Guilty


  In mentioning the Dukakis campaign, Stephanopoulos was referring to the Willie Horton ad. “Willie Horton” becomes the leitmotif of the Democrats every presidential election year. The way they carry on, you would think Willie Horton belongs in a pantheon of American heroes along with Rosa Parks. It's getting to the point that liberals are going to start naming streets after Horton.

  As I explained at length in my book Godless, the Willie Horton ads were fantastic. What happened was not, as National Public Radio said, that George H. W Bush “beat Michael Dukakis with the help of the racially charged Willie Horton ad that implied Governor Dukakis was soft on crime.”59 It was that Dukakis was so ridiculously soft on crime that as Massachusetts governor he was furloughing first-degree murderers, one of whom was Willie Horton. The media would have you believe that Horton's only crime was being black. In fact, he was in prison for carving up a teenager at a gas station and then stuffing his body into a garbage can. And that wasn't Horton's first offense. He had already been convicted—and released—for attempted murder in South Carolina. While on his Dukakis-granted furlough, Horton raped and tortured a Maryland couple in their home for twelve hours. The Maryland couple flew to Boston to sit down with Dukakis and ask why he thought it was a good idea to furlough murderers. Dukakis refused to meet with them. Instead, he issued a statement reaffirming his strong support for furloughing murderers. So Dukakis did not lose the 1988 election because “he did not adequately respond to Republican attacks,” as NPR put it.60 He lost because of an idiotic furlough program he supported, protected, and staunchly defended.

  I'll stop pointing out the facts about Willie Horton as soon as liberals stop lying about the ads. I'm only beginning to point out the facts about liberals’ other evidence of Republican dirty tricks, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

  Kerry did not lose the 2004 election because he “failed to respond” to “unfair and untrue charges” of the Swift Boat Veterans. Although “swift-boating” has become a synonym for a tactic used by lying scoundrels,61 it actually referred to a group of highly decorated Vietnam veterans who came forward to question the qualifications of one of their own, John Kerry.

  If the media insist on using the phrase “swift-boated,” they could at least use it properly. Rush Limbaugh cannot swift-boat Obama. Sean Hannity cannot swift-boat Obama. Karl Rove cannot swift-boat Obama. No matter what they do or say, they can never swift-boat him. They never met the man. But if a few hundred people, both Republicans and Democrats, who have been in some sort of community with Obama came forward and called him a liar, then and only then could he consider himself “swift-boated.” If, for example, hundreds of Obama's fellow congregants from the Trinity United Church came forward and said Obama was lying about events at his church, that would be swift-boating.

  Ironically, even if it were true that the Swift Boat Veterans were lying—and it isn't—it undercut Kerry's main selling point anyway. Kerry's message was I'm a veteran! Don't talk to me about war and peace! An ad by two hundred Swift Boat Veterans who served with Kerry saying that he was unfit to be commander in chief completely destroyed Kerry's presumptive credibility as a veteran, whether you believed the two hundred Swift Boat Veterans or not. Either they were telling the truth, and Kerry wasn't fit to be dogcatcher, or they were not telling the truth, in which case military service isn't much of a trump card. Yes, Kerry had served in Vietnam. But so had they.

  In May 2004, a group of Swift Boat Veterans held a press conference in front of an old photo of a bunch of Swift Boat officers, including Kerry, that the Kerry campaign was using to tout his military experience. One by one, the officers stood up, seventeen in all, pointed to their own faces in the campaign photo, and announced that they believed Kerry unfit to be commander in chief. Only one officer in the photo being used by the Kerry campaign supported Kerry for president. The bestselling book by John O’Neill, aptly titled Unfit for Command, included five dozen eyewitness accounts of Kerry's service in Vietnam.

  Fewer than 10 percent of all Swift Boat Veterans contacted refused to sign a letter saying Kerry was not fit to be president. At the beginning of the campaign, O’Neill had signed up 190 Swiftees to say Kerry was unfit for command. By Election Day, he had 294 in all. Only 14 Swift Boat Veterans sided with Kerry, while 294 sided with O’Neill. Let's see, would it be more difficult to get 14 people to tell the same lie or to get 294 people to tell the same lie? I defer to any registered Democrat on this question.

