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Kerry Takes Pickens $1 Million Swift Boat Bet

John Kerry Winter Soldiers Testimony Photo Famed oilman T. Boone Pickens has offered $1 million to anyone who can disprove claims my by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth against John Kerry — and John Kerry has taken him up on it.

Sen. John Kerry, whose 2004 presidential campaign was torpedoed by critics of his Vietnam War record, said Friday he has personally accepted a Texas oilman’s offer to pay $1 million to anyone who can disprove even a single charge of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

In a letter to T. Boone Pickens, the Massachusetts Democrat wrote: “While I am prepared to show they lied on allegation after allegation, you have generously offered to pay one million dollars for just one thing that can be proven false. I am prepared to prove the lie beyond any reasonable doubt.” Kerry, a Navy veteran and former prosecutor, said he was willing to present his case directly to Pickens, who provided $3 million to bankroll the group during Kerry’s race against President Bush.

Pickens has responded by raising the stakes:

Pickens wrote Friday in a letter faxed to Kerry, “I am certainly open to your challenge,” but he said he would not pay Kerry unless the senator first provided him with copies of his wartime journals, as well as movies he shot while on patrol and his complete military records for 1971 to 1978.

Pickens said such documentation, which the group has previously sought, would be needed to disprove its ads. “When you have done so, if you can then prove anything in the ads was materially untrue, I will gladly award $1 million. As you know, I have been a long and proud supporter of the American military and veterans’ causes,” Pickens wrote.

He also proposed a counter-challenge: “If you cannot prove anything in the Swift Boat ads to be untrue, that you will make a $1 million gift to the charity I am choosing — the (Congressional) Medal of Honor Foundation.”

Jane Hamsher thinks this constitutes “reneging” on the deal and is “cowardly.” Patterico guest DRJ figures he’s merely specifying “the material terms – the rules – regarding how the winner will be determined.”

In any event, it’s a sucker bet.

Many of the more outrageous claims in the book have been rather strongly rebutted. Likewise, the debut ad, which questioned the character of Kerry’s service in Vietnam and implied he didn’t deserve his medals, was “contradicted by the statements of several other veterans who observed the incidents, by the Navy’s official records, and, in some instances, by the contemporaneous statements of SBVT members themselves.” John McCain pronounced it “dishonest and dishonorable” and I pronounced them the Swift Boat Nuts noted that they “sound increasingly like lunatics.” That said, given the passage of time, it’s doubtful the reasonable doubt threshold can be reached.

Still, as I wrote in “Swift Justice,” a July 2004 piece for Tech Central Station, the charges about self-inflicted wounds, war crimes, and undeserved medals weren’t why the Swift Boat ads were so effective. Indeed, if they had continued on that path, the campaign would almost certainly have backfired.

The idea that Kerry’s war medals were unearned is rather dubious and almost impossible to prove. Furthermore, as Bush’s re-election team seems to grasp, the mere fact that Kerry went to Vietnam trumps Bush’s record of halfhearted service in the Air National Guard. And the business about Kerry killing “a lone, fleeing, teenage Viet Cong in a loincloth” is just unbelievable coming 35 years after the fact.

That said, Kerry’s actions after returning home from Vietnam will ultimately hurt him more than his Vietnam service helps him. We should expect to see several ads focusing on his outrageous accusations against his fellow veterans, including the Senate testimony where he put forth numerous documentable lies. As political scientist Steven Taylor has noted, most of the animus of the SBVFT was generated by Kerry’s actions as leader of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War rather than his actual conduct in theater. It seems quite likely to me that this reaction will ultimately take place in other veterans and in the swing voters who have yet to make up their minds on Kerry’s character.

The second, third, and fourth ads concentrated on those angles. Stories of medals thrown over a wall by Kerry that weren’t actually Kerry’s medals, memories that were “seared — seared!!” into Kerry’s brain but couldn’t possibly be true, and reminders that Kerry had smeared American troops in “a fashion reminiscent of GEN-jis Khan” effectively undermined Kerry’s credibility and he failed to respond effectively. It’s rather odd to suddenly be offering up proof more than three years later.

UPDATE: Jules Crittenden wonders why Kerry would want to remind people of his failed campaign.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    Asking for actual documentation of what Kerry claims happened is not moving the goalposts.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    Asking for actual documentation of what Kerry claims happened is not moving the goalposts.

    It is if Kerry can disprove something without doing so. Whether releasing records is necessary would depend entirely on what fact Kerry disputes.

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  3. Grewgills says:

    Asking for actual documentation of what Kerry claims happened is not moving the goalposts.

    That would not be, but that is not what he did.

    Texas oilman’s offer to pay $1 million to anyone who can disprove even a single charge of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

    Kerry takes him up on the bet, then realizing that he will likely lose he then says,

    “I am certainly open to your challenge,” but he said he would not pay Kerry unless the senator first provided him with copies of his wartime journals, as well as movies he shot while on patrol and his complete military records for 1971 to 1978.

