The Swift Boat Liars and the Lunatic Right

Rosa Brooks warns in The Los Angeles Times that The Lunatic Right Returns. She warns that the Swift Boat Liars are still being listened to by conservatives:

This afternoon, key Swift boaters George “Bud” Day, Mary Jane McManus and Carlton Sherwood are holding a little reunion, in the guise of a panel discussion at the American Conservative Union’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference. The panel topic? “The Left’s Repeated Campaign Against the American Soldier.”

We saw in the last post the most recent example of which party really cares about the American soldier, and which party just takes advantage of them. Brooks thinks that the American people have learned a lesson from Iraq and are not likely to fall for their lies in the future. She still finds the reemergence of the Swifties as depressing:

What’s depressing about the reemergence of the Swifties, though, is that it’s symbolic of the increasing takeover of the “conservative” movement by unprincipled, right-wing extremists.

The Swifties began as a fringe group. Their anti-Kerry attack ads were effective in 2004 (thanks in part to Kerry’s slowness in responding), but they were condemned universally as a new low in the history of bottom-feeding smear campaigns. John McCain criticized them as “dishonest and dishonorable,” and the Bush campaign sought to distance itself from the group’s tactics. Association with the Swifties forced the resignations of two Bush campaign aides, including Ben Ginsburg, the campaign’s top election law expert.

If it was only the Swift Boat liars there might be hope, but the pattern of extremist thought goes beyond this:

Of course, the Swifties’ presence on the agenda is hardly the only evidence that the lunatics have taken over the asylum at CPAC. Other giveaways include some unintentionally humorous agenda items: Oliver North — he of the Iran-Contra scandal — will be presenting the “Defender of the Constitution Award,” for instance, while right-wing attack blogger Michelle Malkin, whose work has been repeatedly criticized for its cavalier attitude toward facts, gets the “Accuracy in Media Award.”

All this is bad news for the conservative movement, which will only become more marginal if it continues to embrace its lunatic fringe. But it’s probably good for progressives, who stand to gain the most from conservatism’s self-destruction.

I can’t see this as really being good for progressives, as what this nation really needs is a strong two party system. That is difficult when one party has been taken over by extremists who are divorced from reality.

Yesterday we saw many conservative bloggers condemn Ann Coulter. That was a good start, but hardly enough to bring them back to the mainstream. As long as conservatives stick to promoting lies such as those spread by the Swifties, which were easily disproven and were clearly politically motivated, it will not be possible to think of them as people who have honest or meaningful thoughts to add to the national political discussion. People who pick their facts based upon political expediency, regardless of how absurd, simply cannot be trusted with any role in government or otherwise be taken seriously.

Update: Q and O accuses Brooks of Swift Boating the Swift Boaters. Besides the more serious problem that they repeat false claims against Kerry which have been debunked so many times and are no longer taken seriously by anyone with any degree of objectivity, I find the title rather ironic. Swift Boating refers to spreading politcally motivated lies. If, for the sake of discussion you ignore reality and you accept Q and O’s position that the Swifties were not lying you would not accept this definition of Swift Boating. In that case to accuse Brooks of Swift Boating, which is obviously done in a derogatory manner in their blog post, makes no sense. The only way it make sense is in the mind set of the lunatic right where, by definition, what they say is true and what liberals say is false, regardless of how much the evidence contradicts them. That, of course, gets back to the heart of the Swift Boat issue.

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18 Comments

  1. 1
    Jason Van Steenwyk says:

    Brooks called a three-war combat veteran, Medal of Honor winner, and the de facto leader of our PoWs in Viet Nam, with nearly three and a half decades of service to his country “unprincipled,” and you applaud her for it — and you have the GALL to assert on this basis that your party really cares about the American soldier?

    That’s just asinine.

    You go ahead and stake out that rhetorical ground. Let me know how it works out for you. It didn’t work out so well for the Kerry campaign.

    Brooks isn’t worth a pimple on Day’s ass. She would have been better off leaving him out of this. She just shows her ignorance, and you jump up on the dunce stool with her.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Spreading lies would fall under being unprincipled. Spreading lies about a decorated American soldier such as John Kerry who has done so much to benefit his fellow soldiers hardly indicates caring about the American soldier.

