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Monday, November 01, 2004

Today's NY Sun article on Kerry's discharge status

Reporter Thomas Lipscomb's article in today's New York Sun — which Big Trunk at Power Line correctly describes as the "capstone of a series of pieces this year that should earn him a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism" —  is entitled "Kerry's Discharge Is Questioned by an Ex-JAG Officer."  The lede:

A former officer in the Navy's Judge Advocate General Corps Reserve has built a case that Senator Kerry was other than honorably discharged from the Navy by 1975, The New York Sun has learned.

This article builds and expands upon Mr. Lipscomb's October 13th article in the Sun, which has since been moved to a subscription-only archive.  I blogged at considerable length about that article, with meaty quotes, in a post entitled "Was Kerry's original discharge less than honorable?" and no doubt Mr. Lipscomb's October 13th article can be found in full various other places on the net.  My commenters have done a commendable job of providing additional links and arguments, pro and con, both on my original thread and in a newer one from last Friday.  If you have the patience to parse through Mr. Lipscomb's two articles and my two prior posts and their comments, I daresay you'll be about as well informed as any layman in the country on the question of whether an inferential case can be built that Sen. Kerry's original discharge was less than fully honorable — based on the records reproduced on Sen. Kerry's website and the records that experts say should be there, but aren't, if Sen. Kerry's original discharge was indeed fully honorable.  What Mr. Lipscomb's article today adds to the inferential case are the opinions of Navy lawyers — JAG lawyers — who have first-hand experience in dealing with these regulations and procedures from within the Navy Department that I certainly lack. 

What fascinates me most about Mr. Lipscomb's new article, however, is this quote — purportedly based on first-hand recollection rather than inference (boldface added):

Certainly something was wrong as early as 1973 when Mr. Kerry was applying to law school.

Mr. Kerry has said, "I applied to Harvard, Boston University, and Boston College. I was extremely late. Only BC would entertain a late application."

It is hard to see why Mr. Kerry had to file an "extremely late" application since he lost the congressional race in Lowell, Mass., the first week of November 1972 and was basically doing nothing until he entered law school the following September of 1973. A member of the Harvard Law School admissions committee recalled that the real reason Mr. Kerry was not admitted was because the committee was concerned that because Mr. Kerry had received a less than honorable discharge they were not sure he could be admitted to any state bar.

Both law school and bar applications require quite comprehensive disclosures from the applicants and inquire specifically about past military service and the conditions of the applicant's discharge.  And given young John Kerry's then-existing fame, it is entirely unsurprising that a member of Harvard Law School's admissions committee would clearly remember discussing the circumstances of his application, even thirty-odd years later.  On its face, then, this report from Mr. Lipscomb's source definitely qualifies as someone with first-hand knowledge of Sen. Kerry's application and his statements therein about the character of his then-existing discharge status.

But is the source reliable?  I'm quite certain that Mr. Lipscomb, and his editors at the Sun, would have much preferred to use an on-the-record quotation attributed to his source by name.  However, the reasons why such a source would decline to speak on the record and for attribution are obvious:  although probably not protected by legal teeth comparable to those in the federal privacy laws that govern Sen. Kerry's military records, both Sen. Kerry's application and the Harvard Law School admissions committee's deliberations on it were undoubtedly considered by the committee to be confidential, both in the interests of the applicant and of the institution.  Whether one characterizes this source as a deplorable "leaker" or a courageous "whistleblower" largely depends, of course, on one's political predispositions.  But either way, this clearly is a classic example of a situation in which reporters have traditionally relied upon and reported information from confidential sources.

Here's another important bit from Mr. Lipscomb's article:

Kerry spokesman David Wade did not reply when asked if Mr. Kerry was other than honorably discharged before he was honorably discharged.

If I'd asked the same question of the Kerry campaign — here on my blog, or in an email or a telephone call — the campaign would have almost certainly ignored me.  But there can be no doubt that the Kerry campaign is aware of Mr. Lipscomb (who, I'm told, earned his spurs as a journalist at the New York Times) and his previous reporting on Sen. Kerry's military record in the Sun and the Chicago Sun-Times, and they've explicitly responded to his questions and reacted to his reporting in the past.  The odds that the Kerry campaign simply ignored Mr. Lipscomb's inquiry altogether (as they would have my own) are therefore nil.  Rather, Sen. Kerry and his surrogates deliberately decided not to respond.  If Sen. Kerry's original discharge was fully honorable — if the Harvard Law School admissions committee member is mistaken or lying, and if the inferential case argued from Sen. Kerry's records is mistaken — why did the Kerry campaign not simply flatly answer with an affirmative assertion that his original discharge was fully honorable?

You don't have to be a crusty old trial lawyer, with many seasons of cross-examining reluctant witnesses, to spot that as a huge red flag and draw appropriate inferences from it.  But the Kerry campaign — perhaps correctly, if audaciously — is gambling that because Mr. Lipscomb's article is in the New York Sun instead of in the New York Times, no significant portion of the voting public will notice. 

