Tuesday, August 10, 2004

All aboard the Smear Boat. Why aren't Kerry's defenders or most of the mainstream media forcefully challenging the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth lies about him? Instead, they're focusing on the right-wing Republican money-men behind the group who have also been linked to Bush. The other theme is the cultural and political divisions between Vietnam veterans opposed to Kerry's anti-Vietnam War stance after he returned -- and those who supported his protests. But most commentators seem to be dancing around the specific allegations leveled against him and thus, Dukakis-style, allowing them to remain in play during this nasty political season.

Josh Marshall points up the impact of the ads so far: " I just saw a preview of a study that finds the Swift Boat ads quite effective among independents in raising doubts about John Kerry's war record. And that suggests that Karl Rove will want to send more money toward the group running the ad."

Here's one blogger's efforts to challenge the claims point-by-point: eRiposte Media: Liars and Haters Inc. Fortunately, the Kerry campaign's "rapid response" team has shot back with its own rebuttals to the so-called Swift Boat Veterans; if you scroll down, you'll see the Kerry campaign's dispute with the ad itself. But even this response is a bit weak because it seeks to discredit the quoted vets primarily by noting that they weren't on the same swift boat as Kerry, as if Navy men on other boats during the same battles couldn't know what happened to Kerry. Still, there's no reason to believe that these right-wingers are telling the truth, and historians, journalists and the U.S. military have all confirmed the details of Kerry's service and medals. But more needs to be done by reporters and Kerry's supporters to clearly reveal the truth of these issues. (The other strategy -- ignore it and it will go away -- didn't work in the Dukakis, McGovern and Mondale campaigns. Clinton, in contrast, always hit back hard and right away.) Unfortunately under the current ground-rules of "objective" journalism, as in a recent Nightline episode, each side is shown giving its point of view unchallenged, granting unearned credibility to the Swift Boat Veterans' specious claims.

Meanwhile, Bush and his campaign haven't disavowed the ad. As the Center for American Progress sums up:

Bush Tolerates Smear Campaign
A group of veterans have launched a media blitz featuring a host of wholly unsubstantiated and largely discredited charges against Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) which call into question his record of honorable military service in Vietnam. In particular, the group – called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT) – is airing an ad featuring 13 men who never served with Kerry calling him a liar and alleging that he did not deserve the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and two of his three Purple Hearts. The allegations contradict all of Kerry's crewmates who are still living, medical records and an independent investigation by historian Douglas Brinkley. Sen. John McCain – who was similarly smeared by false charges during his 2000 campaign that he fathered an out-of-wedlock black child – called the group's advertisement "dishonest and dishonorable." But asked specifically whether Bush would join McCain in condemning the ad, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan demurred.

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