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ISSUE 118 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/17/2004

Swiftly playing with the truth

By Byron Vierk
Staff Writer


Friday, September 17, 2004

From a purely objective standpoint, John Kerrys service in the Vietnam War and his subsequent involvement in the movement for peace upon his discharge would seem to be nothing but a boon for the Democratic presidential hopeful.

Kerry, unlike many in the current administration, volunteered for military service certainly a positive character indicator in an election year dominated by issues of security and leadership (or any election for that matter).

Unfortunately for Kerry, this years election is anything but ordinary. A group of Veterans has come forward to challenge Kerrys service history, a record that has until recently stood unchallenged.

The group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, is led by one of John Kerrys old nemeses, John ONeill. Back in the 1970s, ONeill was one of Nixons cronies assigned to debate and discredit outspoken anti-war veterans, (in particular John Kerry). ONeills involvement with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group that offers no hard evidence against Kerrys heroism, should come as no surprise.

ONeill has vicariously lived off John Kerrys fame for 30 years, writing books like Unfit for Command to further spew his venomous diatribe to those who still believe that Vietnam was an honorable and decent war.

More unsettling about the Swift Boat group are its very clear ties to the same people that organized the smear campaign against Republican Senator John McCain in 2000, including top figures in the Bush administration such as Karl Rove, Bushs most senior political advisor.

Roves link to the group comes in the form of longtime associate and business partner Bob Perry, the single largest Republican donor in Texas as well as Merrie Spaeth, who advised the Republicans for Clean Air group that smeared McCains record. Perry contributed $200,000 to the group and Spaeth continues to advise the group, despite her links to Rove and Perry.

Of course, there is not a direct link between Bush and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth smear group. However, Bush underlings like Karl Rove have advised the group, and just a few weeks ago, one of Bushs top campaign lawyers resigned over his proven ties to the organization. The general counsel to the Bush-Cheney campaign, Benjamin Ginsberg, was also forced to tender his resignation after it was discovered that he was coordinating rallies with the group in conjunction with the Bush-Cheney re-election effort.

Democrats have been screaming for Bush to denounce the Swift Boat ads as dirty politics; yet Bush has declined to do so, at least directly. Instead, Bush has called for an end to all such political smear ads by so-called 527 groups.The "527 committees," also known as the "527 political groups or just "527" groups," are products of a loophole recently carved in section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code which covers political organizations under the McCain-Feingold soft-money laws. Under federal election law, members of Congress may raise only limited amounts of so-called hard money for their own campaign committees or leadership PACs which aid other candidates.

In essence, 527s can aid a cause or candidate, but cannot be endorsed or helped by a candidate in any advisory or financial fashion. Obviously the Swift Boat ads are beneficial to Bush just as the more liberal 527 ads are favorable to Kerry.

Why isnt this enough for Democrats? Perhaps because there is a clear difference between the Swift Boat ads and those put on by other 527 political action groups like the liberal Moveon.org. Organizations like Moveon.org certainly present Bush in a negative light, but they do so using hard facts accessible in the public record.

While Bush may not like that his record is being explicated in the national media, it is not tantamount to lying. The Swift Boat group, however, has no hard evidence to support their claims against Kerry.

To present testimony contradictory to a public record that has been accessible for over thirty years not only shows the irresponsibility of those involved with the group, but their utter disregard for honest politics and relevant political debate.

Unlike Moveon.org, or any other 527 groups, the Swift Boat group has accomplished its political mission. It has entirely shifted the attention, at least momentarily, away from the real issues of the campaign to Kerrys war record. Bushs refusal to specifically condemn the ads has only fueled the fire.

In many ways, it is Bushs first political masterstroke of the campaign. By not specifically decrying the ads as lies, he instead has praised Kerrys war record, keeping the focus squarely on his challengers service in Vietnam rather then the state of the economy, the Iraqi insurgency and the unemployment problem.

Bush knows that when it comes to matters of service, his four years of hawkish military spending and strong-armed foreign policy tactics more than make up for his lackadaisical National Guard service. Bush also knows that when it comes to the real issues, Kerry trumps him in every category but national security.

Thus, instead of being able to talk about his plan for the economy, how he would improve the country or his strategy regarding the situation in Iraq, John Kerry has been forced to defend his already secure record against a group run by liars and motivated by revenge.


Staff writer Byron Vierk is a senior from Lincoln, Neb. He majors in history.


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