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Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Jacuzzi Cases

Man, Junior must be fuming that yet another one of those hated 527's is coming online with $10 million for more of those ads he'd really like to see stopped:

Group plans anti-Edwards ads

WASHINGTON (CBS.MW) -- A business-backed group plans to join the campaign fray in coming weeks by running ads in key swing states that are expected to attack Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards for his pre-Senate career as a trial lawyer.

The new group, called "The November Fund," is co-chaired by Craig Fuller, who served as chief of staff to the president's father, George H.W. Bush, when he was vice president, and Bill Brock, a former Republican senator.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a key sponsor of The November Fund, which is organized as a so-called 527 group. Such groups are prohibited by law from coordinating activities with presidential campaign staffs or political parties.

The New York Times reported the Chamber and other groups plan to spend $10 million on ads attacking trial lawyers, including Edwards.

John Kerry's selection of Edwards as his running mate on the Democratic ticket enraged some business leaders who have identified abusive lawsuits as a top priority for legislative reform.

"The impact of the trial bar's influence on the legal, legislative, regulatory and economic decisions of an administration is impossible to calculate," said Chamber President Tom Donohue, in a written statement announcing the formation of The November Fund.

Edwards has never disavowed the battles with businesses that were hallmarks of career as a trial lawyer in North Carolina. The candidate, who proudly describes himself as the "son of a mill worker," says he became a lawyer in order to stand up for ordinary people against powerful interests -- a theme that has echoed through his campaigns for public office.

Yes, the Chamber is non-partisan in the same the way the swift boat liars are independent. I'm sure Bush will be right out there condemning all vague "shadowy groups" again while Karl pulls all ten million dollars worth of strings from behind the curtain.

Maybe the trial lawyers need to get a little 527 of their own up and run a few ads featuring some of Edwards' clients -- the ones in the wheelchairs or missing body parts due to corporate cravenness.

Tricky Timing

I urge everyone to read this Liberal Oasis piece on smears. Smears are the most difficult tactic to combat in any campaign and it has been made even harder by the scandal junkies of cable TV and talk radio. There is no formula.

Fighting Smears

Maureen Dowd, like many backseat campaign managers, has never had to defend against a smear campaign.

Addressing a smear is one of the hardest, trickiest, most delicate things in politics.

Condemn it too early, you raise its profile and spread it places where it hadn't been heard yet, and may never had been heard.

Wait too long, and it becomes perceived truth.

And there's no textbook timeframe how long to wait, because every smear's trajectory and potency is different.

Managing the timing is art, not science.

Those like Maureen Dowd -- who said on Sunday that Kerry seemed to be "caught off guard" by the Swift Boat Liar attack, because he waited to respond -- don't know what they're talking about.

Kerry surely knew this was coming.

Similar attacks began in February of this year. And he has successfully fought off such attacks in past campaigns, with the help of fellow vets.

Kerry was on guard. He simply was patient, trying to sense if the smear was gaining traction.

And he wanted to stick to his post-convention plan, touring battleground states, driving his messages from his acceptance speech, completing his introduction to the public.

Read the rest, it's great.

I would just add that I think the "Kerry waitied too long" CW that's forming is a media driven excuse that lets them off the hook. They know that they are responsible for allowing these assholes to be taken seriously at all and instead of taking responsibility for failing at their job they are blaming the victim. It's an old story with these guys. "Oh he should have fought back a week earlier." Well, if the press were in the business of journalism instead of bloodsport entertainment, they would have investigated these guys before they gave them hours and hours of airtime to spread their filthy little psychodrama all of over airwaves. The people who waited too long were the journalists.

Don't fall for the hype. I heard all these talking heads today going on and on about how this has hurt Kerry and yet they have no evidence to back that up, other than their own guilt.

It reminds me of an earlier time when every single pundit idiot in washington predicted for month after month after month that Clinton was going down. They were just positive of it. "Any day now," they said, "the American people are going to reject this deplorable behavior." The screeched at the highest decibels on every cable show 24/7. Each new revelation was the smoking gun that was going to end his presidency. The 1998 election was supposed to be a deathblow.

And month after month after month more than 60% of the American people continued to support Clinton and the '98 election was a blow out for the Democrats.

Don't believe anything these people say about what "the American people" think. They are celebrities who have as much contact and understanding of everyday Americans as Madonna does. Wait for real data. We'll know soon enough.

Profiles In Courage

If anyone is wondering why Tweety has turned back into Bush's bitch, here's why:

You might notice something missing from Hardball With Chris Matthews soon: Republicans. " Hardball may seem more like badminton during the Republican National Convention," threatens a GOP insider. What's up? The GOP thinks Matthews has gone over to Sen. John Kerry 's side and is too critical of the Bush campaign's editing of a Hardball interview with Kerry posted on the party's negative site, www.kerryoniraq.com. As payback, they've stopped urging Republicans to appear on the show. Hardball executive producer Tammy Haddad dismisses charges Matthews is biased: "We beat everybody up." So far, nobody from the White House has told her of the show's being blackballed.

Yeah. Uh huh. That must be why he's claiming now that Kerry said "all Americans are Lt. Calley's" in his Senate testimony in '72 and it would explain why tonight he suddenly feels that Kerry should follow the president's lead and condemn all the 527 ads. He got manly for a minute or two and challenged little LuLu but then he got a spanking and turned into a good boy again.

Everybody Look What's Goin' Down

The clash between Vietnam veterans over Sen. John Kerry and critics of his war record heated up several degrees Monday as a group of vets called on a Clackamas County deputy prosecutor to resign.

"He's hurt a lot, a lot of people," Don Stewart, one of the organizers of a rally on the Main Street steps of the county courthouse, said of Alfred French. "It opens up a lot of wounds. . . . This is personal."

Stewart of Oregon City and Don Kirsch of Canby drew about 45 people to a rally to criticize French, a senior deputy district attorney who said in an affidavit that Kerry lied about his service record. French later admitted his sworn statements were based on the accounts of others.

French's comments have been used in anti-Kerry ads by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group of Vietnam veterans who have said the Democratic presidential candidate lied about or exaggerated his actions during Swift boat river duty in 1969.


During the rally, Stewart read a letter he and Kirsch wrote in which they tell French he should resign because he has lost the trust of county residents.

"We question your fitness to serve as an enforcer of the law after swearing to facts in a legal affidavit that you do not know to be true," they wrote.


Kirsch said French has a right to criticize Kerry "as a concerned veteran" but should not have signed a sworn statement based on secondhand information. "He's told lies and hearsay evidence," Kirsch said.

French did not return a telephone message asking for comment.

Thanks to Hesiod for keeping us informed and enlightened even from self-imposed exile.


I haven't completely absorbed the implications of this article yet (thanks to Davis X Machina for the tip) but it is fascinating and everyone should read it. This guy has the most original view of the Republican mystique I've ever read and something about it tells me he is right on the money. Frank Wilhoit, if you're out there, this one's for you:
This is America, not Denmark. In this country, tens of millions of people choose to watch FoxNews not simply because Americans are credulous idiots or at the behest of some right-wing corporate cabal, but because average Americans respect viciousness. They are attracted to viciousness for a lot of reasons. In part, it reminds them of their bosses, whom they secretly adore. Americans hate themselves for the way they behave in public, always smiling and nodding their heads with accompanying really's and uh-huhs to show that they're listening to the other person, never having the guts to say what they really feel. So they vicariously scream and bully others into submission through right-wing surrogate-brutes. Spending time watching Sean Hannity is enough for your average American white male to feel less cowardly than he really is.

The left won't accept this awful truth about the American soul, a beast that they believe they can fix "if only the people knew the Truth."

But what if the Truth is that Americans don't want to know the Truth? What if Americans consciously choose lies over truth when given the chance—and not even very interesting lies, but rather the blandest, dumbest and meanest lies? What if Americans are not a likeable people? The left's wires short-circuit when confronted with this terrible possibility; the right, on the other hand, warmly embraces Middle America's rank soul and exploits it to their full advantage. The Republicans know Americans better than the left. They know that it's not so much Goering's famous "bigger lie" that works here, but the dumber the lie, the more they want to hear it repeated.

And this leads to another truth that the left still has trouble understanding: Millions of Americans, particularly white males, don't vote for what's in their so-called best interests. Thomas Frank recently attacked this riddle in his new book What's the Matter with Kansas? but he fails to answer his own question. He can't, in fact, because his is a flawed premise. Frank, who is at his best when he's just vicious, still clings to the comforting theory that Middle Americans are being duped by an evil corporate-political machine that subtly but masterfully manipulates the psychological levers of cultural backlash, implying that if average Americans were left to their own devices, they would somehow make entirely rational, enlightened choices and elect sensible New Deal Democrats every time. This puts Frank in a bind he never quite gets out of. Like all lefties, he is incapable of taking his ruthless analysis beyond a certain point.

The reason is simple. The underlying major premise of humanist-leftist ideology states that people are intrinsically sympathetic. If people are defiantly mean and craven, the humanist-left structure falters. "Why the fuck should I bother fighting for Middle Americans," they ask, "if they're just as loathsome, in their own petty way, as their exploiters, with whom they actively collaborate?"

