Thursday, August 05, 2004

McCain Condemns Anti-Kerry Ad

McCain Condemns Anti-Kerry Ad

By RON FOURNIER, AP Political Writer

WASHINGTON - Republican Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, called an ad criticizing John Kerry's military service "dishonest and dishonorable" and urged the White House on Thursday to condemn it as well.

The White House declined.

"It was the same kind of deal that was pulled on me," McCain said in an interview with The Associated Press, comparing the anti-Kerry ad to tactics in his bitter Republican primary fight with President Bush.

The 60-second ad features Vietnam veterans who accuse the Democratic presidential nominee of lying about his decorated Vietnam War record and betraying his fellow veterans by later opposing the conflict.

"When the chips were down, you could not count on John Kerry," one of the veterans, Larry Thurlow, says in the ad. Thurlow didn't serve on Kerry's swiftboat, but says he witnessed the events that led to Kerry winning a Bronze Star and the last of his three Purple Hearts. Kerry's crewmates support the candidate and call him a hero.

The ad, scheduled to air in a few markets in Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin, was produced by Stevens, Reed, Curcio and Potham, the same team that produced McCain's ads in 2000.

"I wish they hadn't done it," McCain said of his former advisers. "I don't know if they knew all the facts."

Asked if the White House knew about the ad or helped find financing for it, McCain said, "I hope not, but I don't know. But I think the Bush campaign should specifically condemn the ad."

McCain, chairman of Bush's campaign in Arizona, later said the Bush campaign has denied any involvement and added, "I can't believe the president would pull such a cheap stunt."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan declined to condemn the ad. He did denounce the proliferation of spending by independent groups, such as the anti-Kerry veterans organization, that are playing on both sides of the political fence.

"The president thought he got rid of this unregulated soft money when he signed the bipartisan campaign finance reform into law," McClellan said. A chief sponsor of that bill, which Bush initially opposed, was McCain.

In 2000, Bush's supporters sponsored a rumor campaign against McCain in the South Carolina primary, helping Bush win the primary and the nomination. McCain's supporters have never forgiven the Bush team.

McCain said that's all in the past to him, but he's speaking out against the anti-Kerry ad because "it reopens all the old wounds of the Vietnam War, which I spent the last 35 years trying to heal."

"I deplore this kind of politics," McCain said. "I think the ad is dishonest and dishonorable. As it is, none of these individuals served on the boat (Kerry) commanded. Many of his crew have testified to his courage under fire. I think John Kerry served honorably in Vietnam. I think George Bush served honorably in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War."

Retired Adm. Roy Hoffmann, head of the Swift Boat group, said they respected McCain's "right to express his opinion and we hope he extends to us the same respect and courtesy, particularly since we served with John Kerry, we knew him well and Sen. McCain did not."

McCain himself spent more than five years in a Vietnam prisoner of war camp. A bona fide war hero, McCain, like Kerry, used his war record as the foundation of his presidential campaign.

The Kerry campaign has denounced the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, saying none of the men in the ad served on the boat that Kerry commanded. Three veterans on Kerry's boat that day — Jim Rassmann, who says Kerry saved his life, Gene Thorson and Del Sandusky, the driver on Kerry's boat, said the group was lying.

They say Kerry was injured, and Rassmann called the group's account "pure fabrication."

The general counsel for the Kerry campaign and the Democratic National Committee (news - web sites) sent television stations a letter asking them not to run the ad because it is "an inflammatory, outrageous lie" by people purporting to have served with Kerry.

Hoffmann said none of the 13 veterans in the commercial served on Kerry's boat but rather were in other swiftboats within 50 yards of Kerry's. The group claims that there was no gunfire on the day Kerry pulled Rassmann from a muddy river in the Mekong Delta and that Kerry's arm was not wounded, as he has claimed.

See the comments for additional articles


Blogger Ron Chusid said...

Smear Boat Veterans for Bush
The "swift boat" veterans attacking John Kerry's war record are led by veteran right-wing operatives using the same vicious techniques they used against John McCain four years ago.

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By Joe Conason

May 4, 2004 | The latest conservative outfit to fire an angry broadside against John Kerry's heroic war record is Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which today launches a campaign to brand the Democrat "unfit to serve as commander in chief." Billing itself as representing the "other 97 percent of veterans" from Kerry's Navy unit who don't support his presidential candidacy, the group insists that all presidential candidates must be "totally honest and forthcoming" about their military service.

These "swift boat vets" claim still to be furious about Kerry's 1971 Senate testimony against the war in which he spoke about atrocities in Indochina's "free fire zones." More than three decades later, facing the complicated truth about Vietnam remains difficult. But this group's political connections make clear that its agenda is to target the election of 2004.

Behind the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are veteran corporate media consultant and Texas Republican activist Merrie Spaeth, who is listed as the group's media contact; eternal Kerry antagonist and Houston attorney John E. O'Neill, law partner of Spaeth's late husband, Tex Lezar; and retired Rear Adm. Roy Hoffman, a cigar-chomping former Vietnam commander once described as "the classic body-count guy" who "wanted hooches destroyed and people killed."

Spaeth told Salon that O'Neill first approached her last winter to discuss his "concerns about Sen. Kerry." O'Neill has been assailing Kerry since 1971, when the former Navy officer was selected for the role by Charles Colson, Richard Nixon's dirty-tricks aide. Spaeth heard O'Neill out, but told him, she says, that he "sounded like a crazed extremist" and should "button his lip" and avoid speaking with the press. But since Kerry clinched the Democratic nomination, Spaeth has changed her mind and decided to donate her public relations services on a "pro bono" basis to O'Neill's latest anti-Kerry effort. "About three weeks ago, four weeks ago," she said, the group's leaders "met in my office for about 12 hours" to prepare for their Washington debut.

Although not as well known as Karen Hughes, Spaeth is among the most experienced and best connected Republican communications executives. During the Reagan administration she served as director of the White House Office of Media Liaison, where she specialized in promoting "news" items that boosted President Reagan to TV stations around the country. While living in Washington she met and married Lezar, a Reagan Justice Department lawyer who ran for lieutenant governor of Texas in 1994 with George W. Bush, then the party's candidate for governor. (Lezar lost; Bush won.)

Through Lezar, who died of a heart attack last January, she met O'Neill, his law partner in Clements, O'Neill, Pierce, Wilson & Fulkerson, a Dallas firm. (It also includes Margaret Wilson, the former counsel to Gov. Bush who followed him to Washington, where she served for a time as a deputy counsel in the Department of Commerce.)

