updated 8/17/2004 9:26:19 AM ET 2004-08-17T13:26:19

Guest: John O‘Neill, John Hurley, Robert Reich

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight, top headline: the battle rages over John Kerry‘s war record.  The real deal?  It‘s time to separate fact from fiction.

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, where no passport is required, and only common sense is allowed.

Some vets are now saying that John Kerry is a war hero they‘d love to see in the Oval Office.  Others are saying that the Kerry legend is based on lies, and that he is unfit for command.  But who is telling the truth?  We‘re going to cut through the hype and the ideology, give you the facts, and let you decide. 

And then when a sex scandal caused Jack Ryan to drop out of the race for a Illinois senate seat, rising Democratic star Barack Obama seemed unbeatable.  But Alan Keyes is here tonight to tell us why he thinks Obama is too radical for the U.S. Senate. 

Plus, author Robert Reich is going to be here to tell us why liberals are going to win in the battle for America.

When it comes to John Kerry‘s war record, what story should we believe?  “The Washington Times” Tony Blankley wrote this.  “An impartial reader of “Unfit for Command” would have to conclude that the book is either a pack of lies or John Kerry is in fact, a reckless, lying man who misrepresented the facts in order to receive medals he didn‘t deserve, and is indeed unfit to command even a tugboat, let alone the United States military as president.” 

With me now to discuss the book, John O‘Neill, who took over the command of John Kerry‘s swift boat in Vietnam.  He‘s also of course the author of “Unfit for Command.”  And we also have John Hurley.  John is the national director of Vietnam Veterans for John Kerry.

Gentlemen, I want to thank both of you for being with us tonight.  I actually watched you on Friday night.  Seemed like more of a food fight than a debate, but you know, this is such an important issue.  And I just want to tell you all personally why, for me, this is such an important issue.

It‘s because for guys like me that haven‘t served in the military, but respect the flag, respect our men and women who have served in uniform, I think we should pay great tribute to those who serve in uniform.  And when there are issues like this that come forward, I think we need to look into them.  It seems telling the truth and who‘s lying, because these facts just don‘t square up. 

What I‘m going to try to do tonight is I‘m going to ask you all the questions.  I‘m going to try to stay out of the way and let you all go through it calmly, point-by-point.  I want to start with a couple of questions, just sort of house cleaning questions to start off. 

John O‘Neill on Friday, you were accused, egad, of being a Texas Republican, and it was strongly suggested that you were doing George W.  Bush‘s bidding.  I want to ask you first of all, have you talked to anybody in the Bush campaign at any point while putting this book together, or have you had any help or any support whatsoever from the Bush campaign in writing “Unfit For Command?” 

JOHN O‘NEILL, AUTHOR, “UNFIT FOR COMMAND”:  I‘ve had absolutely no help.  If I were a Republican, I‘d be proud to be a Republican.  If I were a Democrat, I‘d be proud to be a Democrat.  But there are 254 guys that are swiftees that signed our letter.  There are over 60 swiftees who participated in and are direct sources for this book.  The Navy didn‘t send Republicans or Democrats to An Thoi.  It just sent people to An Thoi. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John Hurley, let me ask you.  Does the Kerry campaign have any information that you know of that the Bush campaign may have helped Mr. O‘Neill, or more importantly, let‘s talk about it more generally.  Because things like this are always so hard to prove in politics.  Does the Kerry campaign believe that the Bush campaign in any way orchestrated the release of this book, or helped Mr. Hurley or are they just sort of riding this  wave? 

JOHN HURLEY, VIETNAM VETERANS FOR JOHN KERRY:  No, I think very definitely,  they‘ve helped on this, Joe.  This effort is financed by a gentleman in Texas who is a  strong backer of Republicans in  Texas, including George Bush.  He has contributed $100,000 to this effort.  This is not a grassroots effort, this is a Republican financed effort. 

And there‘s no question about it that George Bush has been asked by Senator John McCain, John McCain has called this effort dishonest and dishonorable.  And he has asked President Bush to condemn this ad, which the president has refused to do.  We‘re still waiting on him. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John Hurley, who is the Texas Republican that‘s contributed $100,000 to this effort?

HURLEY:  His name is Bob Perry; he‘s a real estate developer in Texas.  He‘s had close ties with George Bush when he was governor of Texas.  He has contributed heavily to Republican causes, and Republican campaigns in Texas.  Merry Spaeth, who is the director of the communications firm that is supporting this group, has very close ties to the White House, to George Bush, to the Reagan administration.  This has Republican campaign effort written all over it, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John O‘Neill, have you had any contacts with Mr.  Perry or the woman that Mr.  Hurley just discussed?

