August 31, 2004

Veterans Versus Veterans

This year’s presidential election brings to mind the 1991 Louisiana governor’s race, in a “this-choice-should-be-a-totally-obvious-slam-dunk” sort of way. Still, people nearly voted in David Duke back then. What is to blame? The answer, of course, lies in lying.

If you watch television, you’ve no doubt seen one of the notorious “Swift Boat Vets for Truth” ads. This advocacy group is out to claim that John Kerry was unfit for command in Vietnam and is thus unfit for the presidency. If you rearrange the letters in “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,” you get “That far-r.w. beef, it rots on U.S. TV.” Makes sense, really.

Three reasons not to trust the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth:

1) They’re not Swift. Do they really think that questioning Kerry’s military service is the smartest campaign strategy for Bush? Arguing about how deep the shrapnel went into Kerry’s forearm seems nitpicky, considering that the only foreign material in Bush’s body might be glass from a smashed beer bottle. Any mention of Vietnam in this campaign is likely to backfire on Bush. And we already know how Bush reacts under fire.

2) They’re not entirely Boat Veterans. SBV for T is funded largely through two donors, Harlan Crow (a trustee of the George Bush Library) and Bob Perry (ties to Bush brain Karl Rove). The group’s spokeswoman, Merrie Spaeth, represented Bush’s wealthiest supporters in 2000. Legal counsel is headed by John O’Neill, hand-picked by Richard Nixon to debate Kerry on TV in 1971. Bush campaign lawyer Ben Ginsberg has also been known to offer legal advice. Then there are the veterans themselves. Though they served in Vietnam with Kerry, many didn’t literally serve WITH Kerry; they merely served at the same time. Though their honorable service dwarfs the military record of any of the hawks in the White House, it still does not let them off the hook.

3) They’re not about the Truth. The people behind SBV for T have a history of discrediting politicians with strong military ties. You might say they’re veterans at it! Just ask John McCain; in the 2000 presidential race, his five-and-a-half years as a POW turned into four years of Bush. In 2002, Sen. Max Cleland, whose memento from Vietnam is his left arm, was compared to terrorists by the same group. He lost.

The hand-picked veterans aren’t any better. One notorious Swift Boat Vets ad features Adm. Roy F. Hoffmann intoning, “John Kerry has not been honest!” However, Hoffmann has also been quoted as calling Kerry “a good man…I am not going to say anything negative about him.” Said Hoffmann of Kerry’s Silver Star: “It took guts, and I admire that.”

Other Shifty Boat Vets include George Elliott, who accuses Kerry of both dishonesty (“John Kerry has not been honest”) and courage (“The fact that he chased an armed enemy down…was an act of courage”). In a 1969 fitness report on Kerry, Elliott reported that “In a combat environment often requiring independent, decisive action…Kerry was unsurpassed.” Kenneth Cordier is a veteran who not only didn’t serve with Kerry but serves as head advisor for Veterans for Bush/Cheney. Then there’s Adrian L. Lonsdale, who declares that Kerry “lacks the capacity to lead,” yet once considered Kerry “among the finest of those Swift Boat drivers.” Wow!

If the Swift Boat Veterans really are looking for Truth, then they must be using some reverse psychology that I don’t understand. These guys have flip-flopped so much lately that, between the time I write this and the time you read it, they will probably flip some more and flop permanently.

The SBV for T slings its BS at


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