John Kerry is stonewalling, and he's gambling that he'll get away with it, at least through the close of the last poll tomorrow.

Posted by Beldar at 09:14 AM in Law (2006 & earlier), Mainstream Media, Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Today's NY Sun article on Kerry's discharge status and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» Earthquake Strikes the Kerry Campaign from Stones Cry Out

Tracked on Nov 1, 2004 10:43:34 AM

» Were Kerry's Navy Files Pruged? from Democracy Project

Tracked on Nov 1, 2004 11:00:10 AM

» One more reason to believe Kerry's hiding something from Pajama Pundits

Tracked on Nov 1, 2004 12:27:20 PM

» One more reason to believe Kerry's hiding something from Pajama Pundits

Tracked on Nov 1, 2004 12:31:47 PM

» Lipscomb does it again from Media Lies

Tracked on Nov 1, 2004 2:50:43 PM

» Submitted for Your Approval from Watcher of Weasels

Tracked on Nov 3, 2004 12:14:21 AM


(1) Patrick R. Sullivan made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 9:28:14 AM | Permalink

And as I suspected, Ted Kennedy was the guy who enabled it. Though I didn't realize it was through FISA. The Church comittee's mischief is still bedeviling the country. Kerry; the country's first traitor-President?

(2) vnjagvet made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 9:44:28 AM | Permalink

I agree with your assessment, Beldar. Kerry's now sanitized answer to Tom Brokaw relating to the secrecy of his military records takes on more meaning, doesn't it.

There are most probably a number of Naval Officers out there with information they cannot divulge because of potential criminal sanctions.

From all of this, it would be interesting to publish a news article with the headline, "Kerry the first presidential candidate to have received a less than honorable discharge", with the goal inviting a libel suit from Kerry. This is, of course, the sort of approach Larry Flynt and the tabloids use all of the time.

I think it unlikely that Kerry could successfully prosecute such a suit without eventually authorizing release of all of his naval records.

I'd love to defend such a suit. How about you Beldar?

(3) Sam Miller made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 10:36:51 AM | Permalink

its as true as the 'pen cheat' during the debates.

curious timing. Few hours before the vote.

Not for max impact. Just the longest the story can exist.

(4) The Old Coot made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 11:18:49 AM | Permalink

Sadly, the MSM would not care if Kerry admitted he enjoyed eating live puppies. You only need to look at MSM fawning over Teddy "The Swimmer" Kennedy and Robert "Mr. White Sheets" Byrd to understand that.

(5) brandon davis made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 11:19:47 AM | Permalink

Conservative Voice has some relevant background on the subject.

(6) ed made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 11:25:54 AM | Permalink


1. "Not for max impact. Just the longest the story can exist."

No, not really. This has been speculated upon for months now. At least since the details of Kerry's "Honorable Discharge" in 1978. In most cases someone who signs up for a 6 year hitch in 1966 should be discharged rather earlier than 1978.

Don'tcha think?

2. I think the MSM has really done a massive disservice to the country in this election year. The MSM has been largely in the tank for Democrats for decades now, but it hasn't done as much damage as it has this year. It was the non-coverage by the MSM that allowed Kerry, a politically damaged candidate, survive the primaries. If the MSM had done their job in the first place, Kerry would never have survived the primaries and the DNC would have had a much stronger candidate. Normally politics is a brutal Darwinian process that generally weeds out ineffective candidates. I'd suggest that this process also improves the quality of those candidates that do get elected. Of course by "quality" I am talking about pure political ability, not in any real qualitive ability as a legislator or leader.

Hmmm. Perhaps that explains, in part, the rather strange downward spiral of the Democratic Party. Some of the Democrats running for office seem strangely incapable and unable to actually campaign. One example, whose name I've forgotten, even (literally) ran from a televised public debate with the Republican incumbant. She got up on stage, spewed some strange diatribe and then ran off. What a bizzare thing to have happen.

Perhaps the MSM exerting an even stronger pressure on the GOP's candidates has had an effect too on the political ability of those people. Does anyone think that if Jack Ryan, candidate in Illinois, were a Democrat that the MSM would have unsealed his divorce documents to smear him? How many Democrats are in office, or running for office, that could be fatally compromised because they weren't put under the hammer by the MSM?

Hmmm. It's an interesting thought. Darwin applied to politics and the subsequent effects on the available pool of candidates for future office. It's almost like having a fish pond with some fish as Republicans and some fish as Democrats. And then having some people fishing in the pond, with the vast majority looking to hook a Republican.

Anyone's thoughts on this? Can Darwin's theories be applied to political candidates?

(7) MeTooThen made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 11:40:16 AM | Permalink


A bit OT.

