Christmas in wherever

As most of us know, the blogosphere is ablaze with posts about John Kerry’s “Christmas in Cambodia.” As usual, Instapuppy is leading the charge, and the “war bloggers” are all on over-time. The issue made its way into comments on this site, and I thought I’d give it a post all its own. I do this with reluctance because the issue isn’t really worthy of my time or yours, but I want my take to be on the record. Most of this post is based on a comment I left an hour ago on another site.

We’ve seen it before. Republican lawyers pore over every word the Democratic candidate has ever said or done, no matter how long ago or in what context, looking for a “Gotcha!” line they can use to embarrass him. They look for a Willie Horton photo. They look to see whether Al Gore was actually present at a fire he said he witnessed years ago. It doesn’t have to be of any import; it may be totally innocent or a slip-up or a moment of stupidity. No matter; if they can make it “stick,” if it can effectively smear the candidate, then the job has been done.

Do you remember during the last election when Gore made a remark about the cost of his mother’s prescription medicine, and it turned out he exaggerated the price? Or how he said he “invented the Internet” (which, of course, he never really said)? The other side seizes on these minor issues and blows them up as though all heaven and earth depends on their authenticity. Gotcha!!

Politicians sometimes embellish. Sometimes they exaggerate. Sometimes they lie (and there, Bush is the absolute king). Sometimes they’re misquoted. But to go back and harp on something of at most marginal significance — to go after it with this pathological vehemence tells us both how desperate and how unscrupulous the Bush people are. And they are so lucky: they have “third parties” doing all the accusing, so just like in the McCain smear of 2000, they can say their hands are clean. Of course, the rumor mongers are financed by Republican fat cats and led by Reagan’s former PR director, but never mind.

The very worst thing we can learn from the Christmas nonsense is that Kerry lied. Maybe he took a story he heard and adopted it as his own. Maybe he was near Cambodia, and he embellished and romanticized something that happened — I don’t know. Maybe he lied altogether. Okay, Kerry lied. But of course, there are lies and there are lies. A lie like this hurt no one; it perhaps tells us something about the man, but similar stuff can be found on just about every politician. It’s all a smokescreen to detract from the issues that matter.

The Christmas in Cambodia fantasy story and the SBVFT story intertwine, the former being an outgrowth of the latter. Warbloggers keep referring to the “200 witnesses” cited in Unfit to Command, but most of the evidence is based on hearsay and old anecdotes, and most of the men hate Kerry for one reason, his anti-Vietnam War stance. Period, end of story. What we do know is that 9 out of 10 of the men who actually served on Kerry’s boat swear by him. Those SBVFT who are hyping the media weeks before the election (funny, how they came out with this big story at this strategic moment!) were rounded up by Kerry’s 30-year nemesis John O’Neill, and were choreographed by Merrie Spaeth (who does PR work for — seatbelt fastened? — Halliburton!). The whole things smells like a sewer. The Christmas story and the stories of Kerry’s poor leadership, all fanned by John O’Neill, were all over the cable news shows this week. But I have not heard a single man or woman of character in the media or in government embrace them as truth. Those I respect, and even some I don’t, have instead denounced the whole effort as inappropriate and disgusting — and bad for the bush campaign. People like John McCain. Like John MLaughlin. Even Pat Buchanan. Even Bill O’Reilly condemned the tactics of the SBVFT.

Christmas in Cambodia is all a big flashback to 2000, another Karl Rove dirty trick, and thank God there are far more pressing issues the voters are desperate to focus on — little things, like their jobs, the sick economy, a worthless war in Iraq in which their children and spouses are at risk, obscene tax cuts for the rich that will cost their children for generations. Just little stuff. Of course, the cynical commenters here believe all these issues should be off the table while we all expend our energy and time looking into a meaningless and perhaps frivolous statement or lie Kerry has made about his being in Cambodia 30-some years ago.

The marvelous news is it just won’t work. It can’t. We are watching Najaf being pounded today (justifiably or not), we saw the “recovery” implode a week ago with the wretched jobs report, and the deficit is approaching half-a trillion dollars. And we should all slam on the brakes and only worry about where Kerry was at Christmas in 1970 or whenever it was. No, thank you.

