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THEY LOVE THE SMELL OF A HOAX IN THE MORNING! John O’Neill’s gang is conducting a hoax. And the Washington “press” doesn’t care: // link //

TOMORROW—YOU DON’T HAVE A PRESS CORPS: MSNBC’s performance Thursday night was perhaps the worst we’ve ever witnessed. Matthews, Olbermann, Norville, Buchanan—we take you right through the whole litter.

THEY LOVE THE SMELL OF A HOAX IN THE MORNING: Another veteran has now affirmed Kerry’s account of the Bronze Star events—the incident in which he saved Jim Rassmann’s life. The new vet’s name is Robert Lambert—and no, he says he doesn’t plan to vote for Kerry in November. But Lambert was there in the Bay Hap River when Kerry pulled Rassmann out of the drink, and he too says there was enemy fire, just as it says on Kerry’s citation. Tired of reading Swift Boat Veteran bull, Lambert spoke with his local newspaper. Paul Fattig did the profile for the Jackson County (Oregon) Mail Tribune. Note: Lambert served on the boat commanded by Larry Thurlow, one of Kerry’s chief accusers:

FATTIG (8/26/04): Lambert, now 64, was a crew member on swift boat PCF-51 that day. The boat was commanded by Navy Lt. Larry Thurlow, a now-retired officer who questions why Kerry was awarded a Bronze star for bravery and a third Purple Heart for the March 13 incident.

“He and another officer now say we weren’t under fire at that time,” Lambert said Wednesday afternoon. “Well, I sure was under the impression we were.”

Lambert’s Bronze Star medal citation for the incident praises his courage under fire in the aftermath of a mine explosion that rocked another swift boat on that day 35 years ago.

“Anytime you are blown out of the water like that, they always follow that up with small arms fire,” he said.

So let’s go to the scoreboard again, the one we toted on Monday. Every crewman on Kerry’s boat says they were under hostile fire. Rassmann, the man whose life was saved, says there was hostile fire too. And now, three different crewmen from two other boats have also come forward to describe hostile fire. Let’s make sure we recall who they are. You won’t hear about them on cable:
  1. Wayne Langhofer, PCF-43 (skipper: Dan Droz). Reported by the Washington Post, 8/22/04.
  2. Jim Russell, PCF-43 (skipper: Dan Droz). Reported by the Associated Press, 8/23/04.
  3. Robert Lambert, PCF-51 (skipper: Larry Thurlow). Reported by the Mail Tribune, 8/26/04.
These men join Kerry’s entire crew and Rassmann in saying there was enemy fire. Meanwhile, Newsweek’s John Barry reported yesterday that Lambert’s Bronze Star citation describes “small-arms and automatic weapons fire from the river banks.” There was no chance that this account could have come from Kerry, he said.

Nor is this the only incident in which Kerry has received recent support. On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune’s William Rood wrote a front-page essay supporting Kerry’s account of the Silver Star incident, in which Kerry saved the lives of his crew. Aside from Kerry himself, Rood is the only surviving officer who witnessed the events of that day. Rood complained that the Swift Boat Vets were “armed with stories I know to be untrue.” He twice mentioned John O’Neill by name, directly contradicting his accounts of this incident. (In today’s New York Times, the widow of that day’s third officer also supports Kerry’s view. More below.)

Readers, isn’t it time for America’s “journalists” to conduct a damage assessment? More specifically, isn’t it time for the lords and ladies to confront the slander campaign against Kerry—a campaign that is changing America’s White House election? Given the Swift Boat Vets’ endless clowning—their phony affidavits; their changing stories; their blatant misstatements; their unavailable “witnesses”—can America’s somnolent press fail to see that a problem exists?

Can they catch the smell of a hoax in the air? Are they able to care about hoaxes?

In fact, our nation’s somnnolent press is slow to sniff out false accusers. They like to assume that “there must be some truth” when accusers make charges, however kooky. In 1992, the corps was played for fools by the gang of Arkansans who managed to gin up the Whitewater hoax. And they praised sex-accusers like Kathleen Willey—then refused to let you know when Independent Counsel Robert Ray called her a blatant liar (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/10/03—do not miss). When the RNC made up tales about Gore, the lords and ladies ran to repeat them, pimping the nonsense for two solid years. Yes, your “press corps” loves those accusers—and they’re slow to smell a rat. But by now is it difficult, even for them, to catch the stink of these Kerry accusers? The stink of rancid Steve Gardner, for example—the man who told Douglas Brinkley in March that he had “no trouble shooting gooks?”At the time, Brinkley, writing for Time, described a curious situation. All Kerry’s crewmates admired his leadership. Except for one hold-out—Steve Gardner:

