A DISCOURSE ON POLITICS AND
Written by Rick Archer, July 2007
During the 2000 Presidential Campaign,
John McCain was leading George Bush in the polls until
something mysterious happened during the South Carolina
primary. When it was all over, George Bush was in the
lead and never looked back.
During the 2004 Presidential Campaign, John Kerry and George
Bush were neck and neck in the polls. Then the Swift
Boat attack began. Kerry seemed helpless to defend
himself and effectively lost the election in the process.
Rumor has it that
SMEAR CAMPAIGNS effectively ruined the
candidacy of both men. Both men suffered
damaging blows to their Reputation and they never
On the other hand, Bill Clinton's candidacy was also
troubled by a Smear Campaign. And yet he
managed to prevail. What did Clinton do that
McCain and Kerry didn't?
In this article, we
will take a further look at how a Smear
Campaign is started and how to do deal with it.
Rick Archer: When I
was a boy, my father was totally a-political.
His attitude was after every election, all they did was change the
foot on the back of your neck. When he bothered to vote, it
was always Republican, but I don't think he put much thought into
One afternoon over lunch, I asked him to expand on his 'foot
on the neck' attitude. Dad smiled and pointed out that the
corrupt and ineffectual Batista regime in Cuba was replaced by the
even more corrupt Castro regime.
And that conditions in Russia under the Tsar were terrible, but the
Communists under Stalin executed 20 million of their own people.
Dad had a way of making his point.
FAMOUS QUOTATIONS ABOUT
Huey Long said: "When I die I want to
be buried in Louisiana so I can stay active in politics."
Politics is a rotten egg; if broken, it stinks. (Russian proverb)
Politicians and diapers have one thing in common - They should both
be changed regularly, and for the same reason.
The reason there are so few female politicians is that it is too
much trouble to put makeup on two faces. - Maureen Murphy
One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that
you end up being governed by your inferiors. - Plato
Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean
politics won't take an interest in you. -
I don't approve of political jokes... I've
seen too many of them get elected.
A political campaign starts when a politician stops working and goes
about making speeches about all the work he intends to do.
A political machine is a united minority working against a divided
Democracy is a government where you can say what you think even if
you don't think.
Every oak tree started out as a couple of nuts who decided to stand
their ground. Then they entered politics and began to bend.
To succeed in politics, it is often necessary to rise
above your principles.
Everybody should believe in something. Most
politicians believe they'll have another drink.
Voters are people who have the God-given right to decide who will
waste their money for them.
If voting could
actually change anything, there would be a law against it.
In Politics, people work hard to get a job
and do little after they get it.
Politicians will act rationally when all other possibilities have
Politicians have the ability to tell a man
he has an open mind when he really has a
hole in his head.
Subtlety is the art of saying what you think and getting out of the
way before it is understood.
The Golden Rule: whoever has the gold makes the rules.
Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere,
diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.
Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many
rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book.
No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature
is in session.-Mark Twain
The government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy
appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.-Ronald
The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the
blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing
of misery.-Winston Churchill
The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the
taxidermist leaves the skin. -Mark Twain
There is no distinctly native American criminal class save
When the government fears the people, we have liberty. When the
people fear the government, we have tyranny.
Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come
to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.
Politics makes strange bedfellows stranger.
Technology is dominated by two types of people: Those who understand
what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not
Whoever has any authority over you, no matter how small, will
attempt to use it.
POLITICS - FROM THE LATIN WORD "'POLY'
MEANING "MANY" AND "'TICKS'
AS IN 'SMALL, BLOOD-SUCKING
RICK ARCHER'S THOUGHTS ON
I have been
collecting quotes on Politics for many years. I hope you
enjoyed reading them. As you might gather from my collection,
I am pretty cynical when it comes to Politics.
But, unlike my father, I at least read the news and try to pay
attention. That said, I promise you I am no expert on
Politics. I wouldn't dream of endorsing a candidate on the
SSQQ website unless I had met the man personally and believed I had
an original piece of information to share.
You see, I get all my information about Politicians from the media.
And I have not yet begun to say what I think about the media other
than I wish someone would sew Ann Coulter's lips together.
For the purposes of my various articles on the subject of
I confess I remain fascinated by the results of the previous two
Presidential elections. In both elections, something strange
happened that completely reversed the course of the campaign.
Excerpt from 'The Anatomy of
a Smear Campaign'
By Richard H. Davis
March 21, 2004
Every presidential campaign has its share of hard-ball
political tactics, but nothing is more discomforting than a
smear campaign. The deeply personal, usually anonymous
allegations that make up a smear campaign are aimed at a
candidate's most precious asset: his reputation. The
reason this blackest of the dark arts is likely to continue
is simple: It often works.
The premise of any smear campaign rests on a central truth
of politics: Most of us will vote for a candidate we like
and respect, even if we don't agree with him on every issue.
But if you can cripple a voter's
basic trust in a candidate, you can probably turn his vote.
The idea is to find some piece of personal
information that is tawdry enough to raise doubts, repelling
a candidate's natural supporters.
(Rick Archer's Note:
Anatomy of a Smear
Campaign is a very good article. I have listed the
entire writeup below.)
2000 - John
McCain ripped to shreds in South Carolina
Back in 2000, I was a big fan of John McCain. At that time, I
thought he would make a dynamite President. Thanks to a big
win in New Hampshire, McCain was ahead in the polls as they headed
down to South Carolina. Another victory there would likely
ensure McCain the Republican nomination.
But something mysterious happened in South Carolina in 2000 that
cost McCain his candidacy. After the Bush-Rove Political Machine got through with
McCain, he was no longer a factor.
How in the world did that happen? Some people suggest there
was a Smear Campaign.
Bush went on to win the 2000 Election. I ended up voting for
Bush, although after I saw Al Gore's
Inconvenient Truth I confess I
was filled with regret. I had not realized how much Gore cared
about the environment, one of my favorite issues (George Bush has a
less than stellar record where the environment is concerned).
2004 - John
Kerry ripped to shreds by the Swift Boat attack
In 2004, lightning struck again. John Kerry was leading
in the polls against a wounded George Bush when out of the blue came
the Swift Boat attack on his reputation. No matter how
vigilantly I followed the news, it seemed to me that Kerry never
mounted much of a counter-attack. Kerry's candidacy was
effectively ended by the Swift Boat message which put doubt in many
people's minds... including my own.
I mean, this makes no sense. Stop and think about it.
On the one hand, John Kerry saw combat in Vietnam, getting a Silver Star medal, a Bronze
medal and three Purple Heart medals along the way.
other hand, George Bush appeared to get a free ride in the National
Guard Reserves about the same time.
Even if some of Kerry's
accounts were exaggerated, no one can deny the guy not only enlisted
to fight, but saw deadly combat while his counterpart was safe at home.
The Swift Boats were a very dangerous place to be - the whole idea
was to draw enemy fire even though the boats were not well-armored.
Admiral Elmo Zumwalt said this:
was where I thought we should strike hard and fast.
But because the waterways there were
often very narrow, the men in our patrol boats could easily be hit
from either side by enemy fire. Their chances of being killed or
wounded were 70 to 75 percent."
