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Saturday, August 21, 2004
The New Swift Ad

By Steven Taylor @ 10:44 am

Group to Air Ad Attacking Kerry’s 1971 Testimony

A new ad by the anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth condemns the Democratic nominee for making allegations of war crimes and atrocities committed by American soldiers. “It hurt me more than any physical wounds I had,” a Vietnam veteran says in the ad about Kerry’s highly publicized testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971.

This ad (which you can view here) gets to the heart of why the Swifites don’t like Kerry is what they should have led with and stayed with. The whole medal business degenerates into an unseemly he-said/he-said food fight that is unresolvable.

However, there is no denying Kerry’s post-war activities and those actions are a fully legitimate area of attack. Further, Kerry himself has left himself open to these attacks by essentially basing his entire campaign for president on his four and a half month in theater in Viet Nam.

He wishes to have it both ways: war hero and self-admitted war criminal wh had the courage to tell the truth. The two are incompatible.

The Senator’s continued lack of discussion of the bulk of his political carerr underscores his vulnerability politically speaking, and is why these ads are having an effect and why he is responding:

With polls showing attacks on Kerry’s war record reaching large numbers of voters and resonating with many independents and veterans, the Democratic National Committee defended Kerry with a new ad, featuring retired Air Force Gen. Merrill A. McPeak - a Bush supporter in 2000. “John Kerry has the strength and common sense we need in a commander in chief,” McPeak says in the ad. Kerry will try to shift the focus back to President Bush with an ad that will be unveiled tomorrow, a top aide said.

And this is an anemic defense:

Yesterday, Kerry did not respond to the new allegations, although aides said his testimony was directed at military leadership, not the soldiers fighting in Vietnam.

This is in direct contradiction to Kerry’s own words. He directly accussed his fellow soldiers of “Randoming firing at civlians” of cutting of heads and arms, and all manner of other atrocities, and he charged that they happened daily. These were not charges leveled primarily at the upper command and at Washington, they were leveled squarely at the soldiers in the field.

To me, the new commerical, and this line of attack, is far more devsating that the nebulous arguments over Kerry’s Bronze Star and his Purple Hearts.

And this response is aslo anemic:

In defense of Kerry, aides distributed a copy of the candidate’s comments on NBC’s “Meet the Press” earlier this year, when he conceded the language was sometimes excessive. “I think some soldiers were angry at me for that, and I understand that and I regret that, because I love them,” Kerry said on the April 18 program. “But the words were honest, but on the other hand they were a little bit over the top.”

“But the words were honest.”

I would again re-visit that April 18th MTP transcript:

MR. RUSSERT: You used the word “war criminals.”

SEN. KERRY: Well, let me just finish. Let me must finish. It was, I think, a reflection of the kind of times we found ourselves in and I don’t like it when I hear it today. I don’t like it, but I want you to notice that at the end, I wasn’t talking about the soldiers and the soldiers’ blame, and my great regret is, I hope no soldier–I mean, I think some soldiers were angry at me for that, and I understand that and I regret that, because I love them. But the words were honest but on the other hand, they were a little bit over the top. And I think that there were breaches of the Geneva Conventions. There were policies in place that were not acceptable according to the laws of warfare, and everybody knows that. I mean, books have chronicled that, so I’m not going to walk away from that. But I wish I had found a way to say it in a less abrasive way.

This is in response to clips of Kerry from 1971 using the words “war criminals” and “atrocities.” And I will note that he is complaining about policy in the field that led to the results. Nonetheless, the acusations are squarely leveled at the men who committed the acts.

More from the interview:

MR. RUSSERT: But, Senator, when you testified before the Senate, you talked about some of the hearings you had observed at the winter soldiers meeting and you said that people had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and on and on. A lot of those stories have been discredited, and in hindsight was your testimony…

SEN. KERRY: Actually, a lot of them have been documented.

MR. RUSSERT: So you stand by that?

SEN. KERRY: A lot of those stories have been documented. Have some been discredited? Sure, they have, Tim. The problem is that’s not where the focus should have been. And, you know, when you’re angry about something and you’re young, you know, you’re perfectly capable of not–I mean, if I had the kind of experience and time behind me that I have today, I’d have framed some of that differently. Needless to say, I’m proud that I stood up. I don’t want anybody to think twice about it. I’m proud that I took the position that I took to oppose it. I think we saved lives, and I’m proud that I stood up at a time when it was important to stand up, but I’m not going to quibble, you know, 35 years later that I might not have phrased things more artfully at times.

Notice three things: 1) he never directly answers Russert’s question, 2) he affirms the accusations in a sideways manner, and 3) talks about quibbling and artfully discussing accussation such as multilation, rape and torture.

