Invoking his 2004 battle with Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., thinks he can impart lessons to Barack Obama learned from his failed White House campaign as the president faces criticism from a group of former special forces and intelligence agents for exploiting sensitive national-security information and bragging about killing Osama bin Laden for political gain.
In a letter to Obama supporters, Kerry warns that “attacks, smears, and lies” can be effective, lamenting he learned the hard way eight years ago that “even completely baseless attacks can stick if people don’t call them out quickly enough.”
“No matter how self-evidently false the attacks are, or how disreputable the people telling them may be, there’s no attack that can’t take hold,” Kerry explains.
The problem for the Massachusetts Democrat, however, is that none of the substantive charges made by the more than 250 Swift Boat veterans have been debunked.
Kerry himself never responded to the charges, other than to call the veterans liars; and his campaign simply ignored most of the accusations presented in the group’s No. 1 New York Times bestseller “Unfit for Command.”
The group’s members included Kerry’s entire chain of command in Vietnam and most of the 23 men in his own unit; the gunner from one of his boats; the doctor who treated him for his first self-inflicted ‘injury’ which inexplicably led to a Purple Heart; and POWs imprisoned during Kerry’s 1971 Senate testimony accusing U.S. service members of being war criminals
Ultimately, Kerry never sued the veterans and refused to sign the Standard Form 180 request to release his full military record to the public during the campaign.
When the campaign did respond to specific claims, it was to backtrack, such as in the case of Kerry’s long-held assertion he was in Cambodia illegally Christmas Eve 1968.
Kerry had claimed his Swift Boat 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 Jan. 20, 1969, and none of Kerry’s former crew members, including those who campaigned for him, back his story.
WND reported last year that the most vocal crew member who supported Kerry, Wade Sanders, was stripped of his Silver Star because an investigation surrounding the incident for which the award was made and the processing of the award itself concluded the medal was undeserved.
Instead of addressing the Swift Boat vets’ specific claims, the Kerry campaign threatened lawsuits against the television stations that aired the group’s 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.
Establishment 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 Swift Boat vets’ contention that it was Kerry himself who wrote the “official record” in many instances, in after-action reports.
Moreover, while Kerry used his alleged exploits in Vietnam to promote his foreign policy credentials in his campaign, half of the book “Unfit for Command” was about his post-war behavior as a radical anti-war leader. Among his actions were engaging in unauthorized talks with Viet Cong and North Vietnamese leaders in Paris, infamously gave false testimony of atrocities by U.S. service members and leading the group Vietnam Veterans Against the War in a protest in which they tossed their medals over the White House fence.
As WND reported, William Middendorf, former secretary of the Navy, urged Kerry to open up his personnel files to resolve the question of whether he received a less-than-honorable discharge from the Navy because of his anti-war activities while a member of the Reserves.
Obama’s Chicago neighbor and colleague on two radical educational charities, 1960s Weather Underground founder Bill Ayers, called Kerry’s medal-tossing protest the senator’s “finest moment” and an incident that “shook the country to its core.”
One month after the 2004 election, when many pundits, left and right, acknowledged the Swift Boat vets likely were a deciding factor in George W. Bush’s victory over Kerry, Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill was insisting the campaign’s problem was that it just didn’t realize the impact of the Swift Boat effort and its nine powerful TV ads.
That “spin” – the same premise upon which Kerry is now writing his letter defending Obama – is “absurd,” said a partner with the media firm that produced the ads, Stevens Reed Curcio and Potholm.
Rick Reed said in December 2004 that Kerry’s “problem was that he never addressed one question or issue raised in the ads.”
“This is because there was no good answer,” Reed said. “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.”
Reed added, “Grade school kids knew the ads were hurting Kerry, so obviously Kerry’s campaign knew.”
In his new letter to donors, Kerry writes, “Seeing the new outrageous attacks made against President Obama from a shadowy Republican-allied veterans group called OPSEC, which take issue with the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, remind me all too well of the notorious ‘Swift Boat’ attacks I faced in the 2004 campaign.
“I honor and appreciate the service of my fellow veterans,” Kerry says, “but a false attack is a false attack – no matter who’s making it.”