Again, let’s assume the worst: Kerry lied. bush’s myriad lies about his military service (no, not the awol issue but how long he trained as a pilot) are rich and well documented. He won’t even answer questions about his alleged coke addiction. The list of serious bush lies makes Kerry’s awful, terrible, despicable “Christmas” lie seem thoroughly insignificant. People lie. I’ve lied, you’ve lied, everyone’s lied. What sets the lies apart are the consequences that result from those lies. And in this area, shrub is the big winner over Kerry, hands down.

Keep banging the drum for this silly story. Few serious people care. It may arise now and then through the election, it may put a dent in the poll numbers for a week, and it’ll give Sean Hannity mutliple orgasms for a while. But people have far more to worry about this year, far more at stake to make their decision based solely on a stupid anecdote.

Last comment: The comments from the usual suspects are predictable: “Where was John Forbes Kerry on such-and-such date when he said he was in Cambodia??? Why did he lie?” Answer: I don’t know, but I think he’ll be addressing the question himself soon enough. He may well have lied; I don’t know. I can’t say I completely don’t care — if he lied, I’d rather he hadn’t, the way I’d rather Gore had given us the real price of his mother’s medicine. It matters, but very little. We already have a president who is a sociopath, a man who lies constantly and in a harmful manner. We are turning the corner. We are in great danger. We are safer now than before we invaded Iraq. We are experiencing great jobs growth. The tax cuts are working. We know them all — they are so casual, it’s impossible to divorce his truths from his prevarications. So why should I care about Kerry’s very minor lie, except to admit it troubles me and I hope he learned from it. You see, bush has been caught in one lie after another but never seems to care about the past, let alone learn from it. I believe — and I admit, it’s a “faith-based” belief — that Kerry is a bigger man than bush, a humbler man, one who listens and learns and grows, a man who is imperfect but infinitely wiser than what we’ve got. To now reject him and stick with a proven liar and warmonger, a man who turned the world’s best economy into a trainwreck and fought a war of personal revenge at the expense of 1,000 American lives — to do this all because Kerry once said he spent Christmas in Cambodia, whether a truth or a lie, would be absurd in the extreme.

So mock on about Kerry’s egregious sin. Attack away. People who think for themselves know better, and reject such superficial and distracting smokescreens for what they are.

Update: Oh, I forgot how on Hannity & Colmes the other night, General Tommy Franks was presented with all this crap about SBVFT and Christmas in Cambodia and he, too rejected it. He said he believed kerry is indeed fit to serve as president, though he hinted he will be voting for bush. Hannity was quite miffed when he couldn’t get the general to slime Kerry. No one of integrity will.

The Discussion: 15 Comments

The whole Viet Nam issue should be irrelevent – as should Bush’s TANG service. You seemed to think that was of monumental importance tho. If Bush’s behavior 35 years ago was fodder for the political mills, how can those who so loudly proclaimed how it relfected so badly on his present day character now deny Kerry’s opponents the same moral position?

The SBVT are without a doubt motivated by their feeling on Kerry’s antiwar activities and statements. So what?? I hear no objections to the ABB crowd’s motivations. That several leading Republicans have condemned the SWBT is commendable – too bad Kerry’s big name supporters could not be bothered to do the same for the anti-Bush ads.

Or are you suggesting that the SWBT should not have the right to express thier political and personal opinions? Is their being funded by a rich Republican any worse than the anti-Bush ads being funded by a rich Democrat? Who else is going to fund these ads? Unlikely any candidate’s supporters would do so. This is the mess the 527s have gotten us into – and it will get worse. As for the timing….please spare the dramatics. What author would not time the release of a book to gain the most favorable notice??

And why the ties to Bush? Does this mean that the Bush=Hitler ads were tied to Kerry? There are a whole lot of people out there acting on their own agendas irrespective of either candidate’s campaigns. Some are in favor of one candidate or the other and some are just against one or the other. They all have the right to express their opinions and seek the court of public opinion – within the legal limits. Kerry’s people have threatened to sue – which would be the height of stupidity, especially at this point of the campaign. Even the threat was not overly bright, at least in my opinion.

Will Christmas in Cambodia grow legs and get picked up in the mainstream press? It really shouldn’t but the name is just too good to ignore. The comics are going to have a field day with this one. As with Gore in venting the internet – everyone knew it wasn’t really true, it just sounded good. It made for good humor.

