Monday, November 29, 2004

The Strange Case of Steve Gardner

Powerline, in this post, points out a Chicago Sun-Times story about Steve Gardner, a shipmate and outspoken critic of John Kerry.

If the story's accusations are true, then many people have lost. Gardner was allegedly threatened, and then the threats were acted upon when he was fired from his job.

Gardner told this story and others to radio stations and he wrote a piece for the local paper. Then, he says, he received a phone call from John Hurley, the veterans organizer for Kerry's campaign. Hurley, Gardner says, asked him to come out for Kerry. He told Hurley to leave him alone and that he'd never be for Kerry. It was then Gardner says, he was threatened with, "You better watch your step. We can look into your finances."

Next, Gardner said he received a call from Douglas Brinkley, the author of Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War. Brinkley told Gardner he was calling only to "fact check" the book -- which was already in print. "I told him that the guy in the book is not the same guy I served with. I told him Kerry was a coward. He would patrol the middle of the river. The canals were dangerous. He wouldn't go there unless he had another boat pushing him."

Days later, Brinkley called again, warning Gardner to expect some calls. It seems Brinkley had used the "fact checking" conversation to write an inflammatory article about Gardner for The article, implying that Gardner was politically motivated, appeared under the headline "The 10th Brother."

Twenty-four hours later, Gardner got an e-mail from his company, Millennium Information Services, informing him that his services would no longer be necessary. He was laid off in an e-mail -- by the same man who only days before had congratulated him for his exemplary work in a territory which covered North and South Carolina. The e-mail stated that his position was being eliminated. Since then, he's seen the company advertising for his old position. Gardner doesn't have the money to sue to get the job back.

Let's see. Gardner admits that "I told [Brinkley] Kerry was a coward." Is this a loss? Maybe not, but in an effort to avoid bias, we'll chalk it up as one.

John Hurley, veterans organizer for Kerry's campaign, allegedly tells Gardner, "You better watch your step. We can look into your finances." That's definitely a loss.

Douglas Brinkley, Kerry biographer, interviews Gardner and then writes an inflammatory story implying that he's politically motivated. Let me see if I can find the story via Google or . . . Ah, here it is. Well, make your own decision, but I'm going to give Brinkley a loss when he prefaces his interview with Gardner with the following caveats:

...PCF-44’s Jim Wasser telephoned me last week with the news that Gardner had “rung him up out-of-the-blue” to discuss their shared days together in Vietnam. “It was great” Wasser told me. “You know he fought bravely in Vietnam. He is still a brother. I miss him. I would like to see him.” He then hesitated and went on. “But he has developed a strange, negative assessment of Lieutenant Kerry. It shocked me. His memory is dead wrong. He remembers things so differently.… He has some kind of weird grudge against Lieutenant Kerry.”

This was unexpected news. In Tour of Duty I portrayed the crew of PCF-44 as a true Band of Brothers—it turns out they were a Band of Brothers minus one. A disappointed Wasser gave me Gardner’s telephone numbers, reminding me that PCF-44 gunner’s mate was nicknamed “The Wild Man” by his crewmates for his hair-trigger penchant for firing M-60s into the mangrove thicket. “Let me know what you find out,” Wasser told me. “I’m having trouble understanding where he’s coming from.”

After interviewing Gardner for over an hour it essentially boils down to one word: politics. A strong supporter of President George W. Bush, Gardner is sickened by the idea of Kerry as president. “Anybody but Kerry,” he says. “I know what a disaster he’d be.” So what brought Gardner out in the open? The answer turns out to be Rush Limbaugh’s talk show.

Lastly comes Gardner's employer, Millennium Information Services. If the Sun-Times' implication is true that the company fired Gardner for speaking out against Kerry, they get a loss also. Bullying doesn't help anyone in the long run.

UPDATE: Millennium is fighting back, denying the Sun-Times' version of the story. Their response is here. Hat tip Instapundit.


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