Jewish World Review Sept. 10, 2004/ 24 Elul, 5764

Wesley Pruden

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Kerry's hot pursuit of demons and worms | Sometimes a story arrives on the front page with "legs" — the ability to run, not walk, and becomes the nation's water-cooler buzz. If the "legs" are long enough and strong enough, the story gets around even if the elite media are trying hard to ignore what everybody is talking about.

That's what happened to John Kerry and his swift boat.

But sometimes the story arrives on little crippled pygmy legs and doesn't go anywhere even though the elite media huffs and puffs, pushing the story along in a wheelchair.

The story of George W. Bush's "scandalous" service in the Texas Air National Guard arrived on little legs months ago. Baby Boomer correspondents and pundits, who missed the war and imagine the authentic heroes of Vietnam were Sgt. Pepper and the Lonely Hearts Club Band, were shocked — shocked! — that George W. missed not only the Vietnam War, but had never shot down a single MiG over Corpus Christi.

Now the story, still with crippled pygmy legs, has been trundled out again, this time to make everyone forget the doubts about John-Francois Kerry and how he was the John Paul Jones of the Mekong, how he scarfed up the Navy's available supply of purple, bronze and silver and came home to tell tall tales about how he and his friends raped helpless Vietnamese women, cut off ears, burned villages, vacationed in Cambodia at Christmas and how, after four endless months in Vietnam, he wrote finis to his heroics by throwing someone else's medals away to protest who he had become.

About this time, when Guard pilots were required to accumulate 50 "points" annually to fulfill their service commitment, George W. earned 253, 340, 137 and 112 points annually over four years in uniform. He was honorably discharged in 1972 when the Air National Guard was awash in pilots and was delighted to discharge pilots who had served well and honorably.

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So the story that the president shortchanged the Guard 30 years ago is still about to sink — and beginning to stink. The Internet was abuzz last night with the latest wrinkle — the assertion by CBS' "60 Minutes" that George W. didn't fulfill his obligation to the Guard may have been based on forged documents. The documents appear to have been made on a computer instead of the typewriters used by Navy clerks three decades ago. The computer typeface used in printing the document was not in common usage until 20 years after Mr. Bush resigned from the Guard. (Shades of Alger Hiss and his borrowed Woodstock.)

Maybe the documents are authentic, and maybe they're not, but Ben Barnes, the only living witness presented by "60 Minutes," is certainly an authentic rascal. Mr. Barnes, a lobbyist skilled in the techniques of sucking up to anybody who might be useful to him, told Dan Rather that it was he who got George W. a slot in the 147th Fighter Interceptor Group in 1968 at the urging of the president's father, then a congressman from Houston. But in 1999, when George W. was first running for president, he told the Associated Press that he had never spoken to the elder Mr. Bush about George W.'s application to join the Guard. Ben Barnes is a former lieutenant governor of Texas, once the golden boy of Texas politics. Lyndon Johnson predicted that he would one day wind up in the White House (and indeed he did, once, when he arrived to deliver campaign boodle to Bill Clinton). His career ended in ignominy, if not disgrace, when he was linked to a lottery scam. Mr. Barnes said he hadn't done anything wrong. The man who linked him to the scheme was sentenced to 63 months in the federal pokey. Texas is an interesting place where luck can change in a hurry.

George W. Bush went to Harvard to get his master's degree in business just as Monsieur Kerry took up his second career sliming the men he had left behind in Vietnam. He went to Paris — always a congenial destination for a monsieur on the make — to meet with several North Vietnamese officials who thanked him for telling the "truth" about the American soldiers at war. Since Monsieur Kerry was still a commissioned officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve, he probably broke provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibiting contact with the enemy and was thus subject to court-martial.

Monsieur Kerry and his friends just can't leave the Vietnam War alone. If Monsieur Kerry, who opened this can of demons and worms, will ever agree to releasing his complete military records, this could all get verrrry interesting.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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