"Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth," Franklin D. Roosevelt once said. He might have been talking about John Kerry's tale of his 1968 Christmas supposedly spent in Cambodia, which he's been repeating for twenty five years to anyone who would listen.
The story was so unsupported by evidence that even the Kerry—for—president organ, the New York Times, conceded that its truth was "unlikely." Indeed, Kerry spokesman Michael Meehan confirmed that it never happened. He tried to mitigate the damage, though, by suggesting that Mr. Kerry may have been in Cambodia some other time —— distant memory, don't you know, being understandably imperfect.
The problem is that Mr. Kerry first spun his Christmas yarn, in a piece for the Boston Herald, not a quarter of a century but a mere decade after his four—month tour —— and filled it with vivid details of holiday revelry.
"I remember spending Christmas Day of 1968," he wrote, "five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese Allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas."
That would be the one Christmas falling within Mr. Kerry's short November 1968 to March 1969 tour. Is it credible, then, that he's merely fuzzy about such specifics as the date? More plausible is that he's a man who will say virtually anything to achieve a desired end.
Indeed, speaking to the AFL—CIO in June, he characterized street thug Al Sharpton —— the instigator of two anti—Semitic riots that resulted in nine murders but whose support he covets —— as a man who is "always keeping the peace and the compass going in the right direction." The only truth in that nonsense is what it tells you about Mr. Kerry's moral compass.
Likewise, notwithstanding that the left's "Bush lied" charge has been thoroughly discredited, most recently by the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr. Kerry shamelessly repeats it almost as endlessly as he did the Cambodia tale. Only this month, he said of Mr. Bush: "Why did he mislead America about how he would go to war?" A better question is: Why does Mr. Kerry mislead America in his bid for the presidency?
His famous flip—flops are the paradigm of prevarication, because —— as a matter of logic —— their falsity is indisputable. Why? Because a proposition and its negation cannot be simultaneously true. The self—described antiwar candidate who voted for war cannot truly believe that removing Saddam Hussein was justified and yet unjustified. He cannot be sincere in advocating troop redeployments in Europe and Korea and, two weeks later, in condemning President Bush for a similar suggestion.
If you think such contradictions might be explained away by "nuanced" Kerry—thought, consider another stark example —— his shape—shifting positions on Israel's anti—terror fence. Before an Arab audience last October, he called the fence a "barrier to peace." Only four months later —— and with no change in the fence's circumstances —— he characterized its construction as a "legitimate act of self—defense." At least one of these two diametrically—opposed representations of Mr. Kerry's supposed convictions must necessarily be false.
His flip—flopping, then, isn't just capricious. It isn't merely incoherent. It is incontrovertible lying.
Assuming the man isn't delusional —— and one can give him the benefit of that doubt —— the only plausible inference to be drawn from so much mendacity is that Mr. Kerry simply cannot sell himself or his positions by presenting either plainly. Contrast another antiwar candidate, George McGovern, who at the 2004 Democratic National Convention said this to CNN.com about his 1972 presidential run:
"In that campaign, I and the people working for me said exactly what we believed was in the best interests of the country. We didn't have any focus groups. We didn't have any polls. We just got out there and said what we thought. Even though we lost the campaign, I left with a clear conscience. I never said one thing that I didn't believe deep in my soul."
Looking back someday on his own failed campaign, Mr. Kerry may have a similar recollection. It will be just as accurate as the one of his Christmas in Cambodia.
Steven Zak is an attorney and writer.