Jewish World Review August 27, 2004 / 10 Elul, 5764

Jack Kelly

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They claim prez is a dunce — think he would've played right into his opponent's hands? | An axiom of politics is: "don't feed a bad story." By going postal about the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, John Kerry has laid out a veritable banquet.

Kerry has accused the Swifties of smearing him by criticizing his Vietnam service. But he has gone further, declaring the Swifties to be Republican shills, put up to attacking Kerry by the evil Bush. Kerry believes that to acknowledge the real reason why the Swifties hate him — because he falsely accused them and other Vietnam veterans of committing war crimes — would not enhance his appeal to swing voters.

Kerry's "evidence" for this charge is that most of the seed money for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth came from a $200,000 contribution from Houston home builder Bob Perry, a frequent contributor to GOP candidates.

The New York Times has tried to help Kerry out by publishing a complex genealogy which indicates that Swiftie John O'Neill, principal author of "Unfit for Command" and now a prominent Houston attorney, knows Republicans who know other Republicans who know Bush. (The Times didn't mention that O'Neill says he's an independent who voted for Al Gore in 2000.)

If the "Republican attack machine" were behind the Swifties, they did a lousy job. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth had barely $250,000 on hand when they launched their first ad in three mid-sized markets in Ohio, Wisconsin and West Virginia. By contrast, the three largest independent committees have raised and spent nearly $60 million on ads attacking Bush.

No officer of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has a connection to the Bush campaign. But one of the "527" committees attacking Bush is run by Kerry's former campaign manager, Jim Jordan, and Kerry recently hired a staffer from, the group that produced an ad likening Bush to Hitler.

While evidence of collusion between the Bush campaign and the Swifties exists only in the overheated rhetoric of Kerry and his surrogates, there is plenty of evidence to indicate collusion between the Democratic party and the left-leaning 527s.

On May 9, for instance, the Democratic National Committee issued a press release which said: "The Democratic Party is partnering with, People for the American Way, Campaign for America's Future and dozens of other groups representing millions of Americans to organize a massive public mobilization."

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Kerry can be confident that while the "mainstream" media will trumpet his baseless charges, there will be no exploration of possible collusion between his campaign and these supposedly independent groups.

The biggest unreported story of this campaign is the extent to which the major media are in the tank for Kerry. But media bias — which has reached comic proportions in the Swift Boat vet controversy — may be doing Kerry more harm than good.

If journalists were more interested in covering the news than in covering up for Kerry, they would have explored the Swifties' charges back in May, when the group first raised them. Had due diligence been done then, it might have been possible for Kerry to put the controversy behind him. At least, it might have kept Kerry from making his alleged heroism in Vietnam the theme of the Democratic national convention. Now it has exploded on him at a critical time, knocking him off message.

When Kerry's attack on the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth forced the story onto the front pages, the media tried to provide damage control. But what might have been contained as a small fire in May had become a raging inferno by August.

Despite the media attempt at a blackout, the charges made by the Swifties were causing a hemorrhage of support for Kerry among veterans, thanks to the efforts of dozens of Web loggers. Still, his escalation of the issue is puzzling. Thanks to Kerry, many, many more people have heard of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and are curious about what they have to say. The publisher of "Unfit for Command" (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) can't print books fast enough to meet demand.

While still small potatoes as far as 527 committees go, the Swifties are now — thanks to Kerry — relatively flush. The group reports having received more than $1.7 million in Internet contributions since Kerry attacked them. They won't be going away anytime soon.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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