But somehow John Kerry came out of this Swift Boat debate looking like a liar
and a coward while Bush stayed unscathed!! Kerry's main claim
to fame was his service record, but after the Swift Boat people
turned the tables on him, Kerry seemed helpless to refute the
How in the world did that happen?
see my reputation is at stake, My
fame is shrewdly gored."
Spoken by Achilles as he lays dying before the walls of Troy in
John Kerry could just as easily have said the same thing as Achilles.
"But if you can cripple a voter's
basic trust in a candidate, you can probably turn his vote."
eventually voted for Kerry anyway, but not because I liked him any
more. In reality my decision boiled down to 'anyone but Bush'.
As far as I was concerned, Kerry's reputation had been fatally
wounded by the Swift Boaters.
Here is my point:
Be it a small arena
or a large arena, if
your Reputation is attacked and you don't speak up in your own
defense, you will get hammered in the court of public opinion.
Below I have listed
The first deals with questions about the Swift Boat story.
The second deals with questions about the McCain debacle.
The third is funny. It deals with the issue known as "Reality
For the purposes of my overall six chapter article, you can probably
ignore the stories on Kerry and McCain and move on. I simply
included them in case you were curious.
2004: John Kerry and the Swift
Rick Archer's Note:
I have listed a story below that deals directly with John
Kerry's Swift Boat problem during the 2004 election. I have no
idea what information below is true, false, or partially true.
Please note the story appeared in the Washington Post, the same
newspaper featured in All The President's
Men which involved Woodward, Bernstein, plus another
noted twister of the truth Richard Nixon.
I printed it because I thought it demonstrated to some extent how
Kerry's inability to refute the charges against him cost him his
Swift Boat Accounts Incomplete
Critics Fail to Disprove Kerry's Version
of Vietnam War Episode
By Michael Dobbs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 22, 2004; Page A01
When John F. Kerry rescued Jim Rassmann from the Bay Hap River in
the jungles of Vietnam in March 1969, neither man could possibly
have imagined that the episode would become a much-disputed focus of
an American presidential campaign 35 years later.
For Kerry, then a green and gangly Navy lieutenant junior grade and
now the Democratic challenger to a wartime Republican president,
that tale of heroism under fire has become integral to his campaign.
A centerpiece of public rallies, videos and a new campaign
advertisement, it has helped distinguish the candidate from his
Democratic primary rivals and from President Bush, who spent the war
at home as a member of the Texas Air National Guard.
A Record Questioned
Members of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have challenged several
aspects of John F. Kerry’s military record in addition to his
account of the March 13, 1969, mission for which he was awarded the
Bronze Star; Kerry’s campaign has vigorously defended his record.
Kerry’s First Purple Heart
Dec. 2 1968
What Kerry has said:
On a predawn patrol, as he and other sailors were firing on
suspected Vietcong, a "stinging piece of heat socked into my arm and
just seemed to burn like hell," meaning he had taken a small piece
What his challengers say:
Kerry took a tiny fragment of shrapnel when he fired an M-79 grenade
too close to his boat, inflicting his own wound, which was trivial.
Self-inflicted wounds are ineligible for Purple Hearts.
What available military records say:
A medical report on Kerry’s injury was signed by J.C. Carreon, not
Louis Letson, the doctor who treated Kerry, according to Swift Boat
Veterans for Truth. Letson says that Carreon, a corpsman, routinely
drew up reports on his behalf.
Christmas in Cambodia
What Kerry has said:
Over the years, he has repeatedly said he was illegally ordered into
Cambodia during Christmas 1968. Last week, his campaign issued a
statement saying he was in Cambodia but did not specify a date.
What his challengers say:
At the time, Kerry was stationed in an area about 50 miles from the
Cambodian border, and he never entered that country then or at any
other time during his service in Vietnam.
What available military records say:
Kerry’s boat at the time, PCF-44, was 40 to 50 miles south of the
Cambodian border at 7 a.m. on Christmas Eve. With a cruising speed
of 23 knots, the boat could have reached the border in about two
hours, but there is no archival evidence it did so.
Kerry’s Silver Star
Feb. 28, 1969
What Kerry has said:
While in command of a three-boat mission, his Swift boat was
ambushed; he ordered his men to beach the boat so he could pursue
the attacking Vietcong; a teenager with a grenade launcher popped
out of a hole a few feet away; one of Kerry’s men shot and wounded
him in the leg, but he ran; Kerry, fearing the youth was trying to
get far enough away to fire a grenade, chased him and shot him dead.
Support for Kerry’s account came yesterday from the only other
surviving Swift boat commander to witness the incident, William B.
What his challengers say:
Kerry’s conduct was neither extraordinary nor medal-worthy; the
decoration was based on false and incomplete information that Kerry
provided and was not properly reviewed; ordering the craft beached
reflected poor tactical judgment.
What available military records say:
The Silver Star citation describes the beaching of the boat and
says, "Without hesitation Lt. Kerry leaped ashore, pursued the man
behind a hootch and killed him, capturing a B-40 rocket launcher
with a round in the chamber."
SOURCES: "Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War" by Douglas
Brinkley; "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against
John Kerry" by John E. O’Neill and Jerome R. Corsi; the Los Angeles
Times; and military records on the Kerry campaign Web site.
The Swift Boat Skippers Speak Up
For the Massachusetts senator's critics, who include three of the
five Swift boat skippers who were present that day, the incident
demonstrates why Kerry does not deserve to be commander in chief.
They accuse him of cowardice, hogging the limelight and lying. Far
from displaying coolness under fire, they say, Kerry was never fired
upon and fled the scene at the moment of maximum danger.
Establishing the facts is complicated not merely by fading memories
and sometimes ambiguous archival evidence, but also by the bitterly
partisan nature of the presidential campaign.
An investigation by The Washington Post into what
happened that day suggests that both sides have withheld information
from the public record and provided an incomplete, and sometimes
inaccurate, picture of what took place. But although Kerry's
accusers have succeeded in raising doubts about his war record, they
have failed to come up with sufficient evidence to prove him a liar.
Two best-selling books have formed the basis for public discussion
of the events of March 13, 1969, as a result of which Kerry won a
Bronze Star and his third Purple Heart. The fullest account of
Kerry's experience in Vietnam is "Tour of Duty" by prominent
presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. It was written with Kerry's
cooperation and with exclusive access to his diaries and other
writings about the Vietnam War. "Unfit for Command," by John E.
O'Neill, who succeeded Kerry as commander of his Swift boat, and
Jerome R. Corsi, lays out a detailed attack on Kerry's record.
The Post's research shows that both accounts contain significant
flaws and factual errors. This reconstruction of the climactic day
in Kerry's military career is based on more than two dozen
interviews with former crewmates and officers who served with him,
as well as research in the Naval Historical Center here, where the
Swift boat records are preserved. Kerry himself was the only
surviving skipper on the river that day who declined a request for
On the core issue of whether Kerry was wounded under enemy fire,
thereby qualifying for a third Purple Heart, the Navy records
clearly favor Kerry. Several documents, including the after-action
report and the Bronze Star citation for a Swift boat skipper who has
accused Kerry of lying, refer to "all units" coming under "automatic
and small-weapons fire."
