Only a few short weeks ago, John Kerry was enjoying the temperate climate and familiar old stones of his native Boston. But now, as if in a "Twilight Zone" nightmare, he finds himself stumbling about, half lost in the steamy jungles of the Mekong Delta. It's 1968 again, or is it 1969?
The Doors blasts from the radio: "This is the end, beautiful friend, This is the end, My only friend, the end ... " He wakes up: "Saigon, damn. I'm still only in Saigon. Every time I think I'm going to wake up back in the jungle. When I was home after my first tour, it was worse. I'd wake up, and there'd be nothing ... I hardly said a word to my wife until I said yes to a divorce. When I was here, I wanted to be there. When I was there, all I could think of was getting back into the jungle ..." (opening voiceover of Martin Sheen's character, Capt. Willard, from "Apocalypse Now").
"On more than one occasion, I, like Martin Sheen in "Apocalypse Now," took my patrol boat into Cambodia. In fact, I remember spending Christmas Eve, 1968, five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese allies, who were drunk and celebrating Christmas ... But nowhere in "Apocalypse Now" did I sense that kind of absurdity ... " (Senator John Kerry, Congressional Record, March 27, 1986).
He is either in Cambodia or somewhere damn near. He is either exchanging fire with the Khmer Rouge -- which would make it no earlier than 1972. Or it's 1968, and he is being shot at by drunken South Vietnamese soldiers celebrating Christmas Eve (a fine old Buddhist holiday). He was either there inadvertently, without orders, or on special assignment dropping CIA agents and SEALs behind enemy lines.
Last week, the Kerry campaign released a statement asserting that: "During John Kerry's service in Vietnam, many times he was on or near the Cambodian border, and on one occasion crossed into Cambodia at the request of members of a special operations group operating out of Ha Tien ... Kerry's was not the only United States riverboat to respond and inadvertently or responsibly cross the border ... " In any event he was, as his campaign spokesman said last week, somewhere on the Mekong River, which separates Cambodia from Vietnam -- except that the Mekong does not separate those two countries; it crosses perpendicular to their border.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.