O‘NEILL:  Yes.  I know Mr.  Perry.  We filed a report early, actually, showing that he‘d given $100,000 to our effort.  We‘ve collected $450,000 from 5,000 donors over the past six days.  We‘ll take money from anyone that we can legally take it from, that doesn‘t include political parties.  We have no George Soros, and to get our message out, we need to have people contribute money.

We‘re happy to have anybody contribute money.  It‘s simply false to label us as associated with any campaign.  To us, this is a matter of personal honor relating to our unit.  It‘s not a matter of politics.  It‘s ridiculous to think that 254 navy veterans are going to come forward in this way because of anything except the history of their unit and their own integrity. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John Hurley, let me move on to another question, a general question before we go into the specifics of this book, the ad, and also the charges against your friend, John Kerry.  A lot of Republicans thought the media was unfairly attacking George W.  Bush.  I guess it was about six months ago when they started questioning his service for the Texas National Guard.  Those stories went on for a week or two. 

I want to ask you, do you believe, does John Kerry believe, does the Kerry campaign believe that this is an unfair story, that the media should not be paying the attention that it is paying to Mr.  O‘Neill‘s book, and that in fact, tonight, I shouldn‘t be talking about it, people shouldn‘t be watching this?

HURLEY:  I don‘t think there‘s any question about that, Joe.  I think this is completely based on lies and distortions.  I think that this book is a disgrace, and I think that John McCain has it right when he says it‘s dishonest and dishonorable.  I‘ll tell you why.  I think the book is also cowardly.  It‘s cowardly because John O‘Neill would have you believe that he is the authority on John Kerry.  He never once met John Kerry in Vietnam.  Not once. 

He never once interviewed any of the crewmates who served with John Kerry when he won his Silver Star, his Bronze Star or his three Purple Hearts.  What he is basically asking you to do, he‘s asking you to go back and look at the world in a different vain.  He wants you to believe the world is flat, and that what the United States Navy did in 1969 in awarding John Kerry those medals was completely wrong and fictitious.

And somehow the Navy, which awarded these medals, was somehow duped.  It is specious.  It is shallow.  It is as “The Washington Times,” said, a pack of lies.

SCARBOROUGH:  John O‘Neill, before we go to the specifics of these medals, I know that‘s a very important part of your book, I want you to respond, though, to the charge by Mr.  Hurley that you never met John Kerry in Vietnam.  You‘ve never—never were close to him.  So what you were writing about in this book had really no basis in firsthand fact.  Is that true or false?

O‘NEILL:  As far as me meeting Kerry in Vietnam, that‘s true.  You just showed a picture on the air, Joe, that had 20 officers in it, Kerry in the middle.  It‘s the same one they showed at the Democratic National Convention.  Only one of those officers supports John Kerry. 

HURLEY:  That‘s not true, John O‘Neill, and you know it. 

O‘NEILL:  Let me finish.  Twelve of them ...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second, guys.  Let‘s stop for a second.  Mr. 

O‘Neill, I‘m going to let you finish, and then Mr. Hurley, I‘m going to let you respond.  Mr. O‘Neill, while you‘re talking, let‘s show that picture.  You talk, Mr. O‘Neill, and then Mr. Hurley, it will be your turn.  Go ahead Mr. O‘Neill. 

O‘NEILL:  There‘s a picture of 20 officers in An Thoi.  Two of them are dead.  Twelve of them have signed our letter condemning John Kerry, and contributed in one fashion or another to “Unfit for Command.”  There is only one officer who backs them.  They sometimes claim that there are three.  There‘s only one, in addition to John Kerry.  The people in that picture, the people whose picture is being used over and over again illicitly all have joined our effort. 

As to Senator McCain, he‘s entitled to his own opinion.  More than 22 P.O.W.‘s have backed our effort.  Listen, we were there.  We have 60 people who won the Purple Heart.  If anyone in the world has a right to speak to the conduct of our unit.  It‘s our guys.  We paid for it with blood. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John O‘Neill, I want to go back to this picture here.  I want to be clear here.  Can we show that picture again? It‘s going to take a second.  But we‘re going to show the picture.  John O‘Neill, I want to get the facts straight, because there‘s a lot of back and forth.  You were claiming that only one person in this picture supports John Kerry, is that correct Mr. O‘Neill?

O‘NEILL:  That‘s correct.  And the picture...

SCARBOROUGH:  And who is the one person? Let‘s get a name. 

O‘NEILL:  The one person is Skip Barker.  He‘s the only one who has openly endorsed John Kerry.  An identification of each person and their position can be found on the web site, swiftvets.com. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  John Hurley, now I want you to respond, because you say that‘s not true.  Go ahead. 

HURLEY:  It‘s not true, Joe.  I don‘t have the picture.  I can‘t see it in front of me.  But I can tell you there‘s a gentleman in there named Rich Baker and Rich Baker is quite upset that he‘s being portrayed as neutral in this.  He has come out, and he has supported John Kerry.  He has done it.  He lives in Pennsylvania.  He has been there.  He has been campaigning with John Kerry.

