Saturday, August 28, 2004
With friends like Doug Brinkley, does John Kerry need enemies?
PrestoPundit Greg Ransom has posted lengthy quotes from newspaper articles just published in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and WaPo about author Douglas Brinkley, whose early 2004 book Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War energized the SwiftVets into public action. (Greg also gave me a hearty belly-laugh with his pithy description of this bit of nonsense from the Kerry campaign as a "John Nash moment.")
Clearly University of New Orleans Prof. Brinkley wants to be helpful to Sen. Kerry. The whole point of his book, after all, was to argue that Kerry's tour of duty in Vietnam and his subsequent antiwar activism have shaped and defined his moral and political character to make him a fit President. The WaPo article notes that
with this book, Brinkley has become a political historian as well, having authored a book that burnishes just the part of Kerry's biography that the candidate chose to highlight to defeat a wartime president who never has seen battle himself. "These days, Brinkley is acting a lot less like a historian and a lot more like a PR flack for John Kerry," wrote Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam. In its review, the New York Times referred to "the odor of salesmanship that lingers around 'Tour of Duty.'"
Now, I think it'd be harsh and unjustified to compare Prof. Brinkley to more obvious salesmen like, say, Joe Isuzu. But just as the fictional Professor Philip Brainard's invention, Flubber, didn't always bounce the way one expected it to, neither has absent-minded Prof. Brinkley's output always bounced in ways that help propel John Kerry toward the White House.
In the back rooms of the Kerry campaign this morning, for example, there must be gnashing of teeth and low mutterings over this bit of candor from Prof. Brinkley in the WaPo article (boldface mine throughout):
The Kerry campaign has refused to release Kerry's personal Vietnam archive, including his journals and letters, saying that the senator is contractually bound to grant Brinkley exclusive access to the material. But Brinkley said this week the papers are the property of the senator and in his full control.
"I don't mind if John Kerry shows anybody anything," he said. "If he wants to let anybody in, that's his business. Go bug John Kerry, and leave me alone." The exclusivity agreement, he said, simply requires "that anybody quoting any of the material needs to cite my book."
From your mouth to WaPo's ears, Prof. Brinkley! WaPo, "go bug John Kerry"! How much material are we talking about? Perhaps the Kerry campaign would prefer to downplay the size of the pile of evidence they're stonewalling to protect, but count on Doug Brinkley to give us some context here too:
"I'm talking a massive archive. I had to sit in his house, with this woman watching me, and go through the collection — 12-page letters, notebooks, journals. I made three different trips, and stayed there for days," said Brinkley, who also interviewed the senator for about 12 hours.
And people have mocked Nixon for merely keeping a few shelves full of Oval Office tapes!
Then there's this searing description from Prof. Brinkley of John Kerry's claims to have spent "Christmas in Cambodia":
"I'm under the impression that they were near the Cambodian border," said Brinkley, in the interview. So Kerry's statement about being in Cambodia at Christmas "is obviously wrong," he said. "It's a mongrel phrase he should never have uttered...."
Ahem. "Mongrel phrase" might more aptly be used to refer to Kerry's tales of his acrobatic dog, "VC," who apparently was miraculously catapulted from PCF 94's deck onto another unidentified SwiftBoat
at or about the same time the day before Lt. Rassmann was catapulted into the Bay Hap River. But the flying pooch isn't part of Brinkley's ToD, and [ed: whoops] I'll leave the spirited fisking of that tale to Hugh Hewitt and James Taranto, the latter of whom has been sniffing out the story of VC's gymnastics since last spring. [Update: And also to Steve Sturm, thanks!]
From the NOTP's article, we find that Prof. Brinkley is oddly comforted by the ways in which the SwiftVets have been able to make use of his book against Kerry:
Brinkley said the dual use of his successful book [by both the senator's opponents and supporters] is proof of his objectivity. Everything he has written and said to date, he insisted, has been based on the historical record.
