Amid ongoing criticism by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the author of a sympathetic biography of John Kerry’s war years appeared to back off his book’s portrayal of the senator as a hero but insisted in a subsequent statement paid for by the Kerry campaign that he was misinterpreted.
In a New York Times interview published yesterday, Douglas Brinkley, author of “Tour of
Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War,” commented on the impact of efforts to refute the two presidential candidates’ recounting of their Vietnam-era military service.
“Every American now knows that there’s something really screwy about George Bush and the National Guard, and they know that John Kerry was not the war hero we thought he was,” Brinkley told the Times.
The paper added that Brinkley made the comment “acknowledging that Mr. Kerry’s opponents had succeeded in raising questions about his service.”
The University of New Orleans professor did not respond to WND’s request to elaborate on the remark, but he issued a press release stating the Times story “leaves the false impression that I think John Kerry was not ‘the war hero we thought he was.'”
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Brinkley said. “He was a great American fighting man in Vietnam and deserved all of his medals. Over the past year I have vigorously defended Kerry’s military record and will continue to do so.”
Brinkley said his comment was meant to be about the political consequences of the anti-Kerry Swift boat attacks vs. the anti-Bush National Guard ones.
“I was speaking about public perceptions not my personal beliefs,” he stated.
But Jerome Corsi, co-author of the swiftboat vets group’s New York Times No. 1 best-seller, “Unfit for Command,”thinks the initial interpretation — that Brinkley is stepping away from the book — is more consistent with the historian’s recent, less vigrous posture.
“It sounds like the Kerry campaign, in a panic, got to Brinkley and he is running for cover,” Corsi said.
Brinkley’s statement, issued via U.S. Newswire, was paid for by Kerry-Edwards 2004, according to Editor & Publisher.
The Kerry campaign did not immediately respond to a request from WND, seeking to find out whether Brinkley’s statement was initiated by the campaign itself.
Corsi notes that it was Brinkley’s book, published in January, that raised the ire of so many of the men who served with Kerry and prompted the formation of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in early April.
The founder of the group, Adm. Roy Hoffman, became incensed when he read the book’s negative portrayal of his character, and Kerry offered to help correct the record in a new edition.
But no update was produced until the paperback version, coming out this week. As WorldNetDaily reported, Brinkley also told a veteran who says his battalion was “sullied” by a war-crimes charge in the book that publisher Harper Colllins would issue a new edition within two weeks.
But that promise was made in early May.
Corsi characterizes the book as poorly researched and full of glaring inconsistencies.
“He did little else but take Kerry’s word for events in Vietnam,” Corsi said. “It is more of a campaign biography that fits the rules of hagiography rather than a serious, critical biography and is not worthy of the standards of a professor with a Ph.D.”
As just one example, Corsi says Brinkley states in the book that Kerry’s resignation letter from Vietnam Veterans Against the War is in the controversial anti-war group’s archives, but the author footnotes Kerry as the source without researching it himself.
Corsi noted Kerry has refused to make public the materials used exclusively by Brinkley in the book, including his diaries and letters.
Kerry had insisted in interviews that he had an agreement with Brinkley that prevented release of the diaries, but the historian says he has given up all rights, and it is up to the senator to give permission.
Brinkley told the Washington Post in August, “I don’t mind if John Kerry shows anybody anything. If he wants to let anybody in, that’s his business. Go bug John Kerry, and leave me alone.”
The author explained that the exclusivity agreement simply requires “that anybody quoting any of the material needs to cite my book.”
Corsi pointed out Brinkley was forced to concede “Unfit For Command’s” assertion that Kerry did not illegally spend Christmas 1968 in Camodia as he has claimed for three decades. As a senator, Kerry testified that the memory was “seared, seared in me.”
“Tour of Duty” does not mention Kerry’s claim, but quoted from his journal, which said his swiftboat was “patrolling near the Cambodian line.”
After the swiftboat vets’ Cambodia charge gained attention, the Kerry campaign let out word that Brinkley was going to defend the senator’s position in an article in the New Yorker.
But the expected story never came.
Brinkley has not presented a strong defense of the book, Corsi maintains.
“I don’t see Brinkley anywhere saying, ‘Here are our standards, here is the documentation, here is how we defend our assertions,'” he said.