Rather than grapple with that dilemma, the left pretends it doesn't exist. This is why they will forever struggle to understand the one overriding mystery of why so many working- and middle-class white males vote against their own best interests.

I CAN TELL YOU WHY. They do so out of spite.

I urge you to read the whole thing. It is the most entertaining piece of political analysis I've read in quite a long time. And, really, what other explanation can there be for Rush Limbaugh?

Why It Matters

I keep hearing that John Kerry has has brought the character assassination on himself by playing up Vietnam in his campaign. The assessment seems to be that if he hadn't made a big deal out of it the Swift boat Borgias wouldn't have felt the need to come forward. This is, of course, nonsense. If he hadn't brought up his service they would have said he was trying to hide it. This was always in the cards. The Swift Boat Borgias hate John Kerry because he said that Americans committed atrocities in Vietnam and they have never been able to forgive him for agitating against a war they felt proud to have fought.

This is an understandable human reaction. They have never been able to come to terms with that war and what it meant and as a result they have projected all of their emotional confusion about their own actions, their government's perfidy and their country's ambigious relationship to the troops into a single focus on the anti-war protestors as the symbol of all that hurt them. It's beyond my ken to try to convince a bunch of 60ish year old men that they are wrong on this. This issue will dog my generation to our graves.

However, the media isn't really talking about any of that when it says that John Kerry asked for it. It is saying that Vietnam is irrelevant and that by bringing it up he brought all this distraction upon himself. This could not be more wrong. Because of Bush's Big Adventure in Iraq, all of this has become much more than a point of symbolism. It has become crucial to our understanding of what is happening right now.

Although the details differ, essentially we are once again engaged in a misbegotten war in which the goal is amorphous and for which the public feels ambigious. It is the result of a foolish grand geopolitical strategy not self defense and it has American troops embroiled in a complicated foreign battlefield in which we are viewed by all sides with suspicion if not outright hatred. People are dying everyday and nobody quite understands why. The pressure is building.

That at the hands of the Vietnam generation itself, we have found ourselves in this situation again is mind-boggling. And it is a testament to the "suspended in amber" nature of the hawkish mindset that it has happened.

The baby boom generation is incapable of governing if we don't choose among them people who have grappled honestly with the crucible of their lives. And that crucible was Vietnam. George W. Bush and his cronies have never done this. Neither have the Swift Boaters. These people have not faced up to what our country did in that war and as a result we are looking at another war based upon similarly bad assumptions and we are in the process of repeating many of the same mistakes.

Here is a sad case in point. I think most of us have heard that Joseph Darby, the man who blew the whistle on the Abu Ghraib torture, is now in protective custody. Back in his hometown his family was shunned while they held parades for those who committed the torture. He received death threats.

But, I don't know how many people know that this is a sad sequel to the story of Hugh C. Thompson, a helicopter pilot in 1968 who rescued a group of civilians during the My lai massacre and was fired on by his own countrymen. Then as now, right wing politicians were "outraged at the outrage."

He was a 24-year-old pilot flying over the Vietnamese jungle on March 16, 1968. The crew's objective: draw Viet Cong fire from My Lai, so helicopter gunships could swoop in and take out the enemy gunners.

Thompson spotted gunfire but found no enemy fighters. He saw only American troops, who were forcing Vietnamese civilians into a ditch, then opening fire.

Thompson landed his helicopter to block the Americans, then instructed his gunner to open fire on the soldiers if they tried to harm any more villagers. Thompson and two other chopper pilots airlifted villagers to safety, and he reported the slaughter to superiors.

"We saw something going wrong, so we did the right thing and we reported it right then," Thompson said.

The Vietnamese government estimated that more than 500 were killed.

Army Lt. William Calley Jr. was convicted in a 1971 court-martial and received a life sentence for the My Lai massacre. President Nixon reduced the sentence, and Calley served three years of house arrest.

Thompson received the prestigious Soldier's Medal -- 30 years after the fact.

His acts are now considered heroic. But for years Thompson suffered snubs and worse from those in and out of the military who considered his actions unpatriotic.

Fellow servicemen refused to speak with him. He received death threats, and walked out his door to find animal carcasses on his porch. He recalled a congressman angrily saying that Thompson himself was the only serviceman who should be punished because of My Lai.

Today, West Point considers Thompson and his story essential to educating its cadets.

"Hugh Thompson is a great example of individual responsibility," said Col. Tom Kolditz, head of the Army academy's behavioral sciences and leadership department. "He took initiative, he took action, to establish institutional values in a situation where they were not operating."

36 years later we have what is being called another "breakdown in discipline" at Abu Ghraib. As with My Lai, the upper chain of command will not be held liable. Once again there is documentary evidence of war crimes. And, here in the USA, once again, you have the hawks defending the war criminals against those who stand up to it.

This is unfolding before our very eyes in Iraq. It isn't some abstract argument about war stories and faux heroism and who admitted to war crimes a generation ago. This is now.

If there was ever a time that a decorated Vietnam veteran who came home with the knowlege that the war was wrong and fought to end it, was called for to lead this country, it is now. This is not a distraction and it is not beside the point. It is the very essence of the debate in this election.

John Kerry may be the single most qualified man in the entire nation to be president at this moment in history.

Send Me

I just want to let everyone know that I am volunteering today as the public relations rep for the Drunken Stateside Sons of Privilege for Plausible Deniability. I understand them, I believe in their cause and I want to help them in any way I can. I wasn't there on those nights so long ago but I know many who would like to have been and I believe them.

I am an independent who has never had any interest in politics before so I come forward today purely out of patriotism. I have no connection whatsoever to the Kerry Campaign despite the fact that my blog is listed on their site. For now. I will not remember it ever having been there ---- unless you refresh my memory.

God bless America.

These Charges Are False

Compare the following to the bucket of warm spit that chickenshit Fred Hiatt published today in which he remains "troubled" (thanks Karen Hughes, that's just the word I was looking for!) by the fact that Kerry has been imprecise about the exact longitude and latitude of his trek across the Cambodian border on the Mekong River around Christmas 1968. (Psssst. I hear Vince Foster was there too.)

Here you have what is fast becoming the best editorial page in the country, run by Michael Kinsley. This is what editorials are for:

These Charges Are False ...

It's one thing for the presidential campaign to get nasty but quite another for it to engage in fabrication.

August 24, 2004

The technique President Bush is using against John F. Kerry was perfected by his father against Michael Dukakis in 1988, though its roots go back at least to Sen. Joseph McCarthy. It is: Bring a charge, however bogus. Make the charge simple: Dukakis "vetoed the Pledge of Allegiance"; Bill Clinton "raised taxes 128 times"; "there are [pick a number] Communists in the State Department." But make sure the supporting details are complicated and blurry enough to prevent easy refutation.

Then sit back and let the media do your work for you. Journalists have to report the charges, usually feel obliged to report the rebuttal, and often even attempt an analysis or assessment. But the canons of the profession prevent most journalists from saying outright: These charges are false. As a result, the voters are left with a general sense that there is some controversy over Dukakis' patriotism or Kerry's service in Vietnam. And they have been distracted from thinking about real issues (like the war going on now) by these laboratory concoctions.

It must be infuriating to the victims of this process to be given conflicting advice about how to deal with it from the same campaign press corps that keeps it going. The press has been telling Kerry: (a) Don't let charges sit around unanswered; and (b) stick to your issues: Don't let the other guy choose the turf.

At the moment, Kerry is being punished by the media for taking advice (b) and failing to take advice (a). There was plenty of talk on TV about what Kerry's failure to strike back said about whether he had the backbone for the job of president — and even when he did strike back, he was accused of not doing it soon enough. But what does Bush's acquiescence in the use of this issue say about whether he has the simple decency for the job of president?

Whether the Bush campaign is tied to the Swift boat campaign in the technical, legal sense that triggers the wrath of the campaign-spending reform law is not a very interesting question. The ridiculously named Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is being funded by conservative groups that interlock with Bush's world in various ways, just as MoveOn.org, which is running nasty ads about Bush's avoidance of service in Vietnam, is part of Kerry's general milieu.

More important, either man could shut down the groups working on his behalf if he wanted to. Kerry has denounced the MoveOn ads, with what degree of sincerity we can't know. Bush on Monday — finally — called for all ads by independent groups on both sides to be halted. He also said Kerry had "served admirably" in Vietnam. But he declined an invitation to condemn the Swift boat effort.

In both cases, the candidates are the reason the groups are in business. There is an important difference, though, between the side campaign being run for Kerry and the one for Bush. The pro-Kerry campaign is nasty and personal. The pro-Bush campaign is nasty, personal and false.

No informed person can seriously believe that Kerry fabricated evidence to win his military medals in Vietnam. His main accuser has been exposed as having said the opposite at the time, 35 years ago. Kerry is backed by almost all those who witnessed the events in question, as well as by documentation. His accusers have no evidence except their own dubious word.

Not limited by the conventions of our colleagues in the newsroom, we can say it outright: These charges against John Kerry are false. Or at least, there is no good evidence that they are true. George Bush, if he were a man of principle, would say the same thing.

Yep. There's negative campaigning and then there is character assassination, smears and dirty tricks. That the press is having such a difficult time sorting out the difference is one of the central problems with our country today. Indeed, it's killing us.

