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Sat May 5, 2012, 09:38 AM

Swiftboating Obama: How Should Democrats respond? Mike Huckabee is taking the lead

Mike Huckabee is taking the lead in Fox's campaign of daily followup to a third-party ad campaign against President Obama's alleged showboating his role in targeting Osama bin Laden for capture or death. See http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/huckabee/index.html .

The former Arkansas governor says he's devoting his Saturday May 5th 8pm Eastern program to a panel of former Navy Seals discussing President Obama's "spiking the football".

Did you notice that the first "Swiftboating" ad just plays 1-second clips of every use of the word "I" in the President's WH announcement a year ago of bin Laden's defeat? Is it an "outrage" whenever a President refers to himself and what he has accomplished?

IMO John Kerry's failure to respond early on to his "Swiftboating" lost him the Presidency.

I believe President Clinton should make at least one follow-up to his Democratic ad on the defeat of bin Laden. IMO he should make light of the new "Swiftboating" campaign. I hear Big Dog drawling, "Can you BELIEVE?"

Bill Maher said last night that GW Bush put on a costume to showboat "Mission Accomplished" for a war he LOST. IMO it wouldn't be hard to make "Swiftboating" President Obama look so absolutely ridiculous at the start that Republicans will have to put an end to such nonsense.

Information that should be included in Democrats' responses IMO should include--

--It took many months of detailed preparation, led by President Obama, to develop a comprehensive plan to exploit actionable intelligence on bin Laden's whereabouts;

--Then-Defense Secretary Gates, VP Biden, and others advised against going in on the ground because certainty about the accuracy of the intelligence was only about 50 percent;

--It was President Obama who insisted that there be the backup troops and backup helicopters that saved the mission when the first helicopter crash-landed.


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Reply Swiftboating Obama: How Should Democrats respond? Mike Huckabee is taking the lead (Original post)
ProgressiveEconomist May 2012 OP
JDPriestly May 2012 #1
ProgressiveEconomist May 2012 #3
asjr May 2012 #2
malaise May 2012 #4
bigtree May 2012 #5
ProgressiveEconomist May 2012 #7
bigtree May 2012 #12
Gman May 2012 #6
blm May 2012 #8
ProgressiveEconomist May 2012 #11
blm May 2012 #17
ProgressiveEconomist May 2012 #18
blm May 2012 #23
ProgressiveEconomist May 2012 #24
blm May 2012 #27
msanthrope May 2012 #9
ProgressiveEconomist May 2012 #25
sendero May 2012 #10
ProgressiveEconomist May 2012 #13
MH1 May 2012 #14
Iggo May 2012 #15
coalition_unwilling May 2012 #16
GoCubsGo May 2012 #19
coalition_unwilling May 2012 #21
tapermaker May 2012 #20
ProgressiveEconomist May 2012 #22
ProgressiveEconomist May 2012 #26

Response to ProgressiveEconomist (Original post)

Sat May 5, 2012, 09:41 AM

1. Focusing on the fact that Obama killed Bin Laden will help Democrats, not hurt us.

This is a foolhardy strategy in my opinion.

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Response to JDPriestly (Reply #1)

Sat May 5, 2012, 09:49 AM

3. Whether or not Swiftboating Obama is foolhardy, should Democrats

respond, and HOW?

IMO, it would be best for Democrats to run ads showing voters that what the Rs are doing is foolhardy, so that theu'll just chuckle whenever they see future 3rd-party Swiftboating ads run thirty times a day on Fox "News".

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Response to ProgressiveEconomist (Original post)

Sat May 5, 2012, 09:48 AM

2. "Mike Huckabee is taking the lead . . ."

Ah yes, that fine Christian man. I would bet he thinks God will stand behind him and his lies. There is nothing Christ-like about him and his buddies.

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Response to ProgressiveEconomist (Original post)

Sat May 5, 2012, 09:51 AM

4. It won't work

Obama took out Osama. That fact cannot be swiftboated.

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Response to ProgressiveEconomist (Original post)

Sat May 5, 2012, 09:53 AM

5. Kerry responded, repeatedly; the press didn't pick it up

At one point he had made a pretty good case against Bush for his AWOL National Guard Duty.

Likewise, the President and his campaign are already responding to this nonsense. It's kinda funny to see the same progression of folks here, as in the time of Kerry's campaign, counseling the President to respond. They'd be like, "We already hit this, here and here."

And, folks would still be like, "Why hasn't he responded?" Weird.

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Response to bigtree (Reply #5)

Sat May 5, 2012, 10:08 AM

7. 'The President and his campaign are already responding' How?

I haven't seen any response, and I'm looking for it.

IMO, Democrats have to reach low-information voters on Fox early on with big ad buys on Fox. If they don't, low-information voters will become mesmerized by repetition of Swiftboating ads and join in the mindless chant--"spiked the football, spiked the football, spiked the football".

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Response to ProgressiveEconomist (Reply #7)

Sat May 5, 2012, 11:29 AM

12. here's one response

"I hardly think you’ve seen any excessive celebration taking place here," Obama said at a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Noda.

"I think the American people remember rightly what we as a country accomplished in bringing to justice someone who killed 3,000 of our citizens."

Obama said the anniversary would mark a time for “some reflection to give thanks to those who participated,” which is said was “entirely appropriate and that’s what’s taken place."


___ then, there's the entire series of statements regarding Romney's fitness for CiC, which very few miss the obvious dig at the recent critics who won't give him an inch of room to crow about the killing.

