PROFILES IN COWARDICE (PART 2)! William Raspberry has no thoughts about those rough Swift Boat men:
TUESDAY, AUGUST 31, 2004
PART 2—RASPBERRY JELLY: What an embarrassment Rudy Giuliani was last night at his beloved Garden! Treating delegates like visiting rubes, the fake old man had this to say about Mr. Flip-Flop, John Kerry:
GIULIANI: He even, at one point, declared himself as an anti-war candidate. And now he says he's a pro-war candidate!Except that, no, he actually doesnt. Kerry doesnt say hes a pro-war candidate—and every journalist in America knows it. But so what? Half-witted delegates laughed and nodded, pleased to be treated like fools by their host. And Rudy wasnt about to deprive them of their dumbest and most pleasing moment:
GIULIANI: My point about John Kerry being inconsistent is best described in his own words, not mine. I quote John Kerry: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."Groan. Incredibly, Rudy lied to the delegates just a bit more as he completed this scripted recitation:
GIULIANI (continuing directly): Maybe this explains John Edwards' need for two Americas.But of course, it wasnt exactly the same thing in those two Senate votes, as Giuliani and every big journalist knows. But so what? They also know the rules of our broken debate. Giuliani is permitted to lie, making fools of the out-of-town rubes. Dumb and dumber our discourse gets as Democrats show they cant fight back—and as our press corps shows that it lacks the courage to steward our national discourse.
Yes, your mainstream press corps lacks the courage required of actual journalists. For example, how cowardly has the press corps been in the face of the past months Swift Boat attacks? At the Post, William Raspberry penned a profile in cowardice when he tackled the topic in yesterdays column. Raspberry plans to vote for Kerry—its anybody but Bush for him. But after listing hackneyed complaints about the Dem hopeful—yes, he included the quote about the $87 billion!—Raspberry considered those Swift Boat attacks. And his knees went weak, like jelly:
RASPBERRY (8/30/04): And I don't know what to make of the controversy over his wartime heroism and the Swift boat incident, except to say that the details of his indisputably valiant war service more than 30 years ago shouldnt be a matter of significance in this election.Incredibly, that was Raspberrys full discussion of the Swift boat incident, as he oddly put it. I dont know what to make of the controversy, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist said. He does believe that the details of [Kerrys] indisputably valiant war service...shouldnt be a matter of significance in this election. But in that passage, you get vintage Raspberry. Kerrys service was indisputably valiant, he says. But wouldnt you know it? Raspberry doesnt know what to make of people who say that it wasnt.
Good God! Even though its indisputable, Raspberry doesnt know what to say when people show up and dispute it.
Readers, gaze on the soul of your mainstream press corps as you ponder that comic-book rendering. Lets be frank: Like most of his overpaid colleagues, Raspberry is a gut-bucket coward—a guy who knows he should stay away from these rough Swift Boat Vets. Kerrys service shouldnt be an issue, he says. But it indisputably is an issue—its been the campaigns biggest issue for weeks—and its indisputably changing the profile of Americas White House election. But so what! Raspberry has nothing to say on the topic, a topic which has driven the news for a month. Like so many of his colleagues, he instinctively hides behind desks.
I dont know what to make of the controversy? What a truly amazing statement! Lets consider some of the conduct the man doesnt know how to judge:
A group whose witnesses arent really witnesses: Raspberry doesnt know what to make of an organization whose members call Kerry a liar, although many have no first-hand knowledge of the events being discussed. Indeed, the first man seen on the first Swift Boat ad has no personal knowledge of the disputed events! He signed a phony affidavit all the same. Raspberry doesnt know how to judge this.
A group whose claims keep getting contradicted: Eyewitnesses and official documents keep contradicting the Swift Vet stories. Raspberry cant think what to say.
A group whose leader misstates basic facts: John ONeill misstates simple facts all over TV. Raspberry doesnt know how to judge this.
A group whose leaders keep changing their stories: Swift Vet leaders were still praising Kerry last year (see below). Indeed, George Elliott changed his story three times just in August! Raspberry doesnt know what this means.
A group whose ads take quotes out of context: In Raspberrys paper, Howard Kurtz judged that, in the second Swift Boat ad, Kerry's testimony is selectively edited in a way that is misleading. On Sunday, ombudsman Michael Getler criticized the Post for waiting so long to make this point. But when it comes to conduct like this, Mr. Razz doesnt know what to think.
A group whose members dont mind shooting gooks: Only one vet who served on Kerrys boat has disparaged Kerrys service. That is Steven Gardner, who told Douglas Brinkley back in March that he has no trouble shooting gooks. Meanwhile, Roy Hoffman, who allegedly started the Swift Boat movement, was compared by many vets to the character in Apocalypse Now who loved the smell of napalm in the morning (more below). Raspberry doesnt get any smell from any of these revelations.
A group whose leader tortures logic: How wacky are the Swift Boat Vets? In the Post, Getler critiqued some classic Swift Boat Logic:
GETLER: [ONeill] contends that the description in Thurlow's Bronze Star citation must have come from "Kerry's after-action report," and that somehow the initials "KJW" at the end of the report identify it as Kerry's work. But Dobbs's report noted that Kerry's initials are different, and that a review of other records at the Naval Historical Center reveals other reports with the "KJW" initials that describe incidents in which Kerry was not present.What a sleuth that Dobbs must be! He discovered that Kerrys initials were different! Meanwhile, Raspberry isnt sure what to think when ONeill employs logic like this.
A group whose spokesman has done this before: Merrie Spaeth slimed McCain this same way during Campaign 2000. Last week, she baldly dissembled about this on Scarborough Country. Raspberry has no reaction.
What conclusion can you draw about a man so devoid of opinions? Heres one possibility: Raspberry is a gut-bucket coward, like so many of his colleagues. When Raspberry saw these big rough men, his knees got weak, then turned to jelly. Like so many cowardly colleagues, he didnt quite know what to think.
Luckily, we do know what to think. Well share those thoughts all week.
TOMORROW—PART 3: Profile in cowardice! Matthews knew to run and hide when Reagan called the Swift Boat Vets liars.
THURSDAY: What Dems must do to stop this in the future.
WHO IS ROY HOFFMAN: According to standard Swift Boat Narrations, this inspiring movement got its start when Retired Admiral Roy Hoffmann read Doug Brinkleys Tour of Duty. Hoffmanns shorts flew into a wad over the way his own Vietnam service was portrayed. Interviews with various Swift boat veterans turned up descriptions of Hoffman [sic] as hotheaded, blood-thirsty, and egomaniacal, Brinkley writes (page 105). A bit later, he describes his interviews with some of those vets. Decades later, many Swift boat veterans under Hoffmans command would compare him with the rough-hewn colonel in Apocalypse Now who boasted that he loved the smell of napalm in the morning (page 177). But it isnt Kerry whos making these comments, although hes taken the brunt of Hoffmanns wrath. Who was trashing Hoffmann so? A bit later, Brinkley quoted a skipper by name. Brinkley describes the anger felt when Don Droz was killed in one of the reckless missions required by Hoffmanns Operation Sealords:
BRINKLEY (page 333): The death of Droz created a wave of angry sentiments from the Swift boat community. Lieutenant Larry Thurlow, for example, summed up the feeling many Swift boat officers had to Captain Hoffman: That man wanted in the worst way to be admiral—thats what Sealords was about.Omigod! Its Kerry-hatin Larry Thurlow who is quoted trashing Hoffmann so roughly! Maybe Hoffmann should go after Thurlow instead of taking it out on Kerry! Or maybe he should go after another vet, who was upset by another risky mission:
BRINKLEY (pages 333-334): Lieutenant Stephen Hayes, for example, wrote extensively about the accident in his diary. A few days after the ambush he had gone on a mission past the charred remains of the 43 boat. The only word he could find to describe it was grisly. Frustrated at the carelessness of Operation Sealords, he took aim at Captain Hoffman with his pen. Latch had the gall to call it a victory!!! he wrote. Such a tragedy that these operations are run by bunglers and hard core military men who apparently get some strange sense of satisfaction out of playing around with other mens lives.By now, Kerry was already back in the States. According to Brinkley, Kerry now felt duty-bound to denounce Operation Sealords raids like the ones in which Droz was killed and Galvin was wounded as ludicrous missions aimed at sacrificing the best Americans to satisfy a presidents geopolitical ambitions.
At any rate, even Thurlow trashes the man who supposedly started the Swift Boat mission. But Raspberry doesnt have any thoughts when a movement run by men of this type aims shaky accusations at Kerry. For the record, lets be fair: Wed be shocked if Raspberry has done any reading on this subject. Most likely, the scribe is blissfully unaware of the points weve discussed.
LATCH CHANGES HIS TUNE: Last year, before Brinkleys book appeared, Hoffmann was whistling a different tune. Kate Zernike dished the dope in the New York Times:
ZERNIKE (8/20/04): In an unpublished interview in March 2003 with Mr. Kerry's authorized biographer, Douglas Brinkley, provided by Mr. Brinkley to The New York Times, Roy F. Hoffmann, a retired rear admiral and a leader of the group, allowed that he had disagreed with Mr. Kerry's antiwar positions but said, ''I am not going to say anything negative about him.'' He added, ''He's a good man.''In a profile of the candidate that ran in The Boston Globe in June 2003, Mr. Hoffmann approvingly recalled the actions that led to Mr. Kerry's Silver Star: ''It took guts, and I admire that.''
But that was then and this is now. Why did Latch change his tune? It seems to have been the smell of criticism coming off Tour of Duty:
ZERNIKE: Both Mr. Hoffmann and Mr. Lonsdale had publicly lauded Mr. Kerry in the past. But the book, Mr. Brinkley's ''Tour of Duty,'' while it burnished Mr. Kerry's reputation, portrayed the two men as reckless leaders whose military approach had led to the deaths of countless sailors and innocent civilians. Several Swift boat veterans compared Mr. Hoffmann to the bloodthirsty colonel in the film ''Apocalypse Now''—the one who loves the smell of Napalm in the morning.Apparently, Hoffmann believed he could set the record straight by changing his story on Kerry.
What does it mean when people like this interject themselves in a White House campaign, making a bunch of suspect charges? William Raspberrys knees go weak every time somebody asks.
LATCH CHATS WITH KRANISH: Heres the Globe piece to which Zernike refers. Latch seemed to be whistling a merrier tune back in 2003:
KRANISH (6/16/03): Roy Hoffmann, who commanded the coastal division in which Kerry served, worried about Kerry, at least at the beginning. He said Kerry and some other skippers initially "had difficulty carrying out direct orders. You know, they were playing the cowboy a little bit. John Kerry was one of them. You don't go out on your own when you are given certain type of patrols, and we were having difficulty with that."Then Brinkleys book hit the bookstores. Of course, Raspberry isnt sure what to think about strange events like these.