After more than a year of pressure, Sen. John Kerry says he has signed an official form to release Navy records that became a source of controversy in the 2004 presidential campaign.
Kerry told Boston Globe editorial writers and columnists the Standard Form 180 will be sent to the Navy within a few days.
”I have signed it,” Kerry said, according to Globe columnist Joan Vennochi, who noted the senator added that his staff was ”still going through it” and ”very, very shortly, you will have a chance to see it.”
But Vennochi wrote that after the interview, Kerry’s communications director, David Wade, was asked to clarify when the senator signed SF 180 and when public access would be granted.
“The devil is usually in the details,” Vennochi wrote. “With Kerry, it’s also in the dodges and digressions.”
After the interview, she said, “Kerry drifted over to join the conversation, immediately raising the confusion level. He did not answer the question of when he signed the form or when the entire record will be made public.”
Vennochi pressed the issue with Wade, and after several e-mails, said Kerry obtained a copy of Form 180 last Friday and signed it.
”The next step is to send it to the Navy, which will happen in the next few days,” Wade said. “The Navy will then send out the records.”
Kerry’s records became a campaign issue after more than 260 Vietnam veterans who served in his swiftboat section launched an effort to counter many of the senator’s claims about his war service.
The Kerry campaign largely avoided responding to specific charges and instead threatened lawsuits against the television stations that aired ads by the former colleagues, organized as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The senator’s campaign also demanded publisher Regnery pull best-seller “Unfit for Command,” attacked the character of co-authors John O’Neill and Jerome Corsi, and accused the group of being run by the Republican Party.
Mainstream media repeated the assertion that the claims against Kerry were debunked, without providing evidence. Those who offered evidence contended the military’s records supported Kerry’s version of events, often without mentioning the swiftboat vets’ assertion that it was Kerry himself who wrote the “official record” in many instances, in after-action reports.
As WorldNetDaily reported, William Middendorf, former secretary of the Navy, urged Kerry to open up his personnel files to resolve the question of whether the Democratic presidential nominee received a less-than-honorable discharge from the Navy.
In August, the Kerry campaign insisted that all of the senator’s Navy records had been released, with the exception of medical papers.
“Senator Kerry’s entire military service record is posted on JohnKerry.com. His entire record,” said communications adviser Michael Meehan in an attempt to defend Kerry against charges he didn’t deserve his three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star.
But the Washington Post and others reported that at least 100 pages were still under wraps and that Kerry would need to file a Form 180 to grant permission for full release of his records.
Kerry, however, seemed to contradict his campaign’s position in late October, just a week before the election, when he told NBC’s Tom Brokaw his military record “is not public.” NBC, in fact, edited out that particular comment after including it in a previous version of an interview.
BROKAW: Someone has analyzed the president’s military aptitude tests and yours, and concluded that he has a higher IQ than you do.
KERRY: That’s great. More power. I don’t know how they’ve done it, because my record is not public. So I don’t know where you’re getting that from.
Finally, in January, Kerry told ”Meet the Press” host Tim Russert he would sign the form.
RUSSERT: Many people who’ve been criticizing you have said: Senator, if you would just do one thing and that is sign Form 180, which would allow historians and journalists complete access to all your military records. Thus far, you have gotten the records, released them through your campaign. They say you should not be the filter. Sign Form 180 and let the historians … .
KERRY: I’d be happy to put the records out. We put all the records out that I had been sent by the military. Then at the last moment, they sent some more stuff, which had some things that weren’t even relevant to the record. So when we get – I’m going to sit down with them and make sure that they are clear and I am clear as to what is in the record and what isn’t in the record and we’ll put it out. I have no problem with that.
RUSSERT: Would you sign Form 180?
KERRY: But everything, Tim…
RUSSERT: Would you sign Form 180?
KERRY: Yes, I will.
Since the Jan. 30 “Meet the Press” interview, some political weblogs have been keeping a running count of the days.
Blogger Mark Coffey at Decision ’08 urges caution, noting it was 111 days between Kerry’s promise and his actual signing of the form. He suggests another count be run until the papers are made public.