The Swiftboat Vet smears stink of desperation. Some Vietnam vets have hated Kerry so much and for so long because of his antiwar activities (as well as the fake POW issue) that they think that everyone will agree with them about this. Right today they’re pushing the wonkish, trivial “Christmas in Cambodia” thing, which they think is an absolute killer. I think that they’re pretty sure to overreach and make fools of themselves, though of course the tedious debunking work still has to be done.
9 of the 10 living vets who served on Kerry’s boats support him. His opponents include many of his fellow officers and his commanding officers, plus a large number of other Vietnam vets who never even saw Kerry. (One of the leaders of the group, O’Neill, wasn’t even in Vietnam at the same time as Kerry.) The testimony posted on the Swiftvets site is almost entirely about Kerry’s antiwar activities (which are misrepresented), rather than about Kerry’s time in Vietnam.
One anti-Kerry vet, his former commanding officer George Elliott, has changed his story several times and obviously has someone working him — his last statement was released through the group rather than personally. It would be well worth someone’s time to re-interview a lot of the anti-Kerry vets, because some of the pro-Kerry vets have testified to attempts to misrepresent their statements.
The financing and organization of the group follows the standard average Republican surrogate pattern, with a Republican PR rep and big money coming from people close to Bush and Rove. Of the two authors of the book, one (O’Neill) was the main Nixon administration anti-Kerry guy, and the other (Corsi) is an anti-Catholic Free Republic bigot. Admiral Hoffman, another of the movers and shakers, is a well-known loose cannon and wild man.
One peculiarity of the anti-Kerry testimony is that a lot of people are saying things unofficially thirty years later which contradict what they said officially at the time. No one is perfect, but Kerry got five medals and generally good ratings while he was in the service. (A lot of the anti-Kerry testimony is pretty nitpicky and has the stink of gossip and schoolgirl envy).
Besides his crewmen, Kerry is being supported politically by Generals Clark and McPeak, and the Swiftboat-type smears have been denounced by Sen. McCain and General Franks. On the right-wing chatlines you can read some hilarious bitching about these men, and Farrah at Worldnet has re-smeared McCain.
At this point I think that the Swiftboat attack will disappear without much trace. It only appeals to people who already hate Kerry. Probably Rove knows that the case is weak, and maybe that was why he released the dirt just now instead of closer to the election. (On the other hand, if Rove is using one of his big guns this early, that would mean that he knows he’s in real trouble). The overall goal was probably to whittle away a little of Kerry’s post-convention bounce, and secondarily to turn some doves against Kerry with the atrocity stories. And of course, military macho is the only thing Bush has to run on, so the weasels are fighting with special desperation.
“This hate-filled ad asserts that I was not under fire; it questions my words and Navy records. This smear campaign has been launched by people without decency, people who don’t understand the bond of those who serve in combat.”
Extraordinarily thorough response by Eriposte
Kerry’s official records (scroll to “Fitness Reports” for official evaluations)
Media Matters / Kerry Campaign / Disinfopedia / “Snopes” / Factcheck / Conason I / Conason II / Conason III
Gen. Tommy Franks states that Kerry is qualified to be President.
The original Kerry War crime story (1996) was really quite dubious.
Swiftboat vets claim that Michael Kranish and the Globe (involved in the Elliott story) are pro-Kerry. This is not true, as shown here: Slate: Globe is not pro-Kerry I / Slate: Globe is not pro-Kerry II / Kranish is not pro-Kerry . There’s a long complicated argument on Drudge and elsewhere claiming that Kranish is working for the Kerry campaign (not true) or that he wrote the introduction for Kerry’s official campaign biography (also not true, though he was working at times on an book about Kerry, unconnected to the Kerry organization).