So now, after the election and accusations, Kerry releases his military records. No smoking gun in them at all, of course - contrary to what the Swift Boat Veterans of Deceit had to say.
So why in the hell did he wait so long? Some people, like this person (hat tip: Eschaton) says it wouldn't have mattered if he did - SBVs and their crawling ilk would have demanded more and more and more. There is some truth to this - after the Navy had looked at the medal citations and declared them factual (which should have, at least, tamped down the fire a bit) the accusations went on and on anyway.
BUT - the fact that the records were out there would have made a difference to people who hadn't made up their minds to begin with. Without the records, some people on the fence - the ones who hated Bush and didn't like Kerry - may have been persuaded to just skip voting, since Bush was awful but Kerry was hiding something. This is all guesswork - I haven't analyzed voting patterns or anything. It seems right though - this was a close election, mandate claim idiocy notwithstanding, and if just a few people would have known SBV were liars being embraced by Republicans...that could have made a difference. There's also the fact that when people continue to cling to beliefs in spite of all evidence against them, they tend to look rather insane, so if the SBV had continued to scream about Kerry's military record when it was out there, they would have quickly been ranked w/the Flat Earthers. Here's a case in point, from the above link.
So why did Kerry wait? His claim that he didn't want to sink to the level of the people demanding the records rings false, since I don't feel he would have accepted that claim from Bush and the NG records flap. Maybe it was because he likes being able to say "Told you so!" and get some vicarious relief later. Maybe it was to bring down the SBVs and show them to be at best grossly misinformed and at worst liars supreme. Maybe he's an idiot. Maybe he didn't feel the press would treat these records accurately. There is some fairness in that claim - here's the records that show the SBV claims made against him weren't factual, and what does AOL and CNN highlight? The transcripts that show he and Bush did about the same in college.
To me, though, not releasing them sums up Kerry's campaign - on a par with Dole's as worst modern campaign. Bush should thank God he only had to deal with Kerry in this election - someone competent would have destroyed him.