Now that you are in the "Million Club", I have a proposition for you.

What if...

John Forbes Kerry is tomorrow, elected as the 43rd President of the Unites States, and that concerned citizens, like yourself, endeavor to write and produce (someone else will actually have to make) a documentary called something like...

JFK 180

And highlight, in detail the words and deeds of then Lt. Kerry, and then Senator Kerry, including, but not limited to, his combat medals (and ribbons), Winter Soldier, testimony before the Senate, meetings in Paris, his divorce...

You get the idea.

I would have to guess (speculation here) that such a film would make as much, if not more money than F911.

Now whether anyone would want to diminish the President or the Office of the President is open to debate, and a matter of difficult choice and conscience.

Now, if JFK loses, or tries to litigate his way to POTUS, one still may want to make such a film.

But I am interested in your response.

(8) Michael B made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 12:05:37 PM | Permalink

"... should earn him a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism."

Certainly so, though with emphasis upon the should; unlikely in the extreme however. I believe the NYSun is a relative newcomer and one occasionally billed as even a bit of an ideological foil to the NYT, but certainly a marketplace competitor. Then there's the whole politically correct aspect of the Pulitzers to begin with. If that's informed by more cynicism than well grounded information, I'd love to be corrected.

(9) Geek, Esq. made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 12:21:35 PM | Permalink

I smell a rat.

1. Sullivan's claim that Kerry would have been discharged in 1975 if everything were on the level. That is not born out by the relevant regulations.

"Officers with fewer than 20 years of qualifying service may normally remain in the USNR-S2 for 1-3 years. After that time members will be screened and considered for discharge unless . . ."

"Normally" and "screened and considered" are the crucial words. It does not state that such officers WILL be summarily discharged within three years.

Rather, it states that they will be SCREENED and CONSIDERED for discharge.

Such discharge, of course, would have to go through the hoops set forth in 10 usc 1163.

How often did the Navy go through RIF's under 10 usc 1163?

2. Checking the law school admissions claim against the known timeline raises serious, serious questions about this allegation.

Kerry was a member of the Ready Reserve until July 1, 1972. He received correspondence which implies that he was a member of the Reserves in good standing as late as August 14, 1972.

So, if we are to believe the NY Sun article, Kerry underwent adverse proceedings and was court martialed between August 1972 and December 1972. And that this occurred without any paperwork or witnesses.

This is simply a Rorschach test--those who believe it will do so because they want it to be true.

(10) Boger made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 12:27:33 PM | Permalink

Lipscomb's article only mentions Sullivan. The purloined (?) email to Hannity was written by a Capt. Nelson. That's TWO former JAG officers. Perhaps there will be more today.

The Privacy Act info was new to me and may explain some things. But still scratching my head why two retired JAG officers would wait until now to speak up. Why not a month or two ago? This whole situation is totally bizarre. Somebody, sometime is going to put a camera and microphone in front of them. It will be interesting.

Maybe Beldar can comment on this hypothetical. One of these two men says, My name is, ..... I served in the office of SECNAV in 19...... I have personal knowledge of materials relating to Senator Kerrry's discharge. I am not permitted under the Privacy Act to say what that informaiton is. However, I am permitted to say that all Americans should demand that Senator Kerry sign Form 180 so that this matter can be discovered and resolved, and not affect the future of our country. Is there any liability in such a statement?

If Kerry wins this thing there is going to be a growing cancer on his presidency before he even takes office. You often hear the platitude about even the perception of impropriety, etc., is to be avoided by public officials and leaders. So forget the truth of his discharge, the fact that Kerry would allow this issue to take root and grow by not signing the Form 180 release, is itself revealing. It is so lacking in responsibility and leadership. If he is calculating that if he wins this will eventually blow over, not be an impediment to his governing, etc., he is very much mistaken. Its hard to imagine a more divisive and dangerous scenario for the country going forward.

(11) Michael B made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 12:35:56 PM | Permalink

As an afterthought, in noting the NYS is occasionally thought of as something of an ideological foil to the NYT, I've seen that noted a couple of times only, not in the sense that the NYS takes a "rightest" or overly conservative (or whatever) position in reaction to the NYT, but rather that the NYS seemingly takes a distinctly more even-handed and well tempered reportorial view philosophically that is evidenced on their pages. Something along the lines of the spirit invoked by Martha Gellhorn in the following quote:

"Serious, careful, honest journalism is essential, not because it is a guiding light but because it is a form of honorable behavior, involving the reporter and the reader."

That's a beautifully foced statement by Gellhorn, a WWII correspondent and an ex-wife of Hemingway at the time she made that statement.

Tip of the hat to Eamonn FItzgerald's Rainy Day blog, one of the very finest.