But at the same time, the Swift Boat Veterans want you to believe that he‘s not part of this effort.  That is typical of what they‘re doing in this campaign.  They are continuing to distort every single issue that they can.  If you go back to all of the documents that were written in 1969, you go back to John Kerry‘s fitness reports.  You go back to the after action reports.  You go back to the medal awards recommendations.  You go back to the awards citations themselves.  And every single one of those documents approved and authorized by the United States Navy supports John Kerry‘s version of events. 

If you also go back and interview, as Mr. O‘Neill did not do, go back and interview the men who served with John Kerry when he was on those swift boats in 1969, the men from the 44 boat, the men from the 94 boat, every single man who was with him when he won a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts, every single one of them supports John Kerry. 

It is these other swift boat veterans who are now coming back 35 years after the fact, and trying to say to you, hey, it‘s different, the world is flat.  You guys got it wrong.  The Navy did not get it wrong. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So John Hurley—hold on, Mr. O‘Neill.  John Hurley, this is a question then again, we—Mr. O‘Neill has said only one person in this picture that John Kerry has used repeatedly, is supporting him.  You say there are more.  Do you have a number? Is it two, three, five, 10?

HURLEY:  I don‘t have a number, Joe.  And I don‘t have the photo in front of me.  It is more than what Mr. O‘Neill has claimed.  It‘s a continuation of his falsehoods.  And this comes in part because he didn‘t do his homework.  He and his co-author, Jerome Corsi went off and wrote this book without ever talking to the men who served on those boats with John Kerry.  Not one of them.

SCARBOROUGH:  Mr. O‘Neill?

O‘NEILL:  As you can see, John Hurley and the Kerry campaign are liars.  You are seeing exactly the same thing.  You saw that picture.  They‘ve had that picture for months.  They‘ve used it.  They now claim two of the two out of the 20 people support them.  They can identify nobody else.  We have had on our web site a long time the condemnation of the Kerry campaign by 12 of those people. 

In addition, there are four other officers there that condemn it.  As to all the ranting and claiming that we didn‘t interview people, that‘s just a bald-faced lie.  You can see Mr. Hurley is not even from our squadron.  He‘s a professional veteran organizer for Kerry, that‘s was in an engineering battalion.  And that‘s because they can‘t find anybody to go on TV from our squadron who will actually come forward and say that anything in the book is not true. 

HURLEY:  What are you talking about? You never met John Kerry!

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Gentlemen, hold on a second gentlemen.  I‘m going to have to ask you all to hold on.  Mr. Hurley, I‘m going to let you respond to that.  We‘re going to continue the debate in a minute.  We‘re also going to get to the issues that John O‘Neill talks about a great deal in this book, “Unfit for Command”.  Talking about obviously the medals, the Bronze Star, the Purple Hearts, the Silver Star. 

Much more ahead on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY when we return.  Also, critics requesting whether Maryland native Alan Keyes has the right to challenge Barack Obama in the Illinois Senate race.  Keyes says he not only has the right, but the moral obligation to do so.  We‘ll ask him why later on tonight. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Is John Kerry unfit for command, or the victim of a political hit job? We‘ll have more on that story when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Still with me, John O‘Neill and John Hurley.  John O‘Neill, let me go back to you.  Obviously, the title of your book, “Unfit for Command,” I mean the title itself is a bombshell.  I want you to give our viewers the main reason why you believe John Kerry is unfit for command. 

O‘NEILL:  Yes, there are two reasons why.  The smaller reason for us is that he exaggerated the service in Vietnam and lied about it directly.  Anyone studying the paper work can tell that.  The larger reason is that when he came back to the United States, he falsely accused our unit and many other units of war crimes. 

Those are accusations he continued as recently as the Democratic primaries.  They were total falsehoods.  Tonight in this city, there are more than 60 members of our unit, many of the people who served with him, the whole chain of command all gathered together.  They all know truth of it.  John Kerry will never have a group of people like that around him. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John O‘Neill, I want to ask you a question.  It seems to me the reason you wrote this book had more to do with what John Kerry did after he came back from Vietnam, than what he did while he was in Vietnam.  Isn‘t it fair to say if John Kerry had not testified before the Foreign Relations Committee in 1971, had not accused U.S.  Troops of war crimes, that you probably would not have written this book?

O‘NEILL:  The real reason I wrote the book, Joe, I was giving a kidney to my wife, and I began getting millions of calls when I was in the recovery room.  And I had to ask myself, as did all the other guys from our unit, would we go through all the hell that was involved in coming forward with the truth about John Kerry? We concluded that for our kids, and our grandkids that this guy would be a totally unfit commander in chief in the war that is going on now. 