Spaeth's partisanship runs still deeper, as does her history of handling difficult P.R. cases for Republicans. In 1998, for example, she coached Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel, to prepare him for his testimony urging the impeachment of President Clinton before the House Judiciary Committee. She even reviewed videotapes of his previous television appearances to give him pointers about his delivery and demeanor. The man responsible for arranging her advice to Starr was another old friend of her late husband's, Theodore Olson, who was counsel to the right-wing American Spectator when it acted as a front for the dirty-tricks campaign against Clinton known as the Arkansas Project; he is now the solicitor general in the Bush Justice Department. (Olson also happens to be the godfather of Spaeth's daughter.)

In 2000, Spaeth participated in the most subterranean episode of the Republican primary contest when a shadowy group billed as "Republicans for Clean Air" produced television ads falsely attacking the environmental record of Sen. John McCain in California, New York and Ohio. While the identity of those funding the supposedly "independent" ads was carefully hidden, reporters soon learned that Republicans for Clean Air was simply Sam Wyly -- a big Bush contributor and beneficiary of Bush administration decisions in Texas -- and his brother, Charles, another Bush "Pioneer" contributor. (One of the Wyly family's private capital funds, Maverick Capital of Dallas, had been awarded a state contract to invest $90 million for the University of Texas endowment.)

When the secret emerged, spokeswoman Spaeth caught the flak for the Wylys, an experience she recalled to me as "horrible" and "awful." Her job was to assure reporters that there had been no illegal coordination between the Bush campaign and the Wyly brothers in arranging the McCain-trashing message. Not everyone believed her explanation, including the Arizona senator.

The veteran group's founder, Rear Adm. Roy Hoffmann, first gained notoriety in Vietnam as a strutting, cigar-chewing Navy captain. But it was O'Neill, by now a familiar figure on the Kerry-bashing circuit, who came to Spaeth for assistance.

Until now, Hoffmann has been best known as the commanding officer whose obsession with body counts and "scorekeeping" may have provoked the February 1969 massacre of Vietnamese civilians at Thanh Phong by a unit led by Bob Kerrey -- the Medal of Honor winner who lost a leg in Nam, became a U.S. senator from Nebraska and now sits on the 9/11 commission.

After journalist Gregory Vistica exposed the Thanh Phong massacre and the surrounding circumstances in the New York Times magazine three years ago, conservative columnist Christopher Caldwell took particular note of the cameo role played by Kerrey's C.O., who had warned his men not to return from missions without enough kills. "One of the myths due to die as a result of Vistica's article is that which holds the war could have been won sensibly and cleanly if the 'suits' back in Washington had merely left the military men to their own devices," Caldwell wrote. "In this light, one of the great merits of Vistica's article is its portrait of the Kurtz-like psychopath who commanded Kerrey's Navy task force, Capt. Roy Hoffmann."

Arguments about the war in Vietnam seem destined to continue forever. For now, however, the lingering bitterness and ambiguity of those days provide smear material against an antiwar war hero with five medals on behalf of a privileged Guardsman with a dubious duty record. The president's Texas allies -- whose animus against his Democratic challenger dates back to the Nixon era -- are now deploying the same techniques and personnel they used to attack McCain's integrity four years ago. Bush's "independent" supporters would apparently rather talk about the Vietnam quagmire than about his deadly incompetence in Iraq.

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About the writer
Joe Conason writes a twice weekly column for Salon. He also writes a weekly column for the New York Observer. His new book, "Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth," is now available. Join Joe Conason along with Ann Richards, David Talbot and others on the Salon Cruise

2:27 PM  
Blogger Ron Chusid said...

Who is John O'Neill?

CNN's Blitzer failed to probe partisan ties of Kerry critic

The May 4 Wall Street Journal editorial page featured an op-ed by John O'Neill about Senator John Kerry under the headline "Unfit to Serve." O'Neill is identified by the paper as having "served in Coastal Division 11 in 1969-1970, winning two Bronze Stars and additional decorations for his service in Vietnam." As Joe Conason wrote in on May 4, O'Neill has long-standing ties to the GOP establishment, and O'Neill's own p.r. adviser has described O'Neill as sounding like "a crazed extremist."

O'Neill is one of several Vietnam veterans who have criticized Kerry and called into question the decorations he received for his service combat. O'Neill is associated with the newly formed group "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," which held a press conference on May 4 that was promoted by the Media Research Center's Cybercast News Service and highlighted by The Drudge Report on May 3. According to Cybercast News, "Hundreds of former commanders and military colleagues of presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry are set to declare in a signed letter that he is 'unfit to be commander-in-chief.'"

The Heritage Foundation's website became a vehicle for bringing O'Neill back to the current media spotlight. On April 2, published a syndicated column by Mona Charen -- and on April 8, David Horowitz's FrontPage Magazine published a timeline by Winter -- both making brief mention of a 1971 debate between Kerry and O'Neill on The Dick Cavett Show in which O'Neill accused Kerry of lying about the activities and conduct of American military forces in Vietnam.

On April 20, O'Neill made his cable debut on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports. During the interview, O'Neill said that John Kerry told "damaging lies" about war crimes in Vietnam. He said, "We know the truth and we know that [John Kerry] is unfit to be the commander in chief." O'Neill continued, "I think you'll find people are very, very angry at John Kerry. They remember his career in Vietnam as a short, controversial one. And they believe only Hollywood could turn this guy into a war hero. I saw some war heroes, Wolf. John Kerry is not a war hero. He couldn't tie the shoes of some of the people in Coastal Division 11."

Though Blitzer acknowledged that questions were likely to be raised about whether O'Neill was speaking out against Kerry for political reasons, Blitzer conceded that he had not looked into O'Neill's partisan affiliations. "Maybe you're a Republican -- I have no idea -- or the Bush people are encouraging you," Blitzer said.

Houston lawyer John O'Neill is a Republican -- as the Houston Chronicle noted the day after O'Neill's interview with Blitzer. According to the paper, O'Neill voted in the 1998 Republican state primary. But O'Neill's ties to the Republican Party extend far beyond party affiliation. During the CNN interview, Blitzer reported that former President Richard Nixon had urged O'Neill to publicly counter Kerry on The Dick Cavett Show, but there is more to the story. O'Neill was a creation of the Nixon administration, as Joe Klein detailed in the January 5 issue of The New Yorker. Former Nixon special counsel Chuck Colson told Klein that Kerry was an "articulate" and "credible leader" of those veterans calling for an end to the Vietnam War and therefore "an immediate target of the Nixon Administration." As such, the Nixon administration found it necessary to "create a counterfoil" to Kerry. Colson recounted, "We found a vet named John O'Neill and formed a group called Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace. We had O'Neill meet the President, and we did everything we could do to boost his group." Articles from the April 21 Houston Chronicle and the June 17, 2003, Boston Globe confirm close ties between O'Neill and the Nixon administration.