    Apparently to you it is ok to lie about Kerry, but when someone stands up to those who spread the lies, and pursue policies harmful to soldiers, you freely question whether they support the soldiers. You can’t have it both ways–feeling you can lie about Kerry’s record and then attack others for expose the Swifties as unprincipled liars.

    Kerry didn’t do all that badly considering he was up against an incumbent during war time who had many people such as yourself distorting the truth. Bush squeaked by with a very small number of votes for a wartime incumbent, but we saw that within two years a majority were able to see thru the Republican lies.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    By the way, nice site you have there Jason (said sarcastically).

    For example, the current top item is:

    Hey, Jason — Aren’t You Going to write anything about Ann Coulter?
    Yes: I, for one, welcome our new faggot overlords!

    And you expect to be taken for anything other than the lunatic rightwing fringe that Brooks writes about? I don’t feel she’ll feel too hurt by the insults in your comment.

  4. 4
    Chap says:

    Yeah, came over via van Steenwyk. Which probably means you’ll ignore this, but oh well.

    Spreading lies would fall under being unprincipled. Spreading lies about a decorated American soldier such as John Kerry who has done so much to benefit his fellow soldiers hardly indicates caring about the American soldier.

    The difference, I think, is that some people think that Kerry hasn’t “done so much to benefit his fellow soldiers” and don’t think Kerry’s been entirely truthful. That would include me; during the election I read stuff from both sides, talked to people I know who served in related units, and made up my own mind on the issue without being some blind follower of anyone. So I agree with the first sentence, but choke on the “such as” for the man who negotiated with the VC in Paris, did the “Winter Soldier” testimony, and generally is detested by a significant majority (anecdotal; I didn’t count) of the people I’ve met in the military who served prior to the 1990s. I think the Swifties are telling the truth from their viewpoint, and the fact that Kerry didn’t release his military records for us to read is telling.

    Every candidate gets detractors, and it’s useful to consider their claims and make a decision about them. McCain had a problem during the 2000 campaign where a group of people were casting aspersions on the honorable nature of his POW experience; these people had nothing but conspiracy theory or ranting to back their claims up, and I decided the McCain detractors were fools or unbalanced haters. Same process as above, pretty much; different result.

    I’m military, so I understand the cultural significance in the military of smearing a Medal of Honor winner–particularly that one–in such a manner as Brooks, who apparently is not exactly objective herself. Her article might sound reasonable to you, but it leads me to the conclusion that the statement

    …what this nation really needs is a strong two party system. That is difficult when one party has been taken over by extremists who are divorced from reality.

    is exactly correct, differing only in who’s considered ‘divorced from reality’.

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:

    The smears on McCain were wrong, just as the smears on Kerry were wrong.

    Kerry did release his military records. Kerry’s testimony is also greatly misrepresented by the right. They regularly edit tapes, etc to make it look like he is attacking his fellow soldiers when he is actually defending them from the government which was placing them in improper situations and not providing adequate medical care.

    Note that both smears (against McCain and Kerry) originated from the same source–the Bush campaign.

  6. 6
    Chap says:

    –Kerry’s actually been the butt of a running joke in the WSJ and other places because of that. He released some of his records–not to the public, but to a couple of Globe reporters. Even his 2004 rival long ago fully released his records to the public. This is not a smear; it’s pretty well documented and can be found in a quick Google. (Check of proof: where’s the web site with the records analyzed, as was done for his rival?)

    –The Kerry testimony that has the effect it does was an action of his done in the seventies and like Jane Fonda’s actions it turned a part of the military to strongly dislike Kerry. In addition, I’ve gone through the complete testimony; the unedited audio was put up on the web. What I take away from it–particularly the prepared statement–was that he wasn’t “defending them from the government” so much as accusing all of them of egregious war crimes. That accusation is also a verifiable piece of information; I have not seen proof proffered for those claims then or later. There’s a rather large group of people predisposed to dislike the man based on what they consider dishonorable conduct in a profession that values that honor. Again, it may be a cultural difference; many folks without the military experience don’t see things the same way as military, regardless of political persuasion.