  Also, contrary to the incessantly repeated claim that Kerry had “failed to respond”62 to the Swift Boat Veterans, Kerry was constantly responding. He responded by issuing retractions—about a retraction a day once the Swift Boat Veterans started talking. Kerry had to backpedal on the circumstances surrounding his first Purple Heart for action on December 2, 1968. On Kerry's website, he said it was his “first intense combat.” The Swift Boat Veterans said they came under no enemy fire at all that day and that Kerry's injury was a ricochet from a mortar round that Kerry had fired himself. (This rules out the Purple Heart, but did qualify him for another “Boy, is my face red” citation.)

  Indeed, among the eyewitnesses who said Kerry came under no enemy fire on December 2, 1968, was John Kerry himself. According to Douglas Brinkley's book Tour of Duty, Kerry wrote in his diary nine days later, on December 11, 1968, “We hadn't been shot at yet.” His campaign tried to figure out how to claim that Kerry couldn't have known this because he wasn't even on his own boat at the time, but then settled on the Clintonian technique of denying the meaning of the word “we.” A Kerry campaign official explained that when Kerry said “we hadn't been shot at yet,” he meant that he had been shot at but others on his boat hadn't been. “We”: another two-letter word successfully parsed by a Democrat! Eventually, Kerry campaign official John Hurley admitted that it was “possible” that Kerry's first Purple Heart came from a self-inflicted wound. It was because of that self-inflicted wound that Kerry ended up with three Purple Hearts allowing him to come home from Vietnam after a mere three and a half months.

  Most bizarrely, Kerry was caught telling a big, dirty, stinky lie about being in Cambodia on Christmas Eve, 1968. Over the years, he talked about his alleged 1968 mission to Cambodia repeatedly— in a letter to the Boston Globe, in various media interviews, and in eight speeches on the Senate floor.63 It was a memory that was “seared— seared—in me,” as he said in the Senate in 1986. “I remember Christmas of 1968,” Kerry reminisced, “sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia.”

  No one, not one person, backed him on that claim. So eventually Kerry was forced to retract this one, too.64 What kind of adult tells a lie like that? (Answer: The kind who carries a home-movie camera to war in order to reenact combat scenes and tape fake interviews with himself.)

  Kerry had long maintained that he did not attend the 1971 meeting of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) in Kansas City, Missouri, where the assassination of U.S. senators was discussed. Kerry campaign spokesman David Wade said, “Kerry was not at the Kansas City meeting.” Later, FBI files showed that Kerry was at the meeting. So Kerry had to take back that claim, too. As the Washington Post reported on August 28, “Told about the FBI records earlier this year, Kerry said through a spokesman that he now accepted he must have been in Kansas City for the November meeting while continuing to insist that he had ‘no personal recollection’ of the contentious debate. Many people associated with VVAW find this difficult to believe.”65

  By contrast, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth weren't forced to retract any part of their story. There's a reason it was Kerry—and not the Swift Boat Veterans—who told the Washington Post, “I wish they had a delete button on LexisNexis.”66

  With all the talk about the dastardly Swift Boat Veterans, one is left to wonder how precisely they were able to spread thei
r wild calumnies against John Kerry. The Swift Boat Veterans were given no time with Tim Russert, no Today show appearances, no fawning New York Times editorials or Vanity Fair hagiographies. The only way they could have gotten less attention would have been to be interviewed on Air America Radio.

  When the New York Times could no longer ignore the Swiftees, it had to manufacture a special typewriter key for the Swift Boat Veterans so that any story mentioning them would read: “the unsubstantiated charges of the Swift Boat Veterans.” As with many words liberals create new meanings for—“everyone,” “constitutional,” “is,” “we”—the Times was apparently using the word “unsubstantiated” to mean “tested repeatedly and proved true.” At least sixteen times, the newspaper described the Swiftees’ charges as “unsubstantiated.” By contrast, not once did the Times describe the laughably unsubstantiated charge that Bush went AWOL from his National Guard service as “unsubstantiated” out of eighteen mentions of that allegation.