Without mentioning his opponent by name, President Obama took clear political aim at Mitt Romney on Monday, continuing a line of attack from his campaign that Romney would not have given the go-ahead to the mission that ended in the death of Osama bin Laden.

Asked about Romney’s comments from earlier this morning belittling how difficult the decision to go after bin Laden may have been, the president said “As far as my personal role and what other folks would do, I’d just recommend that everybody take a look at people’s previous statements in terms of whether they thought it was appropriate to go into Pakistan and take out bin Laden. I assume that people meant what they said when they said it. That’s been at least my practice.”

The president was alluding to Romney’s 2007 comments about bin Laden that “it’s not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.” The Obama campaign last Friday released a web ad suggestion that this sentence suggests he would not have been willing to take the risk and order Navy SEALs to cross into Pakistan and infiltrate bin Laden’s Abbotabad compound.

Continued the president, “I said that I’d go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him and I did. If there are others who have said one thing and now suggest they’d do something else, then I’d go ahead and let them explain it.”


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Response to ProgressiveEconomist (Original post)

Sat May 5, 2012, 09:54 AM

6. The whole thing could be diffused with just one ad

Showing Bush in that stupid flight suit and that silly, stupid grin and just ask the question? Showboating? He lost the war he showboated over and let OBL go at Tora Bora. After many Anerican lives were lost, it took Obama to get the job done.

Then throw in Bush's quote that says something about money trumping peace.

That's how I would do it. But I tend to use sledgehammers.

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Response to ProgressiveEconomist (Original post)

Sat May 5, 2012, 10:35 AM

8. The FACT is that you are repeating a media FALLACY. Kerry responded immediately to the first attack

in a 30 page response knocking down their lies. They retreated and came back immediately after the convention and it was at that same time the media was on the McGreevy story for almost 2 weeks. When Kerry had a speech to Firefighters Convention scheduled for Aug 19, he used it to attack the lies, the liars, and the Bush administration for hiding behind them. Kerry challenged Bush to stop hiding behind the liars and publicly debate their service during Vietnam.

So.....guess what....the news media who had planned to attend and air Kerry's speech to the Firefighters Convention saw the advance remarks challenging Bush and every one of them declined to air the speech, and few even reported on it.

After a small flurry of 'Kerry shouldn't respond to swifts it throws him off-message and makes him look small' the media then started the narrative that Kerry never responded to the swifts.

Dan Rather said after he left CBS that media NEEDED for Bush to stay in office to get the expansion of media ownership they were promised.

There is a lot more to the story - don't push LIES.

April 14, 2004 - The website for SBVT was registered under the name of Lewis Waterman, the information technology manager for Gannon International, a St. Louis company that has diversified interests, including in Vietnam. (1) (note - Gannon International does not appear to have any relationship to Jeff Gannon/Guckert, the fake reporter.)

May 3, 2004 - "Kerry campaign announced a major advertising push to introduce 'John Kerry's lifetime of service and strength to the American people.' Kerry's four month Vietnam experience figures prominently in the ads." (2)

May 4, 2004 - The Swift Liars, beginning their lies by calling themselves "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth", went public at a news conference organized by Merrie Spaeth at the National Press Club. (1)

May 4, 2004 - "The Kerry campaign held a press conference directly after the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" event...The campaign provided an information package which raised significant questions about 'Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.' " (3)

May 4, 2004 - Aug. 5, 2004 - No public activity by Swift Liars (?) Wikipedia entry (7) notes "When the press conference garnered little attention, the organization decided to produce television advertisements." (Ed. note - were there any public info or announcements, other than talk on blogs? Was there anything going on publicly? Did the campaign have reason to foresee what was coming - note that they must have, see the reactions to each ad).

Jul. 26, 2004 - Jul. 29, 2004 - Democratic National Convention held in Boston. John Kerry's military experience is highlighted.

Aug. 5, 2004 - The Swift Liars' first television ad began airing a one-minute television spot in three states. (7)

Aug. 5, 2004 - "the General Counsels to the DNC and the Kerry-Edwards 2004 campaign faxed a letter to station managers at the relevant stations stating that the ad is 'an inflammatory, outrageous lie" and requesting that they "act immediately to prevent broadcast of this advertisement and deny any future sale of time. " ' " (4)

Aug. 10, 2004 - Democracy 21, The Campaign Legal Center and The Center for Responsive Politics filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) charging that the Swift Liars were illegally raising and spending soft money on ads to influence the 2004 presidential elections. (4)

Aug. 17, 2004 - the campaign held a press conference at which Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.), Adm. Stansfield Turner (ret.), and several swift boat veterans rebutted the charges. (4)

Aug. 19, 2004 - the Kerry-Edwards campaign announced its own ad "Rassmann." (4)

Aug. 20, 2004 - The Swift Liars' second television ad began airing. This ad selectively excerpted Kerry's statements to the SFRC on 4/22/1971. (7)

Aug. 22, 2004 - the Kerry-Edwards campaign announced another ad "Issues" which addressed the Swift Boat group's attacks.

