Mr. Kerry, accused even by Democrats of failing to respond to the charges during the campaign, is now fighting back hard.
"They lied and lied and lied about everything," Mr. Kerry says in an interview in his Senate office. "How many lies do you get to tell before someone calls you a liar? How many times can you be exposed in America today?"
His supporters are compiling a dossier that they say will expose every one of the Swift boat group's charges as a lie and put to rest any question about Mr. Kerry's valor in combat. While it would be easy to see this as part of Mr. Kerry's exploration of another presidential run, his friends say the Swift boat charges struck at an experience so central to his identity that he would want to correct the record even if he were retiring from public life.
Mr. Kerry has signed forms authorizing the Navy to release his record — something he resisted during the campaign — and hired a researcher to comb the naval archives in Washington for records that could pinpoint his whereabouts during dates of the incidents in dispute. Another former crew member has spent days at a time interviewing veterans to reconstruct every incident in question.
I wonder if Kerry really thinks this clears the way for him to run in 2008. If so, he's deluded. Voters will be asking, "If he knew the Swifties were lying, why didn't he prove it? Or at least say something?" He thinks he's proving that he really is a courageous war hero, but the reality is that he held his fire until after the battle was over.