  The Times got so desperate that it called on the Federal Election Commission to shut down the ads of the Swift Boat Veterans, bitterly remonstrating in an editorial that the Commission had “done nothing to rein in” the Swiftees’ free speech.67 Similarly, the Democratic National Committee threatened to sue TV stations that ran the Swift Boat Veterans’ paid ads. When Democrats are this terrified of a book, it's not because they have a good response. The problem wasn't Kerry's want of alacrity in responding, it was that he didn't have an answer.

  Far from not responding, Kerry and the media wing of his campaign responded to the Swift Boat Veterans aggressively and repeatedly. Apart from Fox News and the Navy Times, stories about the Swift Boat Veterans generally had titles like these:

  “Swift Boats: Bet It's Nice to Have Grassroots Support That Writes $35k Checks”

  “Anti-Kerry Veterans’ Group Now Political Machine with Big Budget”

  “Not Too Swift: Vets Questioning Kerry's Record Discredit Themselves”

  “Slime Slung by Shameless Surrogates Sticks to Bush Gang”

  “Swift Boat Veterans Wouldn't Know Truth” “Kerry-Loathing Swift Boaters Sinking Facts”

  “Swiftly Developing Smears” “Kerry-Edwards: America's

  Swift Reaction to Bush Backers’ Latest ‘Ugly’ Lying Smear Campaign”

  “Vietnam: Just Like the War Itself, This Story's Now a Quagmire”

  “Attacks on Kerry's War Record Are Dishonorable and Distract from Real Issues”

  “Vet Group Doing Bush's Dirty Work, Kerry Says: He Urges President to Condemn Ads Critical of His Record”

  “Kerry Says Group Is a Front for Bush: Democrat Launches Counterattack Ad on Combat Record”

  “Kerry Insists Veterans Lie, Blames Bush”

  “Kerry-Edwards Campaign Debunks False Swift Boat Attacks: Sets the Record Straight with New Ad”

  Liberal commentator Lawrence O'Donnell offered the most hilarious reaction to the Swiftees. Appearing on MSNBC's Scarborough Country with John O’Neill, the author of Unfit for Command, O'Donnell spent two segments shouting down O’Neill as a “liar,” a “creepy liar,” a “lying writer” with a “pack-of-lies book”—and similar variations. In a nutshell, it went like this:

  That's a lie, John O’Neill. Keep lying. It's all you do…. Lies…. Which is not in John O’Neill's book, because it's a lie…. That's a lie. It's another lie. That's a lie…. Absolutely lie…. You lie in that book…. You lie about documents endlessly. His name is not on the reports. You're just lying about it…. And you lied about Thurlow's Bronze Star. You lied about it as long as you could until the New York Times found the wording of what was on the citation that you, as a lying writer, refused to put in your pack-of-lies book…. Disgusting, lying book…. You have no standards, John O’Neill, as an author. And you know it. It's a pack of lies. You are unfit to publish…. Lies…. He just lies. He just spews out lies…. Point to his name on the report, you liar. Point to his name, you liar…. You just spew lies…. I just hate the lies of John O’Neill…. I hate lies…. They're proven lies…. O’Neill is a liar. He's been a liar for 35 years about this. And he found other liars…. Creepy liar … liar who makes things up….

  Liberals threw so much mud at the Swiftees that anyone who wasn't willing to devote four hours of research to getting the facts would be left with the impression that the Swiftees had been discredited. As the ombudsman for the Washington Post put it—a few weeks before the Post would begin printing Kerry's retractions and clarifications, “My sense in reading those stories is that, while they found holes in both sides, the most serious holes were poked in the case made by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.”68

