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What Else Is In Scott's Head?

The blog site for writer Scott C. Smith. Some observations on the world we live in and life in general. And maybe some politics.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Swift Boat Vets: The Damage is Done

My fellow Democrats will be angry by the following, but here goes:

I don't think John Kerry is going to win this election. At least not right now, if it were held today.

John O'Neill and the Swift Boat group has done their damage. I think Kerry was the recipient of some colossally bad advice and waited way too long to counter the claims of the Swift boat vets. Now Kerry is on the defensive, the media has focused most of its attention on the fight, and George W. Bush is able to use this time to campaign effectively.

Meanwhile, John Kerry has to deal with people suggesting he somehow altered the official U.S. Navy records he has posted at his web site.

The media, who for the most part are ignorant of how the U.S. military operates, passes along each and every damning claim about John Kerry and his records.

For instance, Kerry's DD-214 (that's the form you get after being discharged from the military as proof of your service, your rank at discharge, and what medals/ribbons you're entitled to wear) lists him as having won a Silver Star with Combat "V" device. Obviously a typo. Yes, the military has been known to make mistakes on a DD-214. One of the most common is not listing a medal that had been awarded. And in Kerry's case, his DD-214 was prepared saying he had a Silver Star with the "V" (valor) device. Apparently no one has ever been awarded a Silver Star with combat "V". People read about this and they wonder why Kerry didn't have that corrected. Well, chances are, he didn't know that it was a mistake.

There have also been recent reports about former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, and the fact that his signature is on one of Kerry's citations. Lehman says he doesn't remember signing off on it. And why should he? The military generates lots of paperwork (unless there's been a major change recently). There's a machine that is used to sign signatures to huge stacks of paperwork. It's called an autopen. I've seen it in action, when I was assigned to the staff of the Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet, Pearl Harbor. That position is held by a four-star admiral, which is the top of the Navy's chain of command. He's a busy man, so he has a staff of people to handle the paperwork. I know, when I was a member of the CINCPACFLT staff I drafted paperwork for the admiral's signature. It's actually a complicated process, because so many people get involved, before the draft gets to the admiral. The admiral approves the stack, and that stack is fed into the autopen. I've seen the machine loaded with hundreds of pages of documents. So a busy man like John Lehman would not have remembered a specific military citation, nor would he have written it. The fact that Kerry has a citation that Lehman doesn't recall signing doesn't prove anything.

And why would John Kerry doctor his military records, and then post the doctored paperwork to the Internet for the whole world to see? What kind of sense does that make?

And hard as I might try to counter the Swift boat vets misinformation (not to mention the mainstream media which has also made this attempt), I think the message has gotten through to put a sliver of doubt into the minds of undecided voters.

Hopefully, in the presidential debates, John Kerry will put George Bush on the defensive over his record. And if that message gets through, we may see a different outcome. In the world of politics, a lot can happen in two months.

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