Friends Like Karl & Bob
There is a group of Vietnam era veterans who are claiming that one of the Presidential Candidates has misled the American public about his military record. They claim the candidate in question did not do the things in service to his country that he publicly claims and does not deserve the recognition bestowed upon him. In no uncertain terms they have called him a liar.
I’m not talking about the Swift Boat veterans who have been plastered all over cable TV and talk radio for the last week.
No, the group in question calls itself Alabama Vietnam Veterans and is offering a $2000 reward to the first person who can provide proof that George W Bush reported for Air National Guard duty in Alabama during 1972.
The reward, which has been on the table for four years, has gone uncollected.
Do I really care about what either George Bush or John Kerry was doing 30-plus years ago? Not really. But the disparate way that the Alabama Vets and the Swift Boat Vets have been handled and showcased by the media is an ugly lesson in dirty politics, ratings-driven journalism and seriously dishonest punditry.
The crux of the story about Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVFT) is not what they have to say about John Kerry. Of the 257 members of the group, only one man actually served on a boat with John Kerry. One single solitary guy. Most of these men never even met Kerry. The ten actual shipmates who stood by his side in Boston a few weeks back have a wee bit more credibility in my mind.
The real, but strangely under examined, story surrounding this so-called controversy is about how the system and an all-too-willing press can be gamed by big donors and political strategists.
The McCain-Fiengold campaign finance reforms were supposed to separate special interest groups out from the official campaigns and expose their donors to public scrutiny. Obviously that has not happened. Political pros are still up to their tricks, only with new rules that seem to have made it easier to “unofficially” campaign for or against someone through murky back channels.
It happens on both sides of the aisle, but the smear campaign being coordinated at the highest levels of the Bush/Cheney campaign are currently unparalleled by the Democrats.
It does not really seem to matter to the producers of cable TV news, radio and certain editorial pages that the Swift Boat group itself has very questionable ties and motives. Few pundits seem to care that the assertions by this group have been strongly disputed by the men who actually served on John Kerry’s boat. (Or that many of these critics have overtly praised Kerry’s service in the past.)
One only needs to look at the level of coverage that this whole Swift Boat Vets hullabaloo is garnering. Results like these do not come easily or cheaply. It takes a well-coordinated and connected public relations team to make a spectacle like this happen. SBVFT has some of the best of the GOP’s best working for them.
Former Reagan official, Merrie Spaeth is the PR genius behind the group. Her late husband, Tex Lazar ran on the same ticket in 1994 as George W Bush for Lt. Governor of Texas. Lazar was also a law partner of John O’Neill, who, in a not-so-odd coincidence, is the founder of SBVFT. Imagine that!
Spaeth is remembered in partisan circles for her role in prepping Kenneth Starr for his congressional testimony and coordinating the slimy attacks on John McCain in 2000 GOP presidential primary. Maybe Spaeth is one of the reasons John McCain has called the attacks on Kerry “dishonest and dishonorable.”
It should also be noted that, according to the Dallas Morning News, the man who provided two-thirds of the seed money for SBVFT is not a Swift Boat Veteran at all, but a Texas businessman named Bob Perry who has given millions upon millions to GOP and conservative causes. He is also an old Texas ally of President Bush’s top political advisor Karl Rove.
With friends like these, it should not be hard to deduce why SBVFT has received more coverage than they deserve.