  It would require the labor of Will and Ariel Durant to document all the attacks on the Swiftees, but two examples will give the flavor of the objections: One of the commanders on the mission leading to Kerry's disputed Bronze Star was Lieutenant Donald Droz. He was the only commander—other than Kerry—not to contradict Kerry's version of what happened but only because he wasn't around to object, having been killed in action. So liberals produced Droz's widow, a San Francisco lawyer and Vietnam War protester, to say that she distinctly remembered her husband telling her what happened that very day. She told the Boston Globe that her husband had told her about the March 13 action during a leave a few weeks later, when they met in Hawaii, and … it matched exactly what Kerry had said!69 So we could not trust the memories of three commanding officers and eleven crewmen who were part of the action that day, but we could trust the memory of a deceased commanding officer's widow, who was not there but was an antiwar activist and Kerry supporter.

  The George Soros–funded group Media Matters for America quickly produced a document titled “The Lies of John O’Neill.” Among O’Neill's heinous lies was his claim on CNN's Crossfire that he had had “no serious involvement in politics of any kind in over 32 years.” To this, Media Matters retorted, “In fact, O’Neill has made more than $14,000 in federal contributions to Republican candidates and causes since 1990; most people would consider giving $14,000 a ‘serious’ involvement.”70 LIAR! While I'm not sure how to fact-check what “most people” think, I doubt whether “most people” would consider political donations of about $1,000 a year proof of “serious political involvement.”

  While the Swift Boat Veterans went back to their lives after the 2004 election, happy to have defeated the mountebank Kerry, liberals never moved on from defaming the Swiftees and their supporters. They never quit. In 2007, ABC News matter-of-factly referred to 294 Vietnam War veterans as the “the slanderous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.”71 That same year Senate Democrats rejected Bush's nominee to be ambassador to Belgium, Sam Fox, because he had donated to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. In the committee hearings, Kerry harangued the nominee, accusing him of contributing “to that very group that is smearing and spreading lies.” It's perfectly acceptable for a U.S. president to have donated to Trinity United Church, but not for an ambassador to have donated to 294 military veterans.

  A 2008 op-ed in the New York Times explained that the reason “it took some weeks for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against Senator John Kerry to have an effect on his standing in the polls” was that a “false statement from a noncredible source that is at first not believed can gain credibility during the months it takes to reprocess memories.”72 Note the March Hare tenacity of the American liberal. Four years after the Swift Boat Veterans ran their ads, liberals were still feverishly writing articles for the Times that nonchalantly called 294 military veterans a “noncredible source.”

  On the bright side, after four years of maligning the Swiftees, the Times finally coughed up how exactly liberals believed the veterans had been “discredited.” On August 13, 2008, a Times article said O’Neill's book, Unfit for Command, had “included various accusations that were ultimately undermined by news reports pointing out the contradictions.” In a parenthetical the Times article explained, “Some critics of Mr. Kerry quoted in the book had earlier prais
ed his bravery in incidents they were now asserting he had fabricated; one had earned a medal for bravery in a gun battle he accused Mr. Kerry of concocting.”73

  That was pretty thin gruel after years of hysterical denunciations of the Swiftees. First of all, even if we accept the dubious assumption that “news reports” are more accurate than 294 Swift Boat Veterans, a “contradiction” is not proof of error; it's proof of a contradiction. Second, the Times's objections were noticeably limited to claims in the book and had nothing to do with the four television advertisements run by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. But most important, the fact that some Swiftees had once praised Kerry and one had received a Bronze Star for the same action that Kerry did reflected only the fact that Kerry had written his own vainglorious After Action Reports. It was only when Kerry began running for president based on his undaunted military valor that the facts about his service came under scrutiny.

  Larry Thurlow was the Swiftee who, according to the Times's account, “earned a medal for bravery in a gun battle he accused Mr. Kerry of concocting.”74 But Thurlow didn't think he had won his medal for coming under enemy fire for the simple reason that there had been no enemy fire. What happened was the first boat in the five-boat convoy, PCF-3, hit a mine that blew up the boat and tossed the sailors into the water. The Swiftees fired on the shore as a precautionary measure, but stopped when they realized there was no return fire. That is according to eleven crew members and three commanders on that mission—or all living commanders, except Kerry.

 
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