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Daily Howler: Kristof pretended to march off to war. But he failed to confront those rough Swifties
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WATCHING OUR NEW FAKE FACT GROW! Joe Scarborough became the latest shill to lie in your face about Barnes: // link // print //

WATCHING OUR NEW FAKE FACT GROW: If you couldn’t see it being done, you wouldn’t think it was possible. Last night, in Scarborough Country, a tin-pot potentate became the latest MSNBC honcho to lie in your faces about Ben Barnes. Joe Scarborough rules his eponymous empire—and he wants all vassals to think that Barnes contradicted himself on the September 8 60 Minutes II. On that now-famous program, Barnes told Dan Rather that he helped George Bush get in the National Guard. The White House wants you to think that Barnes was contradicting himself when he made that statement. So last night—quite remarkably—Joe Scarborough went on cable and lied for them:
SCARBOROUGH (9/22/04): Well, anyway, Ben Barnes, the former Texas House speaker and lieutenant governor, recently told Dan Rather in the controversial 60 Minutes piece that he helped George Bush get into the National Guard. What Dan Rather didn’t tell his viewers, though, were the facts that Barnes is a Kerry friend and, more importantly, that he testified under oath that he did not help Bush with any favors. [Scarborough’s emphases]
Since Scarborough lies the way you and yours breathe, let’s note that Rather told viewers, in that 60 Minutes II session, that “Barnes is a Democrat who is now actively raising money for John Kerry.” But how about Scarborough’s more remarkable claim—the claim that Barnes “testified under oath that he did not help Bush?” That claim is blatantly bogus. Yesterday, we showed you the Washington Post report about Barnes’ 1999 testimony (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/22/04). Here’s the corresponding report from the Dallas Morning News, written by Pete Slover:
SLOVER (9/28/99): Former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes confirmed Monday that he recommended Gov. George W. Bush for a slot in the Texas Air National Guard during the height of the Vietnam War, at the request of a Bush family friend.

Mr. Barnes' account came in a written statement that was released after he testified in a deposition stemming from a federal lawsuit.

The statement agreed with earlier accounts in The Dallas Morning News of how Mr. Barnes' help was solicited in referring Mr. Bush's name to a high-ranking Guard official. The former Democratic lawmaker said in the statement that he was unaware whether the future GOP governor or his father, then-congressman George Bush, knew of his intervention.

“Mr. Barnes was contacted by [Houston businessman] Sid Adger and asked to recommend George W. Bush for a pilot position with the Air National Guard," Mr. Barnes' statement said. "Barnes called Gen. [James] Rose and did so.”

Duh. As we said yesterday, that is exactly what Barnes told Rather. Nor was any of this a mystery. The day before he gave his 1999 testimony, Barnes had told the New York Times what he was going to say. Jim Yardley reported the interview:
YARDLEY (9/27/99): A former Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives said today that during the Vietnam War he contacted a general in the Texas Air National Guard to help George W. Bush attain a pilot's slot in a Guard unit upon his graduation from college.

In a telephone interview this afternoon, the former Speaker, Ben Barnes, confirmed that he had acted on Mr. Bush's behalf more than 30 years ago after he was asked to do so by a wealthy Houston oilman, Sidney A. Adger, who was also a friend of Mr. Bush's father, George Bush, then a Congressman from Houston.

The question of whether Mr. Bush, now the Governor of Texas and the front-runner for the Republican Presidential nomination, received preferential treatment in joining the Guard has also arisen in a lawsuit in which Mr. Barnes is scheduled to be deposed on Monday in Austin.

"I am going to testify to the truth in my deposition," Mr. Barnes said today.

Duh. Barnes has told the same story for years. But so what? When Barnes spoke to Rather on September 8, the White House decided it would pretend that the varlet had suddenly changed his story. Result? All week long, MSNBC’s millionaire shills have lied in your faces about this matter. First Buchanan, then Chris Matthews. And then, last night, in Scarborough Country, Scarborough lied to you too.

Did Barnes help Bush get into the Guard? We don’t have the slightest idea. But his story hasn’t changed an inch since that widely-reported court appearance. On MSNBC, they don’t want you to know that. So each evening, they lie in your face.

We’ve shown you this process for years and years now, in which fake facts are created and spread, this process that defines the press corps’ fallen culture. And guess what? You’ll read about this matter here. And you’ll see it discussed nowhere else.

By the way, remember one more name in all this. Rick Kaplan is the fallen man who puts this cavalcade of lies on the air. Let’s put it plainly: Rick Kaplan stuffs his pockets with dough as his minions make a joke of your discourse. What’s the nature of the corps’ fallen culture? Kaplan is stuffing his pockets with dough as his minions make a joke of your lives. And flunkies in the mainstream “press corps” know not to notice or care.

