberal” defenders of Kerry step forward. Indeed, Lawrence O’Donnell, defending hard, can’t even bother to get the names right. Last week, he was still calling Jim Rassmann “Jim Rasmussen.” Last night, on a trip to Scarborough Country, he kept referring to “Larry Furlow.” On this one, they’re trying to help Kerry out, but they’re simply too lazy to master the facts. We hope you’re happy with your new heroes. To us, they’re unfit for command.

TOUGH-TALKIN’ MALKIN: Alas! Chris was also caught short on his facts when he battled tough-talkin’ Michelle Malkin. Their exchange is becoming a cause celebre, with Matthews praised for defending Kerry. But once again, the host lacked facts. The man is paid millions of dollars a year. And he simply won’t do basic homework.

Did Kerry deliberately shoot himself in Vietnam? No one has ever made this claim (although the Vets do like to imply it). Indeed, John O’Neill was asked about it last night on the NewsHour. Here’s his exchange with Jim Lehrer:

O’NEILL (8/19/04): What we’ve said is his first and third Purple Hearts, which he used to leave Vietnam very early, after about four months, we’ve said that there is almost conclusive evidence that they were fraudulent—that is, that they resulted from self-inflicted wounds—

LEHRER: Self-inflicted—he intentionally wounded himself?

O’NEILL: Oh no. He didn’t intentionally wound himself...He wounded himself with his own grenade. He didn’t mean to.

No, even the Vets aren’t making that charge. But tough-talkin’ Malkin didn’t quite know it, and, hounded by Kerry-defendin’ Chris, she was soon saying something quite different. We suggest you scan the whole exchange. But here is one part of the tussle:
MATTHEWS: No. No one has ever accused him of shooting himself on purpose.

MALKIN: Yes. Some of them say that.

MATTHEWS: Tell me where that—

MALKIN: Self-inflicted wounds—in February 1969.

MATTHEWS: This is not a show for this kind of talk. Are you accusing him of shooting himself on purpose to avoid combat or to get credit?

This is not a show for that kind of talk! Someone should really go tell Gore. When did that become the practice? At any rate, Malkin eventually named two names. Citing the Boston Globe’s Kerry bio, she seemed to say that Runyon and Zaladonis have said that Kerry may have shot himself on purpose. For herself, she said she “wasn’t sure” if Kerry had done such a thing:
MATTHEWS: I want a statement from you on this program, say to me right now, that you believe he shot himself to get credit for a Purple Heart.

MALKIN: I’m not sure! I’m saying—

MATTHEWS: Then why did you say it?

MALKIN: I’m talking about what’s in the book!

But alas—it isn’t in the book. As noted above, Runyon and Zaladonis were Kerry’s two crew-mates during his first Purple Heart incident. But both are loyal Kerry-defenders. In the Globe bio, neither man says anything about Kerry shooting himself on purpose. Indeed, you can read Runyon’s account of the Purple Heart incident in Zernike’s piece this morning. “It was the scariest night of my life,” he says, just as he always has done.

So Malkin threw out a pair of names—names of men who are Kerry defenders. She seemed to say that they’ve charged Kerry with shooting himself, when in fact, they’ve defended Kerry’s accounts. But you know Chris! He showed no sign of knowing this, just as he seemed to be totally clueless when Thurlow attributed his knowledge to Gardner. In a word, Matthews is unprepared. Let’s say it: “Unfit for command.”

Yes, last night’s Hardball was quite a show. For our money, here was the high point:

MALKIN: Did you read the section in the book—

MATTHEWS: I want a statement from you on this program, say to me right, that you believe he shot himself to get credit for a Purple Heart.

“Did you read the section in the book!” Malkin has a lot to learn! On this matter, Matthews is going to take up for Kerry; he no longer likes the world his two-year trashing of Gore produced. But no, he won’t be reading books, and he won’t be aware of basic facts. On cable, your hosts are unfit for command. That make this quite clear every night.