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White House press secretary Scott McClellan fended off a question about whether President Bush repudiates an ad by Vietnam veterans critical of John Kerry by calling for a cessation to all activity by so-called soft-money groups.

“The President deplores all the unregulated soft-money activity,” McClellan responded in a briefing today with reporters.

“We have been very clear in stating that, you know, we will not — and we have not and we will not question Senator Kerry’s service in Vietnam,” he said.

As WorldNetDaily reported, a blistering new TV commercial produced by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth quotes Kerry’s Vietnam comrades calling him a liar, questioning his honor, accusing him of misrepresenting his actions for medals and attacking his character.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, has condemned the ad as “dishonest and dishonorable” and urged the White House to do the same, according to the Associated Press.

Continuing his response, McClellan said, “I think that this is another example of the problem with the unregulated soft- money activity that is going on. The president thought he put an end — or the president thought he got rid of this kind of unregulated soft money when he signed the bipartisan campaign finance reforms into law.”

McClellan pointed out President Bush “has been on the receiving end of more than $62 million in negative attacks from shadowy groups.”

Bush he said, “is calling for an immediate cessation to all the unregulated soft-money activity.”

“He believes that it should all be stopped,” McClellan said. “The unregulated soft-money activity that is going on does nothing to elevate the discourse. We hope the Kerry campaign will join us in calling for an end to all the unregulated soft-money ads and activity.”

McClellan then was asked pointedly, “So the President joins McCain in criticizing this particular ad?”

“We hope the Kerry campaign will join us in calling for an end to all the unregulated soft money ads and activity that are going on,” McClellan answered.

Pressed further, a reporter asked: “Scott, more specifically, though, will the president or the campaign ask this particular group to pull this particular ad off the air?”

McClellan answered: “We’re calling for a cessation to all the unregulated soft-money activity, and we hope that the Kerry campaign will join us.”

A new book by the swift-boat veterans charges Kerry earned his Silver Star in Vietnam “by killing a lone, fleeing, teenage Viet Cong in a loincloth,” according to a blockbuster book by the presidential candidate’s former Navy colleagues, scheduled for release next week.

“Unfit for Command,” which has reached No. 1 on the Amazon.com best-seller list, says, “if Kerry’s superiors had known the truth at the time, they would never have recommended him for the medal,” according to the Drudge Report.

The book, by an officer who took over Kerry’s swift-boat command, John O’Neill, also claims Kerry burned down a village after ordering the slaughter of its small animals.

The Kerry campaign, which calls the book “the dirtiest of all dirty tricks ever played on a candidate for the presidency,” is preparing a vigorous defense, accusing the veterans of being fueled by a top Bush donor from Texas.

Related stories:

Vets: Kerry’s Silver Star undeserved

Kerry’s Viet comrades call him a liar in TV ad

Kerry’s wounds self-inflicted?

Kerry flip-flop on war footage

Controversy over Kerry’s re-enacted war scenes

Anti-Kerry vets to sue candidate?

Kerry honored at communist museum

‘Kerry lied while good men died’

Vets to Kerry: Stop using photos

Vet: Officers told Kerry to leave Vietnam

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