(12) jaloti made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 12:38:49 PM | Permalink

I also have been skeptical of the whole discharge story, but the thing I keep coming back to is why did he have his medals re-issued, with new verbiage and new signatures, in the 1980s? If it was just throwing away the hardware, he could easily get new ones with the paper. If he lost the papers, he could get copies from the Navy. Why would he have them re-issued? I can't find a reason, other than if he had been stripped of them by a prior other than honorable discharge? Am I wrong?

(13) Michael B made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 12:39:22 PM | Permalink

'focused', not 'foced'

(14) Roofer made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 12:39:27 PM | Permalink

Geek, would you please lay out for me a sound reason, based on public policy or a privacy concern that supersedes the public-policy aspects (though in the case of a man who wants to be POTUS, I can't think of any), that would justify Sen. Kerry not releasing all his military records?

David Wade, by not answering Lipscomb's question, basically continued the Kerry line of, "It's none of your business." Do you subscribe to that notion?

I'll ask you again: Should not the military records of a man who is promoting his military service as a prime qualification for his fitness to be commander-in-chief be subject to at least the same amount of scrutiny as the records of someone who has rarely, if ever, mentioned his military service as a reason to vote for him?

I neither believe nor disbelieve. But I think the inferential case is strong, and Kerry's unwillingness to issue a simple denial doesn't do anything to support the counterargument.

(15) Donna made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 12:40:39 PM | Permalink

QUESTION: Should Kerry be elected, and should solid evidence emerge that his discharge was less honorable and that reason is his connection with the enemy during the Vietnam War, is that grounds for impeachment?

I'm intrigued by commenter ed's Darwinian politics thoughts.

(16) MC made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 12:58:56 PM | Permalink

'Less-than-honorable' perhaps just the symptom.

The real issue is treason. See: link

Given that it's really to late for election impact, what about the prospect of a preseident-elect convicted of treason prior to being sworn in?

(17) Michael B made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 1:14:19 PM | Permalink

"I smell a rat." Geek, Esq.

Your epistemological grounding in ideological positivism may well be the rat you smell. A degree of skepticism is most always warranted, willful blindness, myopia, obduracy and cynically informed dismissiveness are not.

The empirical evidence is growing, not diminishing.

(18) A Comment made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 1:19:02 PM | Permalink

John Kerry was a RESERVE officer who got his RESERVE commission through OCS. [I understand that the differences between Regular and Reserve commissions don't mean as much nowadays.] He was contracted to serve active duty, ready reserve duty, and (optionally) standby reserve duty for a total of six years. At the end of his contracted service he would have been discharged (and his commission expired) with no further obligation in 1972/1973 or 1974/1975 the latter if his contracted service extended his initial Naval Reserve enlistment.

His contract included language that stated that, while in the Ready Reserve, he was to attend drills (similar to Bush in the TANG) and could be called to active duty if he didn't go to drill. Since I don't think he attended drill and, likely, didn't respond to any order to go on active duty (if any such order was issued), it is quite plausible that he may have gotten a other than honorable discharge which was later upgraded.

It has been stated elsewhere that dishonorable, and less than honorable?? discharges can only be the result of courtmartial actions not administrative. It is doubtful that any legal proceedings would be conducted against a reserve officer, Kerry, who is going to get out anyway, just as it would be doubtful that any legal proceedings would have been conducted against Bush since he was going to leave the service too (and he seems to have made an effort to cover the requirements, however belatedly, of his service obligation).

So, I think that the idea that Kerry was still be in the Naval Reserve long after his nominal obligation was over, hence why his discharge papers came from 1978, is rationalization. If Bush's discharge papers were dated 1978 (since he left the TANG in 1973 or so), I would be fairly certain that there would be intense interest in the apparent anamoly and he would have been questioned about why his discharge papers were dated several years after he left service.

In any case, as an election issue, this would be moot in a couple days anyway. I doubt that it would sway any "swing voters" by itself. Likely, it will be a historical footnote at best.

(19) Geek, Esq. made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 1:27:00 PM | Permalink

According to the NY Sun article, if I read it correctly, the documents in question are not part of Kerry's record at all.

As I've noted before, given the coordinated and focused campaign to smear Kerry, I quite honestly don't blame him for not wanting to give his private medical records to his enemies so that they can further smear him.

Here is one alternative theory: Kerry came back from Vietnam with some sort of PTSD, and was treated by psychiatrists or counselors. That is something that he would have no obligation to reveal, and would be a damn fool to reveal.

The bottom line is that virtually nobody who is dying to see what's in his file would ever consider voting for him in the first place, so he there is no upside to him opening up the remainder of his file.

(20) Michael B made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 1:32:10 PM | Permalink

Yet once again, the Pres. signed the release form, J. Kerry has evaded that decision - and successfully so in large part because the MSM in general has not held him responsible for that evasiveness.

