The week after the Democratic convention, two of the nation's three largest news magazines, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report, had fun with two-page photo spreads emphasizing the Democratic nominee's acceptance speech opener: "I'm John Kerry, And I'm Reporting for Duty."
But by the morning of Kerry's speech, the critics of Kerry's military tenure at Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were again knocking at the door of the national press corps, pounding on what they insist are holes the size of meteor craters in Kerry's stories of jut-jawed heroism in Vietnam.
By now, most of America has heard of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and their book, titled "Unfit for Command," which quickly rose to No. 1 at Amazon.com. Talk radio is chewing it over from coast to coast. Cable news viewers have watched a number of debates with these Kerry comrades on CNN, MSNBC and Fox. But if you were to receive all of your news from Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report, you wouldn't know one solitary thing about them. The censorship has been complete.
Why does this happen? How do the cream of the liberal media crop have the audacity to declare by their actions that the Kerry comrades that support their superhero Kerry are credible, and should be given endless license to boast of his virtues, while those who knew him in Vietnam as less than a hero are to be ignored?
In February, when the story was George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard, Bush's most prominent accusers weren't his colleagues in the Texas Guard. They were Terry McAuliffe and Michael Moore, political hatchet men who were given an immediate and warm reception by the press. So why are the Swift Boat veterans automatically disqualified from the major media?
On "Fox News Sunday," long-time TV journalist Brit Hume had a different take on the Swift Vets book: "It is full of detail. It is full of specifics. The charges that are being made of Kerry, of irresponsible and, indeed in some cases, mendacious conduct in his service in Vietnam, are made by people who were there. They're making the charges in their own names ... this isn't a bunch of anonymous people whispering things. It's all out there in the open. The book is full of footnotes. It has an appendix. It's a pretty serious piece of work." He declared it deserved as much attention as the piles of February media stories on Bush's service.
That final point is especially true considering how the news magazines harped on Kerry's heroism, and his "Band of Brothers" and their crucial role in his rise to the top of the liberal Democrat heap.
In February, Newsweek's Howard Fineman touted: "His advocates are the men who served under his command of Swift Boats in the Mekong Delta -- one of whom, Jim Rassman, Kerry saved by hoisting him out of the Bay Hap River under enemy fire. Rassman's unscripted appearance in Des Moines was worth millions of ads and months of strategy." (So, you could add, are syrupy articles in Newsweek.)
Fineman added that "delighted" top Kerry strategist Bob Shrum had presented Rassman with a copy of liberal historian Douglas Brinkley's Kerry war-hero hagiography "Tour of Duty" with the inscription, "To Jim, who fished us out of the river."
So where is Fineman now to interview the other veterans on the other Swift Boats? The Swift Boat veterans opposing Kerry say there was no enemy fire as Rassman was pulled out of the river, meaning Fineman may have forwarded a myth in front of millions of readers by helpfully accepting whatever the Democratic candidate and his buddy said on the stump.
In Newsweek, as late as the August 2 issue, reporters were still oozing like kids reading a comic book. "Kerry's coolness under fire was remarkable," they claimed. "It is hard to forget the image of his turning his boat around and reaching over the bow to pull -- with a wounded arm -- a man from the water while the bullets splattered around them." They declared "Kerry's war record has been endlessly discussed and picked over" -- a ridiculous assertion given the major media's silence about Kerry's critics.
Kerry has been caught in fibs on his Vietnam service -- for example, how the anti-Kerry veterans exposed his long-standing claim that he was serving in Cambodia during Christmas in 1968, a claim contradicted by the facts. Yet the media still just whistle right past it, even as Kerry admits error and Douglas Brinkley prepares another correction for his paperback edition.
Our media aren't judging the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth based on the quality of their facts. They're judging them on the seriousness of their threat to the media's ultimate goal: putting John Kerry in the White House.