Here's more proof that John Kerry's thinking hard about running for president again. On the front page of the Sunday New York Times, reporter Kate Zernike insists Kerry is now getting ready to really attack Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as a pack of liars, and Kerry devotees are raising money and have hired a researcher to back up Kerry's version of events, even on problematic claims like his "Christmas in Cambodia" tale. Zernike buries the lede in paragraph nine:
Mr. Kerry, accused even by Democrats of failing to respond to the charges during the campaign, is now fighting back hard. "They lied and lied and lied about everything," Mr. Kerry says in an interview in his Senate office. "How many lies do you get to tell before someone calls you a liar? How many times can you be exposed in America today?"
His supporters are compiling a dossier that they say will expose every one of the Swift boat group's charges as a lie and put to rest any question about Mr. Kerry's valor in combat. While it would be easy to see this as part of Mr. Kerry's exploration of another presidential run, his friends say the Swift boat charges struck at an experience so central to his identity that he would want to correct the record even if he were retiring from public life.
Mr. Kerry portrays himself as a wary participant in his own defense, insisting in the two-hour interview that he does not want to dwell on the accusations or the mistakes of his 2004 campaign. "I'm moving on," he says several times.
But he can also barely resist prosecuting a case against the group that his friends now refer to as "the bad guys." "Bill Schachte was not on that skimmer," Mr. Kerry says firmly. "He was not on that skimmer. It is a lie to suggest that he was out there on that skimmer."
He shows a photograph of the skimmer being towed behind his Swift boat, insisting that it could barely fit three people, himself and two others. "The three guys who in fact were in the boat all say he wasn't there and will tell you he wasn't there," he said. "We know he wasn't there, and we have all kinds of ways of proving it."
Mr. Kerry has signed forms authorizing the Navy to release his record — something he resisted during the campaign — and hired a researcher to comb the naval archives in Washington for records that could pinpoint his whereabouts during dates of the incidents in dispute. Another former crew member has spent days at a time interviewing veterans to reconstruct every incident in question.
In February 2005, Mr. Kerry's supporters formed their own group, the Patriot Project, to defend veterans who take unpopular positions, particularly against the Iraq war. One of their first tasks was to visit newspaper editorial boards in defense of Representative John P. Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and veteran whose military record has been attacked by Republicans and conservative blogs since he called for pulling the troops out of Iraq.
Earth to Kate: investigation of Murtha's military record came not simply from "Republicans and conservative blogs," but from CNSNews.com, a project of the MRC. Anyone who looks into it will find that Murtha, like Kerry, campaigned with politicians at home for his Purple Heart. Someone who has never served in a military uniform (like moi) should honor those who have. But there's something distasteful about campaigning for your medals as you prepare for a political career.
It should be noted that Zernike was an original reporter (along with current White House reporter Jim Rutenberg) on the Times Swift Vet-debunking squad. While Zernike noted today that Kerry fans will be exasperated at his glacial response, the Times was also slow to respond, as TimesWatch noted at the time. Clay Waters also noticed then they tended to skip over the Christmas-in-Cambodia tale they're emphasizing today.