Skip to comments.Swift Boat ads roiling campaign waters (bias alert)
Posted on 08/23/2004 8:50:40 AM PDT by rudy45
Considering the fact that George W. Bush never got closer to Vietnam than the Air National Guard, it is a testament to the shrewdness of his allies that they have managed to turn this presidential campaign into a referendum on the guy who actually went to war.
It probably doesn't matter that John Kerry's antagonists in the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are demonstrably fact-challenged; as evidenced on the TV talk shows yesterday, they lack documentary proof for their most serious assertions, and, in many cases, their current ire toward Kerry has been undercut by their past praise.
What does matter is that they are generating buzz. What matters is that even though voters routinely condemn negative attacks, they remember the attacks. What matters is that the anti-Kerry vets are using the fog of war to sow doubts about Kerry's credibility and commander-in-chief credentials, seeking to sway the relatively few voters in swing states who have yet to make up their minds.
And every day this controversy dominates the news, Bush benefits. Thanks to the war in Iraq, he is no longer automatically perceived - outside his own devoted constituency - as a credible commander-in-chief, which is why it potentially helps his cause if supporters (with money and advice from top Texas Republicans) can paint the challenger as a risky replacement who is unfit for command.
Accordingly, Swift Boat member Van O'Dell charged yesterday on Fox News Sunday that Kerry is lying when he says he rescued a crewmate while under enemy fire.
O'Dell said, "I stand by it 100 percent" that there was no enemy fire. When Odell was told on the show that the official report cited enemy fire, and that the report was signed in 1969 by George Elliot, who is now a Swift Boat member, O'Dell replied that Kerry wrote the report to make himself look good.
But when O'Dell was asked if he had any proof that Kerry had written the report, he replied, "No, I do not."
Nor could he explain why a number of Swift Boat members had lavishly praised Kerry before his presidential bid. Why, for example, did retired veteran Adrian Lonsdale praise Kerry, in a 1996 video, as "among the finest of those Swift Boat drivers"? O'Dell replied: "I can't say what was in their hearts."
Nevertheless, they have exposed a Kerry embellishment. Kerry has insisted for years that he slipped over the Cambodian border on Christmas Eve in 1968, but, on the talk shows yesterday, even his staunchest defenders failed to back him up. John Hurley, a vet who works for Kerry, said only that Kerry "was five miles in Cambodia on a different occasion" and that the details had become "confused."
Voters may ultimately question whether this rehash is warranted, particularly in the midst of a new war. But even some Democrats acknowledge that Kerry has invited these attacks - by virtually asking voters to judge him on the basis of his Vietnam record (as opposed to his Senate record, which he rarely mentions). He was invoking Vietnam as a measure of his toughness even before he ran; back in May 2002, he told The Inquirer in an interview: "I'm prepared to kill a terrorist... . I killed people in Vietnam."
And it's not exactly a secret that the seasoned Bush strategists, and their affiliates, are skilled at exploiting "the character issue." During the South Carolina GOP primary in 2000, they spread rumors that John McCain was too temperamental for the presidency, perhaps because of his stint as a Vietnam prisoner of war. And during the autumn campaign, they painted Al Gore as an untrustworthy serial exaggerator (with help from Gore, who had told a few whoppers over the years).
Now it is Kerry's turn. The Bush team says he is too temperamental for the presidency, because he looked "wild-eyed" and "completely unhinged" when he responded last week to the Swift Boat attacks. One Bush spokesman said he was "losing his cool."
And, on the trust issue, conservative analyst William Kristol said yesterday on Fox News Sunday that "once one assertion turns out to be false, others get called into question."
Kristol was referring to Kerry's Christmas-in-Cambodia claim, and you can bet that the conservative Web sites will continue to frame that as a character issue. In fact, it just came up again on conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt's blog: "Kerry has been many different men... . Sybil as president, we don't need."
It's difficult, however, to determine whether swing voters will be swayed by the "Swifties," particularly since they believe that most politicians dissemble anyway. On the topic of wartime duty, Ronald Reagan used to insist that he had helped liberate Nazi concentration camps in 1945; in reality, he was making war films on the studio lot.
And many voters might dismiss these Vietnam vets as politically motivated after several new disclosures: It turns out that retired Col. Ken Cordier, who appears in a new Swift Boat TV ad, was working in the Bush campaign as a volunteer adviser on veterans issues; and that a Florida flyer, advertising two weekend rallies, listed the Swift Boat vets and the local Bush campaign as cosponsors. (The Bush campaign has dumped Cordier, and says it has no working ties to the vets.)
