Editorial boards around the country have continued to discuss issues related to the advertising campaign by the anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and to accusations made in the recently released Regnery book Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, co-authored by Swift Boat Vets co-founder John E. O'Neill and Jerome R. Corsi. According to a LexisNexis search of the “Major Newspapers” directory, nine new editorials on the subject were published in newspapers across the United States from Wednesday, August 25, through Thursday, August 26. Five condemned the anti-Kerry smears or affirmatively supported Kerry's record on the war. Two criticized all ads sponsored by 527 groups. One compared criticisms of President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry's military records and another discussed Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) recent political activities. Of these nine, only one suggested that the Swift Boat Veterans ads might have merit.
On August 25, Media Matters for America posted a survey of 15 editorials on this subject that were published from Friday, August 20, through Tuesday, August 24. Only one of those found any merit to Swift Boat Vets' accusations. This MMFA survey brings the total number of examined editorials to 24, with just two of those saying the group's allegations may have merit.
One condemned Swift Boat Vets criticism of Kerry's war record
- From The Baltimore Sun's "Changing the Subject," August 25:
This nonsense grows out of an ad campaign launched by the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group bankrolled by a millionaire GOP donor who is a close friend of presidential adviser Karl Rove. The White House claims it has no connection to the ads, but you can practically see the smirk. After all, for a guy whose own military record as a stateside National Guardsman during that era remains a mystery at best, the negative focus on his challenger couldn't have worked more to Mr. Bush's favor.
But this is dangerous territory. Overshadowing the question of whether, say, Mr. Kerry was actually in Cambodia on patrol on Christmas Eve 1968 or merely near the border, is the question of where George W. Bush was on Christmas Eve 1968. Chances are he wasn't in uniform, and he surely wasn't in combat.
One condemned Swift Boat Veterans' most recent ad, saying it misrepresented Kerry's anti-war activities after he returned from Vietnam
- From The Boston Globe's "Bush's dirty work," August 25:
AN ANGRY group of swift boat veterans has vowed to continue airing its odious ads attacking John Kerry's military service even after many of its claims have been discredited. Now the group is airing a commercial saying Kerry betrayed his fellow Vietnam veterans in his 1971 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he said, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” One veteran in the ad, Paul Gallanti, even suggests that Kerry “gave the enemy for free what I and many of my comrades in North Vietnam, in the prison camps, took torture to avoid saying.” It is hard to imagine that anyone reading the full 30 pages of Kerry's testimony would see anything but a thoughtful, anguished young man trying to come to grips with his experiences in Vietnam and spare other soldiers the same. Kerry grieves for the Americans and Vietnamese killed in the war and defends returning veterans against indifference and ill treatment by their country. He calls for more money for military hospitals to treat returning soldiers, especially those with drug addictions. He specifically says he does not presume to speak for all veterans. (The testimony is available at www.c-span.org/vote2004/jkerrytestimony.asp).
Kerry does indeed recount war atrocities described by other veterans of Vietnam -- dramatic testimony excerpted in the ad. This was shortly after Lieutenant William Calley's court martial for the My Lai massacre. It was a painful truth, but it was not an act of disloyalty to try to end the war early and bring more soldiers home. Kerry's views have been vindicated by history.
One defended Kerry's role in the anti-war movement
- From the Los Angeles Times' "Kerry's Testimony," August 26:
Members of the Swift boat group and like-minded Americans are free to try to re-litigate the basic Vietnam question. They say, from the comfortable perspective of 2004, that the antiwar movement emboldened the enemy and thus lengthened the war. That's their premise: We could have won the war by 1971 if not for Kerry and his ilk. Of course, after continuing the war for three more years, we still didn't win it. So even accepting the dubious premises of these Hindsight Hawks, blame for the lives lost after Kerry's testimony goes primarily to the leaders in Washington who kept the war going needlessly.
But most Americans came to accept Kerry's view that the war was ill advised and unwinnable at any reasonable cost. Only when that happened did the war end, and the antiwar movement made it happen sooner. If that historical judgment is correct, which we think it clearly is, then Kerry saved the lives of many more Americans in his antiwar role than he did as a Navy officer.