BRINKLEY (3/9/04): Every sailor who served under Lieutenant John Kerry on Swift boats PCF-44 and PCF-94 have gushed about his poise under enemy fire. They tell stories of his rescuing a Green Beret from drowning, killing a Viet Cong sniper, and saving 42 Vietnamese civilians from starvation. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway they claim that in combat Kerry exemplified “grace under pressure.” But PCF-44 Gunner’s Mate Stephen M. Gardner—in a long telephone interview from his home in Clover, South Carolina—has a starkly different memory. “Kerry was chickenshit,” he insists. “Whenever a firefight started he always pulled up stakes and got the hell out of Dodge.”
Brinkley quoted another crew member, Jim Wasser, puzzling over Gardner’s “weird grudge” and his “dead wrong” recollections. After speaking with Gardner, Brinkley offered his view. It was pure politics, he said:
BRINKLEY: After interviewing Gardner for over an hour it essentially boils down to one word: politics. A strong supporter of President George W. Bush, Gardner is sickened by the idea of Kerry as president. “Anybody but Kerry,” he says. “I know what a disaster he’d be.” So what brought Gardner out in the open? The answer turns out to be Rush Limbaugh’s talk show.
Good God! We strongly suggest that you read this profile. (According to Brinkley, Gardner “was nicknamed ‘The Wild Man’ by his crewmates for his hair-trigger penchant for firing M-60s into the mangrove thicket.”) No, Brinkley’s view can’t be taken as gospel. But as pundits watch Gardner’s rants on TV, can they avoid a sense of unease with this man whose accounts they’ve helped peddle?

Yes, the sailors—and documents—keep coming forward, supporting Kerry’s account of events. And yes—the misstatements and clowning of the Swift Boat Veterans are still pimped all across cable. Can the press corps fail to smell the hoax—the latest one they have helped peddle? Isn’t it time they stood on their feet and resisted the coup they’ve helped sell?

GARDNER DOES DEBORAH: But alas! Your “press corps” doesn’t resist hoaxes real well. Indeed, how easily can this gang be fooled? Let’s watch Gardner as he pissed all over Deborah Norville last night. How easily can the press be misled? Norville began her program with Gardner. After an astonishingly incompetent start (more tomorrow), she cited the one specific event she actually seemed to have heard of:

NORVILLE (8/26/04): You talked about Christmas in Cambodia in 1968. That seems to be the one question mark that continues to be there and that’s dogging Senator Kerry. He has said that he was on the Cambodian border on Christmas of 1968. He also said that President Nixon was president at that time; Lyndon Johnson would have been at the time. Were you’all anywhere close to Cambodia?
For the record, Kerry seems to have made the misstatement about Nixon on one occasion, in 1979. (In a movie review!) Meanwhile, it’s odd that Norville still asks such entry-level questions, since many facts of this matter have been clarified in the past few weeks. (Some have not.) But on last night’s program, Norville displayed almost no knowledge of any part of the Swift Boat affair. And Gardner, of course, took total advantage. “Were you anywhere close to Cambodia?” His answer was absurdly disingenuous:
GARDNER (continuing directly): Well, let’s clarify what you just said. John Kerry has already admitted that he was not in Cambodia when he was—on Christmas of 1968. He was setting in the city of Sa Dec, which is a small town fifty-some miles from the Cambodian border. Now that’s in his words, from his diary.
And yes, that is in Kerry’s diary. Kerry spent the evening of December 24 in Sa Dec, as Brinkley notes in Tour of Duty (page 219), quoting Kerry’s journal. But as Gardner knows—though Norville does not—Brinkley spends the ten previous pages describing the rest of that “memorable” day. Were they anywhere close to Cambodia? The answer to Norville’s question was quite simple—yes:
BRINKLEY (page 209): Christmas Eve, 1968, turned out to be memorable for the men of PCF-44 though not in the jingle-bells sense folks were enjoying back home. The only concession to the holiday spirit was that morning’s rare breakfast of scrambled eggs, after which the crew headed their Swift north [from Sa Dec] up the Co Chien river to its junction with the My Tho only miles from the Cambodian border.
Pitiful, isn’t it? For the next ten pages, Brinkley—quoting from Kerry’s journal—describes the firefights the crew engaged in that day. For Wasser, the combat this day was life-changing (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/26/04)—and yes, these events took place “at a bend just as they were approaching the Cambodian border” (page 214). Were they anywhere near the Cambodian border? The answer was simple—yes, they were. And Gardner, who was on the boat that day, knew they hadn’t just sat in Sa Dec. But knowing that Norville was unprepared, he played the grinning blonde for a fool. But then, as we’ve noted all week long, this is the nightly pattern on cable. Swift Boat Vets make misleading, false or irrelevant statements. Millionaire hosts gaze off sweetly off into air.

Should the press be getting the smell of a hoax? Your press corps doesn’t smell hoaxes real well. But it is quite easy to treat them like fools. Indeed, let’s watch O’Neill piss on Buchanan.