Well, yes — that's sorta true, if one includes within the term "historical record" John Kerry's own amazing contemporaneous writings from his time "in-country." For example, this passage from page 310 of ToD with a lengthy quote from Kerry's journals may not be a very profound or reliable source on the topic of war profiteering and corruption, but it certainly gives the reader some vivid, if weird and disturbing, insights into the self-absorbed mind of young Kerry during the 13Mar69 action that preceded the "rice pile explosion" and his subsequent Bronze Star and third Purple Heart:
I was amazed at how detached I was from the whole scene. I just lay in the ditch, not firing because I wanted to save ammo and because I couldn't see what I was firing at, and I thought about what was happening in New York at that very moment, and if people really felt that I was doing something worthwhile while they went down to Schraaftt's and had another ice cream sundae or while some fat little old man who made another million in the past months off defense contracts was charging another $100 call girl to his expense account. And then, when the shooting stopped, I came back to where I was.
This sort of detail is indeed useful for voters who are trying to decide whether the Global War on Terrorism should continue to be prosecuted by George W. Bush or instead by, say, Captain John Yossarian.
I'm about a quarter of the way through ToD, and I'm enjoying it. And I have to admit, I sorta like Prof. Brinkley, from what I know about him. I'm just worried, though, that the Kerry campaign is going to lock him in a small room for a long weekend of "strategic reprogramming" with James Carville and Lanny Davis.
Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to With friends like Doug Brinkley, does John Kerry need enemies? and sent a trackback ping are listed here:
» The Kerry Grill: William Schachte Comes Forward from Les Jones Blog
Tracked on Aug 28, 2004 11:04:09 AM
(1) Todd made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 9:02:34 AM | Permalink
Bill, you're so prolific I can barely keep up with ya.
I love the chart, by the way, especially the "Swift Vets for Bush" part. The Kerry Campaign is officially fun.
In any event, apparently someone has been digging (The Washington Times?) and Brinkley is feeling the heat. Now that this latest sham excuse has been removed from the Kerry Campaign's arsenal, what will they come up with next?
Okay, I wasn't going to send any dollars in Brinkley's direction, but I may have to pick up ToD. I will accept the justification that he based it on Kerry's written archives and personal interviews. From what we've seen of the "record" surrounding Kerry's service, it is a muddle, so Brinkley's work may actually reflect that very well.
And I can't resist farce.
(3) OtherTodd made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 9:46:23 AM | Permalink
I look forward to Kerry using the Barkley defense:
Charles Barkley being misquoted in his autobiography:
"That was my fault. I should have read it before it came out."
(4) OhMike made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 9:47:42 AM | Permalink
And Kerry isn't making it any easier for you. You are prolific, but you're going to be working very hard to keep up with developments. They're coming fast and furious today.
I expect the Kerry-ites insistence that we need to focus on healthcare and childcare and jobs and education is going to become more shrill in the next few days.
I hope the blogosphere doesn't let the Vietnam story get subtended by the convention and other news. This IS the biggest story out there, and I gotta think that eventually the MSM will have to give it an honest go.
(5) Patrick R. Sullivan made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 10:27:57 AM | Permalink
One correction, the dog story is in ToD, but not as a miraculous somersault onto another boat, iirc.
Brinkley has completely destroyed himself as a serious scholar with this incredibly sloppy book. Poor Fred Kaplan at Slate recently humiliated himself trying to rescue Kerry on the Christmas in Cambodia thing by quoting Brinkley that Kerry was headed, that morning, to the junction of the Co Chien and My Tho rivers a few miles from the Cambodian border.
The problem for Kaplan and Brinkley is that those two rivers join some distance downriver from Sa Dec (which was his actual destination), and Sa Dec is 50 miles from the border. A glance at a map will confirm this, but Brinkley is so credulous regarding Kerry he obviously didn't bother (and may not yet have done so, judging by what he just said in the interview).
Kerry, in the journal entry he wrote (available on the Boston Globe website, June 2003) says he spent the better part of the day in naval meetings at that town. It's only after those meetings, late in the afternoon, that they begin their patrol north of Sa Dec. And it's clear they don't get very far north.
Then, there's the hackneyed writing. How many times does Kerry get "hit like a ton of bricks"? And he and his girlfriend like watching sunsets. Wow.
