Nobody has yet picked up on the single most incredible thing in Kerry's war story about being in Cambodia on Christmas Eve, 1968: he has been saying for years, unchallenged, that South Vietnamese troops were celebrating Christmas by shooting into the air.
This has prompted me to a sorta Casey Stengel moment -- I mean, can't ANYBODY here play this game?
Kerry's story has five parts: 1) He was in Cambodia on a secret mission, 2) it was Christmas Eve, 1968, 3) South Vietnamese troops were shooting into the air to celebrate, 4) he was afraid he'd be killed by the friendly fire, and 5) he was worried that Nixon would lie to his family about his death, because it was a secret mission in an illegal war.
Points 1, 2, 4 and 5 have all been attacked by everybody from the Swifties first recruited by Nixon (see #5) to liberal columnists for the Boston Globe.
But nobody has attacked #3 -- which is the part that makes the least sense.
AND it's the part that most strongly suggests Kerry is essentially telling the truth.
ARVN, the South Vietnamese Army, was overwhelmingly Buddhist. (It was a Buddhist general. Big Minh, who had knocked off Diem, the Catholic, in 1963 and plunged us into the mess.) So they would have been most unlikely to be loudly celebrating Christmas -- which, in fact, is rarely if ever celebrated anywhere by firing off guns into the air.
But TET is celebrated with loud noises.
Kerry's biographer Doug Brinkley says that Kerry wasn't in Cambodia, or even close, on Christmas Eve 1968, which has been widely reported as proving that the story is false. But -- ain't that the LEAST important part of the story? The WSJ scoffed at Kerry's 'visions of sugar plums', but if you read what he actually said -- every time, he's been very consistent -- what 'seared' him is #s 1, 3, 4 and 5. Number two just happens to be a handle for the story, it's not essential.
And it is false. But the error tends to corrororate the rest of the story.
Cuz -- again, according to Brinkley, who has the documents -- Kerry WAS in Cambodia on several occasions, in late January and early February 1969. Kranish's reporting tends to support Brinkley in part and doesn't disprove him anywhere.
Tet was February 17, 1969.
Since you asked: there was a HUGE amount of activity along the border all through this period. The year before, remember, we'd gotten nailed in a surprise attack. In 1969, the First Air Cav launched a major offensive on February 23, shortly after Tet.
So it only makes sense that Kerry would have been putting spies into Cambodia at the time, to see if the trails were full, if weapons were being cached for another Tet offensive.
And Vietnamese soldiers were so notoriously fond of firing weapons to celebrate Tet, that (as every memoir shows) we initially disregarded the firing on Tet 1968, figuring it was just more celebration.
I dunno why the Kerry campaign didn't jump ahead of this, but it reminds me of Stephanopolous in 1992, when questions about Clinton's draft record came up, He was too young to know why this stuff was such a big deal for the Boomers. I get the impression nobody in the Kerry camp has the balls to go to him quick and set him straight on his own stories... but, geez: you know as well as I do that it's the guy whose war story checks out in EVERY detail who is most likely fibbing. People tend to remember the important thing (those assholes may kill me, and what would Nixon tell my family) and get details wrong (it was a Sunday, when it was a Tuesday).
In this case, the mistake on a detail tends to support everything else: he confused OUR holiday, with theirs -- and over 30 years of telling the tale, he's gotten the handle wrong.
But the evidence supports that he's telling a true story. Somebody should say so.
I personally don't care all that much about this ancient history (or, for that matter, about George Bush's Air National Guard service or Clinton's draft dodging). But obviously a lot of people DO care about it, and political reporters are in business to give people information about candidates. If they can't do their jobs on this story, they should switch to another beat. So, guys, here's another hypothesis worth checking out: Did Kerry simply confuse Christmas and Tet?
And once you're done checking out this story, could you give us some information on Kerry's likely policy toward Iranian nukes?