    Thanks very much for the kind response. However, I don’t buy it.

  7. 7
    Ron Chusid says:

    The war crime that Kerry complained about was the free fire zones, which has been verified as a war crime. His complaint centered around those who gave the orders for this to occur, not the soldiers placed in this situation. It is also common for those attacking Kerry to twist reports he made of testimony he heard at the Wintersoldier Hearings to sound as if they are charges made by Kerry himself when that is not the case.

    It looks like you are misinterpreting his testimony based upon all the political attacks on Kerry.

    All of Kerry’s records were released and placed on line during the campaign. Subsequently reporters from the Globe and other papers reviewed this and verified the accuracy of the records as posted by Kerry. Sure you can do a google search and you will find people plenty of people who say that Kerry did not release his records, but that does not mean it is so.

  8. 8
    Chap says:

    It’s almost one a.m. here and time for bed.

    I’m not sure I’m effectively communicating the emotional effect Kerry’s statement had on the morale and mindset of the average military person of the seventies.

    Specifically-The “free fire zones” don’t come up in the fifth paragraph of his prepared statement, the most evocative paragraph and the one that got the press. There’s some of what you describe later on in the transcript, as well as calling the military “misfits” and whatnot, but the whole transcript is there. BTW I’m not so sure that the “free fire zones as war crime” is entirely correct, although the rules have to be pretty tight to keep with the Law of Armed Conflict avoid hitting innocents. (Here’s the Wiki on the phrase, which isn’t quite thought out from a JAG perspective but gives the Vietnam flavor somewhat.)

    They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, tape wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.

    So, yeah, an evocative paragraph pulled from a prepared statement. But it’s a heck of a para and explains (along wiht the negotiations in Paris) why some military folks hated the man passionately.

    If you’re right about the records–reserve and active, the whole enchilada and not just a summary of some of the records as written by a friendly reporter–I’d love to see them. Do you have a link?

    Anyway. My intent wasn’t to count angels on the head of a pin so much as to express that my own research was done and I came to a different conclusion as you, and that all such may not be merely right wing wackos suitable only for dismissal…

  9. 9
    Ron Chusid says:

    You are quoting where Kerry was asked about what he heard at the Winter Soldier hearings. If taken out of context so that it sounds like Kerry himself is making these accusations it is understandable that some soldiers would have negative feelings about Kerry. That still does not justify the dishonest things which have been spread about Kerry.

    Kerry’s full records (not just a summary or something written by someone else) were posted on the campaign web site in the fall of 2004 and kept there for the duration of the campaign. The campaign web site came down after the election so it is no longer possible to give a link.

  10. 10
    Ron Chusid says:

    By the way, while Kerry had his records available on line for anyone who cared to review them, it is not true that “Even his 2004 rival long ago fully released his records to the public.” There were notable gaps in Bush’s records related to the time it is believed he went AWOL from his National Guard service.

  11. 11
    Karennj says:

    Chap,
    You address John Kerry’s protests, but the SBVT chose to spend millions lying about John Kerry’s war service. Whether the WSJ says so or not, Kerry released his records to 3 newspapers, including the Boston Globe. They verified that the records they got were the same as the records that he had on his web site for over a year. They had one page more – which was part of his last Vietnam fitness report. It gave Kerry the highest rating and recommended him for accelerated promotion.

    None of the SBVT denied the fitness reports that were on Kerry’s web site- which spanned the entire time Kerry was in service and were glowing reports. Doug Brinkley, a historian, questioned over 100 people in researching Tour of Duty. Many who later became SBVT had nothing negative to say when Brinkley spoke to them in 2002 – 2003. Kerry had no editorial control over that book and it is consistent with the Naval records.

    How do you account for the fact that on the Nixon tapes, it is clear that he had Kerry investigated in 1971 at the time he spoke out? He was told that Kerry was clean and a war hero. If there was no dirt to be found in 1971 (on events of 1968/1969), it seems unlikely it could exist. Not to mention, Republican Senator John Warner said in 2004 and last year on the floor of the Senate that he personally checked out Kerry’s Silver Star as Secretary of the Navy and that he earned it.