Beyond his role in the Nixon administration's strategy to undermine Kerry in the 1970s, O'Neill is also connected to Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist (a Nixon appointee) and to former President George H.W. Bush, according to Houston Chronicle articles from March 31 and April 21. In the late 1970s, O'Neill clerked for Rehnquist; in 1990, according to an October 7, 1991, report by Texas Lawyer, the former President Bush considered O'Neill for a federal judgeship vacancy.

Media Matters for America will be monitoring media coverage of today's "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" activities and will issue an updated report.

2:29 PM  
Blogger Ron Chusid said...

Different decade, same dirty tricks

With a little bit of help from the Drudge Report, and an ad buy that got their nasty claims in the newspapers, the anti-Kerry Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are getting more than their share of publicity today. And they'll likely get even more in some quarters (like, say, Fox News) as the group's leader, Nixon-anointed Kerry detractor Houston attorney John O'Neill, publishes his book "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry," coming soon from the conservative publishing house Regnery Publishing.

Hopefully the media will do their job in exposing O'Neill's longtime ties to the GOP and the fact that, as they admit, none of the men who appear in the ads that will run in some markets in Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin today, actually served on Kerry's boat. So how did Larry Thurlow, a vet who appears in the Kerry-bashing ad know, as he claims, "When the chips were down, you could not count on John Kerry?" Does he know this better than Jim Rassman, who when the chips were down, counted on Kerry to save his life? Or how about James Wasser, a radar man on one of Kerry's swift boats, who says that if Kerry called his band of brothers for one last mission and said they were going to hell, "he'd have a full crew."

The facts of Kerry's service don't really matter to O'Neill, anyway. Attacking Kerry has been O'Neill's role since Nixon tapped him for the job in 1971, as Joe Conason reported in Salon in May, and his latest anti-Kerry effort is now funded and organized by Republicans:

"Behind the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are veteran corporate media consultant and Texas Republican activist Merrie Spaeth, who is listed as the group's media contact; eternal Kerry antagonist and Houston attorney John E. O'Neill, law partner of Spaeth's late husband, Tex Lezar; and retired Rear Adm. Roy Hoffman, a cigar-chomping former Vietnam commander once described as 'the classic body-count guy' who 'wanted hooches destroyed and people killed.'"

"Spaeth told Salon that O'Neill first approached her last winter to discuss his 'concerns about Sen. Kerry.' O'Neill has been assailing Kerry since 1971, when the former Navy officer was selected for the role by Charles Colson, Richard Nixon's dirty-tricks aide."

Media Matters has more on O'Neill's GOP ties, dating back to Nixon:

"During the CNN interview [with O'Neill], [Wolf] Blitzer reported that former President Richard Nixon had urged O'Neill to publicly counter Kerry on The Dick Cavett Show, but there is more to the story. O'Neill was a creation of the Nixon administration, as Joe Klein detailed in the January 5 issue of The New Yorker. Former Nixon special counsel Chuck Colson told Klein that Kerry was an 'articulate' and 'credible leader' of those veterans calling for an end to the Vietnam War and therefore 'an immediate target of the Nixon Administration.' As such, the Nixon administration found it necessary to 'create a counterfoil' to Kerry. Colson recounted, 'We found a vet named John O'Neill and formed a group called Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace. We had O'Neill meet the President, and we did everything we could do to boost his group.' Articles from the April 21 Houston Chronicle and the June 17, 2003, Boston Globe confirm close ties between O'Neill and the Nixon administration."

"Beyond his role in the Nixon administration's strategy to undermine Kerry in the 1970s, O'Neill is also connected to Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist (a Nixon appointee) and to former President George H.W. Bush, according to Houston Chronicle articles from March 31 and April 21. In the late 1970s, O'Neill clerked for Rehnquist; in 1990, according to an October 7, 1991, report by Texas Lawyer, the former President Bush considered O'Neill for a federal judgeship vacancy."

-- Geraldine Sealey

2:30 PM  
Blogger Ron Chusid said...

John Kerry's first Purple Heart
With questions lingering over President Bush's service in the Guard, conservatives hope to diminish Kerry's Vietnam heroics -- but they can't erase his real battle record.

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By Douglas Brinkley

April 17, 2004 | It was Dec. 2, 1968, and Lt. j.g. John Kerry was on a special nighttime covert mission in Vietnam. He had been ordered into a Viet Cong-infested peninsula north of Cam Ranh Bay to disrupt a smuggling operation. His vessel was a Boston Whaler, a boat that could float after taking 1,000 rounds of automatic weapons fire. Much of the evening was spent apprehending fishermen in a curfew zone. At approximately 2 a.m., however, they proceeded up an inlet with wild jungle on both sides of the boat. As they approached a bay, Kerry's whaler fired flares into the air. To their horror, not far from them, were a startled group of Viet Cong smugglers trafficking in contraband.

"We opened fire," Kerry told me in a Jan. 30, 2003, interview. "The light from the flares started to fade, the air was full of explosions. My M-16 jammed, and as I bent down to grab another gun, a stinging piece of heat socked into my arm and just seemed to burn like hell. By this time one of the sailors had started the engine and we ran by the beach strafing it. Then it was quiet."

Kerry and crewmates blew up the smugglers' beached sampans and then headed back to Cam Ranh Bay. "I never saw where the piece of shrapnel had come from, and the vision of the men running like gazelles haunted me," Kerry continued. "It seemed stupid. My gunner didn't know where the people were when he first started firing. The M-16 bullets had kicked up the sand way to the right of them as he sprayed the beach, slowly walking the line of fire over to where the men had been leaping for cover. I had been shouting directions and trying to un-jam my gun. The third crewman was locked in a personal struggle with the engine, trying to start it. I just shook my head and said, 'Jesus Christ.' It made me wonder if a year of training was worth anything." Kerry, never trying to inflate the incident, called it a "half-ass action." Nevertheless, the escapade introduced Kerry to the V.C. and earned him his first Purple Heart.