The eyewitness accounts, on the other hand, are conflicting. Kerry's
former crew members support his version, as does Rassmann, the
Special Forces officer rescued from the river. But many of the other
skippers and enlisted men who were on the river that day dispute
Kerry's account and have signed up with Swift Boat Veterans for
Truth, a public advocacy group that has aired television
advertisements accusing Kerry of lying about his wartime service.
From an outsider's perspective, the flotilla of five 50-foot Swift
boats that followed the Bay Hap River that humid March day has
spawned two competing bands of brothers. One is fiercely loyal to
Kerry and frequently appears with him at campaign events. The other
dislikes him intensely and is doing everything it can to block his
Many Swift boat veterans opposed to Kerry acknowledge that their
disgust with him was fueled by his involvement in the antiwar
movement. When they returned from Vietnam, they say, they were
dogged by accusations of atrocities. While Kerry went on to make a
prominent political career, they got jobs as teachers, accountants,
surveyors and oil field workers. When he ran for president, partly
on the strength of his war record, their resentment exploded.
At one level, an attempt to establish what happened during a
Vietcong ambush on the Bay Hap River 35 years ago is a simple search
for facts. At another, it is the story of the divisions that tore
the United States, and its armed forces, into two opposing camps at
the time of the Vietnam War -- tensions that have resurfaced with a
vengeance during the current political campaign.
"The old wounds have been reopened, and they still bleed," said
Larry Thurlow, one of Kerry's accusers, who was awarded a Bronze
Star for heroism for going to the rescue of a boat that was rocked
by a mine explosion that day. He says he got involved with the
anti-Kerry campaign organized by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth
because Kerry's distortion of the truth about the Vietnam War "makes
me madder than hell."
"We decided we aren't going to take it anymore."
Boats Thrown Into Fight
When Kerry signed up to command a Swift boat in the summer of 1968,
he was inspired by the example of his hero, John F. Kennedy, who had
commanded the PT-109 patrol boat in the Pacific in World War II. But
Kerry had little expectation of seeing serious action. At the time
the Swift boats -- or PCFs (patrol craft fast), in Navy jargon --
were largely restricted to coastal patrols. "I didn't really want to
get involved in the war," Kerry wrote in a book of war reminiscences
published in 1986.
The role of the Swift boats changed dramatically toward the end of
1968, when Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., commander of U.S. naval forces
in South Vietnam, decided to use them to block Vietcong supply
routes through the Mekong Delta. Hundreds of young men such as
Kerry, with little combat experience, suddenly found themselves face
to face with the enemy.
Taking a 50-foot aluminum boat up a river or canal was replete with
danger, ranging from ambushes to booby traps to mines. Kerry and his
comrades would experience all these risks on March 13, 1969. The
purpose of the mission was twofold: to insert pro-government forces
upriver in a group of Vietcong-controlled villages; and more
generally to show the flag, keeping the waterways free for commerce.
In some ways, it was a day like any other. The previous day, Kerry
had taken part in a Swift boat expedition that had come under fire,
and several windows of Kerry's boat were blown out. A friend, Lt.
j.g. William B. Rood, almost lost an eye in the ambush. [Now an
editor with the Chicago Tribune, Rood yesterday broke three decades
of public silence to support Kerry's version of how he won the
Silver Star on Feb. 28. Rood has no firsthand knowledge of the
Bronze Star incident.]
In other respects, March 13 would mark the culmination of Kerry's
Vietnam War career. With three Purple Hearts, he became eligible for
reassignment. Within three weeks, he was out of Vietnam and headed
home after a truncated four-month combat tour.
As commander of PCF-94, Kerry was responsible for ferrying a group
of Chinese Vietnamese mercenaries, known as Nung, eight miles up the
Bay Hap River, and then five miles up the winding Dong Cung Canal to
suspected Vietcong villages. His passengers included Rassmann, the
Special Forces officer, who had run into Kerry at a party a couple
of weeks before and remembered him as "a tall, skinny guy with this
The expedition began to go wrong soon after they inserted the Nung
troops into a deserted village off the Dong Cung Canal. As the
mercenaries searched from house to house, Rassmann recalled, one
reached for a cloth bag at the base of a coconut tree and was blown
to pieces. It was a booby trap. Kerry, who arrived on the scene soon
after, helped wrap the body in a poncho and drag it back to the
boat, diving into a ditch when he thought he was under fire.
"I never want to see anything like it again," Kerry wrote later.
"What was left was human, and yet it wasn't -- a person had been
there only a few moments earlier and . . . now it was a horrible
mass of torn flesh and broken bones."
In "Tour of Duty," these thoughts are attributed to a "diary" kept
by Kerry. But the endnotes to Brinkley's book say that Kerry "did
not keep diaries in these weeks in February and March 1969 when the
fighting was most intense." In the acknowledgments to his book,
Brinkley suggests that he took at least some of the passages from an
unfinished book proposal Kerry prepared sometime after November
1971, more than two years after he had returned home from Vietnam.
In his book, Brinkley writes that a skipper who remains friendly to
Kerry, Skip Barker, took part in the March 13 raid. But there is no
documentary evidence of Barker's participation. Barker could not be
reached for comment.
Brinkley, who is director of the Eisenhower Center for American
Studies at the University of New Orleans, did not reply to messages
left with his office, publisher and cell phone. The Kerry campaign
has refused to make available Kerry's journals and other writings to
The Post, saying the senator remains bound by an exclusivity
agreement with Brinkley. A Kerry spokesman, Michael Meehan, said he
did not know when Kerry wrote down his reminiscences.
As they were heading back to the boat, Kerry and Rassmann decided to
blow up a five-ton rice bin to deny food to the Vietcong. In an
interview last week, Rassmann recalled that they climbed on top of
the huge pile and dug a hole in the rice. On the count of three,
they tossed their grenades into the hole and ran.
Evidently, Kerry did not run fast enough. "He got some frags and
pieces of rice in his rear end," Rassmann said with a laugh. "It was
more embarrassing than painful." At the time, the incident did not
seem significant, and Kerry did not mention it to anyone when he got
back on the boat. An unsigned "personnel casualty report," however,
erroneously implies that Kerry suffered "shrapnel wounds in his left
buttocks" later in the day, following the mine explosion incident,
when he also received "contusions to his right forearm."
Anti-Kerry veterans have accused Kerry of conflating the two
injuries to strengthen his case for a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
Kerry's Bronze Star citation, however, refers only to his arm
At 2:45 p.m., according to Navy records, Kerry was joined by four
other Swift boats for the Bay Hap trip. Kerry led the way on the
right-hand side of the river, in PCF-94, followed 15 yards behind by
one of his best friends in Vietnam, Don Droz, in PCF-43. A
procession of three boats on the left side of the river was led by
Richard Pees on PCF-3, followed by Jack Chenoweth on PCF-23 and
Thurlow on PCF-51.