On another level tho, this is going to hurt Kerry. His people came out calling the SWBT liars and threatening legal actions against stations that run the ad. Then, first horse out of the box – and its Kerry who fabricated a story. Round one to the SWBTs. His credibility is going to take a hit. And there will be more. And while Bush is talking about the present and the future, Kerry is stuck in the past. So why is Kerry getting sidetracked? You can blame Kerry’s opponents for opening that door but Kerry people charged thru like gangbusters.

Man, sometimes the Kerry campaign really looks like amateur hour.

August 12, 2004 @ 4:53 pm | Comment

Jim, where did I ever say they shouldn’t express their opinions? Sure, they can express away. But look how they did it — with Jerome Corsi, Jew hater and Catholic hater as co-wrtiter. And you are missing the main point: they SAY they are not political! They resist admitting they have GOP backing! In other words, they are deceptive. Soros is completely forthright about his backing of anti-bush causes. It is pure politics and he doesn’t say otherwise.

Here’s why it’s tied to bush (ready?): Merrie Spaeth led the same smear campaign for Karl Rove and bush in 2000, finding a veteran shortly before the SC primary election to smear McCain. Coincidence? No, I don’t think so. Pure, vintage, total Karl Rove, pure bush, 100 percent.

As to whether this will hurt Kerry, we’ll just have to see. I say it will not, at least not over the long term and not significantly. It will only upset pro-bush voters, not the swing voters who matter. Not a bit; it’s not what they’re worried about, not by a long shot.

About bush’s TANG service vs. Kerry’s US Navy service, there’s no comparison: Kerry did serve, and that is a fact. He is a decorated war hero and that’s a fact. Maybe he wasn’t in Cambodia at Christmas time — a very minor point and one that shouldn’t even have arisen. He never made that a part of his campaign, did he? If it was a lie, he was being stupid or thoughtless — but who did it hurt? Re-read my post; it’s not a lie that comes close to the kind of lies voters are frightened of. Like bush’s lies about Iraq and about the economy.

August 12, 2004 @ 5:05 pm | Comment

So fukcing what?

Okay, here’s how it’s played out.

1. Clinton gets attacked because he did not go to Vietnam, but studied at Oxford (and we can’t allow a smart president to be in office) and is constantly compared to Dole (is he still alive?) who served in WWII.

So, for a good president, if we are to believe the GOP, he should serve in the military and not be too smart.

2. Next, we have Gore, who served in Vietnam, against Dubya, who was in an alcoholic (and coke) stuper throughout Vietnam and disappeared during his National Guard duties.

So, now the GOP says that military service isn’t that important, but apparently, neither is intellect.

3. Now, we have a decorated Vietnam Vet, who conscientiously objected to Vietnam after his tours of duty. Up against an alcoholic / coked stuper National Guard airboyo. But, again, war service isn’t important (lest we forget that Cheney never served anything beyond his fat face).

So, to devalue the service that Kerry brought to his country, we’ll trot out people that fought with him to disregard what he did, then make up stuff that may or may not be true about Cambodia.

Once again, who cares? Shouldn’t the election be about issues? Shouldn’t the election be about whether or not we are better now than we were four years ago? Of course not, because the answer is no, but that’s not the point. The point is if Kerry was in Cambodia in 1970, a date that precedes many of the voting age people by 16 years now (from a war that many people only know from movies and history classes).

Oh, and I bet Laura would be all for stem cell research if it was found to reverse the brain damage from alcoholism. Then Dubya, and Jenna might be able to rescue some of their drowned brain cells.

August 12, 2004 @ 5:14 pm | Comment

Wow, Jeremy, why don’t you tell us how you really feel?

Seriously, great comment. Of course, it will go right over the heads of the bushies, but what can you do?

August 12, 2004 @ 5:20 pm | Comment

All this conspiracy talk got me thinking….there probably are conspiracies afoot, and much more clever ones than the splashy mud-slinging we’re seeing from both sides now. Here’s a plausible one….

Who’s the cleverest politician alive? Not Kerry, not Bush, I think:

Bubba: “That’s right, John, you just hammer on that Viet Nam thing. They love soldiers out in the flyover states. In fact, bring it up in every speech. If some reporter asks a question about farm policy, compare it to Viet Nam. They won’t notice any funny business that comes up. There’s a lot of vets that vote, y’know.”