    All of that documentation would not be necessary to provide proof of a single charge made by the Swift Boat Vets therefor the goalposts have been moved. This further evidence of Pickens being dishonorable.

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  5. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Joyner, I happen to know someone who served as an enlisted man in the same outfit during the same period of time as Kerry. I believe in was after Kerry appeared in a talk show that my friend became indignate. He told me Kerry was a coward and a liar. At the time I had no idea what he was talking about or even who the idiot on TV was. He had made some outrageous statements about what soldiers had done in Viet Nam. I guess my service was half hearted, similar to George W. Bush’s. You see, I served a three year term in the Third Armored Division in Germany. While I did not risk my life flying F102 Delta Daggers like Bush did. I risked my life regularly drinking unpasteurized German Bier. Since my return to CONUS, I met hundreds if not thousands of men who served with honor in the Nam. From those who had plush service at Cameron Bay to grunts out in the bush, not one deserved the label layed upon them by that opportunistic communist loving senator from Mass. Odd. You claim to have a PHD, James, but you are so quick to denigrate ones service and defend that of another. Proves education does not necessarily make you smart or intelligent and wisdom does not (if ever) come along till much later. Where was your service James?

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  6. Zuzu says:

    Asking for actual documentation of what Kerry claims happened is not moving the goalposts.

    Of course it is. What would producing his “service” records for 1971 to 1978 have to do with proving the SBVT claim about his Silver Star award was wrong?

    It is classic Slow Boater deflection, though.

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  7. Zuzu says:

    James Joyner and Grewgills had it right, and I assumed too much from Bithead’s question.

    Pickens moved the goalposts by claiming he would not accept any answer unless ALL of JK’s records, journals, and movies and tapes were provided.

    Even if he were only requesting documentation for a particular claim, he can’t demand what the evidence will be ahead of time. If JK makes his case, he does, no matter what evidence is provided.

    He also moved the goalposts from his original challenge for anyone to prove a single charge made by the Slow Boaters was wrong. Now…oh, just the ads. You know, their opinions.

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  8. markg8 says:

    Pickens should live up to the terms of the challenge he made instead of trying to change the offer when he’s called on it. He’s showing he has as little honor as the Swiftboaters but then he did bankroll them didn’t he?

    The US Army is short 35,000 majors and captains even though it offers $35,000 bonuses to those who re-up these days. It has lowered it’s recruitment standards time and again over the last four years even with other huge bonuses for enlisted. Seems a lot of soldiers don’t want to die for the latest mistake. Kerry was right in 1972 and right in 2004. Sadly we’re still stuck with the clown who has been wrong about virtually everything.

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  9. Zuzu says:

    his outrageous accusations against his fellow veterans, including the Senate testimony where he put forth numerous documentable lies

    Really? Which ones were those, exactly, please?

    Stories of medals thrown over a wall by Kerry that weren’t actually Kerry’s medals

    He never said they were. He threw his ribbons and medals that were given him by other vets who requested he throw them. False issue.

    memories that were “seared — seared!!” into Kerry’s brain but couldn’t possibly be true

    If you’re talking about his speech on the Senate floor, please tell me what “cannot possibly be true” about this:

    Mr. President, I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the President of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia.

    Thanks.

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  10. just me says:

    I think it is moving the goalposts. Although I have no problem with him requiring documents to back up the arguments-I don’t think Pickens ever intended the challenge to be just a he said/she said thing. But requiring all the records and stuff is pretty much goalpost moving.

    I also agree with James Joyner-the attacks on Kerry’s service weren’t what damaged Kerry-it was Kerry’s post Vietnam record that did so. There are a lot of Veterans who are and were angered and bitter over the accusations Kerry made, and it was that argument and some of those commercials that played so well.

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  11. Zuzu says:

    Although I have no problem with him requiring documents to back up the arguments-I don’t think Pickens ever intended the challenge to be just a he said/she said thing.

    I think he was pretty much shooting off his mouth, and is now trying to backtrack and save himself.

    Actually, I think the response is probably John O’Neill going on a fishing expedition. Just my sense of it.

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  14. Zuzu says:

    Another point. Chicken Pickens moved the goalposts in at least one other very major way.

    At first he offered the money to anyone who could disprove ANYTHING the Slow Boaters claimed.

    Now he’s only willing to defend their ADS … in other words, their opinions.

    Why is he unwilling to defend their book? Their press releases, articles and opinion pieces, and media interviews?

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  15. floyd says:

    Why should Kerry care? After all,he did get his face on the $20 bill….Didn’t he?[lol]

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  17. James Joyner says:

    You are so quick to denigrate ones service and defend that of another

    I don’t denigrate either’s service; I merely say that it would have been foolish for Bush to denigrate Kerry’s given their relative records.