As generally understood, the Purple Heart is given to any U.S. citizen wounded in wartime service to the nation. Giving out Purple Hearts increased in 1968 as the United States Navy started sending swift boats up rivers in the Mekong Delta. Sailors -- no longer safe on aircraft carriers or battleships in the Gulf of Tonkin -- were starting to bleed, a lot. Vice Adm. Elmo Zumwalt himself would pin the medal on John Kerry at An Thoi about six weeks after the doctor at the Cam Ranh base took the shrapnel out of the young officer's right arm. "He called me in New York to tell me he had been wounded," his then girlfriend and later wife, Julia Thorne, remembered. "I was worried sick, scared to death that John or one of my brothers was going to die. He reassured me that he was OK."

Now it is 2004, John Kerry is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, and a couple of reporters are bringing into question whether he deserved a Purple Heart for that daring action. The Boston Globe and the New York Post have run hurtful stories quoting Kerry's commanding officer that evening, Lt. Cmdr. Grant Hibbard, now a retiree in Gulf Breeze, Fla., grouching that Kerry's wound wasn't large enough. Hibbard was not even on the Boston Whaler when the firefight erupted. Nevertheless, the New York Post quotes Hibbard -- a proudly registered Republican -- as griping Kerry's injury "didn't look like much of a wound to me."

In the wake of the controversial Bush National Guard story, reporters today, anxious to break a headline, are combing through Kerry's Vietnam past. The name of the game is to find a conservative ex-Vietnam hand to say something negative about Kerry. It's an automatic newsmaker, guaranteed to get picked up by, the Weekly Standard, Rush Limbaugh, the New York Post and other conservative outlets. At issue is an attempt to downgrade Kerry's Vietnam War heroism. The major anti-Kerry Vietnam War Internet complaint, it seems, echoes Hibbard: that his minor wounds weren't big enough to warrant Purple Hearts. Unfortunately neither the Boston Globe nor New York Post takes the time to explain to readers that Purple Hearts are not given out to soldiers/sailors for the size of the wound. Only by the grace of God did the hot shrapnel that pierced Kerry's arm not enter his heart or brain or eye.

For the record, Purple Hearts are given for the following enemy-related injuries:

a) Injury caused by enemy bullet, shrapnel or other projectile created by enemy action.

b) Injury caused by enemy-placed mine or trap.

c) Injury caused by enemy-released chemical, biological or nuclear agent.

d) Injury caused by vehicle or aircraft accident resulting from enemy fire.

e) Concussion injuries caused as a result of enemy-generated explosions.

Examples of injuries or wounds which clearly do not qualify for award of the Purple Heart are as follows:

a) Frostbite or trench foot injuries.

b) Heat stroke.

c) Food poisoning not caused by enemy agents.

d) Chemical, biological, or nuclear agents not released by the enemy.

e) Battle fatigue.

f) Disease not directly caused by enemy agents.

g) Accidents, to include explosive, aircraft, vehicular and other accidental wounding not related to or caused by enemy action.

Given the hurly-burly circumstance of Dec. 2, 1968, Kerry -- and the other men on the mission -- are not sure whether they were hit by enemy fire or if shrapnel from one of the other men on the Boston Whaler injured Kerry. It could have even been Kerry's own M-16 backfiring that caused the shrapnel wound. It doesn't really matter. The requirement makes it clear that you are awarded a Purple Heart for "Injury caused by enemy bullet, shrapnel or other projectile created by enemy action." Does anybody dispute that Kerry's wound was created by enemy action? As the stipulation also makes clear, Kerry would have been awarded a Purple Heart even if he never bled, if, for example, he had suffered a concussion from a grenade. So to set the record straight: Kerry deserved his first Purple Heart -- period. To say otherwise is to distort the reality of the medal.

Unfortunately, the Boston Globe and New York Post stories omit fully reporting the bylaws. They present Hibbard at face value, downplaying the fact that he is a Republican criticizing a fellow veteran hoping to cause him public embarrassment. According to the Globe, Hibbard -- in classic blowhard fashion -- said Kerry "had a little scratch on his forearm, and he was holding a piece of shrapnel." Adding further verbal insult, Hibbard apparently claimed: "I've had thorns from a rose that were worse." The straight-faced Globe reporter, in fact, claims that Hibbard told him that Kerry's wound resembled a "scrape from a fingernail." Not included in either newspaper account, however, is Kerry's medical report from the incident. He shared it with me last year when I was writing "Tour of Duty." It reads: "3 DEC 1968 U.S. NAVAL SUPPORT FACILITY CAM RANH BAY RVN FPO Shrapnel in left arm above elbow. Shrapnel removed and appl. Bacitracin. Ret. to duty." Is shrapnel removed from an arm really like a "scrape from a fingernail"? Or a thorn prick? The answer, of course, as any sensible person can surmise, is no.

Which raises the question: Why the medical record omission? Why the cruel attempt publicly to mock Kerry for his wound? Why the media need to play "gotcha" with something as sensitive as a war injury? This Dec. 3 medical report is proof that Kerry had shrapnel taken from his arm. According to Kerry, who should know, the doctor wrapped a clean white bandage around his arm. After the procedure he rightfully put in for a Purple Heart. Kerry clearly met the requirements -- as listed above -- for deserving one. From the hospital room Kerry returned to duty. That's apparently when he held the shrapnel out in his palm for Hibbard to see.

The Globe, however, let Hibbard off the hook, no serious questions asked. On the one hand he claimed Kerry was holding his shrapnel and then he also claims it was a scratch. Are we to believe that following his surgical procedure Kerry went to Hibbard and ripped off his battle dressing to show him the wound that looked like a "scrape from a fingernail"? Or is Hibbard simply surmising it was a thorn prick? Worse still, Hibbard now claims that he was opposed to Kerry being awarded the Purple Heart. Really? Then why didn't he fight against it harder? His superficial answer can be found in the Globe: "I do remember some questions, some correspondence about it. I finally said, 'Ok, if that's what happened ... do whatever you want.' After that I don't know what happened. Obviously, he got it. I don't know how." Does this sound like a reliable source? Is that fuzzy-mindedness worth reporting as serious news? Why wasn't Hibbard asked why he stayed quiet for 35 years?

