August 17, 2004

DAM BREAKS: The L.A. Times has mentioned the Kerry Christmas-in-Cambodia story. On the other hand, according to Times- watcher Patterico, “The article is pro-Kerry spin, pure and simple. The strategy of the article is apparent: before actually setting forth a single detail of the Swift Boat Vets’ allegations, the article carefully lays the groundwork to prepare the reader to be skeptical.”

He has an extensive critique of the article, which is well worth reading. What’s interesting is that this explicitly pro-Kerry oped by Joan Vennochi in the Boston Globe is actually more honest and straightforward in its reporting of the facts:

Kerry’s statements about Cambodia do have traction for opponents. He has referred to spending Christmas or Christmas Eve 1968 in Cambodia and coming under fire. At the time Cambodia was neutral and supposedly off-limits to US troops. “I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia,” Kerry said in 1986 at a Senate committee hearing on US policy toward Central America. “I remember what it was like to be shot at by the Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians and have the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there, the troops were not in Cambodia. I have that memory which is seared — seared — in me.”

The Kerry campaign now says Kerry’s runs into Cambodia came in early 1969. “Swift boat crews regularly operated along the Cambodian border from Ha Tien on the Gulf of Thailand to the rivers of the Mekong south and west of Saigon,” Michael Meehan, a Kerry adviser, said in a statement last week. “Many times he was on or near the Cambodian border and on one occasion crossed into Cambodia at the request of members of a special operations group.”

Answers like that aren’t good enough. Kerry put his Vietnam service before voters as the seminal character issue of his presidential campaign. He should answer every question voters have about it — and he should answer them himself.

It’s an interesting commentary on the state of journalism, when partisan opeds provide less spin — even on behalf of their own team — than ostensible “news” stories do.

More thoughts on the L.A. Times coverage here: “Incredibly, the LAT ignores the fact that the Kerry camp has already admitted that Sen. Kerry has ‘misremembered’ the dates of his alleged forays past the Cambodian border.”

It’s hard to keep up with your guy’s latest spin points in this Internet era. I’m not surprised at the spin myself, but spin is better than a blackout.

UPDATE: More in the Houston Chronicle:

The same news media that demanded George W. Bush release his National Guard records — and went over them with a microscope — have shown an appalling lack of interest in John Kerry’s military service. And as it turns out, there are far more legitimate questions about the latter than the former. . . .

To those of you who say such questions are unseemly, consider that John Kerry’s principal claim on the presidency is that he served four months and 11 days in Vietnam. OK, fine. Let’s examine the records — all the records, which, unlike Bush and contrary to popular perception, Kerry has not released — and have a debate. We would be if it were George W. Bush. The media would see to it.

All Kerry has to do is to release the records. Why won’t he? And why isn’t the press calling him on it.

Okay, I know the answer to both questions, I guess.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt observes:

How odd for papers to carry opinion pieces relating to controversies that their readers have never read about in those papers, but which the opinion pieces presume they have heard or read about elsewhere.

In fact, the secondary nature of the old media is becoming quite obvious. Reporters, pundits, talking heads etc all know about the magic hat and the now discredited claims of Christmas Eve in Cambodia. . . . Other shoes will drop soon, and the papers are fighting the battle of two weeks ago. Very weird, but very revealing of why the papers are dying and why some of them, like the Los Angeles Times, cannot add market share even with a monopoly position in their markets –they have nothing to sell to anyone not part of their ideological world.

Ouch. No wonder Walter Cronkite is upset. Meanwhile Roger Simon says the L.A. Times article is a “more place holding than reporting,” and observes how far behind the curve they are.

MORE: Ouch!

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