Not all Republicans are comfortable with the Swifties, either. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas told CBS's Face the Nation yesterday that he wanted to "put the Swift Boat controversy in dry dock... . I hope we can cease and desist, and move on to other issues." Even Ken Mehlman, the Bush campaign manager, when goaded on NBC yesterday about Bush's National Guard record, said, "We shouldn't be talking about Vietnam."
And conservative commentator Andrew Ferguson writes this week - in the Weekly Standard, Kristol's magazine - that it is "transparently desperate" to argue that a combat veteran is "inferior, morally and otherwise, to a man who had his father pull strings so he wouldn't have to go to Vietnam in the first place."
Perhaps the Swifties are just a summer squall. Perhaps Iraq and the economy will dominate the dialogue after the leaves turn. But the problem for Kerry at the moment is that even flawed enemies can inflict wounds. And by running a new TV ad that resurrects Kerry's stint as an antiwar activist in 1971, they can potentially impede his attempts to talk about 2004.
At this late date, the last thing Kerry wants is to be stuck on defense; as he told The Inquirer two years ago: "You don't want to spend all your time just explaining."
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Contact staff writer Dick Polman at 215-854-4430 or email@example.com.
They are merely eye-witnesses.
"they lack documentary proof for their most serious assertions"
that is the nature of eye witness they do not have documentary evidence!
How hard is that?
Dick Polman should read the book.
Gee, I wasn't aware that when a country is at war EVERY SINGLE SERVICEMAN heads off to that theatre leaving the home country completely without protection?
Sen Kerry started this, and figured that because Vietnam happened a long time ago that the crap he foisted on the American Veterans long ago would be forgotten about.
Actually, what happened is that the boil that has been festering on my butt for 35 years came to life all on it's own, encouraged when this hero wanna-be made his 4 1/2 or 16 1/2 months of Vietnam service the central point of his presidential campaign, ignoring all of the years he was in Congress.
This is an open invitation to ALL FReepers, veteran or not, Vietnam era or not. Please join us on September 12th as we tell the world that John Kerry was a liar and traitor then, just as he is a liar and traitor now
KERRY LIED . . . while good men died
A gathering of Vietnam veterans from across America
John Kerry told the world we were war criminals who raped, tortured and murdered in Vietnam. Now, thirty-three years later, we will tell America the truth.
Where: Upper Senate Park, Washington, D.C. It is easy to get to, shady and pretty, with a great view of the Capitol dome in back of the speaker's platform. THIS IS A NEW LOCATION AS OF 7/17/04
When: Sunday, Sept 12, 2004 2:00-4:00 PM (EDT)
Why: To tell the truth about Vietnam veterans and to counter the lies told about Vietnam veterans by John Kerry
All Vietnam veterans and their families and supporters are asked to attend. Other veterans are invited as honored guests.
If you are in DC on the 11th, look for the National March Against Terror.
In God We Trust
Indeed. They are eyewitnesses to events that occurred in a combat zone. Unlike some people, they never thought to bring along a video recorder to the battlefield.
Polman's a Dem hack.
Only by documents that were authored by Kerry or were the results of other documents based on Kerry's accounts.
they lack documentary proof for their most serious assertions, and, in many cases, their current ire toward Kerry has been undercut by their past praise.
Actually their past praise just shows they are not partisan hacks. They defend Kerry when he is unfairly attacked and they attack Kerry when Kerry spews lies.
This is an admission that the Swiftees are killing Kerry at the moment. It galls the liberal reporter to no end. Love it.
BUMP FOR THE SUPPORT OF SWIFT VETS HERE... http://www.swiftvets.com/
No, it's not, Polman. Polls show Kerry getting skinned in the swing voter category, especially among veterans.
Is John Hurley also the spokesman for Boston's Unitarian Universalists who cannot decide whether polyamory is right or wrong? See link....
Polman, you ass, Kerry is the one who made his four months in Vietnam a centerpiece of his qualifications for office. He even told a lie about his service in his acceptance speech - that he stayed when others fled, when the opposite was true. So Kerry is the one who put this into play, and all your lies through ommission won't change that.
John Hurley lives out in Wellesley, where they believe in gold. Last I was there they had three goldsmiths, and it's not a large town.
O'Neil will be on Rush Limbaugh today at 1:00 ET