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Did the Bush campaign blow it with this whole Swift Boat controversy?

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Misplaying the Swift Boat Stuff

Did the Bush campaign blow it with this whole Swift Boat controversy?

The whole Swift Boat Veterans for Truth saga has been an amazing thing to behold. This relatively small 527 group spent $500,000 on an ad campaign designed to get out their messages about John Kerry and his versions of Vietnam into the public. As a result, the Democratic Party went into collective conniptions, and the liberal media went into ignore-the-substance mode.

The reactions of the Left have been disgraceful, repulsive, and hypocritical — not necessarily a surprise coming from the liberal crowd many of us have come to know and love. Instead of refuting the charges made by the veterans, Kerry-supporters, including those in the press, have attacked the messengers, blamed the Bush campaign for the “smear” campaign, and found illegal right-wing Republican connections that never were. (Frankly, I’m surprised they haven’t lumped the Carlyle Group and Richard Mellon Scaife into this whole thing by now.) Of course, none of these Democratic operatives, again including the press, have been able to find any connections between the Kerry campaign and the $63 million anti-Bush drive the liberal 527s have been conducting. They looked the other way when the ads by these 527s compared Bush to Hitler, and they questioned the integrity of Bush when these Leftist groups challenged his service in the National Guard.

But what’s been the most disheartening for me in this ongoing story is the how poorly the Bush campaign has reacted. Here are the three biggest mistakes make by the Bush camp:

#1: President Bush should never have allowed himself to get involved. When asked his thoughts of the allegations put forth by the Swiftees or if he would denounce their ads, Bush should have responded: “Hey, this isn’t my fight at all, and I don’t want to be involved. These are John Kerry’s fellow Vietnam veterans making these charges, let him answer the questions. He’s the only person who can put this thing to rest. That’s all I have to say about the matter.”

#2: But the Bush campaign didn’t stay out of it. Instead, they believed they had pay deference to that paragon of campaign finance virtue, John McCain. President Bush already made the mistake of signing the McCain-Feingold anti-free-speech-campaign-finance-reform bill into law. Now he’s decided to compound that mistake by calling for an end to all 527 ads and going so far as to actually seek court action to force the FEC to shut-down all 527 ads. The president’s advisors and McCain have apparently told him that trampling over the First Amendment with the original anti-political-speech legislation isn’t enough. Now they have to go after groups that are acting fully within the law — as McCain wrote it and Bush signed it — and squash their now-limited speech rights.

#3: But what has really steamed me about the way many Republicans, including the President, have responded to the Swift Boat controversy — characterizing it as something trivial, not a “real issue.” I cannot count how many times I have heard Bush-supporters (and Kerry-supporters) say something like: “this controversy is keeping us from talking about the real issues” or “we would like to debate issues that the American public really cares about” or “it’s too bad that this has been made such a big issue in the campaign, because we would prefer to talk about issues that really matter.”

Note to Republicans: THIS ISSUE REALLY MATTERS!

We’re getting down to what John Kerry is really all about: Change your mind, change your story, make up a story, deflect the truth, ignore reality, smear anyone who dares mention truth or reality, grasp every opportunity available to you, call black “white” and white “black,” consider utter hypocrisy a virtue, be anti-American if it will make you popular, be pro-American when you need to get votes, do whatever it takes to satisfy your political goals, no matter who you take out, hurt, maim, or disparage in the process.

John Kerry, based on his own testimony and actions, is at least one of two things:

  • a war criminal, which he admitted to in 1971 at the same time that he was accusing all other Vietnam veterans of war crimes; or
  • a liar to congress, which he was if the war crimes allegations made before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 22, 1971, were false.

This whole Swift Boat issue could still bury Kerry. But it’s unfortunate that the Bush campaign so horribly misplayed it.

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