Aug. 25, 2004 - The Kerry-Edwards campaign ... dispatched former Sen. Max Cleland and Jim Rassmann, to Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas to deliver to the President a letter signed by Democratic Senators who are veterans. (The letter was not accepted.) (4)

Aug. 26, 2004 - The Swift Liars' third television ad began airing. This ad attacked Kerry's claim to have been in Cambodia in 1968. (7)

August 26, 2004 - Mary Beth Cahill sends letter to Ken Mehlman detailing the "Web of Connections" between the Swift Liars and the Bush Administration, and demanding that Bush denounce the smear campaign. (5)

August 26, 2004 - Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) submits FOIA request "with the White House asking it to detail its contacts with individuals connected to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT)." (6)

Aug. 27, 2004 - The DNC ran a full page ad in the Aug. 27, 2004 New York Times terming the Swift Boat campaign a smear. (4)

Aug. 31, 2004 - - The Swift Liars' fourth television ad began airing. This ad attacked Kerry's participation in the medal-throwing protest on 4/23/1971. (7)

* (1) SourceWatch article on SBVT

* (2) (2004) Democracy in Action / Eric M. Appleman, Democracy in Action / Eric M. Appleman

* (3) (2004) Democracy in Action / Eric M. Appleman, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth: Kerry Campaign Response

* (4) (Sept. 8, 2004) Eric M. Appleman (apparently) Some Responses to the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" Ad

* (5) August 26, 2004 letter from Mary Beth Cahill to Ken Mehlman

* (6) Press Release (US Newswire): CREW FOIAs White House Contacts with Swift Boat Veterans Group

* (7) Wikipedia entry, Swift Vets and POWs for Truth

MH1 - This topic is to create a timeline of the response of the K/E04 campaign to the Swift Liars' smears. There is an RW-encouraged myth that K/E04 "didn't respond." As the timeline, once completed, will show, that is not true. Effectiveness of the response may be debated - that is subjective - the purpose of this thread is to collect the facts of the events.

On Aug. 19, 2004 Kerry himself responded directly in a speech to the International Association of Firefighters' Convention in Boston. (from prepared remarks)
...And more than thirty years ago, I learned an important lesson—when you're under attack, the best thing to do is turn your boat into the attacker. That's what I intend to do today.

Over the last week or so, a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has been attacking me. Of course, this group isn’t interested in the truth – and they're not telling the truth. They didn't even exist until I won the nomination for president.

But here's what you really need to know about them. They're funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Republican contributor out of Texas. They're a front for the Bush campaign. And the fact that the President won't denounce what they’re up to tells you everything you need to know—he wants them to do his dirty work.

Thirty years ago, official Navy reports documented my service in Vietnam and awarded me the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. Thirty years ago, this was the plain truth. It still is. And I still carry the shrapnel in my leg from a wound in Vietnam.

As firefighters you risk your lives everyday. You know what it’s like to see the truth in the moment. You're proud of what you’ve done—and so am I.

Of course, the President keeps telling people he would never question my service to our country. Instead, he watches as a Republican-funded attack group does just that. Well, if he wants to have a debate about our service in Vietnam, here is my answer: "Bring it on."

I'm not going to let anyone question my commitment to defending America—then, now, or ever. And I'm not going to let anyone attack the sacrifice and courage of the men who saw battle with me.

And let me make this commitment today: their lies about my record will not stop me from fighting for jobs, health care, and our security – the issues that really matter to the American people...

Kerry defends war record
Aug. 19: John Kerry responds directly to attacks on his Vietnam military service Thursday, accusing President Bush of relying on front groups to challenge his war record.


May 4, 2004. The Kerry campaign held a press conference directly after the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" event. (Above are, r-l, Wade Sanders, Del Sandusky and Drew Whitlow). Senior Advisor Michael Meehan said, "The Nixon White House attempted to do this to Kerry, and the Bush folks are following the same plan." "We're not going to let them make false claims about Kerry and go unanswered," Meehan said. He said his first instinct was to hold a press conference with an empty room where veterans could testify to their time spent in the military with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

The campaign provided an information package which raised significant questions about "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." Spaeth Communications, which hosted the event, "is a Republican headed firm from Texas which has contributed to Bush's campaign and has very close ties to the Bush Administration." Lead organizer John O'Neill, a Republican from Texas, "was a pawn of the Nixon White House in 1971." Further some of the people now speaking against Kerry had praised him in their evaluation reports in Vietnam.

John Dibble, who served on a swift boat in 1970, after Kerry had left, was one of the veterans at the Kerry event. He said of Kerry's anti-war activities that at the time, "I didn't like what he was doing." In retrospect, however, Dibble said, "I probably should have been doing the same thing...probably more of us should have been doing that." He said that might have meant fewer names on the Vietnam Memorial and that Kerry's anti-war activities were "a very gutsy thing to do."


Kerry campaign's quick response to Swift boat vets
By Marie Horrigan
UPI Deputy Americas Editor
Washington, DC, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- The campaign for Democratic Party presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts issued an exhaustively researched and extensively sourced 36-page refutation Thursday of allegations Kerry lied about events during his service in Vietnam, including how and why he received medals, and had fled the scene of a battle.


Kerry: Bush lets attack ads do 'dirty work'
McClellan points out criticism by anti-Bush group
Friday, August 20, 2004 Posted: 2:37 PM EDT (1837 GMT)
BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry accused President Bush on Thursday of letting front groups "do his dirty work" in questioning his military service during the Vietnam War.

"The president keeps telling people he would never question my service to our country. Instead, he watches as a Republican-funded attack group does just that," Kerry told a firefighters' union conference in his hometown of Boston.

"Well, if he wants to have a debate about our service in Vietnam, here is my answer: Bring it on."

http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/08/19/kerry.attacka... /


August 5, 2004


Re: Swift Boat Veterans for Truth

Dear Station Manager:

We are counsel to the Democratic National Committee and John Kerry, respectively. It has been brought to our attention that a group calling itself "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" has bought time, or may seek to buy time, on your station to air an advertisement that attacks Senator Kerry. The advertisement contains statements by men who purport to have served on Senator Kerry's SWIFT Boat in Vietnam, and one statement by a man pretending to be the doctor who treated Senator Kerry for one of his injuries. In fact, not a single one of the men who pretend to have served with Senator Kerry was actually a crewmate of Senator Kerry's and the man pretending to be his doctor was not. The entire advertisement, therefore is an inflammatory, outrageous lie.

"Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" styles itself as a group of individuals who personally served with John Kerry in the United States Navy in the Vietnam War. In truth the group is a sham organization spearheaded by a Texas corporate media consultant. It has been financed largely with funds from a Houston homebuilder. See Slater, Dallas Morning News, July 23, 2004.

In this group's advertisement, twelve men appear to make statements about Senator Kerry's service in Vietnam. Not a single one of these men served on either of Senator Kerry's two SWIFT Boats (PCF 44 & PCF94).

Further, the "doctor" who appears in the ad, Louis Letson, was not a crewmate of Senator Kerry's and was not the doctor who actually signed Senator Kerry's sick call sheet. In fact, another physician actually signed Senator Kerry's sick call sheet. Letson is not listed on any document as having treated Senator Kerry after the December 2, 1968 firefight. Moreover, according to news accounts, Letson did not record his "memories" of that incident until after Senator Kerry became a candidate for President in 2003. (National Review Online, May 4, 2004).

The statements made by the phony "crewmates" and "doctor" who appear in the advertisement are also totally, demonstrably and unequivocally false, and libelous. In parrticular, the advertisement charges that Senator Kerry "lied to get his Bronze Star." Just as falsely, it states that "he lied before the Senate." These are serious allegations of actual crimes -- specifically, of lying to the United States Government in the conduct of its official business. The events for which the Senator was awarded the Bronze Star have been documented repeatedly and in detail and are set out in the official citation signed by the Secretary of the Navy and the Commander of U.S. Forces in Vietnam. And yet these reckless charges of criminal conduct are offered without support or authentication, by fake "witnesses" speaking on behalf of a phony organization.

Your station is not obligated to accept this advertisement for broadcast nor is it required to account in any way for its decision to reject such an advertisement. Columbia Broadcasting System v. Democratic National Committee, 412 U.S. 94 (1973), You Can't Afford Dodd Committee, 81 FCC2d 579 (1980). The so-called "Swift Boat Veterans" organization is not a federal candidate or candidate committee. Repeated efforts by organizations that are not candidate committees to obtain a private right of access have been consistently rejected by the FCC. See e.g., National Conservative Political Action Committee, 89 FCC2d 626 (1982).

Thus, your station my freely refuse this advertisement. Because your station has this freedom, and because it is not a "use" of your facilities by a clearly identified candidate, your station is responsible for the false and libelous charges made by this sponsor.

Moreover, as a licensee, you have an overriding duty "to protect the public from false, misleading or deceptive advertising." Licensee Responsibility With Respect to the Broadcast of False, Misleading or Deceptive Advertising, 74 F.C.D.2d 623 (1961). Your station normally must take "reasonable steps" to satisfy itself "as to the reliability and reputation of every prospective advertiser." In re Complaint by Consumers Assocation of District of Columbia, 32 F.C.C.2d 400, 405 (1971).

Under these circumstances, your station may not responsibly air this advertisement. We request that your station act immmediately to prevent broadcasts of this advertisement and deny andy future sale of time. Knowing that the advertisement is false, and possessing the legal authority to refuse to run it, your station should exercise that authority in the public interest.

Please contact us promptly at either of the phone numbers below to advise us regarding the status of this advertisement.

Sincerely yours,
Marc Elias
Perkins Coie
607 14th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005

General Counsel
Kerry-Edwards 2004 Joseph Sandler
Sandler, Reiff & Young
50 E Street, S.E. #300
Washington, D.C. 20003

General Counsel
Democratic National Committee


From the transcript of the Aug. 5, 2004 White House Press Briefing with Scott McClellan:

Q Do you -- does the President repudiate this 527 ad that calls Kerry a liar on Vietnam?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President deplores all the unregulated soft money activity. We have been very clear in stating that, you know, we will not -- and we have not and we will not question Senator Kerry's service in Vietnam. I think that this is another example of the problem with the unregulated soft money activity that is going on. The President thought he put an end -- or the President thought he got rid of this kind of unregulated soft money when he signed the bipartisan campaign finance reforms into law. And, you know, the President has been on the receiving end of more than $62 million in negative attacks from shadowy groups.

* * *

In the days after the release of the ad a host of major newspapers published editorials condemning it including the Arizona Republic ("Campaign Non-Starter," August 6), Los Angeles Times ("It's Not All Fair Game," August 6), Plain Dealer ("Ad Says Kerry Lied; Record Says Otherwise," August 8), St. Petersburg Times ("An Ugly Attack," August 9), Las Vegas Sun ("Ad's Smear Should Be Condemned," August 9), Oregonian ("Now It Gets Nasty," August 11), and Washington Post ("Swift Boat Smears," August 12).

* * *

On Aug. 10, 2004 Democracy 21, the Campaign Legal Center and the Center for Responsive Politics filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) charging that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is illegally raising and spending soft money on ads to influence the 2004 presidential elections.