    The SBVT were funded by Bush/Cheney supporters. Some received finacial rewards for speaking against Senator Kerry. It seems most likely that these people lied about the Senator’s service because they were still angry about his protests.

    They would have been more honest if they had simply questioned his protests. Even there, many people forget that Kerry spoke out after Lt Calley had gone to trial on the My Lai horrors. As a young woman in that time frame, my impression of the military in Vietnam was improved – not diminished – by John Kerry’s testimony.

    Reading Kerry’s entire testimony including the question and answer, I reached the opposite conclusion from the one you reached. I’ve watched enough Senate hearings to be able to understand why that paragraph was as intense it was. He was asked to speak about the Winter Soldier hearing and the normal testimony would have been for Kerry and others to read exerpts from soldiers speaking of abuses.

    Instead, Kerry condensed into one extremely intense paragraph the types of abuses spoken of – the Senators aready had the full Winter Soldier testimony. That hurt him in 2004 – as that paragraph was used alone to give a very misleading vew of his entire testimony.

    He then used the remainder of his time for:
    – a condemnation of the way returning soldiers were treated – that sounds like the VA/Walter Reed stuff in today’s news – and spoke of PTSD, which was not recognized at that time.

    – an accurate summary of how the war was already lost – summed up by his famous question. McNamara’s book, “Fog of War” shows that he knew the war was lost in 1968.

    – Then, he ended on a note of hope that America would turn from that type of foreign policy.

    He got 5 minutes of coverage on all of the three networks because the newcasters were blown away by that testimony. That testimony would have been impressive if it were given by a leading Senator of that day – it was awesome coming from a young veteran.

    The Nixon tapes show that they were extremely impressed by him and because of that they wanted him destroyed. One of his tools was John O’Neil.

    Another reason he was impressive was how he managed that whole protest – that went off with no violence. Kerry insisted that no Jane Fonda or other Hollywood people be involved – just soldiers. He also made sure they had all the permits needed, although at the last minute they were told they could stay in the mall – but not sleep there. He spent the days of the protest peacefully resolving problem after problem between the police and the veterans. Bobby Mueller in Going Upriver spoke of how he calmed the very angry veterans and spoke calmly for them. Doing this was not trivial. At this point, the Nixon people were not afraid of the protesters as they KNEW the anger and behavior of most protestors had scared and turned off many Americans. Kerry and the vets were able to speak to many Americans other protestors couldn’t.

    I remember the anger of that time period, John Kerry was a force keeping people in the system, working for change rather than joining people who wanted more radical change.

  12. 12
    Ron Chusid says:

    “Reading Kerry’s entire testimony including the question and answer, I reached the opposite conclusion from the one you reached.”

    Key words here include “entire testimony.” I believe the full transcript is about 40 pages. Conservatives take one paragraph out of context to give a false impression of Kerry’s testimony.

    “Kerry insisted that no Jane Fonda or other Hollywood people be involved – just soldiers.”

    Then why are there pictures of Jane Fonda there with Kerry. Oh yea, they photoshopped in Fonda’s picture and spread it around. Another example of how they feel compelled to distort reality in their attacks on Kerry since the truth doesn’t help their case against him.

  13. 13
    Jadegold says:

    Frankly, the SBVT and their defenders have disgraced themselves.

    Nobody who has served any amount of time could possibly believe an O-2 could so thoroughly and completely game the system as to come out of any conflict with a Silver Star and 3 Purple Hearts. Yet, you have the Swifties swearing up and down Kerry did exactly that.

    They also say this despite the Navy’s IG saying all Kerry’s awards were proper.

    We in the military do cherish honesty and integrity; the Swifties and their defenders have none.

  14. 14
    Jadegold says:

    They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, tape wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.

    Pulitzer Prize Winning Series on Tiger Force

  15. 15
    Ron Chusid says:

    Kerry’s testimony was honest testimony as the article linked above shows. This was also only a very small part of what he said. I just entered a new post with another portion of Kerry’s testimony which the right wing never quotes. It sounds like something out of today’s news reports on the medical care provided to many returning from iraq.

  16. 16
    matchpoint says:

    Actually, only Bud Day is a member of the Slow Boaters. He and the others are appearing here in their manifestation of the so-called Vietnam Veterans Legacy Foundation, whose harrassment suits against Kerry and his supporters were funded to the tune of $100,000 by the Slow Boaters.