    Kerry led men in combat in Vietnam, was wounded, and awarded the country’s third highest medal for gallantry. Bush underwent pilot training and showed up for the occasional weekend Guard drill.

    Yes, pilot training is dangerous and he was honorably discharged. But he wasn’t going to get shot by Charlie or captured and tortured, as Kerry could have been.

    I served four years as a field artillery officer, mostly in Germany, and did a five month combat tour in Desert Shield/Desert Storm. In terms of relative danger of meeting death at the hands of the enemy, my service paled in comparison to Kerry’s but ahead of Bush’s.

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  18. davod says:

    Joyner:

    “Kerry led men in combat in Vietnam, was wounded, and awarded the country’s third highest medal for gallantry. Bush underwent pilot training and showed up for the occasional weekend Guard drill.”

    Grow up. Your sarcasm reflects your bias. I do not recall Bush being critical of Kerry’s service. In fact, I recall him more than once praising Kerry for his service and denigrating the efforts of the Swift Boat people.

    You conveniently left out the role of the ANG in your comments. The defense of the United States against intruders. The 60s was hardly a time when this was considered an insignificant task.
    Flying a interceptor might be considered integral to this task.

    The majority of US military forces were in the same boat as Bush. Unless you volunteered,and their are some who were there who said Bush did volunteer, and were accepted, you go where they send you (In the latter half of the 60s the ANG had 22 Fighter Interceptor squadrons. During the Vietnam war the ANG activated 4 fighter squadrons to go to Vietnam and two to go to Korea for a total of 10,676 personnel.)

    I would suggest that a good proportion of the US military went where they were posted and never served in Vietnam.

    Then again, you may just be throwing Bush into your post to increase the number of posts.

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  20. vnjagvet says:

    The reason Kerry’s records for his Reserve Duty from 1971-1978 is relevant because it was during that period that he conducted his overt pro-NVA activities, including meeting with NVA diplomats in Paris. It was those activities while still an officer in the Naval Reserve that incensed VN vets like me and my contemporaries.

    My informal (and admittedly unscientific) polling of those who I know who also served in RVN yielded about an 80/20 vote against Kerry as Presidential timber.

    Among RVN vets of my acquaintance, Kerry’s activities while still an oficer in the Naval Reserve were the most often cited reasons for anti-Kerry attitudes.

    IMO, his records during that period are most relevant to the total picture.

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  21. Zuzu says:

    Posted by vnjagvet: “IMO, his records during that period are most relevant to the total picture.”

    They may be relevant to your idea of the total picture, but they would only be relevant to a claim about his reserve duty that he was refuting. Period.

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  23. LaurenceB says:

    Why would Pickens want military records from “1971-1978″? Kerry served in Vietnam in the 60′s. Weird.

    In any case, it’s truly sad that anyone still believes the Smear Boat Veterans. What a world we live in. (sigh)

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  24. davod says:

    Maybe he would like to see if Kery missed any drills?

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  25. Zuzu says:

    Kerry was in the Individual Ready Reserves and then the Standby Reserves. No drilling requirement.

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  26. davod says:

    As I recall Kerry was in the reserves and had the distinction of being in a navy unit that got activated.

    Lets see Bush was in the ANG flying interceptors against Soviet intrusions and Kerry joined the navy reserve with little prospect of being activated.

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  28. zuzu says:

    Actually, no.

    Kerry joined the reserves while in college. The contract had a three year active duty commitment, which he fulfilled shortly after graduation.

    During his active duty he volunteered for Vietnam.

    After he was released from active duty he was transferred to the Individual Ready Reserve and then to the Standby Reserve – Inactive.

    http://fl1.findlaw.com/news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/jkerry/trnsfr2stndyrsrv.pdf

    http://fl1.findlaw.com/news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/jkerry/trnsfr2stndyrsrv.pdf

    Unless they graduated from the USNA, most naval officers in those days were reserve officers.

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  29. zuzu says:

    Copy of Kerry’s Officer Candidate Agreement, obligating him to three years of active duty service:

    http://fl1.findlaw.com/news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/jkerry/offcandagr.pdf

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  30. davod says:

    Did he volunteer or was his unit called up.

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  31. zuzu says:

    Sorry, you need to start doing some basic research on this stuff.

    I already gave you the documents. Kerry enlisted as a reserve officer with an active duty commitment.

    His active duty started shortly after graduation. He attended OCS and was assigned to a destroyer. Then he volunteered for Swift Boats in Vietnam.

    He was not in some sort of reserve unit that got “called up.” As I said, most if not all naval officers serving at that time were reserve officers like Kerry, unless they were commissioned out of the Naval Academy.

    Really, please do some research.

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