No Connection

An Army investigation into the Abu Ghraib prison scandal has found that military police dogs were used to frighten detained Iraqi teenagers as part of a sadistic game, one of many details in the forthcoming report that were provoking expressions of concern and disgust among Army officers briefed on the findings.

Earlier reports and photographs from the prison have indicated that unmuzzled military police dogs were used to intimidate detainees at Abu Ghraib, something the dog handlers have told investigators was sanctioned by top military intelligence officers there. But the new report, according to Pentagon sources, will show that MPs were using their animals to make juveniles -- as young as 15 years old -- urinate on themselves as part of a competition.

"There were two MP dog handlers who did use dogs to threaten kids detained at Abu Ghraib," said an Army officer familiar with the report, one of two investigations on detainee abuse scheduled for release this week. "It has nothing to do with interrogation. It was just them on their own being weird."

Bad apples rolling around all over the place. Nothing to do with interrogaton. It was just a couple of guys being weird:

Abu Ghraib memo says 'gloves are coming off'

In the months before the scandal broke over photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners, an intelligence supervisor at Abu Ghraib prison sent a memo to interrogators telling them "the gloves are coming off," regarding the treatment of detainees, a lawyer for one of the accused soldiers said yesterday.

Paul Bergrin, a lawyer for Javal S. Davis, who is scheduled to appear in court here today, said he received a copy of the memo from "clandestine sources" in the intelligence community and planned to introduce it into evidence today. Its authenticity could not be independently confirmed.

The memo appears to be the first known document to support contentions by several soldiers charged in the case that they were merely following directions from intelligence officers bent on "softening up" detainees for interrogation.

I keep hearing that John Kerry erroneously claimed that some soldiers committed war crimes in Vietnam under orders from superiors. That's impossible. This is America. We don't do that sort of thing.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Off Message

President Bush said on Monday that political advertisements run by a broad swath of independent groups should be stopped, including a television advertisement attacking Senator John Kerry's war record. But the White House quickly moved to insist that Mr. Bush had not meant in any way to single out the advertisement run by veterans opposed to Mr. Kerry.

I wrote earlier that the press doesn't understand what Bush is doing. He is supposed to simply condemn the ad with a wink and a nod because the CW is that the 527's give both campaigns a freebie on deniability. They can hardly bear it that he isn't following their script, so today they jumped on it when he went off his own message and they practically shoved the words in his mouth.

But, Bush does not want to condemn this ad and for good reason. If he did some of his staunchest supporters would think he was a pussy --- and that's the essence of what is going on here. Bush has to tear down veterans because he isn't one, but he can't do it himself. Bush just cracked under mildly difficult questioning and blurted out something he didn't mean to say.

Lawrence O'Donnell had an interesting analysis of this dynamic on Olberman last Friday that I think is interesting:

OLBERMANN: Let‘s talk response tactics, first. One of his crew mates from Vietnam said today that Kerry had been way too much of a gentleman and should have come out swinging earlier. Should he have?

O‘DONNELL: He could not tactically, in the presidential campaign, do it that way, Keith. I actually think both campaigns have handled this perfectly in their ways. What Kerry had to wait for is he had to wait for a linkage to President Bush. It would be unworthy of the nominee, the candidate, to be attacking somebody named John O‘Neill or someone involved in the Swift Boat controversy who no one in the country had ever heard of. John Kerry can only mount attacks against his opponent, George Bush, so what he needed was John McCain to come out and condemn the ads, which John McCain did, and then he needed John McCain to ask the president to condemn the ads, and then he needed, very much needed, the president not to condemn the ads, which the president did not do. Which by the way, parenthetically was a wise tactic for the president and his campaign.

Once that had occurred, Kerry needed one more thing. He needed to condemn an ad himself. And so, MoveOn.org provided that opportunity by doing an ad that was negative on President Bush‘s Vietnam non-military service in the National Guard. John Kerry, the nominee, then immediately condemns the Bush ad. That gives him an opportunity, within 48 hours of that, to call on President Bush to denounce the ad against John Kerry.

He could not have done that until he had all those ducks in a row. And then he also needed the investigative journalism that the “New York Times” and the “L.A. Times” and others have done to create a sensation, at least, of linkage to the Bush world and then blame the ad on President Bush.

John Kerry needed every one of those elements to be in place before he could level his attack and have it aimed specifically at one person, George Bush, his opponent.

OLBERMANN: And as the Kerry camp obviously tries to make this debate less about his service, what strategically does the president do next, A, to prevent that, B, to not look like he wrote the commercial and somebody‘s just been laundering the attack for him?

O‘DONNELL: It‘s very, very difficult to get a president to respond to anything. You see tonight, are footages of the president‘s spokesman responding to what Senator Kerry said. That‘s why the Kerry language now is getting more and more intense. They are trying to smoke out President Bush. They are trying to force it to the point where the traveling White House press corps must ask President Bush to respond to this.

President Bush really doesn‘t want to tactically, and tactically really should not, because the question to President Bush now that the Kerry campaign is trying to frame is, why don‘t you condemn the ads? President Bush doesn‘t want to condemn the ads because he then is, in effect, condemning a certain group of Vietnam veterans. He‘s not one of them, himself a Vietnam veteran, so it‘s difficult for him to do. He‘s also now doing better with veterans in polling in the current situation.

So, the best thing for President Bush to do is simply to say “I don‘t criticize John Kerry‘s record” and leave it at that and he‘s going to be forced on this question of “are you going to condemn it” and he‘s just going to have to continue to say no.

O'Donnell doesn't comment on one of the elements of the counterattack --- Bush's history of dirty campaigning beginning to come back to haunt him. That's the other side of the story. The NY Times story continues:

The president spoke on a day when Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, in another indication of its web of ties to the Republican Party, acknowledged that a woman who helped set it up and works for it is an officer of the Majority Leader's Fund, a political action committee affiliated with the former House majority leader Dick Armey of Texas.

The name of the woman, Susan Arceneaux, is given as the contact person on the post office box that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth lists as its address. She is treasurer of the Majority Leader's Fund. Records show that like Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group receives significant financing from Bob Perry, a Texan who has long supported Mr. Bush, and his company, as well as Sam and Charles Wyly, prominent Texas Republican donors. Sam Wyly, under the name "Republicans for Clean Air,'' took out advertisements in 2000 criticizing the environmental record of Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona.

Mr. Perry has donated $200,000 to the Swift boat group, records show, and Merrie Spaeth, a Republican strategist who has been advising the Swift boat group, was a spokeswoman for Sam Wyly's advertising campaign in 2000.

Every day of the tit for tat is risky for both sides. But, I tend to think that Kerry losing the veterans is a lot less fatal than Bush losing the independents who don't like dirty campaigning. We'll see.


Great moments in headlines written with a straight face ... or, the never ending decline of CNN. Right now -- 5:59 PM -- CNN headline: "Bush urges Kerry to condemn attack ads."

Can you believe it? Not only is that completely ridiculous, but Bush didn't really even condemn the ad himself. He went off message for a second under the extremely unusual experience of the press putting the tiniest bit of pressure on him. Please. Does this really sound like he's condemning that ad?

QUESTION: But why won't you denounce the charges that your supporters are making against Kerry?

BUSH: I'm denouncing all the stuff being on TV, all the 527s. That's what I've said.

I said this kind of unregulated soft money is wrong for the process. And I asked Senator Kerry to join me in getting rid of all that kind of soft money, not only on TV, but to use for other purposes as well.

I, frankly, thought we'd gotten rid of that when I signed the McCain-Feingold bill. I thought we were going to once and for all get rid of a system where people could just pour tons of money in and not be held to account for the advertising.

And so, I'm disappointed with all those kinds of ads.

QUESTION: This doesn't have anything to do with other 527 ads. You've been accused of mounting a smear campaign.

Do you think Senator Kerry lied about his war record?

BUSH: I think Senator Kerry served admirably and he ought to be proud of his record.

But the question is who best to lead the country in the war on terror? Who can handle the responsibilities of the commander in chief? Who's got a clear vision of the risks that the country faces?

QUESTION: Some Republicans such as Bob Dole and some Republican donors such as Bob Perry have contributed and endorsed the message of those 527 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads.

QUESTION: When you say that you want to stop all...

BUSH: All of them.

QUESTION: So, I mean...

BUSH: That means that ad, every other ad.


BUSH: Absolutely. I don't think we ought to have 527s.

I can't be more plain about it. And I wish -- I hope my opponent joins me in saying -- condemning these activities of the 527s. It's -- I think they're bad for the system. That's why I signed the bill, McCain-Feingold.

I've been disappointed that for the first, you know, six months of this year, 527s were just pouring tons of money -- billionaires writing checks. And, you know, I spoke out against them early. I tried to get others to speak out against them as well. And I just don't -- I think they're bad for the system.

Note to press corpse: If you would have tried to get Bush off his robotic message on real issues with even a smidgen of this energy these last three years, we might not have large numbers of people being blown up in Iraq as we speak. Sleep well tonight.

Un Danseur de Chippendales

Christopher Hitchens thinks that John Kerry shouldn't have released that picture of himself and William Rood in Vietnam because the fact that he is carrying a rocket launcher makes him look like a "complete poseur." That's french for phony.