So we‘re not trying to refight the Vietnam War, but we believe that if you can examine John Kerry‘s actual past, and particularly the way he broke faith with all of us as recently as the book “Tour of Duty” then everyone would conclude, he would be a terrible commander in chief and that no one in good conscience could approach our kids in Iraq and Afghanistan and say, welcome aboard, here‘s the new commander in chief. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, John Hurley, a lot of veterans, a lot of military retirees settled in Northwest Florida, that‘s the district that I used to represent in Congress.  A lot of these guys I talk to still are angry about what John Kerry said in 1971.  Angry about the war crimes claim.  Do you think that may be at the heart of this book?  May be at the heart of these commercials?  May be at the heart of a lot of the seething resentment that we still see in a lot of Vietnam veterans?

HURLEY:  I don‘t, Joe.  I think at the heart of this book is a Republican smear campaign that is organized by Republican financiers in Texas by a Republican communications firm in Texas and Mr. O‘Neill.  I don‘t think this is about John Kerry as much as it is about presidential politics.  We are in a situation now where these guys have remained silent.  There‘s been no question about John Kerry‘s medals for 35 years. 

But now we find that we are within 80 days of a presidential election, and all of a sudden out of the woodwork, are all these Swift Boat Veterans.  I want to tell you about the other veterans who are not here and do not—

Mr. O‘Neill never speaks of.  They are the over 200,000 veterans that are on our web site, who are signed up to support John Kerry, who showed up for him in Iowa. 

When we were in Iowa, veterans from 16 states paid at their own expense, came to Iowa to support John Kerry.  When we were in New Hampshire, veterans from 27 states paid their way to come and support John Kerry.  Veterans are turning out across this country as never before to support John Kerry.  They believe, as the United States Navy did, and as all of those documents that were written in 1969 state, that John Kerry is a genuine hero that was entitled to those medals that he was awarded. 

His crew, Jim Rassmann, the United States Navy backed John Kerry‘s version of events.  For these guys to come forward after 35 years is, as John McCain says, dishonest and dishonorable. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John O‘Neill, you‘ve been fighting this yourself.  A lot of veterans may not have, but you‘ve been fighting this issue for 35 years.  And the medals seem to be of particular concern to you.  Let‘s try to go through these briefly.  And I want to get both of you gentlemen‘s take on this, because there‘s obviously a gulf that separates you on these issues.  Let‘s start with the Silver Star, John—

O‘NEILL:  Joe, can I say first? I haven‘t been fighting for 35 years.  I debated John Kerry 33 years ago.  I never ran into John Kerry again until February of this year when I was contacted because he had me in his book.  That‘s the long and short of it.  I would have been perfectly happy never to hear of John Kerry again. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I stand corrected, Mr. O‘Neill.  Now let‘s talk about the Silver Star.  You claim John Kerry doesn‘t deserve it.  Why?

O‘NEILL:  What John Kerry did was John Kerry, according to his Silver Star citation, went into great numerical odds, into an enemy with great numerical superiority, and intense fire and basically rooted them.  What he claimed was that he had taken his boat, and turned into a bunker of full Viet Cong, that he had routed them single-handedly.  That is reflected in the Silver Star citation that talks about turning into great numerical superiority and so on. 

The actual truth is that a single Viet Cong shot a rocket at John Kerry, a kid.  John Kerry‘s boat turned towards the ambush site, the kid was shot in the legs.  As the kid fled, John Kerry climbed off the boat, chased him, and shot him in the back and finished him off.  We have said that there was nothing wrong with that.  The kid was a fleeing warrior.  But this is not Silver Star material.

And the commanding officers who were involved in that have said they were misled by John Kerry‘s reports.  None of the normal documentation for a Silver Star.  The affidavits of witnesses or all the other materials, they‘re all missing, none of them occurred.  None of the affidavits of witnesses, none of that.  Instead, the Silver Star was presented two days later based only on his own report, and that report was a lie. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John Hurley, let me get you to respond. 

HURLEY:  That is so absurd as to be just flat bizarre, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What part?

HURLEY:  The whole thing.  I mean it‘s—what he is doing is taking and totally distorting what happened that day.  He‘s dishonoring not only John Kerry, but every other single man who served that day.  John Kerry was not the only man to receive awards that day.  His crew and other members of other crews also received awards that day.  John O‘Neill is demeaning everything that they have done. 

Commander Elliott who was in their chain of command at the time interviewed Del Sandusky, who was the leading petty officer in John Kerry‘s boat that day.  He was satisfied, he wrote up the award recommendation, and he recommended the Silver Star.  Admiral Zumwalt, when he came to John Kerry‘s defense in 1996 said that in his opinion, John Kerry deserved a Navy Cross that day, a higher award. 

But he felt that he would have to go back to the Pentagon for approval for that award.  He felt he needed a morale boost in the Delta, so he had on his own authority the ability to issue a Silver Star, and that‘s what he did.  That‘s what every document that is created says.  It says John Kerry performed heroically and courageously on the day he won that Silver Star. 