Let me offer Hibbard an answer to his question. The U.S. Navy chose to award Kerry a Purple Heart because he qualified for it. Only a fool -- or an exceedingly modest man -- wouldn't apply for a Purple Heart that was due him. Kerry was neither. But Kerry did not receive it because, as the Post claims, he had "strong ties to the Kennedy machine in Massachusetts (Bobby Kennedy speechwriter Adam Walinsky wrote Kerry's famous 1971 antiwar Washington speech)." Kerry's only tie to the "Kennedy machine" was that as a college student he slapped a "Ted Kennedy for U.S. Senate" bumper sticker on his VW and campaigned for a summer around Cape Cod. As for Walinsky writing Kerry's famous April 22, 1971, speech/testimony -- it's utter nonsense. Walinsky has consistently denied the rumor. At his Boston home Kerry has a file brimming with his various drafts of the speech/testimony. He, in fact, had delivered parts of the speech months beforehand. Why is it so hard to accept the fact that Kerry -- like thousands of other Vietnam Vets -- was awarded a Purple Heart as a small token of appreciation for risking his life for his country?

Back in 1964 Bob Dylan wrote a lyric for the song "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)." At one point in it he asks whether nothing in American life is "really sacred." When retired U.S. naval officers, 35 years after the fact, start whining to the press that a war wound wasn't big enough to warrant a Purple Heart -- and the Boston Globe goes along for the ride -- you realize Dylan's prophecy. Today the tabloids truly are king. Call me naive, or too pro-veteran, but it seems to me we should be thanking every Purple Heart recipient for their duty to country, not demanding of them explanations for why their wounds weren't bigger or fatal. Ridicule Kerry on his liberal Senate record, or so-called aloofism, or even his outspoken Vietnam Veterans Against the War protests, but leave his old battle scars alone.

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About the writer
Douglas Brinkley is Stephen E. Ambrose Professor of History and Director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans. His most recent book is "Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War."

2:36 PM  
Blogger stumpy said...


These are the folks at, responsible for the publishing and backing of the swift boat smear:

Thomas S. Winter - Editor in Chief
Mr. Winter joined HUMAN EVENTS in 1961 at the age of 24 as an assistant editor after getting his A.B. in 1959 and M.B.A. in 1961, both from Harvard University. In 1964, he took over the paper as editor, and in 1966 he became co-owner and president of HUMAN EVENTS. He also serves as vice chairman of the American Conservative Union, and the Treasurer of the Conservative Victory Fund. He assumed the title editor in chief in 1996, when he hired Terry Jeffrey as editor.

Terence P. Jeffrey - Editor
Mr. Jeffrey graduated from Princeton University and went to work at the Washington Times as an editorial writer. He has worked on Pat Buchanan's Republican presidential bids, serving as his campaign manager in 1996.

Kevin Lamb - Managing Editor
Mr. Lamb joined HUMAN EVENTS in March 2002 after thirteen years as a library assistant and researcher for Newsweek. He joined the staff of Newsweek's Washington Bureau in March of 1989 after completing the fall 1988 internship with the National Journalism Center, during which he interned with HUMAN EVENTS. Mr. Lamb is a graduate of Indiana University with a B.A. in political science and an A.S. in journalism. While attending college, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve from 1981-1986 with Co. A, 8th tank battalion, 4th Marine division, located in Ft. Knox, KY. Mr. Lamb is also the Associate Editor for the Evans-Novak Political Report.

John Gizzi - Political Editor
Mr. Gizzi's weekly Politics column gives HUMAN EVENTS the inside scoop from the man who knows everyone in this town. His Races of the Week and special reports also help make HE invaluable to the political junkie. A graduate of Fairfield University in Connecticut, Mr. Gizzi worked for the Travis County (Texas) Tax Assessor before coming to HUMAN EVENTS in 1979. Mr. Gizzi has appeared on more than 100 different radio and television programs including those on C-SPAN, America's Voice and Talk America. He is a past president of the Georgetown Kiwanis Club and former treasurer of St. Matthew's Cathedral. In 1999, he won the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence.

Ann Coulter - Legal Affairs Correspondent
Ms. Coulter's weekly column in HUMAN EVENTS is rich with her legal expertise and irreverent attitude. She authored High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton (1998, Regnery) and Slander (2002, Crown).

Joseph A. D'Agostino - Associate Editor
Mr. D'Agostino joined the staff of HUMAN EVENTS as Assistant Editor after attending the National Journalism Center in 1996 and was promoted to Associate Editor in 2002. Former Associate Editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report, he holds a B.A. in Classical Studies from the University of Chicago. In 1998, he won an award from Project Censored for being among those who wrote "the most important news stories that the national media failed to report or develop during the past year," awarded by the School of Social Sciences at Sonoma State University. He has appeared on Fox News, MSNBC, Cox News, Al-Jazeera, and numerous radio shows.

David Freddoso - Assistant Editor
Mr. Freddoso, a native of Indiana, came to HUMAN EVENTS after working for nine months for the Home Reporter and Sunset News in Brooklyn, New York. He got his B.A. in Classical Greek from Notre Dame and an M.S. from Columbia's Pulitzer School of Journalism.

Christopher M. Field - Editor, Human Events Online
Mr. Field joined HUMAN EVENTS in January 2003 as the Editor of HUMAN EVENTS ONLINE after working at the United States Senate Republican Policy Committee as an Associate Policy Analyst. He began his three-and-a-half year stint at the Policy Committee in June 1999 following his graduation from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho, where he received B.A. degrees in English, Secondary Education, and History.

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2:54 PM  
Blogger Ron Chusid said...

Keen Focus on Lt. Kerry's Four Months Under Fire

By Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 23, 2004; Page A01

As a senior at Yale, John F. Kerry harbored doubts about the war in Vietnam, and as a Navy veteran he became famous for opposing it. But in between, he fought aggressively during an extraordinary four-month tour in that country, earning some of the nation's highest commendations for valor -- and then he abruptly returned to the United States.

Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, was in the Navy from 1966 to 1970, leaving with the rank of lieutenant, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts for wounds he received in combat. Most of the citations were awarded during his command of two "swift boats" on Vietnam's perilous coastal waterways.

Today, that record has become both an asset and an issue as he seeks the presidency. The senator from Massachusetts has used it to define his qualifications for the office, his experience in foreign policy, his leadership -- and, regarding the conflict in Iraq, his firsthand knowledge of war. But critics have cited it as evidence that he was opportunistic and have questioned whether he deserved one of his medals.

An examination of his record, supplemented by interviews with the candidate, his crewmates and some skeptics, found little to undermine Kerry's portrayal of his service.

Veterans of various wars greet him at the airport on his campaign stops, and John Hurley, national director of Veterans for Kerry, said 11,000 have signed up to support Kerry. With few exceptions, those who fought by his side, and the other veterans who support him today, are startled that anyone would question his valor.

Kerry's service evaluations, many of which were posted on his Web site this week, effusively cite his gallantry, his commitment to his service and the admiration of his men. In the coming weeks, his campaign will launch a series of ads promoting his military record -- an indication that he will continue to run on his military résumé.