Signing the release forms would almost certainly clear up any skepticism or ambiguity, hence a goodly portion of the failure to clear up that confusion falls upon J. Kerry's shoulders, not the shoulders of those investigative journalists such as Lipscomb who decide not to tow the party line designated by the MSM/DNC/Kerry campaign.

(21) Navy Chief made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 1:59:50 PM | Permalink

Geek Esq,

Amazing. I thought you were into facts? Now you want to rationalize with hypothetical situations about Kerry's records? Medical records, huh? 100 pages worth? Do you really have a clue about anything military or are you the lead debunker for the Kerry Camp? Just would like to know when I get to hear some real facts from you. And if you smell a "rat", I guess you're talking to me again. Go ahead with all your conspiracy theories about why this came out now. Tom and I know the truth, however.

ta ta,

- Chief

(22) Quadraginta made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 2:36:45 PM | Permalink

As someone who has served on graduate admissions committees, I am most struck by the statement from the guy on the Harvard Law School admissions committee.

I can tell you, it took rare courage for the guy to say what he did even anonymously. The potential blowback inside the university is hideous to contemplate. First, deliberations inside an admissions committee are supposed to be a deep dark secret. You don't tell anyone, not even your colleagues not on the committee. Second, Harvard is a pretty socialist place. If his colleagues find out he's helped that anti-Christ Bush, he's in trouble. I mean, big trouble, because the secret to the monolithic dominance of the socialist viewpoint in academe is the same secret it had in the Stalinist USSR: the possibility of an alternative viewpoint is simply not allowed. You know dissent on even minor matters of party dogma equals an instant one-way ticket to the Gulag. Third, Harvard is the apex of the business. It's not like he can contemplate greener fields elsewhere if life with his colleagues becomes intolerable.

I attribute it only to the fact that the guy is probably pretty near retirement. Retirement in academe is not the same as in industry -- most emeritus faculty stay pretty close to the university -- but he may feel freer to speak his mind.

(23) Robin Roberts made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 2:57:40 PM | Permalink

Again, this demonstrates the double-standards of the MSM rather dramatically. President Bush has been subjected to uncounted hours and hours of media attention upon his National Guard service on less evidence that is present regarding John Kerry. And this is an easy charge for Kerry to refute. All it takes is for him to release the records.

(24) antimedia made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 3:02:02 PM | Permalink

Quadraginta, he would have to be near retirement or already retired if he was on the admissions committee in the 70's, wouldn't he? He'd be in the late 50's at a minimum, and more likely in his 60's or even 70's.

Don't get too breathless about this story, folks. It won't be picked up by anyone in the large media because it doesn't even approach the level of scrutiny they require before publishing - at least that's what Oliphant would say.

(25) Geek, Esq. made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 3:06:44 PM | Permalink


That article is still premised upon faulty logic and a misstatement of the applicable law.

See you at inauguration time.

(26) Jim made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 3:24:55 PM | Permalink

Likely someone out discharged at the same time as Kerry's first discharge has a record of Kerry's honorable or less than honorable discharge. When I was discharged in June, 1964, my honorable discharge certificate came with an attached 'Special Orders Extract' listing all the people who were promoted, demoted, and discharged, for all reasons, for the month of June, 1964. My discharge was from the Texas Army National Guard but it seems likely to me that the other branches of the service would follow the same paperwork procedure. If you were in the Navy Reserve and discharged about the same time, check your discharge papers. You may have the answer regarding Kerry's dischage in hand and not know it.

(27) JAT made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 3:25:20 PM | Permalink

QUESTION: Should Kerry be elected, and should solid evidence emerge that his discharge was less honorable and that reason is his connection with the enemy during the Vietnam War, is that grounds for impeachment?

Careful - Edwards would be POTUS - he - more than Kerry is even less qualified to run this country.

(28) antimedia made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 3:29:53 PM | Permalink

Geek, a commissioned JAG officer disagrees with your "analysis" of the applicable regulations. Give us a reason why we should believe that you are qualified to refute his analysis.

(29) VA Jim made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 3:37:17 PM | Permalink

Kerry's refusal to come clean --on his discharge too-- is simply part of his elitist disregard for insignificant items like "the truth". He's consistently ignored what's known to have happened for his version of re-written history, provided it serves Kerry's purpose.

Kerry's original discharge had nothing to do with medical records, which are always seperate from the administrative paperwork. (Nice try Geek, moving the goalposts and building a strawman)

At the time of Kerry's seperation there were 5 categories of discharge:
Honorable - fulfilled contract, full benefits
General - no fault unfulfilled contract. Some benefits.
Undesirable - see below
Bad Conduct - criminal & service crimes
Dishonorable - serious crimes

In all likelyhood Kerry's original discharge was an 'undesirable discharge'. The UD was an administrative discharge "for the good of the service". It was for an unfulfilled contract due to the member's fault, though short of criminal conduct. At that time, the General discharge was used for an unfulfilled contract due to conditions beyond the member's control; such as medical problems, homosexuality, and sometimes surviving sibling. There is no courts martial involved in a UD, though it was often used as a plea-bargain to avoid a court martial.