If that was phony, what then could possibly be the french word for this:



To embroider a phrase from Mr. J, I weep for my profession when I see that God is just.

It has been made abundantly clear -- most recently, by Mr. Rood of the Chicago Tribune and by the invaluable Joe Galloway of Knight-Ridder -- that these Swift Boat characters are dealing in public lies. The day before, it was the NYT. The day before that, the Washington Post. We've had people outed as Republican operatives, disparaging war wounds they never saw, asserting as fact things they never witnessed, and ultimately calumnizing their own heroism. By all standard measures, this story should be over, and these people consigned to that same Phantom Zone where was dispatched that poor guy who wrote "Fortunate Son" in 2000. Can any fair person maintain that John O'Neill and the rest of the Chuck Colson Flotilla have any more credibility at this point than poor Hatfield had?

However, they live.



The print media, God love it, has done so thorough a debunking of these guys that you'd expect to hear a couple of them on Art Bell's program late one night. But because the "issue" and the "controversy" make good television theater, they must be kept alive. Which is why, the next time you see, say, Norah O'Donnell, down by the phony barn on the phony ranch, and she tells you how remarkable it is that the ads are "having an effect" despite the fact that the actual buy was so low, you should feel free to excuse yourself and go vomit in the corner. The original ad contained substantially less truth than the Hitler Diaries, but it was run anyway, over and over again, in news pieces about the "issue" and on argument shows dealing with the "controversy." In other words, television news gave up a substantial portion of its "news hole" this week to information that the people running the news operations had to know were demonstrable lies.

This is what you get. This is what you get when you get bullied by Mr. Murdoch's toy network into running an interview in which a woman makes unsubstantiated charges of rape against a sitting president, and this is what you get when you get played like a tin piano by a decades-long dirty-tricks campaign that culminated in an impeachment, and you couldn't report on the former because you were in the tank to the people bringing the latter. This is what you get when you loan your hard-won credibility to hacks and charlatans. This is what happens when you sell your craft out to celebrity, when being good on television is more important than being good at your job, when unconscionable slander is reckoned as genius because it moves the Nielsen needle. This is what happens when sneering schoolyard invective is reckoned to be actual talent because it comes with a Q rating. (Have a nice day, Tucker.) This is what happens when you run scared. Truth, literally, comes to matter not at all.

And, come Friday, with the Swift Boat ad in tatters in most major newspapers, what did HARDBALL do? It ran a segment attempting to rehabilitate the credibility of Michelle Malkin, a complete fake whose new book on the internment of Japanese-Americans has been stomped into a mudhole by the scholars who have done the real work on her topic, and who had come on the very same program the night before and made an idiot of herself. And who was adjudged to be worthy of being on national television to defend her?

John Fund.

It is to weep.

I don't know about the print guys either, Charles, but maybe they just act this way when they go on TV:

DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST: Oh, sure. I mean, I think we've been completely used in this by both sides. Just a few dollars, really, being spent in terms of the overall campaign war. In one of these cases, we're talking about an ad that hasn't even run yet, and then we're also talking about a response ad that Kerry put out on the Internet, which they basically spent nothing for, but it's getting attention on all the networks.

So we're completely allowing this whole issue to dominate the news. I mean, part of that's just that it's being August and there's not a lot else going on before the convention.

Yes. The Kerry people are ruthlessly using the poor media to get out their message rebutting the attacks that the poor media was so willing to shill for the Bush administration.

You know, I think this may not actually be a matter of lack of character or conscience. I think it may be more like a medical problem. They can't help themselves. They jones for action and the Repubicans know how to give it to them. Blood in the water makes them high. They aren't journalists, they just pretend to be. They are junkies, hooked on trivia, stimulation and scandal. They enable these tabloid smear tactics because the corporations provide them with their works and the Republicans give them their fix. They cover for their addiction to GOP nasty by finding false comparisons between the two parties so that the public won't cut them off from their source.

The press desperately needs an intervention.

It's Self-defense

The swift boat veterans who hate John Kerry have all come forward to tell the story of his Machiavelian ability to fraudulently, and in concert with large numbers of naval officers all the way up the chain of command, gain for himself a spotless record of heroism and valor during Vietnam.

John Kerry claims that this is a dirty trick on behalf of the Bush administration. But, what he fails to mention is that this was merely justifiable retaliation for a sickening smear set forth by some very ugly undercover Democrat operatives who some months ago went on the shadowy National Public Radio to call into question president Bush's heroism in Operation Blount during his valorous stint in the National Guard.

Those days were frought with stress and pain for all concerned. Who knew who was the enemy and who was not? People had taken to the streets in Washington DC, while the battle raged in far flug locales. It was men like Lt. George W Bush who manned the front lines, taking the heat to protect democracy. Why should his supreme sacrifice for his country be fair game for those who would stoop to destroy the reputation of an American hero for mere political gain? Is nothing sacred?

Via Brad DeLong

This campaign season, there have been questions about whether George W. Bush fulfilled his obligations to the National Guard as a young lieutenant in the early 1970s. For weeks, reporters scoured Alabama in search of pilots or anyone who might have remembered seeing Mr. Bush at the time he was serving in the National Guard there. There is one place in Alabama where Mr. Bush was present nearly every day: the headquarters in Montgomery of US Senate candidate Winton "Red" Blount. President Bush has always said that working for Blount was the reason he transferred to the Alabama Air National Guard. NPR's Wade Goodwyn has this report about Mr. Bush's time on that campaign.

WADE GOODWYN reporting:

In 1972, Baba Groom was a smart, funny young woman smack-dab in the middle of an exciting US Senate campaign. Groom was Republican Red Blount's scheduler, and in that job, she was the hub in the campaign wheel. Ask her about the handsome young man from Texas, and she remembers him 32 years later like it was yesterday.

Ms. BABA GROOM (Former Campaign Worker): He would wear khaki trousers and some old jacket. He was always ready to go out on the road. On the phone, you could hear his accent. It was a Texas accent. But he just melded with everybody.

GOODWYN: The candidate Mr. Bush was working for, Red Blount, had gotten rich in Alabama in the construction business. Prominent Southern Republicans were something of a rare breed in those days. Blount's support of the party led him to be appointed Richard Nixon's postmaster general. In Washington, Blount became friends and tennis partners with Mr. Bush's father, then Congressman Bush. That was how 26-year-old Lieutenant Bush came to Montgomery, at his father's urging . . . It was Mr. Bush's job to organize the Republican county chairpersons in the 67 Alabama counties. Back in 1972 in the Deep South, many rural counties didn't have much in the way of official Republican Party apparatus. But throughout Alabama, there were Republicans and Democrats who wanted to help Red Blount. It was the young Texan's job to find out what each county leader needed in the way of campaign supplies and get those supplies to them. Groom says this job helped Mr. Bush understand how even in a statewide Senate campaign, politics are local.

. . . Murph Archibald is Red Blount's nephew by marriage, and in 1972, he was coming off a 15-month tour in Vietnam in the infantry. Archibald says that in a campaign full of dedicated workers, Mr. Bush was not one of them.

Mr. MURPH ARCHIBALD (Nephew of Red Blount): Well, I was coming in early in the morning and leaving in mid-evenings. Ordinarily, George would come in around noon; he would ordinarily leave around 5:30 or 6:00 in the evening.

GOODWYN: Archibald says that two months before the election, in September of '72, Red Blount's campaign manager came to him and asked that he quietly take over Mr. Bush's job because the campaign materials were not getting out to the counties.

Mr. ARCHIBALD: George certainly didn't seem to have any concerns about my taking over this work with the campaign workers there. My overall impression was that he didn't seem as interested in the campaign as the other people who were working at the state headquarters.

GOODWYN: Murph Archibald says that at first, he didn't know that Mr. Bush was serving in the Air National Guard. After he found out from somebody else, Archibald attempted to talk to Mr. Bush about it. The president was a lieutenant and Archibald had been a lieutenant, too; he figured they had something to talk about.

Mr. ARCHIBALD: George didn't have any interest at all in talking about the military. In fact, when I broached the subject with him, he simply changed the subject. He wasn't unpleasant about it, but he just changed the subject and wouldn't talk about it.

GOODWYN: Far from Texas and Washington, DC, Mr. Bush enjoyed his freedom. He dated a beautiful young woman working on the campaign. He went out in the evenings and had a good time. In fact, he left the house he rented in such disrepair--with damage to the walls and a chandelier destroyed--that the Montgomery family who owned it still grumble about the unpaid repair bill. Archibald says Mr. Bush would come into the office and, in a friendly way, offer up stories about the drinking he'd done the night before, kind of as a conversation starter.

Mr. ARCHIBALD: People have different ways of starting the days in any office. They're going to talk about their kids, they're going to talk about football, they're going to talk about the weather. And this was simply his opening gambit; he would start talking about that he had been out late the night before drinking.

GOODWYN: Archibald says the frequency with which Mr. Bush discussed the subject was off-putting to him.

Mr. ARCHIBALD: I mean, at that time, I was 28; George would have been 25 or 26. And I thought it was really unusual that someone in their mid-20s would initiate conversations, particularly in the context of something as serious as a US senatorial campaign, by talking about their drinking the night before. I thought it unusual and, frankly, inappropriate.

