Wednesday, August 25, 2004

# Posted 2:07 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KERRY-IN-CAMBODIA UPDATE: Fred Kaplan, via Tapped, offers the best argument so far on behalf of the proposition that Kerry actually was in Cambodia on Christmas Eve 1968. (Although Glenn Reynolds is far from being persuaded.)

On the other side, Joshua Muravchik argues in the WaPo that Kerry's own journal shows that he was never in Cambodia. I think it's interesting that the WaPo finally ran an op-ed on the Cambodia story after all this time.

Now, if you believe that the whole Cambodia business is just one big lie, then the WaPo's decision reflects the power of the right-wing media to force its agenda onto the mainstream.

By the same token, Tim Russert's decision to grill one of Kerry's top advisers about Cambodia also reflects right-wing power. This transcript from Russert's show suggests that Kerry hasn't even given his top spokesman any solid guidance on the issue:

MR. RUSSERT: ...so we--be clear and give you a chance to respond.
Senator Kerry in '86 on the floor of the Senate: "I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by 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."

In '79 in the Boston Herald: "I remember Christmas Eve of 1968
five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas. The absurdity of almost being killed by our own allies in a country which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real."

First of all, Nixon was not president...

MR. [Tad] DEVINE [Senior advisor to the Kerry campaign]: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: ...in December of '68.


MR. RUSSERT: He didn't take office until January '69. Does Senator Kerry stand by that statement that on Christmas Eve of '68 he was physically in Cambodia?

MR. DEVINE: Right. Well, his memory, Tim, is being there, around there. And I'll tell you what happened on December 25th...

MR. RUSSERT: No--being there or around there?

MR. DEVINE: No, being right at the Cambodian border, over
the Cambodian border. That's what he remembers. That's his clear

What a clear memory. It can't tell the difference between 'there' and 'around there', 'at' and 'over'. Or is that just a matter of nuance, a nuance that was "seared--seared" into the Senator's mind?

OK, OK, enough jokes. On a more substantive note, Fred Kaplan (in the column mentioned above) cites the following passage from Kerry's Vietnam diary to show that he was very close to Cambodia on December 24, 1968:
It was early morning, not yet light. Ours was the only movement on the river, patrolling near the Cambodian line.
The italics are Kaplan's. But far more interesting than the fact that Kerry was near Cambodia is the fact that he clearly knew that there was a "line" separating it from Vietnam. So much for the confusion about whether Kerry knew he was in Cambodia, let alone "five miles" across the border.

Finally, let's go back Meet the Press and see how Kerry's advisor handled Russert's onslaught:,

MR. DEVINE: Now Tim...Let me tell you what happened on December 24, 1968. John Kerry started that morning 50 miles away from the Cambodian border and they headed towards Cambodia, deep behind enemy lines. First, they were ambushed once. Second, they were fired upon, again in a separate incident. And that night they encountered friendly fire. Three times in one day he was fired upon deep behind enemy lines. And that certainly was seared into
his memory.

And by the way, that's three times more than the president and
the vice president have ever been fired on in the course of their life.

When in doubt, go for the cheapshot. By the way, this is coming from the same advisor who told Russert just minutes earlier that "We want a debate and a campaign about the issues."

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