I have to admit that one reason I'm enjoying the Brinkley book is that I keep coming upon stuff that just makes me wonder, "Is this another Christmas in Cambodia"? Not big things nothing yet that is worth arguing about in the bigger picture. But stuff like this (at page 27), during a discussion of Kerry's childhold wanderings on WW-II battlefields near his grandparents' home in Brittany (boldface mine):
"The scope of D-Day was just monumental," Kerry reflected. "It was a confrontation of Germans verus Americans, tyranny versus freedom, evil versus good. I used to try and imagine what it was like for a young GI in a Higgins boat, wading to shore, knowing you were going to be met with a hail of bullets. My dad took me to see these rusty hulks and burned-out tanks that were scattered all about. Everywhere you went you saw reminders. You saw bullet holes in the sides of buildings and you saw bunkers. In St. Briac we even discovered a mine burried in the driveway to our house. There were German bunkers less than a mile from our house, so I grew up with a sense of World War II. I remember having had a constant sense of wonder, thinking Wow, this is a piece of history and it happened right here. It was very moving."
There was a land mine buried in the driveway to his grandparents' house? That had been there, unexploded, from 1944ish to at least 1952-1954? Oh, really?
Patrick, a quick check of the index proves you right. At pp. 302-03 there's a story of poor VC being blown overboard when a mine supposedly exploded "just off PCF-94" on the day before the Bay Hap River action. I just hadn't gotten that far in the book yet.
(8) Patrick R. Sullivan made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 11:20:03 AM | Permalink
I can believe a mine could still be there, undetected for ten years, a lot more easily than I can burned out tanks still sitting around.
(9) rhodeymark made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 11:32:10 AM | Permalink
"I'm talking a massive archive. I had to sit in his house, with this woman watching me, and go through the collection... I made three different trips, and stayed there for days," said Brinkley.
I demand we send in Sandy Berger for the truth!
(10) Snowy made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 12:04:45 PM | Permalink
Brinkley was suckered by Kerry just like everyone else. To date, his and everyone's else's defense of Kerry has been based on their *believing* him, thinking his version of events was true.
Now that they are learning different, their knives are coming out. Brinkley's words in the article were a knife. He is royally p**d because Kerry's made him look like a laughingstock. His professional reputation has been seriously damaged because Kerry lied to him and Brinkley was gullible enough to fall for it hook, line and sinker.
(11) Snowy made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 12:12:59 PM | Permalink
>I hope the blogosphere doesn't let the Vietnam story get subtended by the convention and other news. This IS the biggest story out there, and I gotta think that eventually the MSM will have to give it an honest go.
Nah, human interest in this story is just too high. If you notice, the story gets huge numbers of comments everywhere. And the general public will be as fascinated by it as the blogosphere.
Why? Not because it's just sensational gossip. The really big stories are fascinating because they are like classical myths unfolding before our eyes. This particular story is about the tragedy of hubris brought low.
(12) Snowy made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 12:24:01 PM | Permalink
More like, with friends like John Kerry does Doug Brinkley (and the rest of the people Kerry's snookered) need enemies?
Is Brinkley a latter day Marc Antony? No, that would be Michael Moore. So at some point, we are gonna see Moore turning on Kerry too. He has to save face, after all.
(13) rob made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 12:29:51 PM | Permalink
Brinkley's .... royally p**d because Kerry's made him look like a laughingstock ... [and]... His professional reputation has been seriously damaged because Kerry lied to him and Brinkley was gullible enough to fall for it hook, line and sinker.
Well, IMHO as a former historian (turned lawyer), Brinkley's professional reputation should be seriously damaged because of his credulity. The only thing that separates an historian from a propagandist is the historian's commitment to trying get at all of the facts, determine which facts are relevant and reliable, and interpret them coherently. What Brinkley has done is equivalent to writing a biography of Hitler based on an unpublished Mein Kampf and the Tischrede. This is as bad as, if not worse than, Bellisles making up the gun statistics or the pseudohistory displayed in the Jefferson-Hemmings DNA dust-up: Fawn Brodie meets Baron Munchausen.
