Cleland Travels To Crawford To Hand-Deliver Letter Protesting Ads To Bush
The Kerry campaign yesterday dispatched former Democratic Sen. Max Cleland to Crawford, Texas, to hand-deliver a letter from nine Democratic senators urging President Bush to denounce the content of the Swift Veterans for Truth ads, which attack Sen. Kerry's war record. Cleland, who was maimed in the Vietnam war, was defeated in his 2002 bid for reelection in Georgia. His loss followed an ad campaign criticizing his commitment to national security over votes to filibuster a Bush proposal opposed by labor unions to set up a Department of Homeland Security. Democrats have since portrayed the 2002 campaign against Cleland, a triple amputee, as an example of politics at its worst.
Last night, CBS Evening News led its newscast with the story, erroneously asserting that Cleland's "Vietnam record was attacked by Republicans two years ago." Now Cleland "claims the Bush campaign is mounting a similar smear campaign against Kerry." On ABC World News Tonight, Cleland was shown saying the Swift Vets' ads are "an attack on the valorous service of a fellow American is wrong. And he [Bush] is behind it. And his campaign is behind it. And so the accountability rests at his door." NBC Nightly News, meanwhile, said "it was like a scene out of an old Western today at President Bush's Texas ranch." The story also received ample coverage on local TV and radio news. ABC News Radio this morning reported that the Bush campaign called Cleland's trip to Texas "a political stunt," adding, "Bush condemned all third party ads, including the Swift Boat ad, earlier this week."
Bush Campaign Has Own Veteran Intercept Cleland.
According to today's Washington Post , the Bush campaign "got word of the stunt perhaps because it was reported on CNN and had its own Vietnam veteran waiting for Cleland with a letter defending the criticism of Kerry. With about 30 journalists watching, the two veterans circled each other in the 95-degree heat at a checkpoint outside the ranch, holding their letters as if they were hand grenades. Then without exchanging letters the two retreated to face the cameras at a nearby schoolyard, Cleland demanding Bush denounce ads by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and the Bush veteran, identified by the White House as 'a representative of the campaign,' praising one of the group's ads as 'very telling.'" As Cleland's "white Cadillac approached the checkpoint near Bush's ranch, a Bush aide signaled another Bush aide, who signaled a third, whereupon a man in a Veterans of Foreign Wars cap and a tie with a shotgun-shell print walked up to meet Cleland." The veteran dispatched by the Bush camp was Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.