Our current series: Smear boat veterans!

IT’S THE SMEAR BOAT: Our endless series continues apace! For Parts 1-4, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/17/04. For Part 5, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/22/04. How kooky and crackpot are the twin Swift Boat authors? We strongly recommend Part 4, “Kerry the Commie.” And we recommend today’s part 6, in which we examine these nasty, vile men—men who changed a White House election while your “press corps” gazed off into air.

PART 6—NASTY, VILE MEN: Yes, it’s hard to get at the truth of many Swift Boat Veteran claims. Was there enemy fire on the Bay Hap River when Kerry pulled Rassmann out of the drink? Despite pleasing claims of some Kerry supporters, it’s hard to establish the truth about this—and about most 35-year old claims. So how should the press corps judge accusers when they come forward with such ancient charges? White House hopefuls have met such accusers before—and White House hopefuls will meet them again. How should your press corps treat such attacks when the truth is so hard to establish?

For starters, how about insisting on general honesty from those who make such accusations? How about insisting that nasty accusers tell the truth in the things we can check? It’s hard to know if the Swift Boat Vets are right about that enemy fire. But much of their book is kooky and crackpot—and many of their lesser claims are plainly, baldly, flatly untrue. Isn’t it time we asked our press corps to pass harsh judgment on people like this? Isn’t it time that our slumbering press spoke back to vile men of low character?

Yes, many claims in Unfit for Command are nastily, blatantly bogus. Consider the nastiest claim of them all. It concerns a fatal encounter in January 1969 between Kerry’s boat and a Vietnamese sampan:

O’NEILL/CORSI (page 58): Despite Kerry’s written report, rumors of the incident circulated for years. The vivid memory of the small bloody sampan haunts Silver Star winner Bill Franke, a veteran of many battles. A boat officer of Coastal Division 11..., Jack Chenoweth has recently written that “[t]he only atrocity I ever knew or heard about was Kerry killing the small child in the junk.”
Wow! Kerry committed “the only atrocity” Chenoweth knew of? Kerry “killed a small child in a junk?” Well, actually, no, he didn’t do that—except, of course, in the fevered prose O’Neill and Corsi put in their nasty, inexcusable book. Even in O’Neill and Corsi’s telling, the accidental killing of a 12-year-old child on this sampan resulted from fire by Kerry gunner Steve Gardner, who “opened up” when he thought he “had seen weapons on the sampan,” the authors say. According to Swift Boat Veteran Gardner, Kerry was below deck—wasn’t physically present—when this event occurred. Although O’Neill’s account of this incident is typically murky, even Gardner has never said that Kerry actually did any shooting; indeed, he has repeatedly said just the opposite. But so what? As soon as O’Neill and Corsi finish their murky account of the incident, they open fire with statements from men like Chenoweth—men who make it sound like Kerry “kill[ed] the small child,” thereby committing an “atrocity.” This is political prose as vile as it gets. But somehow, this nasty section of Unfit for Command has escaped the notice of the mainstream press corps—lords and ladies who are much too fine to tackle such vile, uncouth prose.

Indeed, Chenoweth isn’t the only Swift Boat Vet who implies that Kerry committed this killing. Vile insinuation is O’Neill/Corsi’s stock in trade—and on page 59, the shelling continues. “Numerous Coastal Division 11 Swiftees recall the Cua Lon River sampan debacle with true distaste for Kerry,” the dissembling authors write. As O’Neill and Corsi’s rumination continues, Swift Boat Veteran William Franke meditates for half a page about the proper way to search a sampan. “Absent clear indications of danger, Swift Boat vets simply did not open fire upon such boats,” the haunted Silver Star winner writes. And then, the nasty lambasting of Kerry continues. So does the ugly jumbling of fact in which O’Neill/Corsi seem to revel:

O’NEILL/CORSI (page 60): Kerry chose not to honor this code. Rather, when encountering a fishing boat returning up the river to a nearby village, Kerry’s boat opened fire on the vessel. Whether one believes Kerry’s or Gardner’s version, Kerry’s boat was ultimately responsible.
Kerry “chose not to honor this code?” According to Swift Boat Veteran Gardner, Gardner opened fire when he thought he saw a man on the sampan reach for a weapon. Kerry was below deck at the time. But so what? Somehow, we’re told that Kerry “chose not to honor this code” when Gardner, feeling himself under threat, opened fire without Kerry’s knowledge or permission. For the record, Kerry’s recollection of this incident is slightly different. But in neither version did Kerry fire on the boat or order Gardner to do so.