O’NEILL DOES BUCHANAN: America’s pundits are easy to fool. Example? On August 10, John O’Neill went to Scarborough Country and pissed right in Pat Buchanan’s face. He could do so because Buchanan, his guest host that night, was unprepared on the matters at hand. Like Norville, Buchanan asked about Christmas Eve in Cambodia. Like Gardner, O’Neill had some fun:

O’NEILL (8/10/04): This is a total and complete lie. If John Kerry can prove that he was in Cambodia on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day of 1968, he should go down and sue me tomorrow morning. It's a lie he's told over and over and over again. It libels everybody that commanded him. It's the typical prototype sort of war crime charge that John Kerry makes that is a lie. John Kerry was at Sa Dec. He was at Sa Dec from a letter to his parents, according to—

BUCHANAN: How far is Sa Dec from Cambodia?

O'NEILL: Fifty-five miles—55 miles, Pat. And he was writing a letter, according to his book, Tour of Duty, about how he had visions of sugar plums in his head, literally. That's in the book Tour of Duty, from which Cambodia disappears. It's a terrible libel and a lie.

The book “from which Cambodia disappears?” As O’Neill knew well—and as his host did not—Cambodia is all over Brinkley’s book on December 24, 1968. No, Kerry doesn’t seem to have entered Cambodia that day. But O’Neill played Buchanan for a fool with that answer. In Tour of Duty, Kerry writes that letter to his parents after a full day of firefights near the Cambodian border. But you know O’Neill! He wanted voters to think that Kerry lounged the day away in Sa Dec. And so he pissed right in Pat’s leathery face. And Pat was quite happy to let him.

Should the press be concerned by this endless dissembling? Should the press be concerned when Swift Boat Vets sign affidavits about events they didn’t witness? When Swift Boat Vets appear in ads discussing matters without first-hand knowledge? When O’Neill goes on This Week and blatantly lies? Should the press be concerned by the latest hoax—by an assault on another election?

For us, there’s the smell of a hoax in the air. But your national “press corps” just loves those accusers! Indeed, we’ve long told you—you don’t have a press corps! This month, the somnolent scribes of the national “press” are proving our case once again. In the days ahead, we’ll try to explain what they ought to be doing.

HE LIES ABOUT THE HONORED DEAD: When Rood stepped forward to support Kerry, he described his own role in the Silver Star matter:

ROOD (8/22/04): There were three swift boats on the river that day in Vietnam more than 35 years ago—three officers and 15 crew members. Only two of those officers remain to talk about what happened on February 28, 1969.

One is John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate who won a Silver Star for what happened on that date. I am the other.

The third officer that day was a man named Dan Droz. He died on April 12, 1969, in Vietnam. But in this morning’s New York Times, his widow describes the pride he expressed, in person and in writing, about that Silver Star event and the Bronze event too. In the latter incident, Droz was the officer on PCF-43, the boat behind Kerry’s. This is important because of a remarkable lie O’Neill told to George Stephanopoulos.

Remember—we’re now discussing the Bronze Star event, in which Kerry saved Jim Rassmann’s life.

How slimy a man is John O’Neill? He lies in the name of the honored dead. Here’s the head hoaxer on This Week, lying about Daniel Droz:

O’NEILL (8/22/04): Now let's move to the question of was there enemy fire when he finally returned? Here's what we have. We have ten different people, every other officer on the scene that day, all of whom, four of them, who say there was no enemy fire after the original mine. We have six enlisted men—

JOHN PODESTA: [pointless, ineffective interruption]

O'NEILL: Just a second, just a second. I can understand why you don't want to talk about it. This is a creek that is 75 yards wide. There, there, they were there for an hour a half trying to save this boat, not John Kerry, but the other guys who were there an hour a half. There's not a bullet-hole anywhere.

“Not a bullet-hole anywhere”—a blatant misstatement. But that other statement was blatantly false too—the amazing statement about the four officers. After all, one of the four other officers that day was Kerry’s friend, the late Daniel Droz. Does O’Neill now claim to speak for the dead? Here’s what Droz’s widow says about his view of these matters:
JUDITH DROZ KEYES (8/27/04): On Feb. 28, 1969, my husband was the commander of one of three Swift boats traveling the Dong Cung in Vietnam to carry troops and supplies upriver [Silver Star incident]. The events of that day, and what happened almost two weeks later on another Swift boat patrol [Bronze Star incident], have become a source of controversy in the presidential campaign, with a group of veterans saying that John Kerry did not deserve the medals he won for what he did then. I know my husband thought otherwise.
“I know my husband thought otherwise,” she says, referring to O’Neill’s nasty accounts of the Bronze and Silver Star events. She describes a letter she received from her husband, and personal conversations they had two weeks before his death.

Yes, Daniel Droz died in Vietnam. And last Sunday, O’Neill went on This Week and lied about Droz, right in Stephanopoulos’ face. But can your “press corps” smell a dissembler? Stephanopoulos gazed into air as O’Neill lied about the honored dead.