Filed under: US Politics: 2004 Campaign
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  1. What is almost invariably left out of the attacks on Kerry’s testimnony is that he was representing a group of several hundred Vietnam vets, and began his testimony by saying “I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command..” Yet his words are pretty much always presented as him saying he observed all these things. Maybe it’s splitting hairs, but the attacks are at least partially (and deliberately?) confusing the messenger with the message.

    Comment by Harry — Saturday, August 21, 2004 @ 10:57 am

  2. Over the course of our Election Discussions last weekend, I warned Blair that the Democrats may be reaching a near-Republican level of cultism - and that means trouble for Tim’s beloved Bush.

    “And you guys, you formerly cynical guys who now worship the incompetent Bush simply because you were told to do so, you’re only making it easier for the Kerry people to win.”

    Blair, too drunk to follow the entire convoluted sentence, caught on at the end and whimpered, “How so?”

    “Look at you people with this Vietnam boat nonsense. Every day, you’re pounding home the fact that Kerry fought in Vietnam. You jackasses started this stuff so early - with the “Oh he protested the war” and the Jane Fonda photoshops - that the Kerry people turned the whole Democratic convention into a celebration of the Vietnam War. Nobody even remembers being against Vietnam anymore. The next Vietnam movie will be a buddy comedy starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, and all they’re going to do is kill Charlie and win medals and dance with beautiful girls. It’ll make $300 million on the opening weekend. They’re going to tear down that bummer memorial in Washington and put up a 1,000-foot statue of a smiling American soldier proudly standing on a stack of golden skulls. You morons have made Vietnam the Democrats’ favorite memory and greatest victory. Then you scream hooray when a gang of addled old Nixon bagmen show up in a teevee commercial to bitch about Kerry fighting in Vietnam , and once again the normal people with lives only remember, again, that Kerry fought in Vietnam and Bush didn’t.”

    “But,” Tim sputtered, “Kerry clearly claimed he was in Cambodia several days before he was in Cambodia. It was seared-”

    “Stop that,” I said, poking his neck with the corkscrew worm. “Listen to yourself. What are you doing, again? That’s right, you’re reminding people that the other guy fought in Vietnam. Have you become so brain dead that you think this helps your girly boy Bush? Do you honestly believe the coward boy can beat the War Monster?”

    Blair tried to shake the confusion from his head. Then his eyes brightened for a moment and he said, “Four months! Kerry was only in Vietnam for four months!”

    “See? You did it again. You people can’t stop reminding everybody that Kerry was in Vietnam, taking lives like your boy eats cookies. Killing people, saving people, holding Life & Death in his hands like a savage gift. He kills the Viet Cong or anybody else he chooses, he saves a U.S. sailor who fell out of the boat, he walks the halls of the Senate deciding who he’ll kill or who he’ll save ( In Vietnam, Kerry is a death’s head of gruesome power, while your Bush hides in Alabama, a scared little girl. And what did little Bush do in Texas?”

    Comment by The God of War, Death & Madness — Saturday, August 21, 2004 @ 1:54 pm

  3. BTW, thats not mine - its from Kem layne’s “The God of War, Death & Madness”

    The GOP is making a big mistake getting into bed w/ the SBVFT

    Comment by Barry Ritholtz — Saturday, August 21, 2004 @ 1:55 pm

  4. Barry,

    First off, I think I have been pretty reasonable on this whole Swift Boat thing.

    Second, I don’t that the fact Kerry served in Viet Nam is some secret that the Reps are bringing up. Rather, Kerry is basing his whole campaign on it.

    3) I have noted on multiple occassions that going after the medals is foolish, and I don’t think I have once blogged on the Cambodia issue.

    4) I think that Kerry has a real problem that will manifest with swing voters in trying to square the circle of the war hero image he has tried to build juxtaposed with what he said as a war protester. I have argued this way back during the primaries, in fact

    5) AsI noted in another post earlier today, Kerry in Viet Nam v. Bush in the Air National Guard is a false dichotomy, and not the one the Kerry campaign is pursuing: Kerry has actively argued that his Viet Nam service would make him a better Commander-in-Chief than Bush. As such, Kerry has made this race Viet Nam Kerry v. President Bush.

    6) I continue to ask: where is the Senator’s Senate career?

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Saturday, August 21, 2004 @ 2:11 pm

  5. The Senate career question is a valid one, and one that’s being ignored by both Bush and the Fellow Travelers. But then, if they tried to make too much of Kerry’s light resume, it could be turned back towards Bush’s light resume. Neither one of these guys would rate a well-qualified from me on the Presidential test. But I have to vote for one of them, and for me, voting for Kerry is an easy decision.

    Comment by Harry — Saturday, August 21, 2004 @ 3:41 pm

  6. Fair enough.

    However, I would note, that a full term as President trumps a light Senate career if all we are doing is comparing resumes.

    Clearly, you think that Bush’s four years aren’t to your satisfaction, which is your right.

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Saturday, August 21, 2004 @ 3:46 pm

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