Ahead of them was a fishing weir, a series of wooden posts across
the river. That morning, the Swiftees had noticed Vietnamese
children in sampans attaching nets to the posts and had thought
little of it. To get through the weir, their boats had to pass to
the left or to the right of the fishing nets.
Just as the Kerry and Pees boats reached the weir, there was a
devastating explosion, lifting Pees's boat, PCF-3, three feet out of
Witness Accounts Diverge
"My God, I've never seen anything like it," Chenoweth wrote in what
he says is a diary recorded soon after the events. "There was a
fantastic flash, a boom, then the 3 boat disappeared in a fountain
of water and debris. I was only 30 yards behind." Assuming that they
had run into a Vietcong ambush, Chenoweth wrote, "we unleashed
everything into the banks."
A later intelligence report established that the mine was probably
detonated by a Vietcong sympathizer in a foxhole who hit a plunger
as the Swift boats passed through the fishing weir.
Aboard the 3 boat, Pees remembered in an interview being "thrown up
in the air" into the windscreen of his pilothouse and landing "kind
of dazed," his legs numb, lap covered with blood. When it was over,
Pees and three members of his crew would be medevaced to a Coast
Guard cutter offshore with serious head and back injuries.
"When the mine went off, we were still going full speed," recalled
Michael Medeiros, one of Kerry's crew members. Kerry's boat raced
off down the river, away from the ambush zone.
It is at this point that the eyewitness accounts begin to diverge
sharply. Everybody agrees that a mine exploded under the 3 boat.
There is no argument that Rassmann fell into the river and that
Kerry fished him out. Nor is there any dispute that Kerry was hurt
in the arm, although the anti-Kerry camp claims he exaggerated the
nature of his injury. Much else is hotly contested.
When the first explosion occurred, Rassmann was seated next to the
pilothouse on the starboard, or right, side of Kerry's boat,
munching a chocolate chip cookie that he recalls having "ripped off
from someone's Care package." He saw the 3 boat lift out of the
water. Almost simultaneously, Kerry's forward gunner, Tommy Belodeau,
began screaming for a replacement for his machine gun, which had
jammed. Rassmann grabbed an M-16 and worked his way sideways along
the deck, which was only seven inches wide in places.
At this point, Kerry crew members say their boat was hit by a second
explosion. Although Kerry's injury report speaks of a mine that
"detonated close aboard PCF-94," helmsman Del Sandusky believes it
was more likely a rocket or rocket-propelled grenade, as a mine
would have inflicted more damage. Whatever it was, the explosion
rammed Kerry into the wall of his pilothouse, injuring his right
The second explosion "blew me right off the boat," Rassmann
recalled. Frightened that he might be struck by the propellers of
one of the boats, he dived to the bottom of the river, where he
dumped his weapons and rucksack. When he surfaced, he said, bullets
were "snapping overhead," as well as hitting the water around him.
At first, nobody noticed what had happened to Rassmann. But then
Medeiros, who was standing at the stern, saw him bobbing up and down
in the water and shouted, "Man overboard." Around this time, crew
members said, Kerry decided to go back to help the crippled 3 boat.
It is unclear how far down the river Kerry's boat was when he turned
around. It could have been anywhere from a few hundred yards to a
O'Neill claims that Kerry "fled the scene" despite the absence of
hostile fire. Kerry, in a purported journal entry cited in
Brinkley's "Tour of Duty," maintains that he wanted to get his
troops ashore "on the outskirts of the ambush."
The Kerry/Rassmann version of what happened next has been retold
many times, in TV advertisements and campaign appearances: Rassmann
struggling to climb up a scramble net, Kerry leaning over the bow of
the boat and pulling him up with his injured arm. As Kerry later
recalled, in notes cited by Brinkley, "Somehow we got him on board
and I didn't get the bullet in the head that I expected, and we
managed to move down near the 3 boat that was still crawling a
snail-like zig-zag through the river."
Rassmann remembers several boats coming back up the river toward
him. But Chenoweth believes that the rescue must have taken place
fairly close to the other boats, which had been drifting slowly
downriver. In his diary, he said, he wrote that "we spotted a man
overboard, started to pick him up, but 94 [Kerry's boat] got there
While Kerry was rescuing Rassmann, the other Swift boats had gone to
the assistance of Pees and the 3 boat. Thurlow, in particular,
distinguished himself by leaping onto the 3 boat and administering
first aid, according to his Bronze Star citation. At one point, he,
too, was knocked overboard when the boat hit a sandbar, but he was
rescued by crewmates.
The Kerry and anti-Kerry camps differ sharply on whether the
flotilla came under enemy fire after the explosion that crippled the
3 boat. Everybody aboard Kerry's boat, including Rassmann, says
there was fire from both riverbanks, and the official after-action
report speaks of all boats receiving "heavy a/w [automatic weapons]
and s/a [small arms] from both banks." The Bronze Star citations for
Kerry and Thurlow also speak of prolonged enemy fire.
A report on "battle damage" to Thurlow's boat mentions "three 30 cal
bullet holes about super structure." According to Thurlow, at least
one of the bullet holes was the result of action the previous day,
when he ran into another Vietcong ambush.
Thurlow, Chenoweth, Pees and several of their crew members who
belong to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth say neither they nor Kerry
came under fire. "If there was fire, I would have made some notation
in my journal," Chenoweth said. "But it didn't happen that way.
There wasn't any fire." Although he read his diary entry to a
reporter over the phone, he declined to supply a copy.
The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Rassmann said, "are not just
questioning Kerry's account, they are questioning my account. I take
that very personally. No one can tell me that we were not under
fire. I saw it, I heard the splashes, and I was scared to death. For
them to come back 35 years after the fact to tarnish not only
Kerry's record, but my veracity, is unconscionable."
Until now, eyewitness evidence supporting Kerry's version had
come only from his own crewmen. But yesterday, The Post
independently contacted a participant who has not spoken out so far
in favor of either camp who remembers coming under enemy fire.
"There was a lot of firing going on, and it came from both sides of
the river," said Wayne D. Langhofer, who manned a machine gun aboard
PCF-43, the boat that was directly behind Kerry's.
Langhofer said he distinctly remembered the "clack, clack, clack" of
enemy AK-47s, as well as muzzle flashes from the riverbanks.
Langhofer, who now works at a Kansas gunpowder plant, said he was
approached several months ago by leaders of Swift Boat Veterans for
Truth but declined their requests to speak out against Kerry.
Who Initialed Navy Report?
Much of the debate over who is telling the truth boils down to
whether the two-page after-action report and other Navy records are
accurate or whether they have been embellished by Kerry or someone
else. In "Unfit for Command," O'Neill describes the after-action
report as "Kerry's report." He contends that language in Thurlow's
Bronze Star citation referring to "enemy bullets flying about him"
must also have come from "Kerry's after-action report."
O'Neill has said that the initials "KJW" on the bottom of the report
"identified" it as having been written by Kerry. It is unclear why
this should be so, as Kerry's initials are JFK. A review of other
Swift boat after-action reports at the Naval Historical Center here
reveals several that include the initials "KJW" but describe
incidents at which Kerry was not present.
