Jonah Goldberg

"Medalgate" - the inevitable name for the flap over Kerry's flip-floppery about what he did and what he said about his medals - is an amusing spectacle to behold and a story worth investigating.

It's amusing because Kerry has forced himself to offer explanations that make pretzels look straight. It's worth investigating because Kerry has made his service in Vietnam a central qualification for his presidency.

The superficial details of "Medalgate" are fairly easy to explain for anybody not determined to make Kerry sound consistent. From 1971 until about a decade later, Kerry wanted people to think he threw his medals away in protest of Vietnam.

In a 1971 interview, Kerry insisted that he "gave back, I can't remember, six, seven, eight, nine" of his medals. Around 1984, when Kerry ran for the Senate, the times changed and he wanted people to believe he kept the medals and "only" threw away the ribbons. Why? Because his union supporters in particular and voters in general were no longer enamored with the excesses of the anti-war movement.

"It's such a personal thing," he told The Washington Post in 1985. "They're my medals. I'll do what I want with them. And there shouldn't be any expectations about them. It shouldn't be a measurement of anything. People say, 'You didn't throw your medals away.' Who said I had to? And why should I? It's my business. I did not want to throw my medals away."

A decade later, he told The Boston Globe that the only reason he didn't chuck the medals was that he didn't have time to go home and get them.

And this month Kerry told the Los Angeles Times, "I never ever implied that I" threw away the medals.

Because Kerry "flooded the zone" with every possible version of events, it's impossible for him not to contradict himself. His only defense is a screaming offense.

So, he claims that anyone who questions any aspect of his Vietnam service or his anti-Vietnam service either is questioning his patriotism or is part of the "Republican attack machine," including the dyed-in-the-wool liberal producers and hosts of "Good Morning America." Indeed, the first time Kerry felt the heat, he dropped his promise not to criticize Bush's National Guard service like a bag of dirt.

But the problem goes much deeper for Kerry because this mini-scandal illustrates the more fundamental contradiction at the core of Kerry's candidacy.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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