Bubba: “Listen to me, Hill: You just keep your head down and work on legislation you’ll be proud to put your name on. Stay close to the middle. Make a visit to Florida or Ohio every now and then. Do something for old folks and small business. I’ll just drop a little hint or two that Blair did the right thing in Iraq. By 2008, they’ll be so sick of Republicans you won’t have to do anything ‘cept put your name in the hat. ”

I can’t imagine any other way the Kerry team would think that a controversial position in the most controversial military action of the century would be an asset.

August 12, 2004 @ 9:23 pm | Comment

Jim that comment of yours is going to go. It breaks the rules — you are too smart to tell bold-faced lies like that. Kerry has never said he would have gone into Iraq and you know it. I can’t allow that sort of thing on my site. If you want to say it, go say it on your own site. I’ve let you put up scores of comments I disagree with, but now you’re crossing a line — please don’t do it again, okay? I welcome dissent and argument, but not blatant falsehoods. Thaniks for respecting that.

August 12, 2004 @ 11:01 pm | Comment

I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me how Kerry’s approval of the use of force is distinguishable from the decision to use force.

If I ask to borrow your car and you say okay, don’t start bitching at me after I drive off, whining:

why’d you take my car? When I said okay, I didn’t believe you’d really take it. Plus you said you were going to the grocery store, but you really went to the bank, although had I known you were going to the bank, I’d have still said yes anyway. Plus you should have driven differenly somehow and taken more friends along.

Sorry, that’s all too nuanced for me. I asked if I could take the car. You said okay. I took the car. Now shut the fuck up about it.

Finally, Kerry told blatent lies about his combat experience. That may seem trivial to someone who never served in the military. For those of us who did, it is serious.

August 12, 2004 @ 11:38 pm | Comment

How do you know Kerry told blatant lies? If true, it’s terrible. But alas, he’s our only hope right now. Meanwhile, I have no reason to think he kied, but I am always open-minded and willing to consider all viewpoints.

Conrad, there is a vast difference between authorizing someone to use force and leading the nation into war yourself. In the former situation, it is a sign of confidence and trust, based on the belief that your commander in chief has the intelligence and other information warranting the use of force. In the latter case, you have direct responsibility — it is your call, based on the data you have. Just because we may trust our leader with war powers isn’t to say that therefore we would have embarked ont the same course of war that our president chose. He’s supposed to be armed with the world’s greatest intelligence infrastructure, we presume he knows what he was doing. As with Clinton in Kosovo. Sadly, with bush’s fuck-up in Iraq we may never be able to invest our future presidents with such powers again. He blew it for himself and his followers. Tragic.

August 12, 2004 @ 11:53 pm | Comment

Kerry authorized the war. Kerry says he would have authorized the war even if the intelligence reports he say had accurately shown the absense of WMD. Ergo, Kerry did not rely on innacurate intelligence information in casting his vote.

That’s called the “but for” test of reliance — as in ‘but for the innacurate information I wouldn’t have acted in the way that I did’ — and is the legal standard for misrepresentation.

If you have a problem with that, talk to Blackstone and hundreds of years of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence.

How do I know that Kerry was not in Cambodia on Christmas? Because his staff has now admitted it.

August 13, 2004 @ 12:48 am | Comment

why should I care about Kerry’s very minor lie, except to admit it troubles me and I hope he learned from it.

Seems very weird that it is so hard to see the similarities: Kerry testified, in a very dramatic way, in public hearings designed to have an impact on foreign policy, specifically the contra efforts in Nicaragua. He used it to bolster his credibility when accusing Reagan of Nixon-like duplicity. So, if the Cambodia story is a lie, Kerry used the lie to smear Reagan’s Contra support, thus supporting the Sandinista takeover of Nicaragua. Hard to see this as a very minor lie with no human consequences. And if he never recants, what would make you think that he believes lying to support a political agenda is wrong?

I think the main difference here is that you like one guy, and the other, you don’t. Not that one or the other has higher morals. I’m sure more clarifying info will come out. I’m anxious to hear more about the “special hat”. Do you suppose that one is true, too? It sounds just…..kinda strange.

August 13, 2004 @ 2:21 am | Comment


He also used the lie to gain a position of ‘moral superiority’ in the Contra debate, as in, I was personally been at risk in such a secret war in Cambodia and therefore my views are entitled to special weight.

Except he hadn’t. It was a lie.