For these guys to be coming back 35 years after the fact and now disputing what the United States Navy said, what the witnesses said, what Commander Elliott said is so thin, and so shallow, and so based on Republican smear campaign tactics, that it is dishonest and dishonorable. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John O‘Neill?

O‘NEILL:  Yes, of course, that was just a series of base falsehoods. 

First of all, we‘ve never disputed the awards of anybody else.  The army guy who actually went ashore and chased the Viet Cong, a man named Doug Reese, one of the rare people who is in favor of Kerry, received a much lower award, the Army Commendation level.  Most of the troops got no award at all. 

We have said that with respect to the Silver Star that a lower ranking medal might have been reasonable for Kerry.  But it was simply a lie to tell the Navy that he was facing numerical superiority and intense fire when what he was really facing was a single Viet Cong in a loincloth, a kid who had already been wounded in the legs.  That is not numerical superiority against a gunboat and 30 troops. 

HURLEY:  You‘re calling Admiral Zumwalt a liar? Is that right, Mr.

O‘Neill?

O‘NEILL:  I‘m calling John Kerry a liar.  Admiral Zumwalt‘s son signed our letter on behalf of his father, calling John Kerry a liar.  Admiral Zumwalt on numerous occasions called John Kerry a liar.  To me and many others.  So please do not cite Admiral Zumwalt.  His son signed our letter. 

HURLEY:  Well, I will, sir.  Because he is quoted in the press as recommending John Kerry.  Saying that John Kerry deserved a Navy Cross, and now you‘re saying Admiral Zumwalt is wrong. 

O‘NEILL:  I‘m saying the Admiral Zumwalt was lied to.  That Admiral Zumwalt was told that John Kerry went into the middle of a Viet Cong bunker with many Viet Cong.  Admiral Zumwalt was never told there was only a single wounded Viet Cong kid.  That‘s not numerical superiority.  That‘s not Silver Star stuff.  That‘s not even a good story. 

(CROSSTALK)

HURLEY:  You should hang your head in shame for what you‘re saying about the other men who served and were there that day, sir. 

O‘NEILL:  I have nothing but respect for the other people who served that day.  I‘m sorry that many of them were not decorated at all and that...

(CROSSTALK)

HURLEY:  They were decorated.  They were decorated for the service and the honor and the courage that they showed that day, unlike you‘re showing now. 

O‘NEILL:  Yes, and one of them is right here today, John, with all the rest.  His name is Larry Lee (ph).  He was on the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) boat.  Thanks, Larry, for being with here.  He‘s with the 50 or 60 other comrades of John Kerry that have gathered in this study to meet with the press and to bring the truth to the press about John Kerry‘s lies, both about Vietnam and the post-Vietnam period. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Gentlemen, stay with us.  We‘re going to have much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  A new book by Vietnam vets says John Kerry‘s unfit for command and his purple hearts weren‘t really injuries. They could have been treated with something any more than a band-aid.  We‘ll talk about that in a little bit, but first let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC news desk. 

(NEWSBREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We‘re talking about John Kerry‘s service to this country in Vietnam and right now, we‘re talking about the medals that he received from the United States Navy, the government.  John Hurley, let me go to you.  We‘re going to talk next about the Bronze Star that John Kerry was awarded and in Mr. O‘Neill‘s book, he claims that the Bronze Star was awarded for the tragic killing of a father and a son.  Talk about the Bronze Star and whether you believe John Kerry deserved it. 

HURLEY:  Well, I certainly know that he deserves it, Joe.  I think the best way to address this is to read directly from the Bronze Star award recommendation that was written on March 23, 1969.  And it says, shortly after starting their exit from the river, a mine detonated under one of the boats, PCF-3, lifting it two feet above the water and wounding everyone onboard. 

Almost simultaneously another mine detonated close aboard PCF-94, that‘s John Kerry‘s boat, knocking first Lieutenant Rassmann into the water and wounding Lieutenant JG Kerry in the right arm.  PCF-51 immediately went to the aid of PCF-3, while PCF-94, Kerry‘s boat, provided cover fire. 

Shortly after that, Lieutenant JG Kerry was informed that he had a man overboard.  He immediately turned his boat around to assist the man in the water who by this time was receiving sniper fire from the river banks.  Lieutenant JG Kerry, from his exposed position on the bow of the boat, managed to pull Lieutenant Rassmann aboard despite the painful wound in his right arm. 

