The um.... hull is coming off the swift boat slime story.
Yesterday's Washington Post story pointed out that Larry Thurlow, who now says Kerry wasn't under enemy fire when he performed the rescue that earned him the Bronze Star, himself received the Bronze Star for the same engagement.
We now have an actual piece of investigatory journalism from the New York Times.
In addition to sorting out the web of funding and relationships that ties this whole sorry episode to the Republican party and the Bush white house, the Times checks what these guys are saying now compared to what they said before, as well as other inconsistencies.
George Elliot, featured in the ad saying "John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam", said in 1996: "The fact that he chased an armed enemy down is not something to be looked down upon, but it was and act of courage." Moreover, in an evaluation of Mr. Kerry in 1969, Mr. Elliott, who was one of his commanders, ranked him as "not exceeded" in 11 categories, including moral courage, judgment and decisiveness, and "one of the top few" - the second-highest distinction - in the remaining five. In written comments, he called Mr. Kerry "unsurpassed," "beyond reproach" and "the acknowledged leader in his peer group."
Elliot is also the guy who then said he should not have signed that affidavit criticizing Kerry, then signed an affidavit reaffirming his original criticism, and is now not talking to the press.
Roy Hoffmann, who says in the ad "John Kerry has not been honest", said in 2003, recalling the actions that led to Kerry's Silver Star, "It took guts, and I admire that"
Adrian Lonsdale, who says in the ad, "He lacks the capacity to lead" spoke in 1996 of the "bravado and courage of the young officers that ran the Swift boats" and went on to say "Senator Kerry was no exception. He was among the finest of those Swift boat drivers."
Larry Thurlow, who now says his own Bronze medal may have hinged on Kerry's action report, doesn't mention that later intelligence reports indicate that one Vietcong was killed in action and five others wounded, reaffirming the presence of an enemy. He also claims that the bullet holes in his boat were sustained the day before the battle in question.
As far as Kerry writing the action report, Mr. Elliott and Mr. Lonsdale, who handled reports going up the line for recognition, have previously said that a medal would be awarded only if there was corroboration from others and that they had thoroughly corroborated the accounts.
"Witness reports were reviewed; battle reports were reviewed," Mr. Lonsdale said at the 1996 news conference, adding, "It was a very complete and carefully orchestrated procedure." In his statements Mr. Elliott described the action that day as "intense" and "unusual."
Dr. Louis Letson, who in the add says Kerry didn't deserve a Purple Heart because "I treated him", doesn't mention that one J.C. Carreon actually signed the treatment form. He admits there is absolutely no way to verify his story.
Quite the little crew, isn't it? Maybe, by some miracle, our supine press will actually start to treat this story for what it is: a particularly ugly piece of slime politics that ought to smear Bush more than it does Kerry.