But a group of Vietnam veterans, some of them partisans, portray him as an ambitious young officer who attempted to collect undeserved Purple Hearts for minor injuries and used those medals to cut short his tour. A military policy allowed those who received three Purple Hearts, regardless of the extent of their injuries, to leave Vietnam. Kerry could have requested to stay but did not.

A Web site vietnamveteransagainstkerry is dedicated to raising questions about his record and reminding voters that he returned home to become a leader in the antiwar movement, which critics allege demoralized the very troops he fought beside.

The issue made its way into the presidential contest this week when the Kerry campaign, facing Republican pressure to provide a more detailed account of his combat experience, decided to make public all his military records, except for his full medical report. Those documents did not add materially to information that had already been given to some news organizations on request, including The Washington Post last year.

Throughout the last decade of Kerry's political career, his crewmates have defended him when his credentials and record have been questioned; they are now campaigning for him. In a recent interview, Kerry dismissed the current questions about his first Purple Heart as partisan politics. He also said he left early because he had turned on the war. One of his crewmates, Michael Medeiros, said Kerry ensured that his men were given a non-threatening assignment before he left Vietnam.

"For anybody to say that anyone who commanded a swift boat went there to earn medals is just ludicrous. They were totally exposed. . . . If anything, they went there to get killed," said Jim Rassman, a Green Beret whom Kerry, wounded himself, pulled out of the water while under fire -- the act for which he received the Bronze Star. "John Kerry is lucky to be alive."

Kerry's tour in the Navy began in August 1966 at Officer Candidate School, in Rhode Island and then in California. In the class oration he delivered at Yale that spring, Kerry voiced doubts about the reach of American power into Southeast Asia. But throughout his senior year he had been surrounded by fellow members of Skull and Bones, Yale's most elite club -- young men with rich legacies of family military service. He and three of his closest friends had already decided to serve.

"Everyone wants to talk about this excruciating decision, but by and large it was four guys with some sense of family tradition in the military," said David Thorne, one of those friends, who also joined the Navy. "There was no 'anything but the military' sentiment at that time."

The antiwar movement was just coalescing. Thorne recalled that that summer, he and Kerry watched a swelling crowd protest the war in Century City, Calif.

"We just didn't understand what was happening in the country," Thorne said. "We were shocked that the police opened up and attacked the crowd without any provocation." But they were in no position to oppose the war, he said. "It's hard to explain, but you just couldn't go there," Thorne said. "You were in."

On Duty

By 1967, Kerry received his commission and his first assignment: cleaning the USS Gridley, a missile frigate.

During that tedious stint off the Vietnamese coast, Kerry took note of light aluminum boats that were patrolling the coastal waterways with small crews and were mostly out of harm's way. The 50-foot open boats were known as patrol craft fast (PCF) -- "swift boats."

He decided that was the assignment he wanted -- his own boat and his own crew; and action that was not necessarily deadly. In February 1968, he requested to go "in country" in Vietnam, seeking swift-boat duty.

The USS Gridley and Kerry arrived back in California on June 5, 1968, the day that one of his heroes, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), was shot. Kerry was devastated by Kennedy's death the next day and increasingly concerned about the war, he said. "By 1968, I began having an uneasiness about our strategy, what we were learning about what was happening in the country itself, and the deceptions that were being reported by the government," he said.

Still, he was in the Navy: He trained for his new mission and arrived at the U.S. base at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam that November.

The duty was far more dangerous that what Kerry had signed up for. Under a program called Operation Sea Lords, swift boats were ordered to be more aggressive, to penetrate deeper into the Mekong Delta and Viet Cong enclaves -- and to smoke out the enemy. They were sitting ducks, loudly cruising the rivers with no cover.

"If given a choice, I didn't want particularly to be in a foxhole," Kerry said. "I preferred to be in war on a boat -- not in the day-to-day battle. There wasn't as much risk and constancy of battle at the time [in the boats]. Obviously, it didn't end up that way. But I had volunteered, so you do what you have to do." In his four months in country, he would command two swift boats.

He arrived in the jungle as a Yalie with a Boston Brahmin résumé and the initials JFK -- a different breed from his crewmen, barely out of their teens and with working-class roots. Kerry would also spend his free time chronicling his experiences in letters home, which historian Douglas Brinkley used in his recently published book "Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War."

But the consensus among crewmates is that he bridged the differences and connected with his crew immediately. In combat, eight of nine of them say, he was daring and unflinching, never tentative. The ninth, Stephen M. Gardner, an avowed Bush supporter, recently told Brinkley: "Whenever a firefight started he always pulled up stakes and got the hell out of Dodge." Once, famously, Kerry -- in violation of regulations -- beached his boat and went after the enemy, chasing down and killing a Viet Cong guerrilla carrying a rocket launcher.

"I didn't want to just react and respond. I wanted to win," Kerry said. "I went there with a purpose, and that was to be successful on the missions."

Medeiros, who in 1969 was a crewmate of Kerry's, said Kerry "wanted to be aggressive."

"I liked him immediately. . . . He was a strong leader willing to take calculated risks. We were the seasoned ones; he respected that. He took the approach that we didn't have to prove anything to him. He had to prove something to us," Medeiros said.

Two weeks into his new assignment, before he was even given his own crew, Kerry was wounded on a swift-boat mission on Dec. 2, 1968. For that, he received his first -- and most controversial -- Purple Heart.

Grant Hibbard, Kerry's commanding officer, questioned the injury after Kerry first put in for the medal. Now 69 and living in Florida, Hibbard recently told reporters for the Boston Globe and USA Today that Kerry had only "a scratch" on his forearm and that Hibbard had no evidence that Kerry was under enemy fire when he was injured. In an interview with The Post, Hibbard stood by his remarks but declined to elaborate on them.

Kerry told Brinkley for his book that he and a crew were patrolling an enemy area north of Cam Ranh Bay when they set off a flare and startled Viet Cong drug smugglers. "The light from the flares started to fade, the air was full of explosions," Brinkley quoted him as saying. "My M-16 jammed, and as I bent down to grab another gun, a stinging piece of heat socked into my arm and just seemed to burn like hell."

The Kerry campaign provided a copy of a Navy medical report saying he received treatment for the wound the next day. "Shrapnel in left arm above elbow," the report says, with military abbreviation. "Shrapnel removed and appl bacitracin dressing. Ret to Duty." "What's the difference between a small piece of shrapnel and losing an arm or leg?" Thorne said about the skepticism. "It's all second-guessing at this point. Everyone put their life on the line, and everyone said, 'There [but] for the grace of God go I.' It's a specious argument [to say it was a minor injury], and it makes veterans go so crazy."