* * *

From the transcript of Bush's Aug. 12, 2004 appearance on CNN'S Larry King Live:

KING: In view of that, do you think that it's fair, for the record, John Kerry's service record, to be an issue at all? I know that Senator McCain...
G. BUSH: You know, I think it is an issue, because he views it as honorable service, and so do I. I mean...
KING: Oh, so it is. But, I mean, Senator McCain has asked to be condemned, the attack on his service. What do you say to that?
G. BUSH: Well, I say they ought to get rid of all those 527s, independent expenditures that have flooded the airwaves.
There have been millions of dollars spent up until this point in time. I signed a law that I thought would get rid of
those, and I called on the senator to -- let's just get anybody who feels like they got to run to not do so.
KING: Do you condemn the statements made about his...
G. BUSH: Well, I haven't seen the ad, but what I do condemn is these unregulated, soft-money expenditures by very wealthy people, and they've said some bad things about me. I guess they're saying bad things about him. And what I think we ought to do is not have them on the air. I think there ought to be full disclosure. The campaign funding law I signed I thought was going to get rid of that. But evidently the Federal Election Commission had a different view...

Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton's response to Bush's Aug. 12, 2004 appearance:
"Tonight President Bush called Kerry's service in Vietnam 'noble.' But in the same breath refused to heed Senator McCain's call to condemn the dirty work being done by the 'Swift Boat Vets for Bush.' Once again, the President side-stepped responsibility and refused to do the right thing. His credibility is running out as fast as his time in the White House."

* * *

On Aug. 17, 2004 the campaign held a press conference at which Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.), Adm. Stansfield Turner (ret.), and several swift boat veterans rebutted the charges.

* * *

DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe issued a statement on Aug. 18, 2004:

"By saying nothing at all George W. Bush is a complicit contributor to the slanderous, lie-filled attack ads that have been launched on John Kerry on Bush's behalf. Instead of stepping up and taking the high road, George Bush's response has been evasion, avoidance, everything but disavowal.

"Larry King asked George Bush to 'condemn' it. He refused. Reporters asked the President's Press Secretary if he'd 'repudiate' it. He ducked. They can try to blame it on the rules or whoever else they want, but the blame belongs squarely on the Republicans. They wrote it. They produced it. They placed it. They paid for it. And now it is time for George W. Bush to stand up and say, 'enough.'

"This is not debate, Mr. President, and this unfounded attack on Senator Kerry has crossed the line of decency. I call on you today to condemn this ad, the men who put their lies behind it, and the donors who paid for it. It's time."


(August 19, 2004 -- 01:26 PM EDT)

WELL, IT SEEMS there wasn't something in the air.

I didn't know the Kerry campaign was finally going to return fire today over this Swift Boat nonsense. But this morning, in a speech to the International Association of Fire Fighters in Boston, he responded squarely to the attacks. You can see complete text of the speech and the new response-ad they're running. But the key point is that he aimed his remarks at precisely the right target ...

Over the last week or so, a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has been attacking me. Of course, this group isn?t interested in the truth ? and they?re not telling the truth. They didn?t even exist until I won the nomination for president.

This is a good thing -- and not simply because Kerry has to respond to the president's surrogates who are trying (and, to an extent, succeeding) in damaging his candidacy with scurrilous and discredited attacks.

There is a meta-debate going on here, one that I'm not sure even the practitioners fully articulate to themselves and one that I'm painfully aware the victims don't fully understand.

Let's call it the Republicans' Bitch-Slap theory of electoral politics.

It goes something like this.

On one level, of course, the aim behind these attacks is to cast suspicion upon Kerry's military service record and label him a liar. But that's only part of what's going on.

Consider for a moment what the big game is here. This is a battle between two candidates to demonstrate toughness on national security. Toughness is a unitary quality, really -- a personal, characterological quality rather than one rooted in policy or divisible in any real way. So both sides are trying to prove to undecided voters either that they're tougher than the other guy or at least tough enough for the job.


This meta-message behind the president's attacks on Kerry's war record is more consequential than many believe. So hitting back hard was critical on many levels.


Altercation Book Club: Lapdogs by Eric Boehlert
Relatively early on in the August coverage of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth story, ABC's Nightline devoted an entire episode to the allegations and reported, "The Kerry campaign calls the charges wrong, offensive and politically motivated. And points to Naval records that seemingly contradict the charges." (Emphasis added.) Seemingly? A more accurate phrasing would have been that Navy records "completely" or "thoroughly" contradicted the Swifty. In late August, CNN's scrawl across the bottom of the screen read, "Several Vietnam veterans are backing Kerry's version of events." Again, a more factual phrasing would have been "Crewmembers have always backed Kerry's version of events." But that would have meant not only having to stand up a well-funded Republican campaign attack machine, but also casting doubt on television news' hottest political story of the summer.

When the discussion did occasionally turn to the facts behind the Swift Boat allegations, reporters and pundits seemed too spooked to address the obvious—that the charges made no sense and there was little credible evidence to support them.. Substituting as host of "Meet the Press," Andrea Mitchell on Aug. 15 pressed Boston Globe reporter Anne Kornblut about the facts surrounding Kerry's combat service: "Well, Anne, you've covered him for many years, John Kerry. What is the truth of his record?" Instead of mentioning some of the glaring inconsistencies in the Swifties' allegation, such as George Elliott and Adrian Lonsdale 's embarrassing flip-flops, Kornblut ducked the question, suggesting the truth was "subjective": "The truth of his record, the criticism that's coming from the Swift Boat ads, is that he betrayed his fellow veterans. Well, that's a subjective question, that he came back from the war and then protested it. So, I mean, that is truly something that's subjective." Ten days later Kornblut scored a sit-down interview with O'Neill. In her 1,200-word story she politely declined to press O'Neill about a single factual inconsistency surrounding the Swifties' allegations, thereby keeping her Globe readers in the dark about the Swift Boat farce. (It was not until Bush was safely re-elected that that Kornblut, appearing on MSNBC, conceded the Swift Boast ads were clearly inaccurate.)