It’s like me saying, in a debate about poverty, “don’t tell me about poverty, I spent a month in an African village feeding the starving”, when in fact, I never did any such thing. It’s an especially dispicable debating ruse.

I’m willing to give Kerry the benefit of the doubt on his medals because, if the Navy says he deserved them, then fine. But, make no mistake, they smell fishy. Four months in country, three purple hearts yet not one day missed duty as a result?

August 13, 2004 @ 3:53 am | Comment

I’m not sure it was a lie, though it may have been. I’m hearing he was indeed there, but in January, not Christmas Eve. Big deal.

And is there a rule saying a Purple Heart has to be for an injury so serious you need to be hospitalized or in bed? I honsetly don’t know, but again, no big deal — the guy is a war hero, even if his Purple Heart injuries were minor. This is just what I mean — looking for a “Gotcha!” — as in, “Well, his wounds weren’t that serious.” Maybe not. Does that mean I should choose lying, scheming, repellent bush over Kerry? Everyone’s got skeletons in his closet. I think Kerry’s are fewer and less reprehensible than shrub’s.

August 13, 2004 @ 10:39 am | Comment

I think the main difference here is that you like one guy, and the other, you don’t. Not that one or the other has higher morals. I’m sure more clarifying info will come out. I’m anxious to hear more about the “special hat”. Do you suppose that one is true, too? It sounds just…..kinda strange.

I don’t know if we can entirely divorce our personal preferences and prejudices from the debate. I try. I see a Willie Horton-style attack by men who swear it has nothing to do with politics and that they’re just trying to educate” the American people (O’Neill’s words) and I am deeply suspicious and troubled. I hear the charges and they seem vague and highly questionable, and even if in the worst case scenario they are true, I still prefer Kerry over the other choice, by a long shot. About the “special hat,” and about the contras — I know nothing about these things, but I’d think if they were so serious they’d have sunk Kerry long ago, since they relate to incidents that occurred decades ago.

I’m delighted to see that the maajor papers are steering clear of this shit. Usually they just parrot the Republican talking points whether true or false (“he’s the No. 1 most liberal man in the Senate” — a total distortion that sadly has been picked up by the media). The media have to discriminate between cleverly couched propaganda and real news. They don’t dwell on BS like bush’s ancient DUI arrest and other crap that leftists’ try to raise into a big deal. They’ve gotta separate the wheat from the chaff, and there’s a lot of chaff out there at the moment. So hopefully this will be contained and forgotten, as well it should.

August 13, 2004 @ 10:47 am | Comment

See, issues like this is where we are totally talking past each other. There really is a social split in the US now. It appears to me you just discount everything Conrad is saying about the military as partisanship since you don’t understand the military. He’s said other interesting stuff I don’t agree with, but a military experience I share (Army, though) I see that what he is trying to get at is not just a partisan talking point as far as this one is concerned. I enjoy talking politics, but this is one of those things that people don’t seem to get.

Everyone doesn’t have to be in the military to understand it, but those that do or have family that were know there are certain codes you follow, or at least are aware of. When you try to translate this politically is where it comes out all skewed- because despite a general perception of conservatism, there actually is debate (gasp! not in the military, really?) and disagreement among the ranks. Things like this are small issues, but to those who shared the trust of each other it means more when one leaves the danger area to call you a war criminal. Not forgotten lightly, so what if some partisan is bankrolling, Soros to Moveon, etc… bla, bla, bla.

I really like Roger Simon’s take on this ( but I suppose there are other valid coverage of it that isn’t ‘conservative’.

Politics has always been a contact sport, and all of a sudden this should change? No, and my experience abroad confirms this. Alot of people want to blame everything on Bush with a big blind spot towards Clinton- which is their prerogative. But as I see it, it’s America they’re aiming at. As an American, I’m voting for who I think represents us best. It’s clear you are doing the same in supporting Kerry which is great, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could work on the issues instead of complaining over two (equally, but perhaps differently) crappy American politicians? Ah shit, I betray my idealism once again…

August 14, 2004 @ 12:29 pm | Comment

I really like Roger Simon’s take on this but I suppose there are other valid coverage of it that isn’t ‘conservative’.

Sam, you silly git. Simon isn’t a conservative! He’s a Democrat. Teetering, but still a dem.

Seriously, it’s interesting to find another Sam. Sounds like a common enough name, but I rarely see it on other boards.

August 15, 2004 @ 8:59 pm | Comment

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