Other Swift boat veterans, including Thurlow and Chenoweth, have
said they believe that Kerry wrote the March 13 report. "I didn't
like to write reports," said Thurlow, who was the senior officer in
the five-boat flotilla. "John would write the thing up in longhand,
and it would then be typed up and sent up the line."
Even if Kerry did write the March 13 after-action report, it seems
unlikely that he would have been the source of the information about
"enemy bullets" flying around Thurlow. The official witness to those
events, according to Thurlow's medal recommendation form, was his
own leading petty officer, Robert Lambert, who himself won a Bronze
Star for "courage under fire" in going to Thurlow's rescue after he
fell into the river. Lambert, who lives in California, declined to
In a telephone interview, the head of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,
retired Adm. Roy Hoffmann, who commanded all Swift boats in Vietnam,
said he believed that Kerry wrote the March 13 after-action report
on the basis of numerical identifiers at the top of the form. He
later acknowledged that the numbers referred to the Swift boat unit,
and not to Kerry personally. "It's not cast-iron," he said.
Some of the mystery surrounding exactly what happened on the Bay Hap
River in March 1969 could be resolved by the full release of all
relevant records and personal diaries. Much information is available
from the Web sites of the Kerry campaign and Swift Boat Veterans for
Truth, and the Navy archives. But both the Kerry and anti-Kerry
camps continue to deny or ignore requests for other relevant
documents, including Kerry's personal reminiscences (shared only
with biographer Brinkley), the boat log of PCF-94 compiled by
Medeiros (shared only with Brinkley) and the Chenoweth diary.
Although Kerry campaign officials insist that they have published
Kerry's full military records on their Web site (with the exception
of medical records shown briefly to reporters earlier this year),
they have not permitted independent access to his original Navy
records. A Freedom of Information Act request by The Post for
Kerry's records produced six pages of information. A spokesman for
the Navy Personnel Command, Mike McClellan, said he was not
authorized to release the full file, which consists of at least a
Some Felt Betrayed
Kerry's reunion with Rassmann in January this year, nearly 35 years
after he pulled the former Green Beret from the river, was a
defining moment of his presidential campaign. Many political
observers believed that the images of the two men embracing helped
Kerry win the Iowa Democratic caucuses. The "No Man Left Behind"
theme has become a recurring image of pro-Kerry advertising.
But many of the men Kerry served with in Vietnam feel betrayed
and left behind by him. Soon after Kerry returned to the
United States, he began organizing antiwar rallies. Before the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 1971, he appeared to
endorse accusations that U.S. troops in Vietnam had committed war
crimes "with the full awareness of officers at all levels of
The anti-Kerry veterans began mobilizing earlier this year,
following publication of the Brinkley biography and the nationwide
publicity given to Kerry's emotional reunion with Rassmann.
Many of the veterans were contacted
personally by Hoffmann, a gung-ho naval officer compared
unflatteringly in "Tour of Duty" to the out-of-control lieutenant
colonel in the movie "Apocalypse Now" who talked about how he loved
"the smell of napalm in the morning."
Hoffmann, who was already angry with Kerry for his antiwar
activities on his return from Vietnam, said in an interview that he
was "appalled" to find out from reading "Tour of Duty" that Kerry
was "considered to be a Navy hero." "I thought there was a
tremendous amount of gross exaggeration in the book and, in some
places, downright lies. So I started contacting some of my former
shipmates," he said.
One of the men Hoffmann contacted was O'Neill, a longtime Kerry
critic who debated Kerry on television in 1971. O'Neill put Hoffmann
in touch with some wealthy Republican Party contributors. One of
O'Neill's contacts was Texas millionaire Bob Perry, who has
contributed $200,000 to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Perry has
also contributed to the Bush campaign.
"I'd met him three or four times and represented people he knew,"
said O'Neill, who has practiced law in Houston for nearly 30 years.
In addition to helping to organize the anti-Kerry campaign, O'Neill
wrote his own book about the senator's wartime record, which soared
to the top of the Amazon.com best-seller list before its publication
earlier this month.
With the exception of a sailor named Stephen Gardner, who
served with Kerry in late 1968 on PCF-44, Kerry's own crew members
have remained loyal to him. "If it wasn't for some of his
decisions, we would probably be some of the names in that wall,"
said Gene Thorson, the engineman on PCF-94, referring to the Vietnam
War Memorial. "I respect him very much."
Others who served on boats that operated alongside Kerry on that
fateful day in March 1969 say they cannot stand the man who is now
challenging George W. Bush for the presidency.
"I think that Kerry's behavior was abominable," said Pees, the
commander of the boat that hit the mine. "His actions after the war
were particularly disgusting. He distorted the truth when he talked
about atrocities. We went out of our way to protect civilians. To
suggest otherwise is a grotesque lie. As far as I am concerned, he
did not speak the truth about how we conducted operations in
"A lot of people just can't forgive and forget," countered Kerry
crew member Medeiros. "He was a great commander. I would have no
trouble following him anywhere."
Staff writer Linton Weeks contributed to this report.
It took me nearly an hour to digest this complex report.
From what I have read in this article, Kerry's anti-war statements
in the Seventies earned him some powerful enemies. It is clear
that Kerry was shot at and in danger much of the time during his
service, but it seems his
exploits were not remarkable enough to rise above the character
assassination attempt led by his enemies. And there was just
enough fudging on the part of Kerry's campaign to make an idle
bystander like me wonder why he wasn't more forthcoming.
Most people don't read endless political essays. But they do
watch TV. And they do love seeing leaders with guts.
If I am John Kerry and
these ads for Swift Boat start appearing on TV, I would bet the
farm. I would buy time on every station and I would shout the
truth at the top of my lungs. I would explain how my anti-war
stance created powerful right wing enemies, I would carefully refute
the charges in my own words, and I would discredit the people who
were attacking me. Mostly I would tell the truth about my
experience on the water in my very own words. If I am an
authentic war hero, I would take the entire country back to Vietnam
and tell them what really happened over there in my own words.
Roll the dice, Kerry!
"I am John Kerry and a bunch of liars have called me a coward and a
fraud, so I am here tonight to set the record straight!"
I never saw that TV response. Maybe you did.
Instead, Kerry muddled through the election with a ton of words in
the press. Kerry deserves a lot of credit for risking his life
and serving his country, but his image as a war hero was effectively
deflated. I don't know what the truth is, but his failure to
counter-attack gave the appearance that he may have inflated his resume. That's
what got him in trouble when people started pointing fingers.
Since most people really don't have hours and and hours to digest a
story this complex, Kerry's campaign sunk under the weight of the
constant he said-they said. The Swift Boat people cast
just enough doubt to tarnish Kerry's 'hero' image. Likewise
not much was done to exploit Bush's own lackluster record.
What do you suppose Mr. Kerry's mistake was?
Actually, I think Mr. Kerry made several mistakes. His first
mistake was never mending fences with the Vietnam War Veterans ahead
of time over his anti-war stance twenty years earlier. Those
men proved to be formidable enemies.
The second mistake was possibly inflating the seriousness of his war
deeds. If you are going to be in the
limelight, don't exaggerate your resume.
