Thursday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
August 19, 2004 6:05PM (UTC)

It was as easy as a FOIA request to find hard evidence contradicting the story of one of the leading "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" figures. The Washington Post reports that Larry Thurlow's own military records show his Swift Boat came under enemy fire during a raid up the Bay Hap River. Thurlow commanded a boat alongside Kerry's, and Thurlow claims Kerry lied when he said the boats came under enemy fire. Kerry earned a Bronze Star for his actions that day, which included fishing Green Beret Jim Rassmann out of the river. Thurlow won his own Bronze Star that day but apparently hates Kerry so much for his anti-war activism post-Vietnam that he would even deny the details of his own brave actions just to discredit Kerry.

The Post reports: "A document recommending Thurlow for the Bronze Star noted that all his actions 'took place under constant enemy small arms fire which LTJG THURLOW completely ignored in providing immediate assistance' to the disabled boat and its crew. The citation states that all other units in the flotilla also came under fire."

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"'It's like a Hollywood presentation here, which wasn't the case,' Thurlow said last night after being read the full text of his Bronze Star citation. 'My personal feeling was always that I got the award for coming to the rescue of the boat that was mined. This casts doubt on anybody's awards. It is sickening and disgusting.'"

"Thurlow said he would consider his award 'fraudulent' if coming under enemy fire was the basis for it. 'I am here to state that we weren't under fire,' he said. He speculated that Kerry could have been the source of at least some of the language used in the citation. In a telephone interview Tuesday evening after he attended a Swift Boat Veterans strategy session in an Arlington hotel, Thurlow said he lost his Bronze Star citation more than 20 years ago. He said he was unwilling to authorize release of his military records because he feared attempts by the Kerry campaign to discredit him and other anti-Kerry veterans."

In response to the anti-Kerry Swift Boat vets ad, the Kerry campaign released a new TV ad today featuring Rassmann. From the press release: "In the ad, long-time registered Republican, former Lt. Jim Rassmann relives his experience on the Mekong Delta in Vietnam the day that Lt. John Kerry saved his life. The 30-second spot, 'Rassmann,' is airing in the states where the false claims were first aired, including Ohio, West Virginia, and Wisconsin ... Kerrys crewmates have responded to these attacks with the truth -- they were on the Swift Boat with Kerry and they know what happened. 'These assertions are garbage, these people weren't there with John Kerry,' said PCF 94 crewmate Gene Thorson. 'We were. If John Kerry hadn't made the right command decisions, in my opinion, we would be some of the names on that wall.' Del Sandusky, senior enlisted man on the PCF 94 added, 'It was an horrific firefight, I don't know how these guys could stretch the truth like this.'"

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The New York Times has some insight into the jobless recovery today. It turns out many employers aren't hiring despite three years of economic growth because they think they can't afford the rising cost of employee health insurance.

"Government data, industry surveys and interviews with employers big and small indicate that many businesses remain reluctant to hire full-time employees because health insurance, which now costs the nation's employers an average of about $3,000 a year for each worker, has become one of the fastest-growing costs for companies."

"In the presidential campaign, both candidates have proposed measures for tackling the high cost of health insurance, including tax credits for small businesses and low-income people. President Bush has pointed out that consumers can buy relatively inexpensive, high-deductible insurance to protect against catastrophic illnesses and can pay for routine care with new tax-free health savings accounts. He also favors pending legislation that would let small businesses get volume discounts by buying insurance through trade associations, a plan that is opposed by many insurers, state insurance officials and some influential Senate Republicans."

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" ... Senator John Kerry's campaign plans to weigh in today with its own study of the link between rising health care costs and the employment slump. A summary of the report, which was prepared by Laura D. Tyson, who served as an economic adviser to President Bill Clinton, contends that industries with more health care benefits -- like automobile manufacturing -- have suffered the biggest losses in jobs and that those, like food service, that typically offer few benefits have realized the biggest gains."

Reuters reports on the new Sierra Club study that charges the Bush administration with "reckless disregard" for failing to inform New Yorkers of the risks from toxins in the air after the collapse of the World Trade Center. Instead of learning from its mistakes, the Sierra Club warns that the administration has turned its negligent approach into policy.

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"'The Bush administration has learned nothing from the illnesses and hardships suffered by the Ground Zero community. Rather, it plans to perpetuate them in any future national disaster anywhere else in the United States,' the report's author Suzanne Mattei said. The destruction of the twin towers shot pulverized asbestos, lead, concrete, glass and other debris into the air throughout lower Manhattan. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dismissed the report as 'scare tactics' and said it was committed to protecting the health of New Yorkers and improving its emergency procedures."

The New York Times reports that the Bush campaign's go-to man on wooing Catholic voters is stepping down because of "a Catholic newspaper's investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct involving a female student at a college where he once taught."

"'No one regrets my past mistakes more than I do,' Mr. Hudson wrote in a column posted yesterday on the online edition of National Review announcing his resignation. William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said Mr. Hudson had played an almost indispensable role reaching out to Catholics for the White House. ... Mr. Donohue said that Mr. Hudson's resignation would inevitably set back the Bush campaign's efforts with Catholic voters. 'He was the ultimate networker,' Mr. Donohue said. 'I think it will be hurt because of the ties that Deal had.'"

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Democrats are not making it easy for Ralph Nader to waltz onto ballots in key states, and it's getting ugly out there, with Nader charging "gangster tactics" are being employed against him and Democrats claiming illegal signature-gathering activities. The New York Times reports: "With Republicans in several states acknowledging that they are bankrolling and gathering signatures for Mr. Nader, local Democratic parties across the country, aided by a group of lawyers calling themselves the Ballot Project Inc., have initiated mini-campaigns to stop him, state by state. 'The Democrats are making this as difficult and as debilitating for him as possible, making him expend blood, sweat and tears for every inch,' said Charles E. Cook Jr., a nonpartisan analyst who tracks races in every state."

The fight between Nader and the Democrats is particularly fierce in Oregon. The Service Employees International Union has gone over the Nader's signatures with a fine-tooth comb, and claims that at least two-thirds of Nader's signatures were forged, had the wrong address or otherwise constituted what the union called "overwhelming and systemic fraud," the Times reported.

A Democrat-friendly site called BlueOregon.com posted some of the Nader petition sheets scoured by the SEIU.

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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