Meanwhile PCF-94 gunners provided accurate suppressing fire.  And the report concludes Lieutenant JG Kerry proved himself to be calm, professional and highly courageous in the face of enemy fire.  What‘s interesting about that Joe is that in addition to those words there, this is witnessed by Del Sandusky and it is signed by Commander George Elliott.  Commander George Elliott is the same man who now says he was one of these swift boat veterans for Bush who says that John Kerry is not entitled to the Bronze Star.  It is specious.  Again, if you go back to every single document that was written and in existence in 1969, they support John Kerry‘s version of what happened there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And John Hurley, that report that you read, that‘s a United States Navy document?

HURLEY:  It certainly is.  It‘s an award recommendation dated March 23, 1969, pardon me.  It was—the award was recommended by Lieutenant Commander George Elliott and approved by Commander Horn and subsequently approved at a higher level.  The Bronze Star medal was approved.  Now let me tell you what the answer‘s going to be Joe.  Right now Mr. O‘Neill is going to say yes, but it was based on lies.  He does this all the time.  It‘s not based on lies.  It is based on what the United States navy said in 1969. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, John O‘Neill, why did Mr. Elliott say one thing in 1969 and is saying something different in 2004?

O‘NEILL:  It isn‘t as simple as that, Joe.  The problem that they‘ve got is all the documents show that John Kerry lied. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What documents, what documents showed that he lied?

O‘NEILL:  Are you asking me, Joe?

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, I am. 

O‘NEILL:  We can start off with John Kerry‘s own book, “Tour of Duty.” John Kerry reported to the Navy that he had a hip wound and an arm wound and used that to get his third purple heart.  He said that they were from a water mine.  But if you check pages 313 and 317 of his book, “Tour,” quoting from his journal, he wounded himself with a grenade that morning.  It had nothing to do with a water mine.  A second report -- 

SCARBOROUGH:  so wait, I‘m sorry.  What book states—where does John Kerry admit that he wounded himself with a hand grenade?

O‘NEILL:  In the book “Tour of Duty” on page 313. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Douglas Brinkley‘s book?

O‘NEILL:  Yes, Douglas Brinkley‘s book under a contract with John Kerry authorized and reviewed by John Kerry quoting John Kerry.  Now, that‘s John Kerry‘s wound.  The second wound he claims to have had is an arm wound.  You remember, the bleeding, all that? The actual records show that he had a minor bruise.  He entitled it contusion, minor.  There was no bleeding arm.  The treatment of it was a cold cloth put on it.  And yet he used this and this self-inflicted wound to leave Vietnam 4 ½ months early. 

With respect to what actually happened, you recall the citation, you just heard said in effect all boats fled the scene, you can read this on John Kerry‘s Web site.  There was a mine that went off under PCF-3.  All boats fled the scene and then John Kerry came back.  Sitting right here in Washington are Dick Pees, the commanding officer of PCF-3 which was mined, Larry Thurlow, the commanding officer of second boat and Jack Chenoweth, the commanding officer of a third boat, Van O‘Dell, the gunner.  PCF-3 didn‘t go anywhere.  PCF-3 was blown into the air.  What happened is all our boats closed on PCF-3 to save it and save the sailors that were in the water except one boat.  That was John Kerry‘s boat.  He fled.  He fled until it was clear there was no return fire and then he came back. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  John, I‘ve got to ask you this, John O‘Neill, because during the Boston convention, I gave John Kerry credit.  The story‘s a remarkable story.  A man goes overboard, he turns his boat back around.  He turns it into the shore, goes towards enemy fire, saves a guy that he says is one of his band of brothers, brings him up, gets the award for it.  Rasmussen is there, hugs him, thanks him, says he owes his life to him.  Have I been duped? Has Rasmussen been duped or is Rasmussen a liar?

O‘NEILL:  You‘ve been totally duped, Joe.  It‘s a big lie around a small truth.  The truth is that Kerry did come back and Kerry did rescue Rasmussen, put him on his boat, shortly before the Chenoweth boat, within 10 yards of the Chenoweth boat.  There was no fire Joe.  There wasn‘t—these boats were sitting in place.  Kerry reported to the Navy that there was 3.2 miles of fire from both banks.  Joe, you can talk to all these people tomorrow morning if you want to.  They‘re here in town.  After the initial mine, there was absolutely no fire.  There‘s not a bullet hole in any boat.  Nobody was wounded except the people on PCF-3.  It was a total fraud on the American people.  He did come back.  He did come back when there was no fire and he did pick up Rasmussen shortly before the other boats picked up Rasmussen.  They had been engaged in picking up sailors in the water from PCF-3.  It couldn‘t go anywhere, Joe.  It didn‘t have any screws.  It didn‘t have any crew.  They sat there to save him. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  John Hurley, I‘ll have you respond.  Go ahead. 

