Kerry Campaign has issued a press release saying that Brinkley mis-spoke. He stands by his book's story
"A story in the September 24 New York Times leaves the false impression that I think John Kerry was not 'the war hero we thought he was.' Nothing could be further from the truth. He was a great American fighting man in Vietnam and deserved all of his medals. Over the past year I have vigorously defended Kerry's military record and will continue to do so.
"My comment was meant to be about the political consequences of the anti-Kerry Swift boat attacks vs. the anti-Bush National Guard ones. I was speaking about public perceptions not my personal beliefs."
So he didn't mean to say he doubted Kerry's truthfulness- probably just a Freudian slip. Brinkley, in fact, stands by the discredited stories in his book.
The press release also says:
Paid for by Kerry-Edwards 2004, Inc.
That is OK, but it seems a bit crude to put such emphasis on how the Kerry campaign is pulling Brinkley's strings.
Kerry's official biographer seems to be turning on him! September 24 New York Times says
"Every American now knows that there's something really screwy about George Bush and the National Guard, and they know that John Kerry was not the war hero we thought he was," said Douglas Brinkley, the historian and author of a friendly biography of Mr. Kerry's war years, acknowledging that Mr. Kerry's opponents had succeeded in raising questions about his service....
... It's true that people think there's something screwy about George Bush's National Guard service, though a close shows there isn't-- his entry, service, and exit were all boring, ust like Kerry's less well explored Reserve Service. Kerry got out of the Navy earlier than his contract called for, didn't do any drills in the Reserves, and didn't get his discharge for many more years than usual, but available evidence doesn't indicate any impropriety (of course, one wonders what the lengthy records Kerry won't reveal say, and improper Reserve service might be what's keeping him from allowing the Navy to release them).
But that's an amazing admission about Kerry's war hero status. Brinkley's book, after all, is how we got the Kerry version of his war service. Is Brinkley trying to save his reputation as a historian, readying for an admission that Kerry duped him? It would be the professional thing to do. It is quite clear that Brinkley missed important, perhaps essential, information about Kerry's service, very likely not because Brinkley was covering up but because he wrongly trusted that Kerry was telling the truth and so did not dig deeply.
I wouldn't exonerate Brinkley completely, though. Even the official records on Kerry's website (the medical reports and Bronze Star and Silver Star citations) show that Kerry's medals were obtained by fraud, and probably Brinkley had access to those records.
I hope soon to post side by side excerpts from the descriptions in Brinkley's book of Kerry's medal-winning activity and the descriptions in the Kerry Campaign website documents. They don't seem to match up.