(14) thucydides made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 1:04:48 PM | Permalink
Remember that Brinkley is an academic, and he is putting his academic reputation on the line. Supporting a democrat allows much greater scope (an academic probably couldn't get away with supporting a Republican at all), but he must not let himself be seen to be no more than a partisan shill, which explains the quoted remarks. True, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. got away with quite a bit, but he was the official hagiographer of FDR and had an enormous reputation (among academics and media) that Brinkley doesn't enjoy. The "go bug Kerry" remark smacks of a barely concealed fury over the uncomfortable circumstances Brinkley finds himself in as a result of credulously accepting Kerry's word on matters. He is perhaps not far away from defending himself on grounds "Kerry lied to me," but that may come after the election.
(15) ed made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 1:11:35 PM | Permalink
I think the real issue is that Kerry hadn't, and hasn't, come clean with his campaign yet. That's the major reason why they are fighting as if they were punch-drunk. They simply do not have the facts. Instead Kerry has lied to them.
This explains why the campaign is getting caught off-guard all the time.
(16) Snowy made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 1:19:40 PM | Permalink
>Well, IMHO as a former historian (turned lawyer), Brinkley's professional reputation should be seriously damaged because of his credulity.
I agree with you totally. Brinkley didn't do a proper job, he just *assumed* Kerry was being truthful (the same way people *assume* Bush is less intelligent than Kerry). And now that the jig is up, whether the damage to his reputation is justified or not, he's royally peeved. IMHO
(17) Snowy made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 1:36:21 PM | Permalink
ooops, I got my Roman history wrong.
My analogy of Marc Antony to Julius Caesar as Michael Moore to John Kerry was incorrect.
Marc Antony was not one of Caesar's assassins.
The assassins included Gaius Trebonius, Decimus Junius Brutus, Marcus Junius Brutus, and Gaius Cassius Longinus.
METAPHORICALLY speaking: Doug Brinkley, Michael Moore, Michael Kranish, Laura Blumenfeld...
Not now, and not all at once, but certain.
(18) Snowy made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 1:41:28 PM | Permalink
>The "go bug Kerry" remark smacks of a barely concealed fury over the uncomfortable circumstances Brinkley finds himself in as a result of credulously accepting Kerry's word on matters. He is perhaps not far away from defending himself on grounds "Kerry lied to me," but that may come after the election.
I think that's an extremely astute and well expressed analysis.
(19) Al made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 3:03:12 PM | Permalink
Were I Brinkley, I'd be strongly considering a sequel "Lapse of Duty" (or something) simply to lay out how deeply he was suckered in, and how.
(20) Todd made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 3:42:56 PM | Permalink
I'm already looking forward to the recriminations. Should make for some amusing political theatre.
(21) JingoJim made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 5:44:31 PM | Permalink
I believe ED (above) has it right. Kerry hasn't come clean with his own campaign. And when it becomes irrefutable...look out below. We have not seen the likes of what could happen if the MSM and his own campaign have to drink that cup.
(22) stevesturm made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 9:08:26 PM | Permalink
I've been covering Kerry's flying dog since this past March and have more at link one
and link two.
STOLEN VALOR is S.O.P. for These Pukes
Remember lesser-known Leftist "M. Larry Lawrence?"
[From Arlington Nat'l Cem. Site]
"Recent controversies regarding Arlington National Cemetery arose when it became evident that a former United States Ambassador M. Larry Lawrence lied about his service record. Ambassador Lawrence reported that he had served in the United States Merchant Marine during World War II. Further, he stated that the vessel he was on was sunk off of Murmansk in the Arctic Ocean by a German U-Boat and that he was injured because he was thrown from the sinking ship. Based on this record and the fact that he died while an ambassador, President Clinton granted a waiver and Lawrence was buried in Arlington in 1995. Recently, reports surfaced showing that Lawrence was a college student during World War II and had never served in the military. Further investigation showed that Lawrence was a contributor to the Democrat Party. In response to the growing scandal, Lawrence's widow had his remains disinterred and buried in San Diego, California."
-------- end quote ---------------
Sound familiar when held up against Kerry's antics from then to now?
Seems the Left hates, loathes and despises America and her fighting men, but boy do they want to bask in their glory.
