The Kerry campaign calls on a conservative publisher to withdraw book after the Washington Post torpedoes the veracity of a Swift boat veteran.
The Kerry campaign has told Salon that the publisher of “Unfit for Command,” the book that is at the center of the attack on Kerry’s military record by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, is retailing a hoax and should consider withdrawing it from bookstores. “No publisher should want to be selling books with proven falsehoods in them, especially falsehoods that are meant to smear the military service of an American veteran,” said Kerry campaign spokesman Chad Clanton. “If I were them, I’d be ducking under my desk wondering what to do. This is a serious problem.”
Even some uncomfortable Republicans might breathe a sigh a relief if “Unfit for Command” were to vanish from bookstores: “I don’t think the Swift Boat Veterans are helping the Republican cause,” Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., remarked on CNN Thursday.
Yanking the title may seem unlikely given the fact that Regnery Publishing, the conservative shop that is home to fire-breathing right-wing partisans like Ann Coulter and David Limbaugh, is behind the book. Thanks to the big-spending campaign of the Republican veterans group, which is bankrolled by major Bush contributors, the book has already hit bestseller lists and is sure to turn a big profit.
But there is a long-standing tradition by reputable publishers of withdrawing titles that prove to be hoaxes or frauds. Just last month Random House’s Australian unit was forced to pull an international bestseller after it was determined to be a fabrication. The book, “Forbidden Love,” allegedly detailed the death of a Jordanian woman, murdered by her Muslim father after he discovered she was seeing a Christian man. After questions were raised, an internal investigation by Random House concluded the book was a fraud.
“Unfit for Command” and the veterans group behind it are facing similar questions Thursday after the Washington Post torpedoed the veracity of one of its key members. Larry Thurlow, who commanded a Navy Swift boat alongside Kerry in Vietnam, has insisted Kerry lied about the circumstances surrounding his Bronze Star award, claiming Kerry’s boat never came under enemy fire on March 13, 1969, the day an injured Kerry leaned overboard to scoop wounded Green Beret Larry Rassmann out of the river. But contrary to Thurlow’s claim, the Washington Post has reported today that according to his own military files, which recorded the events of March 13, 1969, “enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire” were directed at “all units” of the five-boat flotilla, including Kerry’s.
Earlier, Retired Adm. Roy Hoffmann, chairman and co-founder of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, flip-flopped on a key element of his Kerry story. In May, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, “Hoffmann acknowledged he had no first-hand knowledge to discredit Kerry’s claims to valor and said that although Kerry was under his command, he really didn’t know Kerry much personally.” But with the pending publication of “Unfit for Command,” Hoffmann changed his story, insisting he “knew [Kerry] well.”
Hoffmann wasn’t alone in reversing his story on the Kerry attack. In 1968, Grant Hibbard, a lieutenant commander in Vietnam during Kerry’s tour, described Kerry favorably: “One of the top few in his willingness to seek and accept responsibility.” But now he claims Kerry lied about his service. Another vocal Kerry critic, Capt. George Elliot, who served in Vietnam at the same time Kerry did, praised Kerry both in a 1968 evaluation (“In a combat environment often requiring independent, decisive action, Lieutenant Junior Grade Kerry was unsurpassed”) and as recently as 1996 when Elliot publicly praised Kerry for charging after the enemy.
A Regnery Publishing spokesperson did not return a call seeking comment about the factual cloud over “Unfit for Command.” But if Regnery doesn’t withdraw the book, perhaps bookstore retailers will at least consider moving the title over to the fiction section.
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Two-for-one for Everyone — West Wind Solano Twin Drive-In, Concord, Calif. This family-friendly attraction with several spots across the U.S. (including California, Nevada and Arizona) prides itself on offering first-run double features (save for premiere events) on the cheap — which is quite the deal, considering their 65-foot screens are among the biggest in the biz. And if you have great car speakers, even better: squawk boxes of old have been replaced with Dolby quality audio piped through your car’s FM stereo.
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See Stars Collide — Ford-Wyoming Drive-In, Dearborn, Mich. Open year-round (unlike many of its surviving contemporaries), this five-screen staple of the Midwest known as the “largest drive-in in the world” plays host for up to 3,000 cars on any given night. And if the double-feature doesn’t hold your attention, relax; you’ve got the best (car)seat in the house for the occasional overhead meteor shower.
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Proof That Film is Forever — Shankweilers, Orefield, Pa. While we’re on superlative street, consider stopping at this roadside treasure: America’s oldest drive-in. Operating since 1934, it may not have the frills and pony rides of nearby Becky’s Drive-In, but it’s defied hurricanes and the wear and tear of time. Worth the one-hour drive from Philly.
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The Gritty Hollywood Reboot — Corral Drive-In, Guymon, Okla. Like a slasher movie menace that died (several times) in the ’80s only to be rebooted years after, the long-vacant Corral Drive-In was resurrected and restored in 2009, providing big entertainment at a nominal fee. And if the $6 adult admission doesn’t make you feel like a kid again, the venue’s inflatable bouncers most definitely will.
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Hop the Healthy Highway — Delsea Drive-In, Vineland, N.J. Less than an hour’s trip from Atlantic City, New Jersey’s only drive-in offers the best of both worlds — old school aesthetic outfitted with modern tech and healthier food choices to boot. Open seasonally, with first features beginning around dusk.
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And really, what better way is there to cruise the nostalgia highway of old Hollywood than in a MINI Roadster? Allowing all the headroom one needs to see the stars on the screen and those directly above, the 2013 convertible goes the distance where it counts — on the road (obviously), not to mention the discerning driver’s wallet. Never mind that its fun-size frame also makes motoring in and out of tight traffic all the more enjoyable (or parking in even tighter spots for cozy romantics all the more convenient).
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Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."