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Douglas Brinkley Reports for Duty

From the September 6, 2004 issue: Douglas Brinkley, John Edwards, and more.

Sep 6, 2004, Vol. 9, No. 48 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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Douglas Brinkley Reports for Duty

Here's how "presidential historian" Douglas Brinkley figures it: Various factual inaccuracies and contradictions in Tour of Duty, his famously sycophantic biography of John Kerry, are frequently cited by opponents of Kerry's presidential campaign. On the other hand, the sycophantic parts of the book are just as frequently cited by Kerry's friends. In other words, both parties find his work useful. And what better proof of his academic objectivity and integrity could there be than that?

So, nah, Brinkley's "not worried" about appearing biased, he tells the New Orleans Times-Picayune in a "wide-ranging interview in the soaring lobby of his Uptown home" published August 27. Sure, he says, "I'm sympathetic to Kerry in his 20s." And "it's no secret I think he would make a first-rate president." And, okay, Brinkley's "angry" about "false accusations made against Kerry's military record." Also, Brinkley cohosted a fundraiser for Kerry in February 2003. Plus which, he spoke at a rally for Kerry in New Orleans this past March. . .

But, hell, "I'm not a partisan" or anything, he points out. "I don't have some ax to grind against President Bush. I try to be judicial."

A judicial activist, you might call him.

Item the first: The good professor is happy to help the New York Times prepare a front-page August 20 story reporting that the unflattering accounts of John Kerry's Vietnam career being offered by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are "riddled with inconsistencies." The story's authors find especially useful in this context a previously unpublished interview with Kerry's Vietnam-era commander conducted by "Mr. Kerry's authorized biographer, Douglas Brinkley," and "provided by Mr. Brinkley to the New York Times."

Item the second: Two days later, a much more comprehensive and therefore persuasive story on the same subject appears in the Washington Post, which concludes that "both sides have withheld information from the public record and provided an incomplete, and sometimes inaccurate, picture of what took place" in Vietnam. The Post explicitly fingers Brinkley as a major source of this confusion. Which makes it all the more unfortunate that Brinkley "did not reply to messages left with his office, publisher and cell phone."

Item the third: The day after the Post story runs, reporter Michael Dobbs chats with visitors to the paper's website and reveals that "I have not heard back from Prof. Brinkley since I began raising questions about the inconsistencies/factual errors in his book."

Item the fourth: Mere hours later, a smiling Douglas Brinkley shows up on MSNBC's Hardball, where he reassures host Chris Matthews that John Kerry "showed courage time and again." And "I find it disgusting that people are discussing whether he earned his first Purple Heart. . . . This is a right-wing August takedown on John Kerry, and rumors, accusations, innuendos [are] flying." Alas, "that's just how gutter politics is played sometimes in America."

Item the fifth: Despite all the gutter politics--a subject Prof. Brinkley is familiar with only by dint of his scholarly research, you understand--some people have behaved beautifully, he reminds MSNBC's Deborah Norville two days later (last Thursday). For instance: "The New York Times coverage has been superb."

Also, He's Handsome

Speaking of the Times, even THE SCRAPBOOK must admit that sometimes that paper's coverage of politics genuinely is superb.

But then they go and spoil everything by retracting it. Viz. the following correction that the Times snuck into last Friday's late final edition:

"An article on July 28 about the ascent of Senator John Edwards of North Carolina compared his political experience incorrectly with that of other candidates for national office in American history. There have been many--not few--with less experience than Mr. Edwards, who is completing his first term in the Senate."


With a nod of thanks to the always invaluable Middle East Media Research Institute and its team of translators, THE SCRAPBOOK hereby calls your attention to yet another news story the corporate-controlled establishment media proved too timid to report: the one about how an army of giant, hairy, Islamic spiders has descended on Iraq and is currently slaughtering U.S. troops in Falluja and elsewhere. You hadn't heard about that, had you?

Iraqi Sheikh Mahdi Saleh Al-Sumide'i, identified as a participant in the Battle of Falluja, was interviewed by Syrian television on August 23, as follows: