Swift Boat Veterans for Slander

In a history of political dirty tricks, Dick Meyer of CBS News reveals something new about the infamous Willie Horton ad from the 1988 Bush/Dukakis race:

Historical footnote: Horton actually went by William, not Willie, and is referred as William in all legal documents; the ad makers thought Willie sounded scarier and blacker.

A 1992 essay by Kathleen Hall Jamieson provides additional background on the name switch:

... his given name is William, he calls himself William, court records cite him as William, a July 1988 Reader's Digest article identifies him as William J. Horton, Jr., and press reports prior to the Republican ad and speech blitz name him "William," the Bush campaign and its supporting PACs identified the furloughed convict as "Willie" Horton. Even the crusading anti-Dukakis newspaper that won a Pulitzer Prize for its expose on the furlough program consistently identifies Horton as William Horton or William Horton, Jr. When the Maryland man who was stabbed by the furloughed convict contacted the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, he too referred to Horton as William Horton.

So William became Willie to feed racist white fears of black criminals, just as "I served with John Kerry" in the Swift Boat ads turns out to mean "I served with him in Vietnam, but wasn't in his boat so I'm talking out my ass about his medals."

The American public should recognize that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is a fundamentally dishonest effort by the Bush re-election campaign to win this election by denying Sen. John Kerry's well-documented war heroism.

Even in the conservative Weekly Standard, senior editor Andrew Ferguson acknowledges that it's a "transparently desperate" tactic.

There are plenty of areas in which Kerry could be legitimately criticized for actions during a 30-year career in public life. The lies about his combat valor -- one of his most singularly admirable traits -- could be employed against any veteran who seeks public life at any time.

There has to come a time in this country when politicians face a backlash for engaging in win-at-any-cost, blatantly false gutter politics. Sixty seven days from now is a good place to start.


Rogers: well said.


The 3rd ad features Steve Gardner who asserts that he *was* in fact on Kerry's boat.

I also wish Kerry's supporters would start addressing the Swiftboat vets issue on its merits (or lack of it). Releasing Kerry's service records would be a good start, and if they have an ounce of political sense, they'll do so during the RNC convention.

However their current strategy (which you largely follow in this post) of ad hominem attacks against the Swiftvets is just lame. The noise from the Kerry campaign seems to be indicate that Kerry's service is some kind of holy cow and beyond question. If 3 purple hearts + not being george bush is what his supporters qualifies him to be president, more power to you. Some voters may need more convincing.

According to the Aug. 6 Columbus Dispatch, Steve Gardner admitted that he was not on the boat with Kerry during the incidents for which Kerry got his medals.

Like all of the other Swift Boat vets, Gardner is blinded by anger over Kerry's post-war activism, so he refuses to believe that Kerry deserves his medals, which are supported by numerous eyewitness accounts and military records.

Of course, President Bush could just award himself a medal. Any medal. The president has the authority to do so. Of couse he might face some backlash, not having actually having earned anything in his life. But then again, if the Republicans put the right spin on it... Hmmmm. Who needs the truth when you've got media coverage!

It amazes me that after weeks of this the President still hasn't condemned the ads. The claim that the SwiftBoat Vets are an independent group is ridiculous given the amount of money a few Republican donors amassed in this group. It's just another way around campaign finance reform and a way to sling mud without doing it yourself. If the President believes this nonsense then Karl Rove and company should step aside and let the man say it himself. Perhaps Dick Cheney could quit tap dancing around these issues as well and show his true colors and his teeth by telling the world that neither he nor the President think John Kerry is a real hero.

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