In an interview, Brinkley said Kerry "was not medal-hunting." In Vietnam, the historian said, there was "historical medal inflation," to keep soldiers engaged in the war. "That was not John Kerry's fault," he said.

"The fact is, John Kerry was exceedingly lucky in Vietnam that his three wounds were minor," he said.

On the Delta

Before the end of 1968, Kerry received his first command, the PCF-44. Within a month, he was assigned a new crew and was skippering the PCF-94 on the Mekong Delta, where he faced the most combat and received most of his citations. In February 1969, he took shrapnel in his left leg, earning his second Purple Heart. The next month, he killed the Viet Cong who was holding the rocket launcher -- for which he earned the Silver Star.

During Kerry's bid for reelection to the Senate in 1996, the media raised questions about whether the enemy was down and wounded when Kerry killed him. For the first time in 27 years, the men of PCF-94 gathered that year in Boston to help defend their former skipper and credit him with saving their lives that day.

They said this was the situation: They were ferrying troops up a river when they started taking fire. Kerry ordered his boat turned to face the bank and charge the enemy. As they approached the bank, the Viet Cong jumped up and began running away from their boat.

Several of the crew believe the Viet Cong had been wounded; they all believe that he could have been trying to get far enough from their boat so he could fire a rocket at it. Kerry, they said, chased him down and eliminated a grave potential threat.

In March 1969, Kerry was wounded again, this time taking shrapnel in the buttocks and right forearm when a mine exploded near his boat. Under fire from the riverbank, Kerry gave orders to get out of the area. But in the getaway, Kerry realized that he had lost a man overboard -- Rassman, whom Kerry had been transporting out of the area. He ordered the boat back.

"Lt. Kerry directed his gunners to provide suppressing fire," says the citation for Kerry's Bronze Star, which he earned on this mission, along with his third Purple Heart, "while from an exposed position on the bow, his arm bleeding and in pain, with disregard for his personal safety, he pulled the man aboard."

Rassman nominated Kerry for the Silver Star -- and to this day, he is perplexed that it was downgraded to the Bronze. "I figure I was dead, because so many people were shooting at me," Rassman said. "He came right up to the bow of the boat and pulled me in. That was stupid."

Rassman had not seen Kerry for 35 years when he called the campaign in January and offered to work a phone bank. Within a day, the campaign flew him to Iowa and had him talking to voters and the media in Iowa.

By the end of March 1969, four months into his assignment, Kerry had "moved to a place that was very clear and deep opposition," he said. "I thought the war was wrong." He had also lost a number of friends to the war, but his thinking about the war went beyond his grief.

He said he was influenced by the tumult in the United States in 1968 and by what he was seeing firsthand.

"From the moment I stepped on the ground, I felt the contradictions -- the corruption of the local government, the nature of our missions, the unwillingness of some of the Vietnamese troops to carry out missions. . . . A long list of realities hit me in the face," Kerry said.

With three Purple Hearts to his name, he was allowed to leave Vietnam. Returning stateside, he served as a personal aide to an admiral at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

He wanted to speak out about what he had seen and what he knew, he said, but felt he could not do so in uniform.

Seven months later, he requested early release from duty to run for Congress, and by January 1970 Kerry was released. "I just said I'm going to go home to talk about this," he said, "and try to figure out how to stop this."

His congressional campaign proved ill-fated, but Kerry would become nationally famous the following spring, as a decorated veteran opposing the war.

Researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Ron Chusid said...

Texan Bankrolls Anti-Kerry Vets Group

By SHARON THEIMER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - A wealthy Texan and prolific Republican donor is helping bankroll a television ad assailing Democrat John Kerry's decorated military record in the Vietnam War.

Houston homebuilder Bob J. Perry has donated at least $100,000 to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a suburban Washington-based group airing a new ad in which Vietnam veterans who served on swiftboats accuse the Democratic presidential nominee of lying about his war record.

The group bought $500,000 of airtime for the 60-second ad to air in the battleground states of Wisconsin, Ohio and West Virginia.

The effort is reminiscent of a 2000 effort that helped drive George W. Bush's then-rival John McCain from the presidential race.

Four years ago, Dallas brothers Sam and Charles Wyly financed $2.5 million in ads run under the auspices of "Republicans for Clean Air" criticizing McCain in the week before GOP presidential primaries in California, New York and Ohio. Those ads promoted then-Texas Gov. Bush's environmental record and criticized that of McCain, the Arizona senator. Bush won the primaries in all three states.

Perry's June donation accounted for most of the $158,750 that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, founded in April, reported raising as of June 30. John Krugh, a spokesman for Perry Homes, declined to comment on Perry's contribution.

"This is a personal action on his part," Krugh said Thursday. "We don't participate in media interviews."

Perry didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Last year, Perry Homes donated $10,000 to the Republican Governors Association. Perry has given at least $260,000 to Republican candidates and party committees on the federal level from the 1999-2000 election cycle to the current cycle, according to donation data compiled by the nonpartisan Political Money Line.

Perry's donations in the 2003-04 cycle include $10,000 to the pro-Republican Club for Growth political group and at least $19,250 to federal candidates and party committees, including $2,000 to Bush's re-election effort.

He is also a major giver in Texas. A 2002 study by the campaign finance watchdog group Texans for Public Justice ranked Perry as the No. 3 donor in the state that election cycle, with at least $1.5 million in contributions to Republican candidates and political action committees in Texas.

Perry's support for the veterans group comes as Republicans search for major donors to help counter the efforts of wealthy Democrats such as George Soros and Peter Lewis. Each has given more than $12 million to anti-Bush groups running ads and get-out-the-vote efforts.

The biggest known donor so far among pro-Bush groups is Jerry Perenchio, chief executive of the Spanish-language media company Univision, who gave $1 million in June to the Progress for America Voter Fund.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Pamela Leavey said...

McCain should have known better than to support Bush! He saw this coming and he did it anyway. The boldest statement McCain could make on this would be to withdraw his support for Bush.

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Behind the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are veteran corporate media consultant and Texas Republican activist Merrie Spaeth, who is listed as the group's media contact; eternal Kerry antagonist and Houston attorney John E. O'Neill, law partner of Spaeth's late husband, Tex Lezar; and retired Rear Adm. Roy Hoffman, a cigar-chomping former Vietnam commander once described as "the classic body-count guy" who "wanted hooches destroyed and people killed.""