If memory serves, it could not have been forced on someone (like a bad conduct or dishonorable could) but the UD would have been at the individual's request; though often suggested by the service. It carried some negatives such as no service benefits or honors; but wasn't considered a criminal record by the FBI/NCIC.

The UD was 'artificial', a new category of discharge that's since been eliminated. It was often given for "moral unsuitability"; and was probably created to deal with inherent intransigence during an unpopular war manned with draftees. This explains Harvard and Boston's reaction to Kerry, since a UD wasn't criminal, but moral turpitude is a bar disqualification. Boston admitted him, because the UD isn't simply for moral deficiencies. (BTW, this also explains the service's current resistance to any reinstatement of the draft)

Carter's amnesty, though ostensibly intended for draft dodgers, was squarely aimed at altering the masses of UD created by the Vietnam era. The service's reaction to unwilling draftees was vindictive, and the procedures have come back to haunt it. Which is wrong. The individuals who created and administered that system are all long gone; counter-sanctions only damage a now-corrected service and our security.

Kerry should have received either an honorable discharge or a deserved trial for violation of military law. If he received a UD, it was another misuse of the system. By issuing a UD the "establishment" avoided publicity (which Kerry would have used) and still punished him. Carter's amnesty also appears to have intended those discharges to be altered to General status, a state of 'no prejudice'; not Honorable.

In the end, it would make another consistent part of the Kerry puzzle; the UD required a request by the service member. If the UD was Kerry's discharge, Kerry later flip-flo... ughh... changed his mind to request an honorable discharge. It's probably all too nuanced for people to understand.

(30) antimedia made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 3:39:42 PM | Permalink

jaloti, I think you are exactly right. The suspicious reissuance of his medals points to something amiss in his past. Since a less than honorable discharge would have resulted in the revocation of all his awards, the evidence posted on his website points to a confirmation of that discharge. It also explains why he has adopted such torturous language in explaining what happend to his medals (did he throw the medals away? The ribbons? Someone else's medals?)

If we accept that his discharge was less than honorable, then his language in 1971 purports perfectly with the loss of his medals due to a less than honorable discharge and explains why he has to withhold his records and use "nuanced" language to explain how the medals suddenly reappeared.

(31) vnjagvet made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 4:14:44 PM | Permalink

I think VAJim has nailed it. He's much more persuasive than Geek, ESQ. He has posited a scenario that is consistent with my recollection of existing military law and the climate of the times.

I was recruiting law students during this period for my law firm from BC, Harvard, and other institutions up and down the Eastern US.

Harvard, of course was still very mindful of its reputation as (in its mind) the top law school in the country. It would not have wanted the stigma of admitting a student whose admission to the bar would have been in doubt.
Its faculty still had contemporaries of the real JFK in leadership positions, and was not so thorougly radicalized as to want to "make a statement" with the admission of a former Naval Officer who appeared to have left the service in bad standing with the Navy.

If Lipscomb's story (as explained by VAJim's scenario) is correct, it surely explains the almost feral activities of the Kerry campaign and CBS to resurrect the GWB/TANG story.

I am sure they desire to believe, in true Derrida fashion, that morally, GWB's honorable discharge was unjustly awarded as a result of Daddy's pull while Kerry's was the proper result of a correction of an earlier (but undisclosed) injustice.

I am looking forward to a debriefing of my fellow VN Vets after the election, whatever the result.

There is a real story there.

(32) Roofer made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 4:48:58 PM | Permalink

So, Geek, your position, if I understand your posts correctly, is that 1) the military records of a man who uses his service as the primary qualification to be commander-in-chief should not be subject to the same scrutiny as those of someone who has hardly mentioned his service; 2) in general, the American public has no right to know, and should not expect to know, the entire service record of a man who aspires to be commander-in-chief, and 3) the American public has no right to know, and should not expect to know, whether a candidate for president has a history of mental illness?

Does that pretty much summarize your position?

(33) antimedia made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 4:54:43 PM | Permalink

Roofer, tell number 3 to Lawrence Eagleton. (You have to be fairly old to remember that one.)

(34) Where's The Beef? made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 5:06:29 PM | Permalink

Even if Geek Esq is correct about Kerry's determined avoidance of releasing military records, consider the factors that have gone into that calculation.

If Kerry were to be elected and if he were to take office, he will have undermined both the office of the President and the fundamental code of honor that binds the civilian authority and the military command. Kerry's Vietnam conduct is far more than a metaphor. But a huge factor in his calculation, as per Greek Esq's speculation, is that Vietnam was never more than an abstraction to this man.

And he will depend on the honor system again as most Americans, and most veterans, will be highly reluctant to pursue this beyond election day. He depended on that sort of reluctance throughout his political career and his behavior declares that he expects the American people to look the other way.