HURLEY:  Joe, it‘s hard to figure out how to respond.  That‘s so ludicrous, that so defies what is said in these Navy documents.  The Navy documents say a mine detonated under PCF-3.  It says that another mine detonated blowing Rasmussen in the water and injuring John Kerry.  That‘s fact.  That‘s not fiction.  What Mr. O‘Neill is engaging in is fiction.  He‘s trying to recall 35 years after the fact what happened and he‘s doing a terrible job.  He says that there‘s no damage to the boat.  Let me read for you the after action report that is the damage assessment of PCF-94, John Kerry‘s boat, this is the next day back at An Thoi and it says, two starboard and one port main cabinet windows blown out, VRC 46 radio and all remote unit pilot house inoperable,  AC wiring shorted out, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) generator inoperable, steerage control after helm, inoperable.  And it goes on like that.  The boat was unserviceable.  And let me—

O‘NEILL:  Can I respond, Joe, to that point?

HURLEY:  Let me add one other thing.  That is it was John Kerry‘s boat that towed the PCF-3 back to port.  This is just revisionist history Joe.  It makes no sense.  It‘s dishonorable and dishonest.  The United States Navy documents which Mr. O‘Neill ought to accept but disagree with his political agenda because it does not agree with his Republican smear campaign.  He ought to accept what the United States Navy said, what every crewmate that served on those boats with John Kerry had said and he ought to accept it with honor and stop this sham. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John O‘Neill?

O‘NEILL:  Joe, all you have to do is read “Tour of Duty,” John Kerry‘s book on page 304 and you‘ll learn that those three windows were blown out on the 12th of March, not the 13th.  It‘s right there in John Kerry‘s only journal.  What they do is try to take damage on the 12th and convey it to the 13th.  With respect to the theory wait, we‘re trying to attack Navy doctrine, what John Kerry did was provide a false report to the Navy. 

When Chenoweth and Thurlow who saved the boat or Dick Pees, when they saw the ad, they thought it was something that they weren‘t involved in.  They thought it had to be some other incident.  They were shocked to learn that John Kerry had written the report he did and obtained the fraudulent Bronze Star he obtained.  He had no arm wound.  It wasn‘t bleeding.  He had only a minor bruise.  The records show it.  The wound, supposed wound in his hip, his own book admits he gave to himself.  All you have to do is read page 313 and page 317 of “Tour.”

This is all summarized in our book, “Unfit for Command,” but this isn‘t just he said, she said.  The problem John Kerry has, as with Christmas in Cambodia, is that when you lie, sometimes you tell the truth by mistake.  It‘s not just all the guys, all of whom will talk to you who were there, it‘s actually the documents.  The problem is he‘s caught.  It‘s up.  The jig is up. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  John O‘Neill, John Hurley, thank you so much for being with us tonight.  We greatly appreciate it.  If you want to read more of John O‘Neill‘s book, “Unfit for Command,” you‘ll find an excerpt at joe.msnbc.com.  Take a look.  Also, if you want to get the other side of the story, you certainly can go to John Kerry‘s Web site.  They certainly are going to be talking about this in the coming weeks.  We appreciate both of these gentlemen coming on.  Tell you what, they‘ve given us all a lot to think about. 

Now coming up, Bill Clinton‘s Labor Secretary Robert Reich, is going to enter SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY to talk about what he calls the radical conservative agenda and he‘s going to tell us why he thinks liberals are going to win the battle for the White House anyway.  That‘s coming up in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  In his new book, Robert Reich outlines what he calls a radical conservative agenda.  The rad cons he says want to prevent sex before marriage,  prevent abortion, condemn homosexuality, prohibit gay marriage, require prayer in the public schools, give large tax breaks mainly to the rich, cut social services mainly for the poor, privatize social insurance and eliminate regulation on businesses among other things.  The book is calls “Reason, Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America.” Robert Reich, thanks a lot for being with us tonight.  Why don‘t you identify for us who these radical conservatives are? Are they the Republicans that are running the White House, the Republicans that are running Congress.  Who are they?

ROBERT REICH, AUTHOR, “REASON”:  Joe, they‘re the Republicans who are running the White House and Congress.  Let me say one thing.  I‘ve listened to the last 45 minutes of your show.  And why you Republicans would want to question John Kerry‘s valorous war record when even John McCain says there‘s nothing to these charges and President Bush—I mean George Bush doesn‘t even have a war record, doesn‘t even have a war record  -- 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m sorry, Robert, wait, wait, wait. 

REICH:  It‘s absolutely extraordinary. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What‘s extraordinary is that I tried my best for 45 minutes to be down the middle and let both of these gentlemen have their say.  I talked to them between breaks even.  They both said I was being fair, and you come on here and in two seconds you say why are you Republicans questioning John Kerry‘s war service.  Did I say anything that questioned John Kerry‘s war service?

REICH:  For Republicans to question his war service is like somebody my size questioning John Kerry‘s height.  I mean George Bush—

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m asking you a question, though. 

REICH:  George Bush doesn‘t have a war record. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m asking you a personal question, though.  Do you think I questioned John Kerry‘s war record here tonight?