Hosting an Aug. 28 discussion on CNBC with Newsweek's Jon Meacham and Time's Jay Carney, NBC's Tim Russert finally, after weeks of overheated Swifty coverage, got around to asking the pertinent question: "Based on everything you have heard, seen, reported, in terms of the actual charges, the content of the book, is there any validity to any of it?" Carney conceded the charges did not have any validity, but did it oh, so gently: "I think it's hard to say that any one of them is by any standard that we measure these things has been substantiated." Apparently Carney forgot to pass the word along to editors at Time magazine, which is read by significantly more news consumers than Russert's weekly cable chat show on CNBC. Because it wasn't until its Sept. 20 2004 issue, well after the Swift Boat controversy had peaked, that the Time news team managed enough courage to tentatively announce the charges levied against Kerry and his combat service were "reckless and unfair." (Better late than never; Time's competitor Newsweek waited until after the election to report the Swift Boat charges were "misleading," but "very effective." But even then, Time didn't hold the Swifties responsible for their "reckless and unfair" charges. Instead, Time celebrated them. Typing up an election postscript in November, Time toasted the Swift Boat's O'Neill as one of the campaign's "Winners," while remaining dutifully silent about the group's fraudulent charges.

That kind of Beltway media group self-censorship was evident throughout the Swift Boat story, as the perimeters of acceptable reporting were quickly established. Witness the MSM reaction to Wayne Langhofer, Jim Russell and Robert Lambert. All three men served with Kerry in Vietnam and all three men were witnesses to the disputed March 13, 1969 event in which Kerry rescued Green Beret Jim Rassmann, winning a Bronze Star and his third Purple Heart. The Swifties, after 35 years of silence, insisted Kerry did nothing special that day, and that he certainly did not come under enemy fire when he plucked Rassmann out of the drink. Therefore, Kerry did not deserve his honors.

It's true every person on Kerry's boat, along with the thankful Rassmann, insisted they were under fire, and so did the official Navy citation for Kerry's Bronze Star. Still, Swifties held to their unlikely story, and the press pretended to be confused about the stand-off. Then during the last week in August three more eyewitnesses, all backing the Navy's version of events that there had been hostile gun fire, stepped forward. They were Langhofer, Russell and Lambert.

Russell wrote an indignant letter to his local Telluride Daily Planet to dispute the Swifties' claim: "Forever pictured in my mind since that day over 30 years ago John Kerry bending over his boat picking up one of the rangers that we were ferrying from out of the water. All the time we were taking small arms fire from the beach; although because of our fusillade into the jungle, I don't think it was very accurate, thank God. Anyone who doesn't think that we were being fired upon must have been on a different river."

The number of times Russell was subsequently mentioned on CNN: 1. On Fox News: 1. MSNBC: 0. ABC: 1. On CBS: 0. On NBC: 0.

Like Russell, Langhofer also remembered strong enemy gunfire that day. An Aug. 22 article in the Washington Post laid out the details: "Until now, eyewitness evidence supporting Kerry's version had come only from his own crewmen. But yesterday, The Post independently contacted a participant who has not spoken out so far in favor of either camp who remembers coming under enemy fire. “There was a lot of firing going on, and it came from both sides of the river,” said Wayne D. Langhofer, who manned a machine gun aboard PCF-43, the boat that was directly behind Kerry’s. Langhofer said he distinctly remembered the “clack, clack, clack” of enemy AK-47s, as well as muzzle flashes from the riverbanks." (For some strange reason the Post buried its Langhofer scoop in the 50th paragraph of the story.)

The number of times Langhofer was subsequently mentioned on CNN: 0. On Fox News: 0. On MSNBC: 0. On ABC: 0. CBS: 0. NBC: 0.

As for Lambert, The Nation magazine uncovered the official citation for the Bronze Medal he won that same day and it too reported the flotilla of five U.S. boats "came under small-arms and automatic weapons fire from the river banks."

The number of times Lambert was mentioned on. On Fox News: 1. On CNN: 0. On MSNBC: 0. ABC: 1 On CBS: 0. On NBC: 0.

Additionally, the Washington Post's Michael Dobbs, who served as the paper's point person on the Swifty scandal, was asked during an Aug. 30, 2004, online chat with readers why the paper hadn't reported more aggressively on the public statements of Langhofer, Russell and Lambert. Dobbs insisted, "I hope to return to this subject at some point to update readers." But he never did. Post readers, who were deluged with Swifty reporting, received just the sketchiest of facts about Langhofer, Russell and Lambert.

If that doesn't represent a concerted effort by the press to look the other way, than what does?


Please use this information as a guideline for 2006 and 2008 campaigns. What the media edits out of our campaigns is CRUCIAL to public perception.

Even many Democrats are unaware of the real fight that occurred in 2004 and are buying wholesale the corporate media spin which conveniently protects the corporate media who failed to give honest coverage of Kerry's defense against the lies of the swift vets and their Republican handlers.

Not recognizing the extent of the corporate media's duplicity is a danger for all Democratic candidates in 2006 and 2008.

This can and WILL happen to any Democratic candidate.

This CAN and WILL happen to ANY Democratic candidate. FIGHT THE MYTHS. Stay tough KNOWING the media is aligned with these liars.

The battle with the people really behind this group will never end. But there are veterans coming forth with a book of their own that will unmask the swifts for the lying GOP operatives they are. We need to support those vets when their book comes out. Truth matters.