GOODWYN: According to Archibald, Mr. Bush would also sometimes tell stories about his days at Yale in New Haven, and how whenever he got pulled over for erratic driving, he was let go after the officers discovered he was the grandson of a Connecticut US senator. Archibald, a middle-class Alabama boy--who, by the way, is now a registered Democrat--didn't like that story.

Mr. ARCHIBALD: He told us whenever he was stopped, as soon as the law enforcement found out that he was the grandson of Prescott Bush, they would let him go. And he would always laugh about that. "

Sunday, August 22, 2004

The Action Is The Juice

Lambert's got a barn burning post up today that's well worth reading. But I take issue with one of the central points of his thesis which basically comes down to the a belief that the Democrats only have themsleves to blame for the political situation we are now in. I disagree. It's not because of self-inflicted wounds --- it's because we are dealing with a particular brand of thuggish assassin that is difficult to reconcile with democracy.

Clinton was being hounded about all kinds of trumped up garbage long before Monica came into the picture. He would have been tarred as the corrupt whitewater, chinese espionage, lincoln bedroom hippie whether he gave himself that "self-inflicted" blowjob or not. And he fought back like a champ but it doesn't matter when you are dealing with people who have no use for truth or reality. You don't have to actually do anything with these people. They'll just make shit up. Smear tactics, which are by definition untrue, are the most lethal tool in the character assassins' arsenal and the Republicans are worse than the Borgias when it comes to using them.

I don't mean to be too critical, but I think it is a serious misreading of the challenge we face to put the blame for the state of our politics on the alleged shortcomings of our own leaders. We are at a big disadvantage in this game because we have at least a modicum of decency and while I agree that we very likely are going to have to give that up, I don't think it's a failure of nerve to at least have tried to keep our political system from totally turning into a sewer. The path on which we are now forced to go is one that is bound to taint all of us. I'm not sorry we have taken it reluctantly.

But, I am very nervous that if this attitude remains, and it is quite widespread, we are going to see Democrats once again making the Republican case for them when Kerry gets in office by joining the chorus and calling him "french" for trying to govern in an extremely hostile environment.

This is where we go wrong. If Bush has proven anything, it's that we are in an era in which actual ideology and policy, even power --- even winning --- isn't the point to the Republicans. They are about the fight. It's the game, the argument, the battle. They get off on the political combat. For them, the action is the juice, win or lose. (And one of the reasons they've been so successful at co-opting the media is because the media thrives on the same juice.)

Just fighting back isn't going to solve that problem. Indeed, over the long haul, it's likely to result in failure if that's all we do. They love fighting a lot more than we do. And losing doesn't dull their bloodlust, it engages it. We need to think of a more sophisticated battle plan.

Off the top of my head, the first one to come to mind is divide and conquer. Perhaps it's time we formed a religious group that is anti-abortion and for school prayer, but is adamantly against corporate materialism. Or a libertarian GOP front group that wants to purge the party of the religious right. Perhaps if we could set off a civil war among the Republicans we could cure them of their love of political battle. Civil wars often do. But, that's just an idea. Whatever we do, I think hand to hand combat and bomb throwing is a loser for us over time. It just feeds them.

I don't dispute that appeals to reason have been exhausted. And I don't say that Kerry shouldn't fight by any means necessary in this election. It's vitally important that we get institutional power out of their hands. (Indeed, many may secretly want us to. The fight is not as satisfying when you hold all the power and we have become quite adept at cleaning up their messes.)

But, blaming ourselves for the state of play or deluding ourselves into thinking it's just a matter of "being tough" is to misunderstand what we are facing. It's a primitive force with post-modern tools in its hands and we'd better start looking at this thing for what it is instead of seeing ourselves as simply inept. Winning won't change anything. As long as the fight continues, they are getting exactly what they want.

Good Day

Everybody should feel a tiny bit better about the swift boat smear --- for this morning, at least. Here are the headlines as of this morning on the Google News site.

Bush campaign fires adviser on veterans issues

Bush Campaign Aide Resigns Amid Controversy Over Campaign Ads

Kerry returns fire over Vietnam

Bush drops adviser tied to group

Swift Boat member skips rally over fliers at Bush campaign office

Kerry Camp Tries to Thwart Negative Swift Boat Ads

Kerry, Dodging Charges Over Vietnam, Returns Fire

Veteran backs Kerry on Vietnam

First-Hand Account Backs Up Kerry on Vietnam War Controversy

Vietnam vet backs Kerry's war deeds

Hatred drives anti-Kerry claims

Big Backing For Kerry In Ad Wars

Kerry: Slo-Mo on Swifties

Ad Fight Bogs Down White House Race

Tribune editor says critics got it wrong

Kerry calls on Bush to stop personal attacks

Swift boat vet goes public to back Kerry

Another war veteran backs Kerry's story

Kerry fires back over Vietnam charges

Bush Campaign Drops Swift Boat Ad Figure

Witness confirms that Kerry rescued soldier under fire

Participant in mission, documents support Kerry's war claim

Vietnam veteran comes to Kerry's defence

Bronze Star battle stokes hot tempers

Anti-Kerry ads have GOP links

For today at least, it's advantage Kerry. But, it's just a tiny skirmish in a bigger battle.

It is possible that we are seeing a little ropa-a-dope here in which Kerry takes some blows throughout the dog days of August when he has little money to spend on his own. He appears to be building a case against Bush's dirty campaign tactics. Over and over again for the next week heading into the convention, I suspect he will step up the calls for Bush to stop the madness. They'll refuse. The bored and predictable media will hopefully be asking all these GOP conventioneers if they disavow the ads, so the issue of dirty tricks and Republican funding stays on the front burner. Then on September 1st as they head out of their NYC lovefest,and the country is really paying attention, Kerry hits them right between the eyes.

He explains to the press that he tried and tried to be reasonable. He asked them politely to stop the smears and the dirty tricks. They wouldn't listen. The Bush campaign has no one to blame but themselves. He had no choice.

It's a metaphor for mature leadership.

But who the hell knows? A presidential campaign is a seat of the pants operation that has to be able to change from day to day as circumstances require. They calibrate this stuff carefully according to polling and focus groups in important regions. They may find that Bush is falling behind in which case there is no reason to nuclear. If, however, this smear operation really erodes Kery's support among undecideds (the base is with him no matter what) then I think we'll see some ads directly attacking Bush on his leadership.

I would love to see that, but only if it helps the cause. Emotional satisfaction is nice but ultimately irrelevant. Fighting back does not mean flailing about aimlessly, it means landing blows. And sometimes that means waiting for the right opening.

But, if it comes down to showing Junior reading "My Pet Goat" then I say let-er-rip. That's the essense of the choice in this election and it's at the bottom of Rove's plan to tear down Kerry's war record and his senate career and the snotty asides about "frenchness." This election is really about the underlying discomfort many people feel with Bush's leadership. If it ends up that Kerry has to spell this out to the idiot swing voters in Ohio in no uncertain terms then that's what he'll do.

Combatting smears is very, very difficult. It is almost impossible, as a matter of fact, when you have a compliant media that wants to be "fair and balanced" to the point where they would give Hitler equal time to make his case against the jews.

Everybody acts like there is some magic formula and there just isn't. You slog through it by the the force of your own strength and talent like Clinton did, you try to change the subject or you go completely nuclear on the other guy. That's it. All three strategies have big risks attached. There is no easy way out and even if it works, people rarely appreciate you for it.

When Howard Dean said to a shocked and appalled Candy Crowley at the Democratic convention that this wa going to be the dirtiest campaign in history, he was right. But, there's more to fighting a smear than simply fighting dirty. You have to fight better and smarter. That's the challenge. Over these next two months we're going to see if Kerry has the right stuff. This is where the game really begins.

One More Thing:

There are two sites that are tracking the swift boat story very thoroughly and in different ways:

Bookmark eriposte and Daily Beast for the full compendium. And I think we can continue to help by sending this stuff to the media and getting it disseminated through the big message boards like DU, Smirking Chimp, Bartcop etc.

Dole-ful Loser

That despicable old fuck Bob Dole is on Blitzer complaining about Kerry's purple hearts and backing up the Swift Boat liars.

What gall:

IMAGINE IF supporters of Bill Clinton had tried in 1996 to besmirch the military record of his opponent, Bob Dole. After all, Dole was given a Purple Heart for a leg scratch probably caused, according to one biographer, when a hand grenade thrown by one of his own men bounced off a tree. And while the serious injuries Dole sustained later surely came from German fire, did the episode demonstrate heroism on Dole's part or a reckless move that ended up killing his radioman and endangering the sergeant who dragged Dole off the field?

I had developed a ittle fondness for the scumbag over the past few years because he seemed kind of a doddering anachronism that reminded me of the old school Republican assholes. But, I stupidly forgot that he was one of the original hatchet men, the Prince of Fucking Darkness during the 70's and he's still in form today.

Damn, every single time I get the least bit sentimental and let down my guard on one of these wingnuts they remind me that none of them have any goddamned shame.

Drop A Dime On LuLu

Can Michele Malkin be any more stupid? I don't actually think it's possible:

Blogger Rusty Shackleford highlights American hackers who took down a website apparently owned and operated by Abu al Zarqawi.