But that’s the way O’Neill and Corsi function throughout this nasty book. Gardner fires on a sampan when he thinks he sees someone reach for a gun. But a few pages later, we’re told that Kerry “killed a small child” in the incident, that Kerry “chose not to honor the code,” and that Kerry committed an “atrocity” in the incident! The crackpot logic of this writing ought to be clear to any scribe. But have you seen this episode cited when mainstream scribes discuss this book? Of course not! Instead, scribes like Kristof swim on the surface. In his hapless Saturday column, the Timesman tried to judge the murkiest Swift Vet claims, rearranging the simplest facts to declare their charges pleasingly bogus (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/22/04). Anyone who knows the basic facts can see the problem with Kristof’s assessments. But so what? Mainstream pundits seem unwilling to enter this nasty book and judge O’Neill and Corsi’s character. Mainstream scribes seem afraid to tell readers how crackpot these men really are.

By the way, there is simply nothing so foolish or phony that O’Neill and Corsi won’t ask you to buy it. When they write about this sampan incident, it isn’t enough that they quote Chenoweth saying that Kerry “kill[ed] a small child.” They also want to further their claim that Kerry is just a Lifelong Big Liar (more on this topic in future reports). And so, they play their readers for fools once again. On page 58, they quote a formal report of this incident which plainly seems to have been written by Kerry’s supervisors. And then, what else? The outraged authors proceed to trash Kerry for what the embellished report says:

O’NEILL/CORSI (page 57-58): The Commander Coastal Surveillance Force Vietnam (CTF 115) Quarterly Evaluation Report of March 29, 1969, states “...20 January PCFs 21 and 44 operating in An Xuyen Province...engaged the enemy with a resultant GDA of one VC KIA (BC) [body count], four VC KIA (EST) and two VC CIA (VQ 810650/44).” This is Kerry’s victory—killing five imaginary Viet Cong, capturing two imaginary Viet Cong in action (an exaggeration of the mother and baby who were actually rescued from the sampan), and simply omitting the dead child. It typifies Kerry’s “victories” in Vietnam—those of a master with a pen and paper and of gaming a system of naval reporting built on trust. (Ellipses by O’Neill/Corsi)
O’Neill and Corsi’s crackpot dishonesty shines through loud and clear. In this passage, they savage Kerry for “gaming the system” because this March 29 report states that he captured “two imaginary Viet Cong in action (an exaggeration of the mother and baby who were actually rescued from the sampan).” But Kerry doesn’t seem to have written this report, which was filed two weeks after he left Vietnam. Indeed, two pages earlier, O’Neill and Corsi have quoted the report which was actually filed on the day of the incident. And this report, which does seem to have come from Kerry, does not include the exaggerations which have O’Neill/Corsi crying and tearing their hair. Did Kerry capture a “mother and baby,” not “two imaginary Viet Cong? That’s exactly what Kerry’s report says! The text of the real-time report says that PCF 44, Kerry’s boat, “took sampan under fire, returned to capture 1 woman and a small child, one enemy KIA.” O’Neill and Corsi savage Kerry for the embellished March 29 report. But his own report describes the mother and child for who they actually were.

Yes, Kerry’s report says “mother and child.” The authors trash Kerry for someone else’s deception. But then, rank dishonesty pervades this vile book. As O’Neill and Corsi spread their vile tales, Kerry is savaged for filing reports he didn’t file—and for killing children he didn’t kill. Throughout all this rank deception, of course, the crackpot authors shake their fists at Kerry’s disturbing dishonesty. (Bird of a feather: Last night, as Scarborough lied in your face, he kept trashing Rather’s dishonesty.)

Why haven’t you ever been told the realities of this vile, nasty book? To all appearances, dainty scribes like Nicholas Kristof simply don’t want to go there. They try to take the easy way out—and they have stood aside while nasty men take control of American’s discourse. And sadly, yes, there’s much more to come. There is more—much more—you haven’t been told about O’Neill and Corsi’s book. Was there enemy fire on the river that day? We don’t see how to settle that matter. But O’Neill and Corsi are screaming crackpots, men whose word is good for nothing. But what a shame—that your dainty “press corps” won’t wrestle with such rough, uncouth men.

TOMORROW: “A ruthless operator.”

FUTURE REPORT: “Despite Kerry’s written report, rumors of the incident circulated for years. The vivid memory of the small bloody sampan haunts Silver Star winner Bill Franke.” Ah yes—those ever-helpful “rumors!” At any rate, Franke’s “vivid memory” has haunted him for years, we are told. But was Franke present at the sampan event? And who exactly is William Franke? Your “press corps” has washed its hands of all this. Here at THE HOWLER, we’ll tell you.

PREQUEL: Joe Conason examined this haunted man back in May. You know what to do. Just click here.