Don't let Bush get away with rewarding those who funded lies. No to Sam Fox appointment as ambassador.

And T Boone Pickens will likely renege on his offer of a million dollars to anyone refuting swifts, but let's keep these Swift counters current while we pressure him to pay up.

As predicted, Pickens has no intention of paying up, and many Democrats are still unaware of what actually went on during that campaign, and the corporate media's role in protecting Bush.

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Response to blm (Reply #8)

Sat May 5, 2012, 11:23 AM

11. "30 page response" "Faxed a letter to station managers"...

"Full page ad in the NY Times" ... "Press conference"...

Thanks for your recap of Kerry's Swiftboating. In the OP, cleary I should have added the adjective "EFFECTIVE" to "NO RESPONSE". But I don't think that makes me a spreader of "LIES".

What in hindsight do YOU think Kerry should have done early on to quash the ridiculous but EFFECTIVE Swiftboatinf campaign against him? Clearly, whatever his campaign did wasn't EFFECTIVE.

History is always good, but IMO it's much better when clear lessons are drawn from history in time to avoid its sad repetition.

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Response to ProgressiveEconomist (Reply #11)

Sat May 5, 2012, 12:11 PM

17. You didn't read down, did you? Kerry hit it every time and media REFUSED to acknowledge it.

When some swift vets who had earlier gone on air to attack Kerry later wanted to recant, the newsrooms stopped talking to them.

Some of you like to pretend that the media of the last 4 years is exactly the same media Kerry had in 2004. The media CORPORATIONS only loosened their leashes on some of their personalities AFTER the Bush administration came through on the FCC changes they wanted. Hell - Keith wasn't allowed his special comments till summer 2006.

Seriously, PE - can you even IMAGINE a Presidential nominee speaking to Firefighters Convention (esp after 9-11) and NOT getting broadcast? Can you imagine a Presidential nominee hitting back fiercely against those spreading lies about him and news media refusing to air the remarks? Can you imagine a Presidential nominee challenging a sitting president to publicly debate their services instead of hiding behind the lies of others and not getting widespread coverage of that challenge?

In a normal election, the speech would have been aired live on every news network and the clips of Kerry's attack on the swifts and the money behind the swifts and Bush's hiding behind the swifts would have been shown in steady rotation for at least a week and news shows would have encouraged the public examination of both sides - there was NOTHING normal about that election year.

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Response to blm (Reply #17)

Sat May 5, 2012, 12:24 PM

18. Couldn't Kerry have bypassed the media

with massive ad buys on Fox, Hallmark, talk radio, and other places that reach low-information voters?

You can't be saying that Kerry did everything RIGHT, can you?

And that his successful Swiftboating was just INEVITABLE?

I wish you'd focus on lessons for the future rather than this one=note tribute to the valiant errorts of the Kerry campaign.

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Response to ProgressiveEconomist (Reply #18)

Sat May 5, 2012, 05:32 PM

23. You're missing the part where this IS all about lessons learned about the media and applying

those lessons to today. It is also ABLE to be done BECAUSE the media is no longer motivated to STOP Dem rebuttals from being heard the way they were at the time. They intended to do whatever it took to get that expansion in 2005 that was promised them by Bush in 2003. Fer chrissakes, the most powerful and respected newsman at the time was Dan Rather and look what happened to him then. He was neutered for the last 3 months of that election.

I think you are being deliberately obtuse about the media climate at the time, and why it was invested so heavily in a second Bush term.

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Response to blm (Reply #23)

Sat May 5, 2012, 06:53 PM

24. I'm not concerned about "the media climate at the time". I'm concerned about November 2012.

One important lesson from Kerry's Swiftboating seems to be, "Don't count on the big media to debunk ridiculous Republican attacks on Democratic candidates for President. You need to be able to BYPASS the big media" with radio and TV ads targeting low-information voters and campaign coverage in what remains of local media and local newspapers.

You well may be right about big media's venal interests in suppressing common sense about Kerry's war record, but how is that relevant to the topic of this thread?

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Response to ProgressiveEconomist (Reply #24)

Sun May 6, 2012, 10:49 AM

27. Just didn't want you building on a fallacy. That FCC ruling in 2005 was CRUCIAL to media's attitude

towards any Dem who would be challenging Bush in 2004.

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Response to ProgressiveEconomist (Original post)

Sat May 5, 2012, 10:38 AM

9. Wayne Fucking Dumond. That's how you crush Huckabee.


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Response to msanthrope (Reply #9)

Sat May 5, 2012, 08:05 PM

25. TY for reminding us about Huckabee's Willie Horton. Do you know anything about

a possible Romney Willie Horton?

Since Romney has absolutely no credentials on national security, his record of keeping Massachusetts safe from criminals needs to be probed with a microscope.

Here's a headstart: a Google search of "Romney's Willie Horton" (at http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%2B%22Romney%27s+Willie+Horton%22&ct=clnk ) that gets over 13,000 hits.

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Response to ProgressiveEconomist (Original post)

Sat May 5, 2012, 10:38 AM

10. "Swiftboating"

.... there is a really tired and overused term. this is not remotely comparable to what Kerry endured and please find a better way to characterize it.

You know, this is typical Republican spin. If you make a mistake they pound you, if you have a success they lambast you for having the temerity to take credit for it.

Personally, other than the rabid hard core droolers, nobody is buying this bullshit.

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Response to sendero (Reply #10)

Sat May 5, 2012, 11:39 AM

13. "Please find a better way to characterize it". Any one-word

suggestions? Or just unconstructive criticism?

