Sunday, August 29, 2004

Campaign Media Watch - Kerry and "Discernment"

Ned Barnett (c) 2004

Senator John F. Kerry has made a big issue out of "discernment" - claiming that President Bush was at fault over Iraq because he couldn't discern which of his advisors, and which of his intelligence reports, were really accurate. However, the Senator's own record suggests that his own discernment skills may not be Presidential in caliber - that he is, in effect, easily conned by those among his allies who tell Kerry what he wants to hear ...

The Senator is correct - it IS important for Presidents to be able to discern the quality of the information they receive, as well as the quality of the men and women on whom they rely.

Recently, Senator Kerry has dinged George W. for both - for believing what proved to be inadequate and inaccurate intelligence, and for trusting some of his advisors. For instance, just this past week, Kerry was again calling on Bush to dump Cheney, and on other occasions he's demanded that Rumsfeld resign.

To this, I have two words: Al Hubbard.

Who is this Al Hubbard?

Al Hubbard was the Executive Director of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, the group that helped make Kerry became a national figure in 1971 and 1972. Al Hubbard claimed that he had been a Captain in the USAF (an O3 in military jargon), and that he had been wounded over Da Nang in 1966 - and decorated by the Air Force for his bravery.

Al Hubbard toured American with John Kerry, advocating a radical anti-war stance; and together, they appeared on NBC's Meet the Press on April 21, 1971.

Al Hubbard is the man who, a somewhat nervous NBC, decided to investigate - but only after his Meet the Press joint appearance with Kerry. This was reported by Frank Jordan on NBC Nightly News - a day after the Meet the Press presentation - as well as on the Today Show the next morning.

Al Hubbard is the man who NBC discovered was:

a. A man who admitted on the air that he'd made up the story about his being a Captain in the Air Force

b. A man who never rose higher in rank than Air Force E5 (a kind of sergeant)

c. A man who had never served in Vietnam, and who never had been wounded

d. A man who never received any medal for Vietnam service (he would have automatically received a Vietnam service medal even for a single brief cargo mission to Vietnam)

e. A man who did not receive a Purple Heart - though he did receive a partial disability payment from the Air Force upon his discharge, it was not for a combat wound

In short, Al Hubbard was a fraud. He gulled Kerry, and he conned NBC - until, that is, NBC Washington Bureau Chief Frank Jordan got a tip (after Hubbard and Kerry's Meet the Press appearance) that Hubbard had never been an officer. Jordan, an experienced and ethical journalist, decided something wasn't kosher, and further decided to investigate and re-interview Hubbard. Only then did the truth come out.

However, while NBC ultimately became suspicious of Al Hubbard, John F. Kerry never did. Although ex-Lieutenant Kerry worked with Hubbard, traveled with Hubbard and made many joint public appearances with Hubbard, John Kerry never discerned that Hubbard was a fraud.

Kerry had been a Naval officer with a rank equivalent to a USAF Captain (i.e., an O3) - yet he couldn't tell the difference between an O3 and an E5.

Kerry was a wounded and decorated Vietnam veteran, yet he couldn't tell the difference between a man who'd been to Vietnam and a man who never went.

Kerry, a thrice-wounded combat officer, couldn't tell the difference between a man who'd been wounded and an uninjured man who'd never been shot - or even shot at.

Kerry's complete inability to spot Hubbard as a fraud, in spite of long acquaintance with the man, says something for Kerry's powers of discernment.

This is especially important when you consider Al Hubbard's role in Kerry's infamous Senate testimony in 1971.

Al Hubbard organized the "Winter Soldier" program in Detroit. In his Senate testimony, which has so outraged Vietnam Vets and which was used by the North Vietnamese in their torture of American POWs, Kerry cited so-called atrocities that were presented at this "Winter Soldier" event, "testimony" often presented by men who'd never even been in the service, let alone in combat.

Winter Soldier was discredited by a Congressional Investigation started by senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon and conducted under Congressional auspices by the Office of Naval Intelligence. This "Winter Soldier" event, of which Kerry participated - and of which he testified so movingly - was also thoroughly researched by New York Times
reporter Neil Sheehan.

Sheehan was the Harvard-graduate reporter who first obtained and published the Pentagon Papers (i.e., he was no stooge of the Nixon Administration), and who later won a Pulitzer for his anti-Vietnam book "Bright and Shining Lie."

This Congressional study and this reporter's independent investigation showed many "Winter Soldier" participants had never served in Vietnam - some had never even been in the military - while others had not been in the situations they described. Winter Soldier co-Organizer Mark Lane later admitted to Sheehan that he did not check military records, as he believed that "confirmation of details (i.e., the truth) was not relevant," a callous disregard of truth that Sheehan later equated to the McCarthy-era hearings.

Based on the investigations by Sheehan, it became clear that some of those who proved to be fraudulent - but whom the "discerning" combat veteran Lt. Kerry believed - include:

Michael Schneider, who deserted in Europe and deserted again in the US.

Terry Whitmore, who was in an unpopulated area of Vietnam and did not see combat.

Chuck Onan, who instead of heroic action in Vietnam, was actually a stock room clerk in a Marine Corps base in Beaufort, S.C.

Garry Gianninoto, who was a medical corpsman at battalion headquarters and did not see combat.

Vietnam Vets Against the War member Elton Mazione, along with fellow "Winter Soldiers" John Laboon, Eddie Swetz, and Kenneth Van Lesser, all claimed to have killed children and removed body parts as part of the notorious Phoenix program. The Congressional/ONI study and Sheehan's own research found these four men - all close advisors to John Kerry in the Winter Soldier program, were neither in Phoenix nor in Vietnam.

Michael Harbert, another VVAW member, lied about his Vietnam service.

Yoshia K. Chee claimed Phoenix operatives routinely resorted to the most hideous forms of torture, threw people out of helicopters, and decapitated prisoners. He also proved to be a fraud - Chee was not in Phoenix and not in Vietnam.

Mike Beamon, an alleged "Winter Soldier" SEAL and Phoenix assassin, was never even in the military.

Senator Kerry claims that being able to discern real "intelligence" from lies is vital to a President - and in this, he's right.

Kerry claims that being able to judge your principle advisors is vital to a President - and in this, again, he's right.

However, the record shows that Kerry seems incapable of performing either of these vital attributes of the Presidency.

Note - the facts presented here come from multiple online sources, none of them of a partisan political nature. There are many partisan sites that discuss Hubbard and Winter Soldier, and they may be true in what they say, but I did not rely on them for my facts. Chief sources included NBC, the online Free Dictionary Encyclopedia and History News Network online.

About Ned Barnett:

Ned Barnett, the owner of Barnett Marketing Communications (, is a 32-year veteran of high-stakes crisis-management public relations, and is a frequent “source” for print and broadcast journalists. Barnett has advised many corporate and personal clients on effective crisis relations – often stopping a crisis in its tracks, even before it gets started.

As a political consultant and speechwriter, Barnett has worked for candidates and officials from both parties, as well as for public interest advocacy groups in areas involving the economy, the environment and healthcare. As a historian, Barnett is widely published in military history magazines, and has appeared a number of times on the History Channel, discussing military technology.

Barnett has taught PR at two state universities, and has written nine published books on public relations, marketing and advertising. He’s earned PRSA’s coveted Silver Anvil, two ADDYs and four consecutive MacEacherns; in 1978, he was the youngest (to that time) person to earn accreditation from PRSA, and in 1984, he became the first person to earn a Fellowship in PR from the American Hospital Association. But mostly, Barnett provides PR counsel to a range of corporations, authors and advocacy groups.

© 2004 – Ned Barnett
Barnett Marketing Communications