Thursday, August 26, 2004

Bad August Part 4

Item 4: the Swift Boat Vets.So it turns out the story of the month is the Swift Boat Vets. Here is my perception of how the month of August played out (and remember: perception is reality in the world of politics):

Week 2: swift boat vets charge Kerry with lying in their first ad (the charges are vague: "I was there, Kerry isn't telling the truth"). Kerry's response: (insert crickets chirping WAV here).

Week 3: swift boat vets all over TV; charge that Kerry gave aid and comfort to VC while our boys were rotting in Hanoi Hilton. Kerry response: (a jumble of) these guys are liars, some of these guys have said nice things about Kerry in the past, some of these guys have said mean things about Catholics and Jews in the past, Bush lied, Bush is behind these guys, Bush bad no vote Bush, that kind of thing. Here is the deal:
1. as Bob Dole pointed out (a phrase I never thought I'd utter) there are over 250 of them. Are they all republican right wing hatchet job liars? Is that a normal ratio of vets: 250 repubs to 12 dems? They are all liars isn't going to fly outside the offices of the New York Times.
2. The fact that some of these guys have backed Kerry in the past carries some weight. They should be called to account for that. Maybe we can call shenanigans on those guys. Maybe they have a decent explanation (something like: I served with the guy so I thought I'd back 'em. Some other friends reminded me of his anti-war comments and I changed my mind about him). Don't know if it is true, but it makes sense. Call 'em on it. What is their answer?
3. One dude told some pretty dumb jokes about Catholics and Jews. The key to ethnic and racial humor: be funny. He isn't. What does this have to do with his feelings towards Kerry. If you think he hates Kerry becasue Kerry is a dirty papist, say so. If it is just a smear, well it is a smear.
4. Bush people are behind this. It turns out a guy who sent money to Bush sent money to the SBVs. Also this week a lawyer doing work for both resigned his post. OK, first: what do you expect? Yeah, people who like Bush will fund people who don't like Kerry. This time around the Dems should have a real firm handle on that premise. For every pro-Kerry (truly pro-Kerry) person you find me, I can find you 10 anti-Bush people. Guess what? They give money to Kerry and to anti-Bush groups. I guess attack ads have no merit unless they are paid for by supporters of the person being attacked. It is a nonsense arguement.But it is a nonsense argument (like 1, 2, and 3 above) that totally ignores the substance of the issue and focuses on the process. Unless the process or the witness is completely incompetant in some way, this never, ever kills the issue. But it does always prolong it.So in the last two weeks, Kerry has been forced to take back the claim that he spent Christmas, 1968 in Cambodia (which is a double shame as it added a Nixon slam to the angst ridden hero story he had going there) and is now backing away from the claim that his first purple heart was a result of enemy fire.

Week 4: new swift boat ad goes directly at the Christmas in Cambodia story. Kerry sort of took back the Cambodia thing in the sense that maybe it was really January 1969 or maybe sometime in the spring, but it definently happened unless it didn't and he was just patroling the river that separates Cambodia and Vietnam or maybe not.Meanwhile, he reverses course and decides to run ads in August after all. So he puts on an ad using John McCain as a surrogate. Decent ad. Makes its point. But then he has to pull it at McCain's request higlighting the fact that McCain is not on his side. At the same time, Bush is sucking up to McCain by threatening to sue 527s, thus highlighting his connection with McCain.


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