His most serious mistake was never facing the nation and rolling the
One more thing: two articles that are very supportive
of John Kerry can be read at the widely-praised Snopes Urban Legend
Kerry Service Record,
2000: John McCain and the
Bush-Rove Political Machine
Rick Archer's Note:
I have listed this story because it claims to explain what
happened to John McCain's Reputation down in South Carolina back in
2000. I promise you that I have no idea what information below
is true, false, or partially true. I printed it because I thought it
demonstrated how McCain's inability to refute the charges against
him cost him his campaign.
Bush did to McCain in the 2000 S. C. primary"
Bush Waged Nasty Smear Campaign Against McCain in 2000
Bush Supporters Called McCain “The Fag Candidate.” In South
Carolina, Bush supporters circulated church fliers that labeled
McCain “the fag candidate.” Columnist Frank Rich noted that the
fliers were distributed “even as Bush subtly reinforced that message
by indicating he wouldn’t hire openly gay people for his
McCain Slurs Included Illegitimate Children, Homosexuality And A
Among the rumors circulated against McCain in 2000 in South
Carolina was that his adopted Bangladeshi daughter was actually
black, that McCain was both gay and cheated on his wife, and that
his wife Cindy was a drug addict.”
Bush Campaign Used Code Words to Question McCain’s Temper.
“A smear campaign of the ugliest sort is now coursing through
the contest for the presidency in 2000. Using the code word
"temper," a group of Senate Republicans, and at least some outriders
of the George W. Bush campaign, are spreading the word that John
McCain is unstable. The subtext, also suggested in this whispering
campaign, is that he returned from 5 1/2 years as a POW in North
Vietnam with a loose screw. And it is bruited about that he
shouldn't be entrusted with nuclear weapons.”
Bush Supporters Questioned McCain’s Sanity.
“Some of George W. Bush's supporters have questioned Republican
presidential candidate John McCain's fitness for the White House,
suggesting that his five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam
drove him insane at the time.”
Bush Supporters Spread Racist Rumors About McCain’s Daughter.
Bush supporters in South Carolina made race-baiting phone calls
saying that McCain had a “black child.” The McCains’ daughter,
Bridget, was adopted from Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Bangladesh.
In August 2000, columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that the McCains
“are still seething about Bush supporters in South Carolina
spreading word of their dark-skinned adopted daughter.”
Rove Suggests Former POW McCain Committed Treason and Fathered
Child With Black Prostitute.
In 2000, McCain operatives in SC accused Rove of spreading
rumors against McCain, such as “suggestions that McCain had
committed treason while a prisoner of war, and had fathered a child
by a black prostitute,” according to the New Yorker.
After Rove Denied Role In McCain Whisper Campaign, Reporters
Concluded He Was Behind It.
A December 1999 Dallas Morning News linked Rove to a series of
campaign dirty tricks, including his College Republican efforts,
allegedly starting a whisper campaign about Ann Richard being too
gay-friendly, spreading stories about Jim Hightower’s involvement in
a kickback scheme and leaking the educational history of Lena
Guerrero. The article also outlined current dirty tricks and whisper
campaigns against McCain in South Carolina, including that “McCain
may be unstable as a result of being tortured while a prisoner of
war in North Vietnam.” (DMN, 12/2/99) After the article was
published, Rove blasted Slater in the Manchester, NH airport, “nose
to nose” according to one witness, with Rove claiming Slater had
“harmed his reputation,” Slater later noted. But according to one
witness, “What was interesting then is that everyone on the campaign
charter concluded that Rove was responsible for rumors about
Rove Was In Close Touch With McConnell, McCain-Feingold’s Chief
Senior White House adviser Karl Rove was in close contact with
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) during McConnell’s effort to fight
the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Bill in the U.S. Senate.
According to Newsweek, though Rove and Bush have publicly kept their
distance from McConnell on the issue, “sources tell Newsweek that
Rove is, in fact, in close touch with McConnell as GOP experts study
the bill for hidden land mines.”
Bush Campaign Accused of Using Push Polls Against McCain.
College of Charleston student Suzette Latsko said she received a
telephone call from a woman who identified herself as an employee of
Voter/Consumer Research, and that the caller misrepresented McCain’s
positions and asked if Latsko knew McCain had been reprimanded for
interfering with federal regulators in the savings and loan scandal.
Voter/Consumer Research is listed as a polling contractor on Bush’s
Federal Election Commission filings; the Bush campaign has paid
Voter/Consumer Research $93,000 through December 31, 1999. Bush
spokesman Ari Fleischer denied the call was a push poll, but said it
was important that the Republican Party remember McCain’s role in
the S&L crisis.
Bush Campaign Acknowledged Making Phone Calls.
Tucker Eskew, Bush’s South Carolina spokesman, acknowledged the
Bush campaign made such calls, but claimed they were not “push
polls.” Eskew added, “Show me a baseless comment in those
Bush Used Fringe Veterans Group to Attack McCain as “Manchurian
“In the case of Ted Sampley, the same guy who did Bush's dirty
work in going after Sen. John McCain in the 2000 Republican
primaries is doing the job against Kerry this year. Sampley dared
compare McCain, who spent five years as a Vietnam POW, with ‘the
Sampley Called McCain a “Coward” and a Traitor.
“Sampley… accused McCain of being a weak-minded coward who had
escaped death by collaborating with the enemy. Sampley claimed that
McCain had first been compromised by the Vietnamese, then recruited
by the Soviets.
Of course, the Freepers will deny that any of this actually
took place, the poor saps.
Rick Archer's Note: I had never heard of a "Freeper" until I read
this article. The Internet defines a Freeper as a Right-wing
political activist. So-called, because it is the nickname of the
denizens of the ultra-right wing Web site FreeRepublic.com
This article contends
that Bush ran a dirty smear campaign against McCain with the command
of his buddy Karl Rove. I have no idea what the truth is.
The only thing I know for sure is that South Carolina 2000 was John
I will say that some of the allegations in this article bear a
curious resemblance to the Swift Boat attack on John Kerry four
years down the road.
But you know what I would say to John Kerry? Burn me once, shame on you.
Burn me twice, shame on me. In other words, after seeing what
happened to McCain in 2000, wouldn't you think the Kerry Campaign
would have prepared a counter-attack in case a similar move was made
The Anatomy of a Smear
By Richard H. Davis
March 21, 2004
Every presidential campaign has its share of hard-ball political
tactics, but nothing is more discomforting than a smear campaign.
The deeply personal, usually anonymous allegations that make up a
smear campaign are aimed at a candidate's most precious asset: his
reputation. The reason this blackest of the dark arts is
likely to continue is simple: It often works.
The premise of any smear campaign rests on a central truth of
politics: Most of us will vote for a candidate we like and
respect, even if we don't agree with him on every issue.
But if you can cripple a voter's basic trust
in a candidate, you can probably turn his vote. The idea
is to find some piece of personal information that is tawdry enough
to raise doubts, repelling a candidate's natural supporters.
All campaigns do extensive research into their opponent's voting
record and personal life. This so-called "oppo research" involves
searching databases, combing through press clips, and asking
questions of people who know (and preferably dislike) your opponent.
