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The answers to all the questions raised by critics of John Kerry could probably be answered by the large archive of documents he keeps in his home.

Douglas Brinkley, the 43-year-old author who wrote “Tour of Duty,” the biographical account of Kerry’s time in Vietnam, described it this way: “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.”

Brinkley is the only one who’s been allowed to handle this extensive resource. Indeed, the Kerry campaign has refused to release his personal Vietnam archive, including his journals and letters, to other journalists, saying the candidate is contractually bound to give Brinkley exclusive access.

But Brinkley disputed this to the Washington Post yesterday, saying the papers belong to Kerry and are under 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,” Brinkley said.

His exclusivity agreement with Kerry, he explained, is limited only to the requirement that anyone quoting the material must also cite Brinkley’s book.

The Kerry campaign also claims that it has released all of the candidate’s military records, but the Washington Post has reported it was able to obtain only six of “at least a hundred pages” under its Freedom of Information Act Request.

Now, even those records that have been released are being challenged. Former Navy Secretary John Lehman says he has no idea where the citation in support of Kerry’s Silver Star, appearing on the Democrat’s campaign Web site and under his signature, came from.

“It is a total mystery to me. I never saw it. I never signed it. I never approved it. And the additional language it contains was not written by me,” said Lehman. He suggested his signature had been placed on the document by an autopen.

Ironically, in November 2000, on the eve of the presidential election, it was George Bush’s turn to have his character questioned because of his military service during the Vietnam war. Then, as in 2004, Bush was accused of having avoided overseas duty by joining the Texas Air National Guard. And then, as now, the missing records that would have documented his service provided fodder for the political charges against him. “No documents have been found to show he reported for duty as ordered in Alabama in 1972,” reported Associated Press.

Leading the charge was Senator John Kerry, “wounded in Vietnam.” On the weekend before Election Day, Kerry told a crowd of Gore supporters, “Those of us who were in the military wonder how it is that someone who is supposedly serving on active duty, having taken that oath, can miss a whole year of service without even explaining where it went.” Now, Kerry is the one with gaps being pointed to by critics.

Kerry, if he chose, could instruct the Pentagon to open his full military personnel file by signing Form 180. And, as Brinkley has stated, there is no constraint on sharing his personal papers with other journalists.


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