(35) Paul H. made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 5:23:10 PM | Permalink

If Kerry wins the election it will be interesting to see if his undisclosed records start to finally attract the interest of the MSM. Interest could begin to build slowly, and then suddenly explode -- like 377 tons of missing RDX, 18 months after the fact!

What could be the catalyst for such an event? Hmm, maybe maneuvering by Democratic political operatives to try for access to his archival military personnel file, in order to "sanitize" it. The irony would be that if in fact the file is like Oakland -- there is no "there" there.

I don't hope for such a thing -- indeed I dread it. If Kerry is smart, after winning the election he'll go ahead and disclose, to defuse this far in advance of 2008. Or else issue drastic orders to his political operatives, to stay away from this topic -- and from his file. The Clinton administration definitely set some bad precedents in this area.

(36) Veteran330 made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 7:35:31 PM | Permalink


I have had many interesting jobs in my life, mostly in engineering, but the most interesting was as a bouncer in a topless bar.

One night I came in to work to find some useless slug of a man so berating the helpless girl who was working the cash register that she was in tears. The slug was clearly enjoying the experience.

It took me about 1/2 second to correctly sum up the situation and start acting. I grabbed him in a classic bums rush, ran him face first through the heavy oak doors at the front of the bar, across the parking lot, and threw him none to gently into the street.

When he recovered he blustered "You can't do that to me, I'm a lawyer!"

My response was "You're an attorney? Good, then you will understand what I am about to tell you. You are barred from these premises, if you attempt to return I will have you arrested for criminal trespass."

His acquaintance, since such people rarely have friends, who had followed the two of us out to the street literally fell on the ground laughing at him.

The reason I tell that story is that I so hope that you are the lawyer I bounced our of there.

You strike me as the sort of person who can't live up to the rather low standards of behavior required of a patron at a topless bar, and who needs to be pimp slapped out the door to uphold those standards.

The cash register girl had a big smile on her face when I came back in.

(37) Bill M made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 7:52:50 PM | Permalink

"Here's another important bit from Mr. Lipscomb's article:

Kerry spokesman David Wade did not reply when asked if Mr. Kerry was other than honorably discharged before he was honorably discharged."

For gosh sakes, Kerry even flip-flopped on his discharge -- first he was other than honorably discharged before he was honorably discharged!! Is there no end to it???

(38) brandon davis made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 8:32:36 PM | Permalink

VA Jim is mostly correct about the UD.

(I didn't know the UD had been phased out, so it's no wonder there's confusion about the thing.)

And I s'pose that the UD was given often enough for issues of "moral turpitude" back then, but that certainly wasn't the only basis of issuance.

The UD was not considered a "dishonourable discharge" in the sense that the BCD and DD are. Nor was the UD considered a "good discharge" in the sense that the Honorable and General Discharges are.

It was simply an administrative discharge for the "good of the service", under conditions (of service) that were less then fully honourable, with the participatory agreement of the parties thereto.

The UD was most often given as the result of an Article 15 hearing at the battalion level (at least, in the Army it was; the company level wasn't high enough on the command chain to initiate an administrative discharge, although other Article 15's could be given as circumstances warranted at that level), and the UD Art. 15 did NOT require a commissioned officer OR counsel to be present at the hearing (a battalion sergeant major E11 rank could do the hearing).

The UD was explained at the time as "neutral" inasmuch as any time spent in service was thenceforth considered to be as much a temporary hiatus from civilian life as anything else. (Think of it as a kind of an "annulment" due to lack of consummation, if you will.)

A UD DID result in forfeiture of veteran's benefits, regardless of time in service, but it did NOT result in forfeiture of medals or ribbions (well, inasmuch as the typical Art. 15 was usually going to include being busted a pay grade or two, depending upon the circumstances, the loss of a stripe or two was pretty inevitable) ...again, a BCD or DD would mean you were stripped of all honours, medals, pay rank, etc. Not so with a UD.

It was all pretty much along the lines of, "You want out, kid? - We want you out. Sign here. Bye. Don't let the door hit you on the way out."

"Instransigence" was an hilariously accurate description btw ...those were the days when a trainee/inductee might simply refuse - as a matter of political conscience - to "participate" at any level (which in an earlier army, would have certainly meant some tough sergeant taking said draftee out behind some bush and beating the holy crap out of him), while without being under consideration for legal status as a CO.

(A conscientious objector request was almost always based upon religious beliefs & practice ...it was EXTREMELY rare to be considered by the service for CO status for purely philosophical reasons, and almost as rare to ask for - or receive - CO status AFTER entering service ...to successfully run that gauntlet took the sustained and sympathetic participation of an experienced Chaplain and an extraordinary degree of intestinal fortitude. It happened ...just not very often. And for those times and individuals that it didn't, or couldn't, happen, there was always an Art. 15 UD separation).

