Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill’s “admission” that she underestimated the impact of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is disingenuous, says a producer of the TV ads that helped sink the Massachusetts senator’s presidential candidacy.
Rick Reed, a partner with media firm Stevens Reed Curcio and Potholm, said the “idea that Kerry’s people miscalculated the impact of the ads is absurd.”
“Senator Kerry’s problem was that he never addressed one question or issue raised in the ads,” Reed said. “This is because there was no good answer. Everything said about Kerry in the ads was accurate, but the Kerry campaign put all its effort into trying to discredit the ads, which didn’t work.”
The “spin” now, he said, is that the campaign didn’t know the impact of the nine spots, which began running after the Democratic National Convention closed with an emphasis on Kerry’s Vietnam War service.
“Grade school kids knew the ads were hurting Kerry, so obviously Kerry’s campaign knew,” Reed said.
While speaking at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government Wednesday, Cahill said Kerry’s campaign mistakenly thought there would be “no reach” to the initial ad, which aired in just three states.
“This is the best $40,000 investment made by any political group, but it was only because of the news coverage that it got where it did,” she said, according to the Associated Press. “In hindsight, maybe we should have put Senator Kerry out earlier, perhaps we could have cut it off earlier.”
News coverage, particularly cable news stations, amplified the ads by running them repeatedly, Cahill said.
The AP added Cahill “was frustrated the first ad continued to eat up so much air time even after the central allegations were debunked.”
“For me, this was a very big change. The fact that it was disproved and it was still shown every day as part of the [campaign] coverage,” she said.
But the swiftboat vets insist none of their many claims were debunked, pointing out Kerry himself never responded, other than to call them liars, and his campaign simply ignored most of the accusations presented in the group’s No. 1 New York Times best-seller “Unfit for Command.”
When the campaign did respond to specific claims, it was to backtrack, such as in the case of Kerry’s long-held assertion that he was in Cambodia illegally Christmas Eve 1968.
Kerry had claimed his swiftboat was ordered to Cambodia by President Nixon while the president denied to the world that any U.S. military forces were engaged in the country. The event was “seared, seared” into his memory, Kerry said on many occasions, including from the Senate floor. It was an experience that helped him conclude the war was immoral and worthy of protest. But Nixon did not become president until January 20, 1969, and none of Kerry’s former crew members, including those who campaigned for him, back his story.
Instead of addressing the swiftvets specific claims, the Kerry campaign threatened lawsuits against the television stations that aired the ads, demanded publisher Regnery pull “Unfit for Command,” accused the group of being run by the Republican Party and attacked the character of co-authors John O’Neill and Jerome Corsi.
Mainstream media also repeated the assertion that the claims against Kerry were debunked, without providing evidence. Those who offered evidence contended the military’s records supported Kerry’s version of events, without mentioning the swiftboat vets’ assertion that it was Kerry himself who wrote the “official record” in many instances, in after-action reports.
In the AP’s story on Cahill’s remarks, its boilerplate explanation of the group said: “The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group of Republican-funded Vietnam War veterans who patrolled the same Mekong Delta in Swift boats similar to the ones piloted by Navy Lt. John Kerry, challenged Kerry’s accounts of his medal-winning service and anti-war protests.”
Although major contributors were Republican, thousands gave to the swiftboat group, comprised of more than 250 men, many of whom served alongside and over Kerry, Reed points out.
“These men — his entire chain of command in Vietnam and most of the 23 men in Kerry’s own unit; the gunner from his boat; the doctor who treated him for his first self-inflicted ‘injury’ which inexplicably led to a Purple Heart; the POWs imprisoned during Kerry’s 1971 Senate testimony accusing Vietnam veterans of being war criminals — got nothing out of this, except, as the last ad makes clear, ‘the satisfaction that comes with telling the truth,'” Reed said.