    Link

    Sherwood is of course a scam artist from way back. Did he mention that he is a “Pulitzer Prize recipient” ? Yep. Of course, he’s not, really. Not to say he’s the outright liar that Tom Lipscomb was when he claimed to be a “nominee,” but he’s not telling the truth either. Nor is he really the “recipient” of a Peabody Award, as he also likes to claim:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/7/2/165515/6874

    Quite a “legacy” there.

    ——————————————–

  17. 17
    matchpoint says:

    # Chap Says:
    March 5th, 2007 at 1:36 am


    –Kerry’s actually been the butt of a running joke in the WSJ and other places because of that. He released some of his records–not to the public, but to a couple of Globe reporters. Even his 2004 rival long ago fully released his records to the public. This is not a smear; it’s pretty well documented and can be found in a quick Google. (Check of proof: where’s the web site with the records analyzed, as was done for his rival?)

    Actually, Kerry did release everything the Navy sent him. He also authorized Douglas Brinkley and representatives of the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe to have full, unrestricted access to his military and medical records. With the exception of his school records and a single page of a fitness report (recommending him for accelerated promotion), none of the reporters came up with anything more than what he has posted.

    Kerry’s 2004 rival did not “fully release his records to the public.” He released what he chose to release; some were obtained by FOIA. His representatives claimed that he “directed” the Pentagon to release his records, but no one has ever claimed to have gotten complete unrestricted access to his records that I know of. By the way, he “released” his military medical records to the public in the exact same way that Kerry did: allowed reporters to view the documents for a restricted amount of time.

    Where’s the website with an analysis of his records? Well, his campaign site finally went away after…well, the campaign. I know of no place where George Bush has posted his own record “analysis.” However, there are plenty of places on the Internet where you can access both sets of records. For instance:

    http://news.findlaw.com/legalnews/lit/election2004/docs.html


    That accusation is also a verifiable piece of information; I have not seen proof proffered for those claims then or later.

    Chap, if you are talking about the Winter Soldier claims themselves, not a single one of them has been proven false. In addition, the military archives are full of verified incidents identical to many of those described at WS. And one very detailed story, that of Jamie Henry, has recently been shown not only to be true – but was verified by the Pentagon in the early 1970s.

    Link

  18. 18
    matchpoint says:

    Ron Chusid Says:
    March 5th, 2007 at 1:41 am

    The war crime that Kerry complained about was the free fire zones, which has been verified as a war crime. His complaint centered around those who gave the orders for this to occur, not the soldiers placed in this situation.

    Actually, there’s some argument whether or not free fire zones were war crimes per se, though there was a credible belief that they were in the way the concept was often practiced. For instance:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free-fire_zone

    And there is no doubt whatsoever that Swift Boat sailors and officers were damned uncomfortable with the way Roy Hoffmann interpreted things:

    ” Duc wasn’t the only one who wanted to get tough with the Vietcong. In the summer of 1968, Hoffmann complained to his superiors in Pearl Harbor that the prevailing rules of engagement were too constrictive. ‘This was war,’ Hoffmann said in an interview last month. ‘This wasn’t Sunday school.’ He made what he said was a pro forma request for looser rules, which was granted.

    Previously, Hoffmann said, military personnel had not been permitted to fire unless they were fired upon. Under the new rules, he said, they could attack if they felt threatened. ‘I told them you not only have authority, I damned well expect action,’ Hoffmann recalled. ‘If there were men there and they didn’t kill them or capture them, you’d hear from me.’

    [. . .]

    Several officers, even some under Hoffmann’s command, said the rules then in effect allowed for too much violence. William Garlow says he and his fellow swift-boat commanders were ordered to shoot up villages almost at random. ‘We burned their hooches and killed their livestock,’ he says. Even one of Hoffmann’s senior commanders in Cat Lo says the killing became indiscriminate. ‘I hated it,” says the former officer, who requested anonymity. ‘ “

    http://www.vietnamese-american.org/042601.html

    Sorry about my run-on links in my priors, by the way. Feel free to fix.

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