Rusty comments:

The CIA/FBI are making a major mistake allowing these sites to be kept up. The reason? This is war. In a war you take away propaganda outlets from the enemy. Yes, they may help us track down al Qaeda elements, but that is just the point. Tracking down and arresting al Qaeda is a police function. Treating the War on Terror as a police matter is Clintonesque and is what got us 9/11. We need to shut all these sites down. They are valuable tools for the enemy...

He adds that the hackers, who identified themselves as "TeaMz UsA," missed a page on Zarqawi's site:

Unfortunately the crew at 'TeaMz UsA' missed a page. I have the URL and am more than glad to share it with any hacker who thinks they can take down the page. Just e-mail me anonymously at mypetjawa-at-yahoo-dot-com. Calling all hackers with a little free time this Sunday afternoon...

Yeah. I want to trust Malkin and the 101st keyboarders to take charge of counter terrorism.

I don't suppose it occurred to any of these morons that the CIA and the FBI may have had a reason for leaving these web sites up and running? I think they might expect a little visit. Malkin should get one too. You are supposed to report terrorist activities to the authorities, not take the law in your own hands. In fact, it's a crime and a big one.

Via Catch

Compelled To Speak Out

As with Mr. Rood yesterday, via Susie, I see we have another eyewitness coming forward and disputing the swift boat lies.

Dear Editor,

This letter is in response to the new attacks on John Kerry's war record by a group calling itself the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." As for most veterans of any war and as people who know me will testify, it is not easy for me to talk about my experiences in Vietnam. However, because of these new ads and, I understand, a new book recently published by an old Charles Colson "Enemies List" hit man, I feel compelled to speak out. Unfortunately, the veterans featured in these attacks are being used by extreme right wing Bush supporters to spread their lies and malign John Kerry.

I feel that most of these veterans who are joining this attack are against Kerry for what he did after he was home from the war than for what he did in the war. If they are against him for his stance against the Vietnam War, that certainly is their right, but to spread lies and malicious innuendos about his time on the rivers of Vietnam is not morally right and does a disservice not only to Kerry, but to all those who served and were wounded or died in that war. The people who are using these veterans for their own means obviously do not care about that. They did the same thing to Senator John McCain and Congressman Max Cleland in 2000 with no remorse or care for the consequences.

To me what is worse is that by their silence, the current administration has not, with any real meaning, disavowed itself or distanced itself in anyway from any of these scurrilous attacks, past or present. I feel that this truly shows the Bush administration for what they really are and ultimately, who is truly responsible for these attacks.

Since I happened to be along on one of the "excursions" where the boats that we were on were attacked and after which Lt. Kerry was cited for valor, I thought it appropriate to give my recollection of that event. This happened on March 13, 1969. I was assigned as Psychological Operation Officer for the Swift Boat group out of An Thoi, Vietnam, from January 1969 to October 1969. As such, I was on No. 43 boat, skippered by Don Droz who was later that year killed by enemy fire. We were second in line while exiting the river and going through the opening in a fish trap when a mine blew up under the No. 3 boat directly in front of us and we started taking small arms fire from the beach. Almost immediately, another mine went off somewhere behind us. All boats, except the one hit, immediately wheeled toward the beach that most of the fire came from (a tactic devised by Lt. Kerry, I later learned) and commenced showering the beaches with so much lead, that it could probably be now mined there. The noise was of course, deafening.

Three things that are forever pictured in my mind since that day over 30 years ago are: (1) The No. 3, 50-foot long, Swift boat getting huge, huge air; John Kerry thought it was about two feet. (He was farther away from it than I). I think it was at least four feet and probably closer to six feet; (2) All the boats turning left and letting loose at the same time like a deadly, choreographed dance and; (3) A few minutes later, John Kerry bending over his boat picking up one of the rangers that we were ferrying from out of the water. All the time we were taking small arms fire from the beach; although because of our fusillade into the jungle, I don't think it was very accurate, thank God. Anyone who doesn't think that we were being fired upon must have been on a different river.

The picture I have in my mind of Kerry bending over from his boat picking some hapless guy out of the river while all hell was breaking loose around us, is a picture based on fact and it cannot be disputed or changed. It's a piece of history drawn in my mind that cannot be redrawn. Sorry, "Swift Boats Veterans for the Truth"- that is the truth.

To say that John Kerry or any of us were on that river to intentionally collect Purple Hearts really does every soldier and sailor, past and present, a disservice. We were going up those rivers (with an ongoing casualty rate of 86 percent at the time) on the orders of the same people who approved of Kerry's medals and who are now joining in the attacks against Kerry. Unbelievable.

I would hope that the American public sees these evil extreme right wing attacks for what they really are and also pray that the veterans being used by these unpatriotic right wing extremist political operatives will divorce themselves immediately from them and speak to the real issues as to why they oppose John Kerry. I just don't understand how anyone can align themselves with those who intentionally and gleefully painted a decorated triple amputee (Max Cleland) from Vietnam as unpatriotic. I think that this is the most disastrous, un-American thing that can be done to our servicemen and women, especially now with another unending war going on. Your ends cannot possibly justify these means. Come on!

Jim Russell

Vietnam veteran,

USN (1966-71)

I forwarded this to the usual suspects in the media and Michael Dodd at the Washington Post.

The thing about this testimony, and that of Rood yesterday, is that these people were on the scene. One of the most underreported aspect of this whole slime has been that the only "eye witnesses" have been discredited by their own past statements and every piece of the record. All the other testimony is "I believe my buddies" hearsay.

Shifting the Debate

Blitzer led with the Cordier resignation (whom he calls an "advisor") this morning on Late Edition which means that the controversy seems to have shifted a bit to Bush's dirty tricks and the FEC complaint and away from Kerry's alleged Machiavellian ability to get the Navy to corrupt itself at every level. Russert was all over the dirty campaigning angle this morning.

If Kerry can get the debate on to that turf he will have accomplished what he needed to do. So far today, it's working. I'm not seeing the POW ad and I'm hearing an awful lot about rich Texas donors and McCain in 2000 and patterns of deceit.

One day at a time.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Friendly Reminder on a Saturday Night (thank you too, Julia)

This is why the Swift Boat Liars have been mobilized:

Bush on Bush

"I'm saying to myself, 'What do I want to do?' I think I don't want to be an infantry guy as a private in Vietnam. What I do decide to want to do is learn to fly."

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, 1989

"I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes."

Dallas Morning News, Feb. 25, 1990

"I don't want to play like I was somebody out there marching when I wasn't. It was either Canada or the service. ... Somebody said the Guard was looking for pilots. All I know is, there weren't that many people trying to be pilots."

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Nov. 29, 1998

The Few, the Proud, the Chickenhawk

Who Us?

CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - A Vietnam veteran who worked with President Bush (news - web sites)'s campaign has left over his appearance in a commercial by a group challenging Democratic candidate John Kerry (news - web sites)'s war record, a campaign spokesman said on Saturday.

Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said Ken Cordier was a Bush supporter during the 2000 election and served as a member of his a steering committee to help reach out to veterans during this election.

"Col. Cordier did not inform the campaign of his involvement in the advertisement being run by (Swift Boat Veterans for Truth)," Schmidt said. "Because of his involvement with this 527 (group), Col. Cordier will no longer participate" in the steering committee.

The disclosure of Cordier's involvement came one day after White House spokesman Scott McClellan and Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot denied the campaign coordinated with the group on the ads, which claim that Kerry lied about his Vietnam War service.

Kerry has called the ads inaccurate and accused the group of being a front for the Bush campaign. On Friday the Kerry campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (news - web sites) seeking to force the ads' withdrawal.

New advertisements by the group are set to debut next week in states where Kerry has touted his military service. Kerry won several medals and his record is often contrasted with Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard during the war.

McClellan has refused to specifically condemn the ads and instead has urged Kerry to join Bush in calling for an end to all commercials funded by unrestricted donations.

U.S. advocacy groups can collect vast sums of money to run their own political advertisements but are barred from coordinating their activities with campaigns or political parties.

"There seems to be an increasing amount of evidence that the Bush campaign is behind this," Kerry campaign spokesman Phil Singer said. "So it's no surprise that the president refuses to condemn these scurrilous ads."

No kidding.


I like CNN's headline better:

Bush adviser quits after appearing in swift boat ad

Kerry has accused group of illegally working with campaign

Saturday, August 21, 2004 Posted: 11:43 PM EDT (0343 GMT)

ROANOKE, Virginia (CNN) -- A volunteer adviser has quit President Bush's re-election campaign after appearing in a veterans group's television commercial blasting Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's involvement in the Vietnam-era antiwar movement.

A Bush campaign statement said it did not know that retired Air Force Col. Ken Cordier had appeared in an ad by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The Kerry campaign has accused the group of illegally working with the Bush campaign.


The RNC lawyers seem to have forgotten to tell their local patriots to ixnay on the wift-boat-say on their official sites,too:

Patriotboy has a screenshot of the Collier County Republican Central Committee soliciting funds for the Swift Boat Liars.

Uh, and it's still on their web site right now at 3:45 PDT on August 21, 2004. Check it out.

The last google cache they have is for August 10th, but they were featuring the book "Unfit For Command" and the Swift Boat ad ready for viewing right up front then, too.


