Diana West

This isn't exactly Sergeant York, but, as Lt. Col. Patterson tells it, Kerry apparently rated his exploits (which earned him a Silver Star and a Purple Heart) too good simply to write home about: "Kerry and his crew returned within days, armed with a Super 8 camera he had purchased at the post exchange at Cam Ranh Bay, and reenacted the skirmish on film."

Before writing another word, I guess I better pay homage to Kerry's military service. But, frankly, I draw the line at paying homage to the reenactment of his military service. In fact, I find this behavior so extremely weird I quail at the thought of the man even possibly becoming president. Of course, such bizarre revelations -- a big picture window onto his nature -- could well be a drag on his White House run. Why? There is something so preening in his calculation, so self-conscious in his self-dramatization, that there is ample reason to question Kerry's perspective on reality -- or, rather, his own sense of place in it.

Then again, maybe Kerry's war record of fighting by day, filming by day-after shows a perfectly commendable, eyes-on-the-prize focus on the future, or at least his future. As the Boston Globe put it, we have to reckon with this "young man so unconscious of risk in the heat of battle, yet so focused on his future that he would reenact the moment for film. It is as if he had cast himself in the sequel to the experience of his hero, John F. Kennedy, on the PT-109." Crucial to remember, of course, is that the 1963 movie "PT-109" starred not JFK as JFK, but Cliff Robertson as JFK.

Author O'Neill, who took command of John Kerry's swift boat after Kerry left Vietnam, and who actively opposes his presidential candidacy, includes this reminiscence in his book, which may explain Kerry the auteur: "A joke circulated among Swiftees was that Kerry left Vietnam early not because he received three Purple Hearts, but because he had recorded enough film of himself to take home for his planned political campaigns." Funny enough to the guys, then. But here we are, 35 years later, and John Kerry, the movie, is part of a presidential campaign, and with Steven Spielberg's cinematic blessing. Will this long-in-the-making epic be a 21st-century success?

Here's how: George W. Bush wins a second term, and John Kerry wins an Oscar.


Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).