It's not hard to turn up something a candidate would rather not see
on the front page of The Boston Globe.
It's not necessary, however, for a smear to be true to be effective.
The most effective smears are based on a kernel of truth and applied
in a way that exploits a candidate's political weakness.
Having run Senator John McCain's campaign for president, I can
recount a textbook example of a smear made against McCain in South
Carolina during the 2000 presidential primary. We had just swept
into the state from New Hampshire, where we had racked up a
shocking, 19-point win over the heavily favored George W. Bush. What
followed was a primary campaign that would make history for its
In South Carolina, Bush Republicans were facing an opponent who was
popular for his straight talk and Vietnam war record. They knew that
if McCain won in South Carolina, he would likely win the nomination.
With few substantive differences between Bush and McCain, the
campaign was bound to turn personal. The situation was ripe for a
It didn't take much research to turn up a seemingly innocuous fact
about the McCains: John and his wife, Cindy, have an adopted
daughter named Bridget. Cindy found Bridget at Mother Theresa's
orphanage in Bangladesh, brought her to the United States for
medical treatment, and the family ultimately adopted her. Bridget
has dark skin.
Anonymous opponents used "push polling" to suggest that McCain's
Bangladeshi born daughter was his own, illegitimate black child. In
push polling, a voter gets a call, ostensibly from a polling
company, asking which candidate the voter supports. In this case, if
the "pollster" determined that the person was a McCain supporter, he
made statements designed to create doubt about the senator.
Thus, the "pollsters" asked McCain supporters if they would be more
or less likely to vote for McCain if they knew he had fathered an
illegitimate child who was black. In the conservative,
race-conscious South, that's not a minor charge. We had no idea who
made the phone calls, who paid for them, or how many calls were
made. Effective and anonymous: the perfect smear campaign.
Some aspects of this smear were hardly so subtle. Bob Jones
University professor Richard Hand sent an e-mail to "fellow South
Carolinians" stating that McCain had "chosen to sire children
without marriage." It didn't take long for mainstream media to carry
the charge. CNN interviewed Hand and put him on the spot:
"Professor, you say that this man had children out of wedlock. He
did not have children out of wedlock." Hand replied, "Wait a minute,
that's a universal negative. Can you prove that there aren't any?"
Campaigns have various ways of dealing with smears. They can
refute the lies, or they can ignore them and run the risk of the
smear spreading. But "if you're responding, you're losing."
Rebutting tawdry attacks focuses
public attention on them, and prevents the campaign from talking
We chose to address the attacks by trying to get the media to focus
on the dishonesty of the allegations and to find out who was making
them. We also pledged to raise the level of debate by refusing to
run any further negative ads -- a promise we kept, though it
probably cost us the race. We never did find out who perpetrated
these smears, but they worked: We lost South Carolina by a wide
The only way to stop the expected mud-slinging in 2004 is for both
President Bush and Senator Kerry to publicly order their supporters
not to go there. But if they do, their behavior would be the
exception, not the rule.
Richard H. Davis is president of the Reform
Institute and a partner in Davis Manafort, a political consulting
firm. He was a fellow at Harvard's
Institute of Politics in 2002. He
was campaign manager for John McCain in 2000 and has worked in every
presidential campaign since 1980.
John McCain: Mr. Nice Guy or Back Alley Mugger?
By Thomas Edsall
Facing gale-force anti-Republican headwinds, John McCain must cut
Barack Obama down to size in order to be competitive. But McCain's
track record using negative ads has been and may still be
problematic - if not disastrous.
On Wednesday, McCain escalated his assault with a new ad, "Celeb,"
showing Obama with photos of Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears and a
voice-over intoning "he's the biggest celebrity in the world. . .
but is he ready to lead?"
The Obama campaign "is focused on an enormous image of celebrity
status," said McCain's manager Rick Davis in a conference call to
reporters explaining the purpose of the ad. In contrast, Davis
contended, McCain's heads "a political movement based on ideas and
solutions for the American public.... We see him [McCain] more as a
global leader than as a global celebrity."
The new ad follows McCain's July 22 charge that "Obama would rather
lose a war in order to win a political campaign," and a recent
commercial, "Troops," alleging that during Obama's overseas trip "he
made time to go to the gym, but canceled a visit with wounded
troops," closing with, "John McCain is always there for our troops.
McCain. Country first."
For McCain, negative ads have by and large been poorly conceived and
In 2000, his decision to go negative against George W. Bush was a
crucial factor in McCain's eventual defeat.
On February 1 that year, McCain emerged as the 19-point victor in
the New Hampshire primary, well-positioned to put a dagger through
George W. Bush's heart in the South Carolina primary - the contest
Bush was banking on to stem his hemorrhage. Within days of losing
New Hampshire to McCain, Bush nosedived from being a 20-point
favorite in South Carolina to a 4-point underdog.
In one of their more artful tactical displays, Bush campaign allies
accused McCain of fathering an illegitimate black child (McCain had
adopted a Bangladeshi orphan) and of abandoning the cause of Vietnam
vets missing in action.
McCain, who is known for his temper, took the Bush bait, becoming
visibly enraged as he roamed the state and produced a television
commercial in which he personally accused Bush of twisting "the
truth like Clinton. We're all pretty tired of that....Do we really
want another politician in the White House America can't trust?"
For one Republican to accuse another of being like Bill Clinton was,
at that moment, beyond the pale.
"Suggesting that Governor Bush is as dishonest as Bill Clinton is a
disservice to our party and our principles," Bush spokesman Ari
Fleischer declared with all due righteousness. "Our nation has been
through enough and John McCain's ad has gone too far."
By the standards of the GOP in South Carolina, John McCain had
crossed over into the nether world. In a matter of a week, the
Arizona Senator's bid collapsed. On February 19, 2000, McCain not
only lost the South Carolina primary by 11 points, 53-42, but kissed
goodbye to any chance of winning the Republican nomination that
In reaction to this history, there are a number of political
strategists and observers convinced that McCain runs the danger of
doing more violence to himself than to his adversaries when he goes
negative, and that he is particularly vulnerable when his negative
ads contradict his stance as a man of integrity who lives by a code
John G. Geer is a Vanderbilt political scientist who believes
negative ads can be very informative and are often criticized too
harshly, but that they can fail to deliver if not based on charges
that have the ring of truth and that stick: "McCain has always been
willing to attack, as he did in 2000 or 2008 against Romney in
Florida. . . . but [now] the attacks may backfire because they are
not credible. The 'troop' ad is technically true, but it is not a
very effective ad. McCain is acting like any candidate who is
behind: looking for some issue that gets you traction. He just does
not have much to go on. McCain needs Obama to make a big mistake."
Alex Castellanos, one of George W. Bush's media mavens in 2000 and
2004, had a different take: "The problem is that 'advertising',
i.e., anything that smells even faintly false, contradicts his
persona," Castellanos said. "John McCain is the un-cola of politics,
the anti-politician. And few things are more political than negative
commercials that draw attention to themselves as 'advertising'
designed to manipulate voters and not as 'information' designed to
inform them. You can't be the un-cola and Coca Cola too."