In the post below, I highlighted something that I haven't seen anyone comment upon. This ex-POW, Kenneth Cordier, a man who has held other POW's to account for accepting early release from the North Vietnamese as traitors, is the subject of a letter to the editor in the Dallas Morning News as follows:

"Last month, a lone bagpiper marched to the tune of "Amazing Grace" as silence fell over the distinguished guests, choir, color guard and the veterans and families who came to dedicate the Irving Veteran's Memorial Park honoring those who gave "the last full measure of devotion" to their nation.

Unfortunately, one of the invested [sic] guests, retired Air Force Col. Ken Cordier, a decorated former Vietnam POW and experienced speaker, chose to politicize this solemn event. In an attempt at levity, he defended the pulling of ladies' panties over the faces of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. interrogators at Abu Ghraib as preferable to beheading. His inappropriate, Limbaughistic comments detracted from the reverence and purpose of this event.

Richard A. Widener, Irving”


Of all the people to make mock of the depravity visited upon those prisoners at Abu Ghraib, a former POW is the last one I'd expect to see doing it. I wonder if he will find it so amusing when our guys are imprisoned and sexually humiliated in the future. I suppose he will counsel the prisoners and their families to comfort themselves with the fact that "at least it wasn't a beheading."

30 year old bitterness and rage is a very ugly thing and I think we are seeing how it can warp some people into a twisted version of their former selves. In some ways these guys are to be pitied. That war messed them up so badly they apparently lost their humanity.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Update 8/21:

The cache has now updated to today. Here's a link to the screen capture of the August 19 page. Thousands of others have archived it as well. In fact, I'm reliably told that Olberman showed it on his show this evening. As Cokie Roberts memorably said "It's out there."

Nothing To See Here

I wonder if its appropriate for Ken Cordier, a member of the Veterans For Bush-Cheney '04 steering committee to appear in the new "unaffiliated" "independent" 527 Swift Boat Liars For Bush ad?

Of course you will only see his name if you google the cached version (linked above) of the page on the Bush-Cheney web site. Oddly, the current page doesn't list his name.

Now I'm certain this fine gentleman who has chosen to sell out his good name and reputation by joining a filthy smear operaton like Scumbag Liars For Bush would never coordinate with the campaign just because he also served as one of the Vice-Chairs Of Veterans For Bush-Cheney National Coalition in the 2000 camapign (pdf) and then was named to Bush's VA-POW advisory committee.

But some might think it doesn't look quite kosher. In fact, some might think it looks downright illegal.


The campaign is already on to this and has sent out the following press release. What they didn't have, however, was this Google cache which shows that Cordier was listed as a member of the Bush-Cheney campaign until August 19th. (And, by the way, in case it's escaped anyone's notice, Mr Cordier has a Frenchman in the woodpile.)

Public records reveal that two of the people in the new "Swift Boat Veterans for Bush" television ad are Republican activists, as the fact sheet below shows. This is just more proof that Bush's Republican allies are the ones behind this disgraceful smear of John Kerry's military record. It's pretty clear what's going on here. It's no wonder the Bush campaign refuses to condemn this smear.


PARTISAN: Another Texas Republican Donor

Republican Party of Dallas County

RNC/Repub National State Elections Cmte

Hutchison, Kay Bailey



PARTISAN: “Despised” LBJ
“The procession ended just before the 1968 presidential election when the United States stopped its bombing campaign. ‘I remember that was the worst day of my life’ because the POWs' treatment worsened and they felt forgotten by their government, Col. Cordier said. He "despised" Lyndon Johnson for his war policies.” [Dallas Morning News, 11/10/03]

PARTISAN: Bush Administration Ties
He is a member of a Bush administration advisory panel on veterans’ issues.

[“VA Announces Membership of POW Advisory Committee,” PR Newswire, 4/17/02;

PARTISAN: Open About His Conservative Political Views
“Col. Cordier (pronounced core-dee-AY) still wears his conservatism on his sleeve and doesn't hold back in his appraisals of more liberal approaches “[Dallas Morning News, 11/10/03]

JUDGEMENT: Defending Abu Gharib Abuses?
” Inappropriate remarks: Last month, a lone bagpiper marched to the tune of "Amazing Grace" as silence fell over the distinguished guests, choir, color guard and the veterans and families who came to dedicate the Irving Veteran's Memorial Park honoring those who gave "the last full measure of devotion" to their nation. Unfortunately, one of the invested guests, retired Air Force Col. Ken Cordier, a decorated former Vietnam POW and experienced speaker, chose to politicize this solemn event. In an attempt at levity, he defended the pulling of ladies' panties over the faces of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. interrogators at Abu Ghraib as preferable to beheading. His inappropriate, Limbaughistic comments detracted from the reverence and purpose of this event. Richard A. Widener, Irving” [THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 6/13/04]

JUDGEMENT: Said Fellow POW Was “A Traitor”
Talking about POWs who were released early: “According to Cordier, Low ‘is a traitor to the other prisoners of war" for accepting premature release on July 18, 1968.’” [Air Force Times, 11/3/03]

INCONSISTENCY: Doesn’t Remember Kerry Being Invoked In Vietnam
“Cordier, now living in Texas, doesn't recall Kerry's name specifically being used in interrogations, propaganda broadcasts by Hanoi Hannah (Radio Vietnam) or during "attitude checks" -- political indoctrination sessions -- since Kerry was then not a household name. But he said he does remember the North Vietnamese using the so-called Winter Soldier investigations and photographs of war veterans, both real and imposters, throwing military medals over the White House fence.” [UPI, 8/3/04]

PARTISAN: Questioned Normalization Under Clinton And Wished Bush Would Win
“Said he questioned the president's motives and the appropriateness of the visit at this time. He predicts that the next administration, which he presumes will be headed by Texas Gov. George W. Bush, will engage more in "carrot and stick diplomacy" with the Vietnamese government, offering "generous rewards" for concessions” [Dallas Morning News, 11/19/00]


JUDGEMENT: Wanted To Ban Draft Dodgers From Public Colleges
“A House of Delegates committee yesterday killed a bill sponsored by Del. Warren E. Barry (R-Fairfax) that would have directed Virginia's state colleges not to admit any young man who failed to register for the draft. Barry appeared before the Education Committee along with a former Navy flier, Paul Galanti of Richmond, who had spent seven years as a North Vietnamese prisoner of war, but the panel nonetheless killed his idea for the second year in a row, this time by a vote of 12 to 8.” [Washington Post, 2/5/83]

JUDGEMENT: Called Conservative Christians “Sheep”
"They probably called their little followers. They vote on that one issue. They call them sheep. That's exactly what they are." -Paul Galanti, McCain's Virginia campaign co-chairman, on the backlash by Virginia's conservative Christian voters after McCain's attacks Monday on the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson. AP, 2/29/00

JUDGEMENT: Insulting Disabled Vets?
“Life has a way of throwing curve balls and John [Hager] got beaned by one when he acquired polio as an adult and lost the use of his legs. He would have been forgiven for tossing in the towel, drifting over to the VA hospital and spending the rest of his life feeling sorry for himself.” [Richmond Times Dispatch, 6/2/01]

JUDGEMENT: On Critics Of The Vietnam War: “Communist Sympathizers”
“It caused me to question anything I hear from Communists or their many sympathizers or copycats or dupes in America who tended then - and still tend - to distort the truth for their personal gain, or even (gasp) to lie if that will achieve the desired end.” [Richmond Times Dispatch, 6/17/01]

PARTISAN: Carter-Basher
“I had a great final three years in the Navy despite the devastation Carter's policies had wrought on the military. My last Navy year was under one of the finest-ever Commanders-in-Chief, who led the country out of Jimmy Carter's unlamented and self-caused "malaise."” [Richmond Times Dispatch, 6/17/01]


It just doesn't get any better than this:

Well it was a meeting of the minds (loosely speaking) on Rush today when the drug-addled, tripled divorced, didn't-go-to-Vietnam-because-of-a-pimple-on-his-fat-ass Rush Limbaugh had Michelle "If I wanted to be publicly humiliated I would have signed on for a bukkake video instead of going on Hardball" Malkin on.

Jesus, I'm cryin' here.

Where Do They Come Up With This Stuff?

After Malkin's little meltdown on Hardball last night, we all ought to forward old Chris this exchange from August 13th.

Q On behalf of Vietnam veterans -- and I served six tours over there -- we do support the President. I only have one concern, and that's on the Purple Heart, and that is, is that there are over 200,000 Vietnam vets that died from Agent Orange and were never -- no Purple Heart has ever been awarded to a Vietnam veteran because of Agent Orange because it's never been changed in the regulations. Yet, we've got a candidate for President out here with two self-inflicted scratches, and I take that as an insult. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate that. Thank you. Thank you for your service. Six tours? Whew. That's a lot of tours. Let's see, who've we got here? You got a question?

If Chris wonders where the smear about self inflicted wounds is coming from he should probably ask the people who pre-screen the questions at the GOP only "Ask Bush" events. Obviously, they will have the names.

Funny, the president doesn't seem too concerned about this toxic swill being bandied about in his presence. In fact, he says "he appreciates it."

Another One Down (and one more)

Via Pacific Views:

A Clackamas County prosecutor and decorated Vietnam veteran who appears in an ad attacking Democratic presidential contender John F. Kerry's war record said he did not witness the events in question and is relying on the accounts of his friends who served with the senator.