I said all that, to illuminate why I rather disagree with VA Jim about Kerry having received a UD:

I have SERIOUS doubts that an Article 15 UD separation could be the case for a Naval officer - like Kerry - under any circumstances. Breaking an officer's sword is a MUCH more serious issue then booting some enlisted rank out who refuses to cooperate (for whatever reason).

Uh-uh. A UD wouldn't explain the myriad details that are poking through this emergent story. Kerry wouldn't have lost his ribbons & medals for one thing (puts a whole new spin on him tossing 'em over the White House fence though, eh).

(39) Veteran330 made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 8:45:41 PM | Permalink

Geek --

Pass this back on to your handlers at the DNC. Kerry thinks that with the end of the election that will be the end of the Swift Boat vets, and they will forget.

He is wrong: the truth will out. Kerry thinks he can fool everyone for ever, he is wrong. The democratic spin machine has slandered people who were telling the truth - simply because they were telling the truth.

One thing I learned in Vietnam was: "never ever fight the U.S. military". That is the mistake that Kerry has made. They may be out gunned right now, but soon they won't be.

Go read this post of Huck's and my answer to him.(The last two comments on the page)


Don't read it as a lawyer pimping for some candidate, read it as a simple person, and recognize the horrible truth in what I have to say. If you succeed in helping to elect someone who child molestors ought to spit on you will have to look at yourself in a mirror the rest of your life and know what you have done.

(40) VA Jim made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 8:59:24 PM | Permalink

To clarify a couple of points...
I think Kerry got an Undesirable discharge, the facts support that more than other scenarios; but it's pure conjecture. Given Bush's service, even including the CBS/NYT fabrications, such a discharge would have been impossible for Bush. Neither one of the discharges matters much. The real meat will be in the supporting documents of a former Undesirable discharge.

Since an Undesirable discharge was 'for the good of the service', the potential harm to the service (by retention) would have been documented. In the case of an avoided courts martial, all the depositions, allegations, and documents would be intact since the trial never happened.

If a courts martial had occurred some evidence may have been struck or ruled inadmissible, or the accused found not guilty. Then the supporting documents would probably not be attached to the member's record; just the court's findings and sentence.

The Carter amnesty allowed discharge status to change, but the service would have still retained original documents to justify it's original actions. [There's a seperate, standing commission for correcting records]

If Kerry received an Undesirable discharge, the prosecution's entire case is still waiting in his records.

(41) VA Jim made the following comment | Nov 1, 2004 9:19:59 PM | Permalink

Thanks for the info Brandon, you make a good case; apparently because you know far more than I about the military procedure and law.

Just for discussion's sake, I'll stick with the Undesirable discharge theory for a bit longer. A courts martial would have allowed punishment --perhaps prison, but certainly a Bad Conduct or Dishonorable discharge, fines, and revocation of medals and benefits.

Kerry was becoming a media object to the point that the White House noticed; and they were determined to not make a celebrity of him. A trial would have afforded Kerry & Co. even more media attention. An Undesirable discharge, though a little unusual under the circumstances, may have been technically permissible and given both sides a compromise they could live with. The Undesirable discharge was routinely used as a plea-bargain. Kerry avoided jail and the government avoided the limelight.

(42) brandon davis made the following comment | Nov 2, 2004 12:58:34 PM | Permalink

VA Jim -

The single cogent reason that I suspect that the UD probably isn't the case with Kerry, and that we're talking about what will ultimately be revealed as originally a general courts martial resulting in a dishonourable discharge of either kind (BCD, DD), is because Mark Sullivan (NAVSEC Mittendorf's personal secretary), specifically states in the Conservative Voice blog

"...his Navy records: [they] reflect that he was Dishonorably Dismissed from the United States Naval Service."

...emphasis added

It seems to me hard to square Sullivan's "informed expert witness" statement with an Art. 15 administrative discharge. "Other then honourable" was NEVER misstated as "dishonourable" back in the day; they're precise statements of military law, with quite different meanings.

Too, I don't see why Kerry would have bothered covering up an administrative discharge, which would have been looked upon sympathetically, and as an adjunct to his Senate testimony.

Last, a DD would shed a certain amount of intriguingly alternative illumination upon his action in tossing his medals/ribbons/whatever "over the fence", don't you think? (Considering that he'd have had to surrender them, regardless? ...Which would not have been the case with a UD.)

There are just soooo many jarring details in the Senator's public that would be satisfactorily and neatly tied up with the exposure that his "honourable" discharge was more accurately the result of a Carter clemency hearing changing the original results of a general courts martial.

Hmm ...maybe I should pursue the reasoning for this assertion in detail on my blog?

(43) VA Jim made the following comment | Nov 2, 2004 3:35:09 PM | Permalink

Thanks Brandon

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