Kerry opened a WHOLE CAN OF WUP-ASS. This isn't over. It's only just begun.
x_soldat at yah hoo
USMC / USMCR
Recon / Force Recon
(24) Paul H. made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 10:16:14 PM | Permalink
Spot on Soldat. Amazing you should bring that up, I was just thinking of that incident.
Check out Tim Russert interview show this weekend (CNBC or MSNBC, it's usually rerun a couple times Sunday night unless the Repub convention or Olympics preempt it). Two editor honchos from Time and Newsweek repeat the conventional wisdom that it's basically all a political move orchestrated by the Bush political machine.
Two very smart guys, but how little they understand the fury of the vets. As if the integrity of the vets can be "bought" or "traded" from campaign to campaign like some damn chess piece. Kerry might have learned something more about this if he'd bothered to stick around for the full year, instead of being in a hurry to begin his political advancement.
Ah yes, the comparisons to Bush continue. Yes Kerry was in Vietnam and Bush wasn't, but Bush has never pretended to be something he isn't. Kerry set himself up to a higher standard and now he and his supporters are whining about it. Damn right it isn't over.
(25) Paul H. made the following comment | Aug 28, 2004 10:29:48 PM | Permalink
By the way, to be fair to Clinton, I'm pretty sure he wasn't personally involved at all in the cemetery burial decision. I followed that closely in the news at the time and I read or saw on TV that the decision to grant a waiver for burial is at the office of the Secretary of the Army, who is tasked by DoD with administration responsibility for Arlington.
One of his political minions probably put the word out to counterparts down at the Secretary's office but I doubt that this would have been referred to Clinton personally.
I'm amazed that I'm sticking up for Clinton, but somehow he was more deft and knew enough to stay out of this minefield. Plus I'm in a good mood since our host changed the color scheme and I can read this without straining. Hallelujah!
I have a series of posts called "Tour of Doo-Doo" at Kerry Haters detailing some of the problems with Brinkley's book. You have to read it almost as a detective novel, knowing that the writer is leaving you clues to deduce the right answers, but also leaving red herrings and distractions.
VC the flying dog story is pretty funny, but you'll note that Brinkley doesn't quite tell the story the way Kerry has (with the dog landing unhurt on another Swift boat). Instead Brinkley just says, "...the men of PCF-94 heard a yap, yap, yap and turned to see their puppy on another Swift's deck, barking to come home."
My pick for the next Cambodia story is the humanitarian mission described on pages 271-273. Kerry reports rescuing 42 villagers from the Viet Cong. Interestingly, he is on a mystery boat, not the 44 or 94 boat (read, no crew witnesses), and the only person backing Kerry up is Skip Barker. But Barker has been discredited already as the WaPo discovered no real evidence of his having been at Kerry's Bronze Star incident, despite his claims to the contrary in ToD.
(27) Jumbo made the following comment | Aug 29, 2004 10:14:16 PM | Permalink
"Brinkley's professional reputation should be seriously damaged because of his credulity. The only thing that separates an historian from a propagandist is the historian's commitment to trying get at all of the facts, determine which facts are relevant and reliable, and interpret them coherently."
Exactly. It's apparent that, whatever his accomplishments as historian (which I think may be mixed), he indeed gambled his entire reputation to be Kerry's Schlesinger. He saw the future as the preeminent Demo hagiographer: labor unions winking as they purchased 500,000 copies of each one of his planned 10-volume "Kerry The American" study about political and moral courage; daily limos; cocktails with Tim n' Susan in Beverly Hills; an interview every few months with an adoring Katie Couric. But now, it's all gone. He'll have to be a regular commentator on The History Channel.
"My analogy of Marc Antony to Julius Caesar as Michael Moore to John Kerry was incorrect."
Well, I would suggest Michael Moore as Cassius, but that's only half right: "Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look."
(28) Rachael Duke made the following comment | Oct 28, 2004 10:43:06 PM | Permalink
Doug Brinkley has analyzed more than the surface of what has been presented here. I respect how hard he worked with renowned Stephen Ambrose and people of lesser time invested make judgmental remarks. Shame on you. Politics is just that, Kerry nor Bush have yet presented a solid case to our America on what they will provide in leadership, they only insist on putting each other down. Its about time we Americans speak out and DEMAND a useful president and quit bickering over the "small stuff".
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