The Right Coast

August 19, 2004
That was annoying
By Tom Smith

Glen Reynolds was right on in predicting how the mainstream media would spin the Swiftboat story, as least as far as Jim Lehrer goes. You can read his interview with John O'Neill here. Thomas Oliphant (whom I can never look at without imagining him in one of those propeller beanies) was there to uphold the honor of the daily press. I thought he was pathetic, but my lovely wife Jeanne thought he did OK.

Most annoying was Oliphant's repeating, over and over, that O'Neill's allegations simply did not live up to the standards of evidence required by the legitimate press. Oh please. It's rather late in the day to stand on the daily papers' claim to journalistic objectivity. O'Neill says he has sworn statements from eight officers and four sailors to the effect that Kerry left the scene of the incident of the action for which Kerry got his bronze star, and only came back later. The testimony of 12 eyewitnesses is evidence, and a lot more than the one or two anonymous sources behind many stories in the regular press.

Then there's this instructive exchange:

JIM LEHRER: Excuse me. [Green Beret rescued by Kerry] Rassmann says there was [hostile] fire.
JOHN O'NEILL: He does.
JIM LEHRER: He says there was fire from both... is that not right?
TOM OLIPHANT: He says, as does the citation and the Bronze Stars awarded both to Kerry and to this fellow who has a memory now of the facts that is contradicted by the facts as cited in his own medal --
JIM LEHRER: Go ahead --
JOHN O'NEILL: His own medal citation was produced 100 miles north based on Kerry's own report. He got it after he left Vietnam.
The next major problem I have is you need to understand this is a 75-yard-wide canal. These boats were sitting there, the four boats, stable, totally there for an hour-and-a-half trying to save the three boat.
Nobody was wounded. There is no bullet hole in any boat. There is no damage of any kind. So the problems they have are massive and multiple.
JIM LEHRER: We cannot resolve that here. . . .

In other words, unless the VC/NVA were shooting blanks or blindfolded, it's hard to believe there was fire, as Kerry claimed. And the physics of the story seem consistent with no hostile fire. As between eyewitness testimony and the account of a guy who was in effect applying for a citation, the former seems at least as credible. So, time to change the subject!

Also, check this out:

JOHN O'NEILL: Jim, one other thing, they can look at, which is the web site that has a great deal of information on it.
JIM LEHRER: Is there a web site that's comparable to that? I'm sure the Kerry --
TOM OLIPHANT: Yes, it's called the daily press, which is the most difficult thing for these guys to deal with.

Too, too funny. Oliphant says that what the Swiftvets are for Bush, the daily papers are for Kerry. Meaning what? Surrogates? That's correct, but Oliphant probably didn't mean to say it quite that way.