Democrats Say "Swift Boat Veterans For Truth" Has Links To Bush, Rove
The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad challenging Sen. Kerry's war record continues to be a source of controversy in the presidential campaign. ABC's Nightline last night devoted its newscast to the debate surrounding both the claims made in the ad and the sources of funding behind the anti-Kerry group. Nightline said the sailors who served on Kerry's boat decried the attacks on Kerry, while the senator's campaign called the ad "wrong" and "offensive." Kerry aides also "point to Naval records that seemingly contradict the charges." The Bush campaign, on its part, "insists it has nothing to do with this group," but Democrats "are quick to point out" that the group's spokesperson's late husband "ran for lieutenant governor" as a Republican "when Bush first ran for governor in 1994." He "was also a law partner of long-time Kerry nemesis John O'Neill. O'Neill heads up the anti-Kerry veterans group and has co-authored an anti-Kerry book."
Nightline also notes that as of Friday, "the anti-Kerry veterans had bought nearly $500,000 worth of TV ads in key battleground states. According to the group's June 30th statement with the IRS, $100,000 came from Bob Perry, a Houston real estate magnate and long-time Republican donor with ties to Bush's powerful political adviser Karl Rove." The White House, however, says Rove has nothing to do with the ads.
Other points made by ABC's Nightline's newscast last night:
Two Veterans Opposing Kerry Defended Him In 1996. "Adding to the murkiness about these many accusations is the fact that when Kerry faced similar questions about his Silver Star during his 1996 Senate race, two of the swift boat veterans opposing him now, defended him then."
Bush Allies Questioned McCain's Service During 2000 GOP Primary. "Further adding to the fog of this war may be the distinct impression that we have seen something like this before. . . . Running against Bush four years ago, Republican Sen. John McCain, also a decorated Vietnam veteran, saw his war record" questioned "by Bush allies, though not by the Bush campaign itself. And though McCain will campaign with President Bush this week, he has condemned the anti-Kerry ads and challenged the President to follow his lead."
The Dallas Morning News, meanwhile, says the group "has come under fierce counterattack by critics who say that the men featured in their ad did not serve directly with Mr. Kerry and that their charges are refuted by extensive military records and numerous eyewitnesses closer to the action than the group members."
Rassmann Defends Kerry, Draws Parallel To Attacks On McCain.
In this morning's Wall Street Journal, Jim Rassmann, who served with the US Army 5th Special Forces Group in 1968-69 and whose life Kerry saved in Vietnam, writes "I came to know Lt. John Kerry during the spring of 1969. He and his swift boat crew assisted in inserting our Special Forces team and our Chinese Nung soldiers into operational sites in the Cau Mau Peninsula of South Vietnam. I worked with him on many operations and saw firsthand his leadership, courage and decision-making ability under fire. On March 13, 1969, John Kerry's courage and leadership saved my life. . . . I am neither a politician nor an organizer," but "in this presidential election, I had to speak out; I had to tell the American people about John Kerry, about his wisdom and courage, about his vision and leadership. I would trust John Kerry with my life, and I would entrust John Kerry with the well-being of our country. . . . I am a Republican, and for more than 30 years I have largely voted for Republicans." Rassmann adds, "Does this strategy of attacking combat Vietnam veterans sound familiar? In 2000, a similar Republican smear campaign was launched against Sen. McCain. In fact, the very same communications group, Spaeth Communications, that placed ads against John McCain in 2000 is involved in these vicious attacks against John Kerry."
Kerry Backtracks On Cambodia Assertion. Fox News' Special Report reported yesterday on "a book called Unfit for Command" which continues to challenge much of Kerry's "Vietnam service record, the bedrock of his biography. Among the latest criticisms, Kerry's claim years ago to have been in Cambodia on Christmas Eve, 1968, at a time when the U.S. government was insisting there was no U.S. military presence in Cambodia. But on March 27, 1986, the U.S. Senate record quotes Kerry as saying, 'I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians. And have the president of the United States telling American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia.' In addition, in 1979 Kerry wrote in a letter to the editor to The Boston Herald saying, 'I remember spending Christmas Eve of 1968 five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese allies, who were drunk and celebrating Christmas. The absurdity of almost being killed by our own allies in a country in which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real.' The Kerry campaign today first asserted that John Kerry never said he was in Cambodia, only he was near the country. But when presented a copy of the congressional record and asked about Kerry's own writing in The Boston Herald, the campaign said it would come up with an explanation. After repeated phone calls, there was still no clarification."