Kerry's testimony in April 1971 was eloquent, persuasive and damning. Consistent with his cautious instincts, Kerry never joined the extremist America-haters who hoped for a North Vietnamese victory, but instead he patiently explained to senators why the war was a disaster.
One criticized President George W. Bush for not condemning Swift Boat Veterans' ads
- From The New York Times' "Swift Boats and the Texas Nexus," August 25:
President Bush should stop evading responsibility and unequivocally condemn the attacks on Senator John Kerry's Vietnam War service that are being orchestrated by negative-campaign specialists deep in the heart of the Texas Republican machine. Mr. Bush says that Mr. Kerry's record is admirable and something to be proud of. Yet he allows these politically useful ads to continue spreading unfounded charges that Mr. Kerry fabricated his medal-winning experience as a Swift boat commander.
One condemned the criticisms of Kerry's war record in Vietnam and said critics should focus on his subsequent anti-war activities
- From The Columbus Dispatch's "War and Remembrance," August 25:
An investigation by a number of reputable news outlets indicates that the group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, has raised allegations that either can't be proved or have been disputed by others who were there.
Kerry stands by his 1970s statements against the war, which some veterans felt undercut U.S. military efforts in Vietnam.
Those who hate Kerry for that would have been wise to focus their opposition on his anti-war positions instead of his service during the war.
Two editorial boards condemned advertising by 527s
- From Newsday's "Bush takes the high road," August 25:
Groups such as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth should be reined in. But that's not going to happen. The Federal Election Commission, won't do it. And a voluntary cease-fire just isn't in the cards.
There is another way to stop the mudslinging. Voters should turn on candidates caught with mud on their hands.
- From The Oregonian's "Bad for the System,“August 25:
President Bush is getting more credit than he deserves for disavowing the scurrilous attack ads that some of his supporters have been aiming at Sen. John Kerry's Vietnam war record.
The president's view, that all of the independent ”527" ads should be stopped, is the same position he's held all along. Nevertheless, the president is right that these attack ads are “bad for the system.”
Not that anyone's going to stop using them because the president says he doesn't like the technique. The Media Fund, a liberal group, has promised to spend $60 million on ads attacking Bush, falsely claiming he led the United States into Iraq “alone.” The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who have been attacking Kerry, say they'll spend $1.1 million before the end of the month on their smear campaign.
These ads run because -- say it together now -- they work. How else can you explain why the winner of a Silver Star for bravery has to defend his war record against the record of an Air National Guard pilot who can't even account for the time he was supposed to be on duty in Alabama?
One compared criticisms of Bush and Kerry's military records
- From The Columbus Dispatch's "Refighting an old war," August 25:
The war in Iraq drags on; U.S. deaths likely will surpass the 1,000 mark before the election. Whether democracy takes root there remains an open question. The economy, too, drags on, periodically emitting signals that it is healing or faltering. Questions are many; answers are few. A fight brews in Congress over the all-important issue of how U.S. intelligence operations should be revised to counter an assured effort by terrorists to again attack the nation.
The stakes of the 2004 presidential race are that high, yet the election season has become little more than a cauldron of bile left over from the 1960s: Some veterans of the Vietnam War are out to lynch John Kerry with disputed claims that his Bronze and Silver Stars and three Purple Hearts were not deserved. Their venom for the young Kerry's postwar behavior is understandable: He made serious charges of atrocities, and they will never forgive that.
President Bush's Vietnam-era military service, too, was questioned earlier in the campaign. Did he fulfill his duties in the National Guard? The records say he did, but reasonable suspicions remain. Did Kerry merit his medals? The records say he did, but reasonable suspicions remain.
One discussed Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) recent political activities
- From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's "McCain's Motive," August 26:
[O]ne has to wonder exactly what Sen. McCain believes he has to gain by cuddling up to someone who has at times treated him badly and who differs with him on many key points. On the other hand, he couldn't support a Democrat for president, even his friend John Kerry; elephants are known for their loyalty.