"Once described" by whom? Why, John Kerry himself. So it's not exactly a non-partisan opinion.

6:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...'Neill

7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bush for President!! The real people who want Kerry elected are the terrorists since it will be an easy win for them if he gets in. Don't vote for Kerry just because you don't like Bush. Vote for Kerry because you know he will make a difference. If the poles are still this close even after the DNC what difference will he make as president. He wouldn't be able to get anyone or any country to back him anyway. Bush did what he said he would do; fight terrorism at all levels. If Kerry gets elected you will agree unless your the unlucky bastard that comes face to face with these creeps.

9:01 PM  
Blogger Ron Chusid said...

Bush isn't fighting terrorism. He is doing exactly what Bin Laden wanted him to do. By botching the job in Afganistan, and then attacking Iraq, which had nothing to do with terrorism, Bush has made it easier for Bin Laden to pursue his goals of destabilizing the middle east, increasing al Queda's spread in the middle east, and making former moderates anti-America.

As for the polls, Kerry is doing remarkably well for this stage in the race for a challenger. Normally an incumbent has a solid lead in the summer. An incumbent who both trails, even if by a small amount, and who has approval ratings in the 40's is doing very poorly and does not have the support of the American people. It is time for him to return to Crawford so we can have someone who will really fight terrorism take his place.

9:58 PM  
Blogger Ron Chusid said...

Republicans' Dishonorable Charge
Now even John McCain has condemned the Swift Boat Veterans' outrageous attack on John Kerry's Vietnam record.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Joe Conason

Aug. 6, 2004 | "Dishonest and dishonorable" is how John McCain described the attack ad now appearing on television in several swing states, courtesy of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Dishonest because the men who appear in the ad make false claims about John Kerry's wartime conduct and decorations. Dishonorable because these men have waited three decades to publicize their slurs, with partisan motives, during a presidential campaign.

With his passionate denunciation of the swift boat commercial and its sponsors, McCain again displayed the dignity and self-respect that once elevated him above other politicians. Calling on President Bush to repudiate the ugly anti-Kerry ad, McCain took a step back from his awkward embrace of the Republican ticket last month. "I can't believe the president would pull such a cheap stunt," he told reporters, while acknowledging that he didn't know whether Bush strategists were involved.

The response of the Bush spokesmen was bland but telling. They saw no reason to disavow or endorse the swift boat ads. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said that the president has never questioned Sen. Kerry's military service (as if he is in any position to do so). Although he suggested that all the "unregulated soft money" advertising should cease, he pointedly refused to condemn the swift boat ad. "The Bush-Cheney campaign has never and will never question John Kerry's service during Vietnam," echoed campaign press secretary Steve Schmidt.

When the White House and the Bush-Cheney campaign declined to follow his lead, the Arizona senator could hardly have been surprised. Nobody who understands American politics as well as McCain has any illusions about the game that the Republicans are playing here. It is a strategy that dates back to the racially inflammatory Willie Horton ad aired by an "independent" group in 1988, and that was used against McCain himself in 2000 when another "independent" group aired ads against him during the Republican primaries.

The Republican orientation of the Swift Boat Veterans organization is transparently obvious, despite the inclination of some journalists to pretend otherwise. From stern to bow, they're strictly GOP.

As previously noted in this space, the group was organized last spring with the assistance of Merrie Spaeth, a Republican public relations executive from Houston whose late husband, Tex Lezar, ran for Texas lieutenant governor on George W. Bush's ticket in 1994.

Its guiding spirit is John E. O'Neill, a partner in Lezar's law firm and an early protégé of Nixon-era dirty trickster Charles Colson. (O'Neill's latest contribution to the cause is a book titled "Unfit for Command," selling fast thanks to promotion by the Drudge Report.) Its Web site was put up courtesy of William Franke, a St. Louis businessman with longstanding ties to Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Missouri Republican Party. Its chief financiers, according to the group's last quarterly IRS filing, are Houston builder Bob J. Perry and the Crow family, both major Republican donors from Texas.

Last November, the Dallas Morning News profiled the mysterious Perry. During the past four years, he has given more than $5 million to candidates and causes, nearly all of them Republican and extremely conservative. The article didn't say whether Perry himself ever served in the military. The Crow family, a clan of megadevelopers based in Dallas, are close Bush friends as well as generous backers. Harlan Crow is also a trustee of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation.

In short, the financial supporters of the Swift Boat Vets are not exactly strangers to George W. Bush and Karl Rove.

Among the other leaders featured on the Swift Boat Vets' site are Alvin A. "Andy" Horne; Weymouth D. Symmes, also listed as the group's contact on its IRS filings; and Bill Lannom. Horne is a former Houston prosecutor who was once short-listed by former Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, for an appointment as U.S. attorney. Symmes is a retired banker from Missoula, Mont., who along with his wife has donated more than $5,000 to Republican candidates and committees since 2000 (including $1,000 to Bush-Cheney 2004).

Lannom works for Iowa athletic-wear company owned by his staunchly Republican family. As his mother once explained to a local historian, "We've all been active, all my sons have been active in politics." She charmingly recalled that the Lannoms' antagonism toward Democrats dates all the way back to FDR.

The hired help employed by the Swift Vets committee is thoroughly partisan, too. Aside from Spaeth and Thomas Rupprath, the private detective she recommended to provide research services, the group's IRS filing names several experienced Washington political operatives. The June 30 filing shows payments to Robert A. Hahn, a right-wing Internet activist and Web designer who also runs something called the Free Republic Network (apparently an affiliate of the extremist Free Republic Web site); and to Tom Wyld, a Navy veteran and former director of public relations for the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association.

The White House has deniability, to be sure, if charged with complicity in this campaign. The question is whether its deniability is plausible -- or risible.

As for the accuracy of the Republican veterans' accusations, they can be tested against the testimony of the men who served under Kerry's command -- all of whom but one have repeatedly endorsed his courage, his decency, and his candidacy. Denigration of Kerry's record should also be measured against the sterling evaluations that he received during the actual time of his service, including by Adm. Roy Hoffman, who now chairs the Swift Boat Veterans group.

No doubt the Republicans hope that attacking Kerry will distract from important issues they would prefer not to discuss or debate. But their campaign is backfiring, as drawing fresh attention to Vietnam does not flatter the candidate who avoided service there.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Unless Bush disavows the ad attacking Kerry's honor as a skipper in Vietnam it is a sure indication that he is unfit to be re-elected.

7:04 AM  

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