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Response to ProgressiveEconomist (Original post)

Sat May 5, 2012, 11:39 AM

14. It was not Kerry's failure to respond, it was the PUBLIC's gullibility, and failure to investigate.

It was the PUBLIC's failure to comprehend the most BASIC fact of political campaigns. A campaign ad is an AD. If some ad is selling the latest vacuum cleaner by Brand A and dissing the competitor's product, who just says "oh okay, I'll go buy Brand A right now, because I know that everything they stated in their ad is true and not taken out of context at all!!" No one. Except of course the exceedingly stupid, or someone who is in a serious hurry to buy a vacuum cleaner and really doesn't want to be bothered to actually figure out which is better.

After the first swiftboat ad appeared - which excerpted, out of context, Kerry's SFRC testimony, as "attacking the troops", I needed just a few minutes to find Kerry's SFRC testimony online, read it, and understand the true context of his words, and realize what total b.s. the message of the ad was. Likewise, most of the relevant stuff that was raised by other ads was easily available online throughout the campaign. (And you had a well-respected historian in Douglas Brinkley who had already documented it all.) But I bet if you asked 100 voters you would not find 2 who even thought to look for the real information.

THAT's the problem. Well, what do we do about it, I don't know. Just keep getting the full information out there, or point up how ridiculous the attack is, or divert attention to all the things that are effed up in GOP ideas. But when the public just doesn't give a shit about facts, or doesn't even realize that a political campaign is a MARKETING campaign, then the best marketer is going to win. Not necessarily the best person for the presidency.

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Response to ProgressiveEconomist (Original post)

Sat May 5, 2012, 11:47 AM

15. Like Higgins said to Condor: "What if they don't print it?"

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Response to ProgressiveEconomist (Original post)

Sat May 5, 2012, 12:06 PM

16. How is this 'Swiftboating'? Or is 'Swiftboating' a general all-around term now for


'political attack'?

'Swiftboating' involved taking Kerry's valor under fire (a positive), turning it into a negative (by casting vague doubts on it and thereby impugning Kerry's character) and the media's subsequent refusal to examine and refute those slanderous claims.

I'm not saying that 'Swiftboating' isn't going on here with Obama and Huckabee's program, just that I don't see it.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #16)

Sat May 5, 2012, 12:41 PM

19. Kerry was also attacked by other Vietnam vets.

Last edited Sat May 5, 2012, 02:16 PM - Edit history (1)

These were other men that were (or falsely claimed to be) members of other swiftboat crews, who allegedly knew him during his service. That isn't going on here with Hucksterbee, who never served a day in his life, so you are correct about this just being a general political attack. I will point out, however, that the attacks by former Navy SEALs a few days ago, ARE "swiftboating", as former troops are attacking the CinC.

This is just more standard Karl Rove "turn their strengths into weaknesses" bullshit. And, as to those who think it needs to be countered somehow, all one has to do is point to the hour-long show Brian Williams hosted on Wednesday. Granted, it will have to take more than that, as another of Turdblossom's favorite tactics is to repeat a lie so often that it becomes the "truth".

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Response to GoCubsGo (Reply #19)

Sat May 5, 2012, 12:50 PM

21. Shit, I think a few 2-minute ads about Romney driving for 12 hours with his


family dog in a pet carrier on the roof of his family car should be enough to put this foolishiness to bed. You want us to stop advertising something that actually happened and that Romney has admitted to? Fine, you have to stop your bullshit first.

Come to think of it, let them keep up their bullshit and start running the 'dog on car' ads. Me likes those odds. The idea is that Romney = animal abuser and animal abuse.

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Response to ProgressiveEconomist (Original post)

Sat May 5, 2012, 12:50 PM

20. I watch fox consistantly about 20% of the time

Just to see the spin fromthe other side . Last night Hannity had a panel of military veterans on .he asked these questions , 1. do you thinkPres. Obama spiked the football ( all 20 hands went up)2. Do you think that policies put in place by GWB ( IE: enhanced interogation tech.) brought about the curcumstances that allowed Pres. Obama to kill Bin laden.Again 20 hands all shot up.
Its not just Huckabee. Almost every show is dedicated to getting this message out .

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Response to tapermaker (Reply #20)

Sat May 5, 2012, 04:35 PM

22. "It's not just Huckabee" But Huckabee is hawking a panel of former Navy Seals,

not just a panel of "veterans". There are tens of millions of US veterans, but IMO there can't be more than a few thousand former Navy Seals.

Even Fox doesn't often try to concoct a news story" with "legs" out of an episode of Hannity. But tonight's Huckabee sounds like an important linchpin of the "Swiftboat Obama" campaign.

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Response to ProgressiveEconomist (Original post)

Sat May 5, 2012, 08:31 PM

26. NO Navy Seals? Huckabee seems to have engaged in false advertising

He promised (at http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/huckabee/index.html ) "a panel of former Navy Seals", but the link now says "Navy Seals speak out". Even that is false, because the Swiftboating segment had only two guests, one Republican former military brass, the other a former Army Special Forces leader.

One of them QUOTED a Navy Seal as saying the Clinton commericai was "a cheap shot" at Romney, but Huckabee couldn't get ANY Navy Seals to appear on camera.

IMO, this is a promising development. If Huckabee couldn't get a Navy Seal to denounce the CIC on camera, then it's likely third-party Republican ad producers can't either. IMO former Navy Seals must be burning up the phone and email lines warning each other of the danger of getting involved in the silly Republican "Swiftboat Obama" effort.

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