REICH:  Look it, Joe, let‘s be clear. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes or no. 

REICH:  You gave 45 minutes to a controversy that‘s not even a controversy.  It‘s not even worth talking about.  I mean if this is - by elevating this to the level of controversy, you are contributing to making -- creating the impression that it is a controversy. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So what about George W.  Bush‘s National Guard service in Texas, do you think that‘s an issue?

REICH:  I certainly do and I think... 

SCARBOROUGH:  What‘s the difference, Robert?

REICH:  You want to have 45 minutes talking about that, Joe?

SCARBOROUGH:  We did.  We did.  We did six months ago, Robert Reich. 

REICH:  Put 45 minutes, about 45 minutes talking about what happened to George W.  Bush...

SCARBOROUGH:  ...  these generalities?

REICH:  Oh, come on Joe, you‘re a nice guy, but you‘re a Republican. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Robert, six months ago. 

REICH:  You‘re a Republican. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Robert Reich, six months ago, we talked about George Bush‘s war record.  You know, and it went on and on.  The only difference between six months ago and now is that the national media, “The New York Times”, the NBC, CBS, ABC were enthralled with that story.  Now you don‘t hear that much about this story.  Let‘s talk about your book, though. 

REICH:  Well, definitely, let‘s talk about the book. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s talk about your book, because you‘re dead wrong. 

I was fair tonight.  I‘ve been fair with John Kerry and the war record.  What do you think is the most dangerous thing that these radical conservatives that you call them are doing?

REICH:  Joe, the basic problem here is that you‘ve got an administration that is not only wrecking environmental regulations, in fact, there was a big story in “The New York Times” about business taking over the entire regulatory regime of the Bush administration, but you also have an administration that is creating a huge budget deficit, giving big tax breaks to people of over $200,000 of income and basically the middle-class is taking it on the ear.  Jobs are going nowhere.  Wages are dropping, and this is a tremendous problem for this country.  I mean I was very proud to have been a member of the administration that created 22 million new jobs.  These guys have actually presided over an economy that‘s lost over a million jobs. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So is it the tax cuts that‘s the most radical part of the Bush agenda, the spending increases, what is it? 

REICH:  Traditional conservatives, and I don‘t know where you would place—I don‘t want to make this personal - I don‘t know where you would place yourself.

SCARBOROUGH:  You obviously are trying to make everything personal, but go ahead. 

REICH:  No I‘m not.  I‘m not, Joe, traditional conservatives don‘t believe that we ought to have a huge budget deficit.  They were very fiscally prudent.  Traditional conservatives don‘t believe that we ought to go on forages into other countries without having our traditional allies behind us.  Traditional conservatives, you know, are very concerned about the quality of public discourse in this country.  They talked about the kind of coarsening of our culture, coarsening of the way people talk with each other.  But what we are finding and what I‘ve found, and honestly, I found this when I was secretary of labor, the minute Newt Gingrich and his crowd came in and the leadership of the House is that things changed.  Discourse was coarsened.  People were yelling at each other much more. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yeah. 

REICH:  And now we find the administration is giving huge tax breaks to the rich.  We have $400 billion deficits as far as the eye can see.  We have a war in Iraq going on where you know, most people don‘t even know why we‘re there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Robert, stay with us.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re back with former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich.  Robert, you spend a lot of time in Boston.  You‘ve been around John Kerry.  What drives the man?  Why does he want to be president of the United States?

REICH:  Joe, I have known him for years.  The man is a man of enormous rectitude and great diligence.  I think he wants to be president for all the right reasons.  What I say in this book and the reason I wrote the book is because I am concerned that we are not debating the real issues, whether people are calling themselves liberals or conservatives, it doesn‘t matter.  Fundamentally, Americans want better jobs, more jobs.  They want affordable health care.  They want good schools for their kids and they want to be secure internationally. 

These are things that I believe that John Kerry really wants for this nation and I have been very critical of the president of George Bush.  I respect you and I respect Republicans, but I just think that the nation is off track and what I wrote in the book is an attempt to say in words rather than in screeds what we need to do. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Well, you know what, we need a lot more words, a lot less screeds.  Thanks you very much for being with us tonight.  I appreciate it.  I want to tell our viewers, you can actually read an excerpt of “Reason,” Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America,” on our Web site.  Just go to joe.msnbc.com.  It‘s important reading whether you are a Republican or Democrat. 

Now we were supposed to air my interview with Illinois Senate candidate Alan Keyes tonight, but the conversation about John Kerry‘s war record was too important to cut short.  We‘re going to be talking to Alan Keyes tomorrow night.

Also coming up tomorrow, I‘m going to be talking to former vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp.  Wednesday it‘s former Vice President Dan Quayle and former Secretary of State, General Al Haig.  Al that and much more this week on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Have a great night.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,