The 60-second ad, which aired for seven days this month in Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin, features 13 Vietnam veterans, including Alfred French, 58, a senior deputy district attorney in Clackamas County.

In the ad, French says: "I served with John Kerry. . . . He is lying about his record."


French, in an interview Thursday, said Kerry lied about the circumstances that led to one of his Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. Kerry received a Bronze Star, a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts commanding a Swift boat in Vietnam.

French said he is relying on the accounts of three other veterans who were friends of his at the time. A fourth veteran with whom French was acquainted corroborated their accounts.

"I was not a witness to these events but my friends were," said French, who was awarded two Bronze Stars during the war. "I believe these people. These are people I served with."

One of the men is Larry Thurlow,
a leader of the veterans group and one of Kerry's most vocal critics. Thurlow, who served alongside Kerry, has disputed Kerry's claim that the senator's boat was under fire in March 1969 when he pulled Lt. Jim Rassmann out of the water.

But according to Thurlow's military records, obtained this week by The Washington Post, the five-boat flotilla was under enemy fire that day.

French -- relying on friends' accounts -- said Rassmann would have been picked up by another boat if Kerry had not helped. And French said any shots that were fired came from U.S. soldiers providing cover as Rassmann and two others were rescued.

"It's not like he wouldn't have been saved if Kerry had not been there," French said. "I don't believe they were under any fire when that happened. None of the other boats were damaged."

He said Rassmann's rescue did not merit a special honor.

"Somebody fell off your boat and you go back and pick him up," French said. "It's not worthy of a Bronze Star in my opinion."

Rassmann, who lives in Florence and is campaigning for Kerry, said the ad is motivated in part by some veterans' anger over Kerry's antiwar stance upon returning home -- a charge French acknowledges. Rassmann said the group's claims are completely false.

"To come back 35 years later and conjure up fabricated stories is the lowest form of politics," said Rassmann, who said he does not know French.

"I honor these guys for their service," Rassmann said. "I know they were very courageous, along with John Kerry, and it saddens me that they are all at one another's throats."

French, a registered Republican, said he was reluctant at first to take part in the ad but ultimately "decided it was something I needed to do."

French said his one-year tour of duty in Vietnam overlapped Kerry's by two months. He said they served together in the same unit in January and February 1969. He said he did not know Kerry well during that time.

This scumbag not only lied about "serving" with John Kerry, he wasn't even anywhere around and is just repeating his friends lies.

And, I'm hoping that somebody is working hard to verify where that asshole William Schachte really was on the day he claimed he was on Kerry's skimmer and nobody on the boat remembers him being there. It's probable that we'll later find out that he was actually on R&R in Bangkok on that day but he later heard from a friend of a friend who channeled a Vietnamese fisherman that Kerry cynically launched a grenade in his skivvies so he could run for president in 30 years.

This has now entered the realm of the absurd. These guys have thrown themselves into the sewer for that petulant little cheerleader. Jesus.

He Volunteered For Combat

Here's a little anecdote on a Friday morning from the neighborhood Starbucks that I think illustrates a little bit of the Scumbags For Truth dilemma.

Overheard argument (and I swear it isn't one of those taxicab confessions.)

Why would those guys lie about Kerry?

Because he said that soldiers committed atrocities in Vietnam.

Well he did and it was a shitty thing to do.

Yeah, well at least he fought instead of having his rich daddy get him into the guard.

The argument developed into a back and forth about Bush going AWOL, Kerry running from enemy fire etc, until it ended up with "Who the hell does Bush think he is?" Say what you want about Kerry, but he volunteered for combat and Bush didn't, end of story" and the other guy blathering on for a while about Jane Fonda.

According to the Annenberg Center Survey (pdf) released today the ad's effect seems to track pretty closely along the partisan divide, so I'm not sure whether we've seen any erosion in support (despite what people are saying):

Respondents who saw or heard about the ad are split about its believability. Forty-six percent find the ad very or somewhat believable and 49 percent find the ad very or somewhat un-believable. Beliefs about the believability of the advertisement are strongly associated with partisan inclinations. Seventy percent of those with favorable opinions ofBush find the advertisement somewhat or very believable while 19 percent of those with favorable opinions of Kerry find it believable. Independent voters are nearly evenly split over whether they find the ad believable; 44 percent find the ad somewhat or very believable while 49 percent find the ad somewhat or very unbelievable.

But, there's another side to this and one that wasn't addressed in this survey. It's the other side of that argument I heard in Starbucks this morning. As David Gergen said on Hardball last night, it's a bit inexplicable that Bush would want Kerry's service back on the front page of the news in any capacity because it inevitably highlights the contrast between his own actions and Kerry's. You have to wonder if Lee Atwater were alive if he wouldn't have proposed this smear as a whisper campaign instead of a Willie Horton style feed-the-mediawhores special. Bush Sr wasn't vulnerable on the crime issue like Dukakis was so he could afford to go nuclear. Over the long haul, keeping Vietnam on the front burner is not necessarily a winner for Junior. When Kerry said yesterday, "Well, if he wants to have a debate about our service in Vietnam, here is my answer: Bring it on," that's what he was talking about.

That "he volunteered for combat" argument is hard for Bush to rebut. It's simple and appeals to the common sense of average Americans. (And believe me, there isn't a person in the country who doesn't associate Bush with the attack. Most people believe in their gut that the campaigns are behind the ads whether they are or not.)

I'm not suggesting that this smear is good for Kerry, but I am suggesting that it doesn't necessarily help Bush all that much with undecideds and may end up hurting him a little. (The GOP talk radio neanderthals will believe anything they're told, so they are not worth worrying about at the moment.)

Rove probably feels he has no choice but to tear down Kerry's heroism because Junior is extremely weak on every issue but terrorism so he has to run on his alleged cojones to grab the undecideds. (The "compassionate, uniter divider" side of his agenda is a total joke and everybody knows it.) But, it's a dicey proposition. Regardless of whether people know the details of Bush going AWOL in the Guard, or even if they've heard about it, it is indisputable that he went in the Guard instead of volunteering for combat as Kerry did. That is the bottom line contrast and it doesn't reflect well on him to attack Kerry's war record because of it.

Kerry and his surrogates continuing to tie the attack to big Texas Republican money closely associated with Bush is an important element because Bush is doing something here that doesn't make sense. One of the perverse advantages of the 527's is to be able to claim that they are independent and don't represent your view while they stick it to your opponent. It makes the media very suspicious when you don't follow the pre-ordained script and Bush is not following the script on this. That makes the media skeptical.

It's very interesting that Rove has adopted this odd hedging routine instead of taking the high road freebie offered by the 527 "independence." The best explanation is that he's worried about offending his base or his Texas contributors if he explicitly condemns the ad. And that is a sign of weakness. If that is right then Kerry is correct to hammer on Bush having these people do his dirty work for him. It puts him in a box.

I'll repeat what I've said here too many times before. The operative motivation in a smear is not to convince people. It's to "get it out there" and raise doubts. There's almost nothing you can do when people are determined to smear you like this to completely contain the damage. Once it's out there it's out there. And in that sense, they have succeeded very well.

However, there is an interesting example of how a smear can be fought to a standstill (although with your reputation forever shredded.) That is the method by which Clinton fought the Monica frenzy. He turned it into an attack on Ken Starr. And it largely worked because people instinctively recoil at the idea of nosy creeps like Starr rifling through other people's underwear drawers.

There are elements of the same thing here if the Democrats can correctly keep the frame where they want it to be. A man who maneuvered his way out of Vietnam is now ruthlessly tearing down the war record of one who volunteered for combat. That just doesn't sit well --- it breaks the unwritten rules we have about military service. Just as with the Starr counter attack, the rabid GOP base will become even more agitated and wild. But, the majority of the country will likely begin to see through the smokescreen to what is really going on. And it could end up hurting Bush more than Kerry.

It's probably also why the Scumbags are now pushing this idea that Kerry "planned" to go to Nam and shoot himself three times and phony up his medals for political purposes. This absurd notion will be pushed to contrast with the all-American Bush, who honestly served in the Guard rather than do something so dishonest. Apparently, this idea has been out in the ether for some time. I quoted a Navy wife a couple of weeks ago saying it: "He was just planning to run for president, right from the beginning, that's what I think," said Margaret Leonie Dent, the wife of a Navy retiree. "They say his wounds were paper cuts. Just look at the man. He looks French for God's sake."

The sad thing, of course, is that Kerry will never have his reputation back and at a time when Vietnam veterans were finally beginning to receive their due for their service a bunch of self righteous, petty old men stepped in to cast doubts on them all over again. Nice bunch of patriots selling out their brothers toward the end of their lives to protest a man they claim sold them out when they were young. By any means necessary I guess.

I am e-mailing the following quote to members of the press today. And, I think that all talking heads should have it on a 3x5 card and repeat it everytime they face a swift boat liar or one of their mouthpieces. Everybody needs to be reminded of what the real contrast is here. It's not between Kerry the hero vs Kerry the alleged liar, but rather, the combat volunteer vs the chickenhawk smear artist.

“I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes." George W. Bush on why he joined the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, 1990.