This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", August 21, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, HOST: And hot story number one is swift kick. Obviously the swift boat commanders from Vietnam (search) who have charged John Kerry (search) with fabricating or exaggerating his Vietnam record, which he's made, you know, such an important part of his presidential campaign.

Now, I think the mainstream media has stood journalism on its head by not seriously investigating the charges against Kerry but investigating the swift boat veterans who are making the charges. That's, that's ridiculous. And, and The New York Times is, is the worst offender of this.

Now, there are serious charges. And let me just review very briefly the most serious ones, or, or at least the most interesting ones. The first is that Kerry lied about spending Christmas in Cambodia in 1968. Now, you know, not a single one of his crew mates has said, Yes, we went to Cambodia with Kerry, not another swift boat commander has said he went there or ever heard of anybody going there.

And now Doug Brinkley, the historian, the Kerry historian, has said, no, he wasn't there around Christmas. But you remember, Mort, that Kerry had said many, many times he was there, even in, as a senator ...

KONDRACKE: Seared in his memory ...

FRED BARNES, HOST: Seared, seared in his memory, right.

Second, he said his Purple Heart, his first one, was the charge is that it was the result of a -- a self-inflicted wound, which would be the case if there was no hostile fire. And while that issue's still up in the air, one of the crew mates has said, you know, said at first that he didn't know whether it was hostile fire. More recently he said he thinks there was. And, you know, you get the fog of war. We may never know the answer there.

Third is the charge about Kerry's role in after-action reports that were exaggerated. Now, these swift boat commanders didn't even see these reports until earlier this year, and they claim that in a number of incidents exaggerated to make Kerry seem like more of a hero.

And fourth, that Kerry used three flesh wounds to leave Vietnam early. Now, you know, it is three hits and you're, you know, you're free to leave, which he did after four months. I don't know of anybody, now, maybe there are some, who with just flesh wounds, you know, with a Band-Aid on them, used that to leave Vietnam.

There was another swift boat guy there with Kerry named Jim Galvin, who had three wounds, and he left the unit, but he stayed in Vietnam.

So there you have the charges.

Now, the thing that's, that's interesting here is, for one thing, we don't know the truth of these charges, except, you know, I kind of think that the Cambodia, it, it really doesn't look like Kerry was there. There's ... even though he claimed he was many, many times. But on these other ones, ... may never know.

But they do need to be investigating for sure, and, and maybe even some of these charges that are in, in this second ad that the swift boat commanders are, are putting on the air, in which POWs in Vietnam denounce Kerry for his antiwar activities. Watch.


JOHN KERRY: ... razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan...

PAUL GALANTI, POW, JANUARY 1966-FEBRUARY 1973: John Kerry gave the enemy for free what I and many of my comrades in North Vietnam in the prison camps took torture to avoid saying. It demoralized us...

KERRY: ... crimes committed on a day-to-day basis...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He betrayed us in the past. How could we be loyal to him now?

KERRY: ... ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He dishonored his country and more importantly the people he served with. He just sold them out.


KONDRACKE: Well, look, I think investigations need to be done of both things, both the merits of the charges against, against Kerry, and whether there is a connection between these guys and the Bush campaign, which I, I think there, that, that's a case not, certainly not proved.

But there are more incidents that, or more charges than the ones that, that you mentioned that, that these guys are, the swifties are making against Kerry. One is that he was a baby killer. John O'Neill, who wrote the book "Unfit for Duty"...

BARNES: "Command."

KONDRACKE: ... "Command," "Unfit for Command," says, quote, that "the evidence shows that Kerry was a ruthless operator in the field with little regard for life." Now, that's pretty serious charge. The incident that, that's cited was the so-called sampan incident in which, as the record shows, Kerry killed nobody. A baby was killed but killed by somebody else. Kerry tried to stop the shooting.

But then what he did do was, was issue a false report leaving out the fact that the child was killed, and also pretending that there were a bunch of Vietcong around that, that, that apparently there weren't.

Now, the, The New York Times probe of all this, which does go into at great length to how this ad was financed and sort of makes it out to be a front for the Bush campaign...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... but it never gets to the bottom of that, does nevertheless quote three of the people who are now making charges against, against Bush, Kerry, sorry, against Kerry as having previously on a number of occasions said that he was heroic and gutsy and, and an estimable officer and all that kind of stuff.

Now, this is all important, because Kerry has, as you said, made his Vietnam service a key point in his qualifications to be commander in chief...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... and if he proves not to be a hero in, in Vietnam, then he is what you might call an empty uniform. So this is why...


KONDRACKE: ... Kerry has, is...


KONDRACKE: ... fighting back hard. Watch this ad.


KERRY: They're funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Republican contributor out of Texas. They're a front for the Bush campaign. And the fact that the president won't denounce what they're up to tells you everything that you need to know. He wants them to do his dirty work.


KONDRACKE: Obviously that wasn't an ad. That was, that was a statement. Now, Kerry, this is something that Kerry has to prove. If he is saying that this, that this group is a front group for the Bush campaign, he is implying that they are committing something ... an illegal activity in coordinating the campaign with, or the Bush campaign is. And that he, he better prove, or the press better, better investigate.


BARNES: Yes, before you move on to the other hot story, shouldn't Kerry himself answer questions about this and not just make charges on, on these...


KONDRACKE: Yes, yes. And so should the, and so should the swift boat people...

BARNES: They're available.

KONDRACKE: ... Right, OK.

Now, the second hot story is back to the future, and that is back to the future of American foreign policy...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... which is what this campaign really would be about or should be about. President Bush this way, this week unveiled a, a new troop deployment strategy for the long-term future. Watch this. And Kerry, and Kerry criticized it immediately. Watch.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, for decades Americans' armed forces abroad have essentially remained where the wars of the last century ended in Europe and in Asia. America's current force posture was designed, for example, to protect us and our allies from Soviet aggression. Threat no longer exists.

KERRY: Why are we withdrawing unilaterally 12,000 troops from the Korean peninsula at the very time that we are negotiating with North Korea, a country that really has nuclear weapons?


KONDRACKE: I mean, that's a good point, that, that...


KONDRACKE: ... Kerry is making about Korea. Why are we ... removing troops from Korea? And you, and you, I think, agree about this.

The, the second question that this whole thing raises, though, is, are you a decisive leader? Are you consistent? And again, Kerry's got a problem here. Just three weeks ago on ABC, Kerry said, quote, "I will have significant, enormous reductions in the level of troops," I think he meant in Iraq, "in the Korean peninsula perhaps, and Europe, perhaps." So...


KONDRACKE: ... you know, he's not ruling ... ruling out the same stuff. Now, there are legitimate questions to be raised, and they, and they're a centerpiece of the campaign about Bush's...

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: ... policy in Iraq. But there, but there were also the questions about, about Kerry. After all, he voted against the 1991 Gulf War ... he was against the... contras in, in Central America. He was in favor of the nuclear freeze...


KONDRACKE: ... and he voted against practically every, every other weapons system that during the cold war. I mean, it, it, he...

BARNES: That's quite a list.

KONDRACKE: On commander in chief issues...


KONDRACKE: ... I think Bush...

BARNES: Yes...

KONDRACKE: ... is ahead.

BARNES: ... no, that is quite, it is quite a list, I agree with Kerry. I don't think 12 troops -- thousand troops out to come out of ... out of Korea. But Kerry undercuts his case by advocating instant withdrawal of some troops out of Iraq if he's elected president. So he's wrong about Iraq.

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