Companion site:


Google search...


Daily Howler logo
PROFILES IN COWARDICE (PART 2)! William Raspberry has no thoughts about those rough Swift Boat men: // link //

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 doesn’t. Kerry doesn’t say he’s “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 wasn’t 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.


One is where John Kerry can vote for something and another where he can vote against exactly the same thing.

But of course, it wasn’t “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 can’t 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 month’s Swift Boat attacks? At the Post, William Raspberry penned a “profile in cowardice” when he tackled the topic in yesterday’s column. Raspberry plans to vote for Kerry—it’s “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 shouldn’t be a matter of significance in this election.
Incredibly, that was Raspberry’s full discussion of “the Swift boat incident,” as he oddly put it. “I don’t know what to make of the controversy,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist said. He does believe that “the details of [Kerry’s] indisputably valiant war service...shouldn’t be a matter of significance in this election.” But in that passage, you get vintage Raspberry. Kerry’s service was “indisputably valiant,” he says. But wouldn’t you know it? Raspberry “doesn’t know what to make” of people who say that it wasn’t.

Good God! Even though it’s indisputable, Raspberry doesn’t 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. Let’s 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. Kerry’s service shouldn’t be an issue, he says. But it indisputably is an issue—it’s been the campaign’s biggest issue for weeks—and it’s indisputably changing the profile of America’s 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 don’t know what to make of the controversy?” What a truly amazing statement! Let’s consider some of the conduct the man doesn’t know how to judge:

A group whose witnesses aren’t really witnesses: Raspberry doesn’t 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 doesn’t know how to judge this.

A group whose claims keep getting contradicted: Eyewitnesses and official documents keep contradicting the Swift Vet stories. Raspberry can’t think what to say.

A group whose leader misstates basic facts: John O’Neill misstates simple facts all over TV. Raspberry doesn’t 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 doesn’t know what this means.

A group whose ads take quotes out of context: In Raspberry’s 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 doesn’t know what to think.

A group whose members don’t mind shooting gooks: Only one vet who served on Kerry’s boat has disparaged Kerry’s 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 doesn’t 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: [O’Neill] 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 Kerry’s initials were different! Meanwhile, Raspberry isn’t sure what to think when O’Neill 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? Here’s 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 didn’t quite know what to think.

Luckily, we do know what to think. We’ll 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 Brinkley’s Tour of Duty. Hoffmann’s 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 Hoffman’s 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 isn’t Kerry who’s making these comments, although he’s taken the brunt of Hoffmann’s 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 Hoffmann’s 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—that’s what Sealords was about.”
Omigod! It’s 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 men’s 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 president’s geopolitical ambitions.”

At any rate, even Thurlow trashes the man who supposedly started the Swift Boat mission. But Raspberry doesn’t have any thoughts when a movement run by men of this type aims shaky accusations at Kerry. For the record, let’s be fair: We’d be shocked if Raspberry has done any reading on this subject. Most likely, the scribe is blissfully unaware of the points we’ve discussed.

“LATCH” CHANGES HIS TUNE: Last year, before Brinkley’s 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.

The two men were determined to set the record, as they saw it, straight.

''It was the admiral who started it and got the rest of us into it,'' Mr. Lonsdale said.

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 Raspberry’s knees go weak every time somebody asks.

LATCH CHATS WITH KRANISH: Here’s 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."

Hoffmann said the problem was corrected and he supported the actions on the day Kerry won the Silver Star. "It took guts, and I admire that," Hoffman said.

Then Brinkley’s book hit the bookstores. Of course, Raspberry isn’t sure what to think about strange events like these.