Democratic media specialist Bill Carrick's analysis is very similar
to Castellanos'. Carrick, who cut his political teeth in South
"When your political persona and appeal are wrapped around the idea
that you are not a typical politician, but an independent, above
politics candidate, going negative can back-fire big time. John
McCain's core message is he is a bipartisan leader who will bring
the country together. As he becomes a more polarizing and partisan
figure, the campaign is undermining his core message and persona."
Drew Westen of Emory University points to the way in which McCain's
anti Obama ads could reflect back on McCain's integrity and
character. Westen writes:
"See the ending to the latest McCain attack ads? 'John McCain:
Country First.' I wonder who or what interests the other candidate
could be putting first? Just like the ending to his first general
election ad: 'John McCain: The American President Americans have
been Waiting for.' Hmmm. What other kind of president could we have?
Un-American? Anti-American? African-American?"
John Weaver, McCain's former top campaign strategist, was harshly
critical in remarks he made to Marc Ambinder:
For McCain to win in such troubled times, he needs to begin telling
the American people how he intends to lead us. That McCain exists.
For McCain's sake, this tomfoolery needs to stop.
Thomas B. Edsall is the political editor of the Huffington Post.
Archer's Parting Shot: I doubt I will never know the truth
about John Kerry and the Swift Boats or John McCain and the Rove
Political Machine, but I am sure the
that both men were caught flat-footed and unable to respond
effectively will follow them for the rest of their lives.
I found this
particular passage from the 'Anatomy of a Smear Campaign'
Campaigns have various ways of dealing with
smears. They can refute the lies, or they can ignore them and
run the risk of the smear spreading. But "if
you're responding, you're losing." Rebutting
tawdry attacks focuses public attention on them, and prevents
the campaign from talking issues.
I don't know if I
agree with that. Here's what I think:
Be it a
small arena or a large arena, if
your Reputation is attacked and you don't speak up EFFECTIVELY in
your own defense, you will get hammered in the court of public
For example, back in
1992 Bill Clinton was accused of having an affair with Jennifer
Flowers. I remember Bill and Hillary appeared on
60 Minutes to
refute the charges. At the time, I didn't believe a word the
man said. But at least he had the guts to roll the dice.
Clinton aggressively stood up and spoke to a national TV audience
and somehow was able to save his skin.
So don't tell me 'If
you're responding, your losing. Rebutting tawdry
attacks focuses public attention on them, and prevents the campaign
from talking issues.'
Maybe now we know why
McCain lost - he took this guy's advice!
Clinton responded and won. Kerry and McCain did not respond and
End of story.
Bill Clinton and Gennifer
Rick Archer's Note: In 1991, I watched
my TV with dark amusement as Bill and Hillary Clinton went
on "60 Minutes" and essentially tip-toed around the
questions raised about Mr. Clinton's 'faithfulness' to his
wife Hillary. A woman named Gennifer Flowers had been
screaming to anyone who would listen that Bill Clinton had
cheated on his wife.
As I watched Team Clinton on "60 Minutes", I was fairly
certain I was watching a man and woman who would say
anything to get elected. I naively assumed the
American Public would agree Mr. Clinton lacked the integrity
to hold the office of President. I was certainly wrong
on that one.
In large part because Mrs. Clinton stood by him on the show
and appeared to actually forgive him, the American Public
decided to more or less look the other way. This act
of loyalty on Mrs. Clinton's part essentially paved the way
for his eventual election to the Presidency.
As a result, we elected a man with dubious personal
integrity to the highest office in our land. For the
next eight years, Mr. Clinton distinguished himself as both
a gifted leader as well as a man with fatal flaws. For
all his success as world leader, economic genius, and civil
rights leader, Mr. Clinton also gave us Paula Jones,
Kathleen Willey, and of course Monica Lewinsky. Down
the road he even acknowledged his affair with Flowers and
several other women as well (Elizabeth Ward Gracen, Sally
Perdue, Dolly Kyle Browning).
If he had been able to keep his pants on, Mr. Clinton
might have left office as one of our most celebrated
leaders. The Nineties were marked as a prosperous and
largely peaceful era in American History. This should
have been Mr. Clinton's crowning legacy. But instead
we were treated to a never-ending line of women who either
claimed to have sex with the man or denied having sex with
the man. We were treated to lies and non-stop
hypocrisy. As a result, Bill Clinton will go down in
history as the man who should have been King, but wound up
instead as perpetual fodder for late night humor and
Still, you have to give Mr. and Mrs. Clinton credit.
By appearing on national TV and putting on a convincing act
of marital bliss, they were able to defuse a Smear
Campaign of the highest magnitude.
Where John Kerry and John McClain failed to counterattack
accusations that were likely to be lies, on the other hand
Bill Clinton successfully quelled accusations that were
But then McClain and Kerry didn't go on "60 Minutes"
or any other national show, did they? The Clintons
rolled the dice and came up a winner.
The following article is an interesting summation of the
famous Gennifer Flowers allegations that the Clintons were
able to overcome on their road to the White House.
This Article is
The Real-Life 'Primary Colors'
By Gene Lyons
Kenneth Starr's acolytes -- the likes of Stuart Taylor Jr.
-- are fond of contrasting their hero's honesty with
It's true that Bill Clinton's reputation has sunk so
low that some critics thought John Travolta was tossing the
president a bouquet when he portrayed the Clinton character
in "Primary Colors" as a man who seduces a teen-age
baby-sitter and then covers up possible paternity of her
That's in part because the standard fare coming from
the sage TV pundits these days is that Clinton deserves his
reputation as a devious scamp. Over and over, the pundits
cite one deception, in particular. "If Clinton lied to the
nation about his 12-year love affair with Gennifer Flowers,"
they say, "how can we believe his denials about other sexual
They also shake their heads about Hillary Rodham Clinton. If
the First Lady seriously thinks that some "vast right-wing
conspiracy" is out to destroy her husband and reverse the
results of the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections, where
is the evidence? Some think Mrs. Clinton should be lumped
with adepts of flying saucer cults, and, piling irony upon
bitter irony, the small industry of Clinton "scandal"
zealots who see a conspiracy behind every White House
But what if the overwhelming evidence shows that the
president actually didn't lie about Gennifer Flowers,
certainly not in what most would consider the adult sense of
the term? (A smarmy-sounding equivocation, I know, but keep
Also, what if a powerful circumstantial case can be made --
backed by a short ton of concrete evidence, including
hitherto unreported interconnections and shady deal-making
between and among the president's bitterest and most
unscrupulous political enemies -- that an organized cabal
has indeed existed since at least the Arkansas gubernatorial
race of 1990 to smear Bill Clinton with sexual innuendo and
destroy his political career?
What if the evidence also shows that prominent members of
the national press were, if not quite active participants in
this effort, at the very least knowing observers who
suppressed, and have continued to suppress, much of what
they knew that was certainly "newsworthy" by any reasonable
Would that mean that Hillary Rodham Clinton might not be A.)
out of her cotton-pickin' mind, or, B.) a cold-blooded
participant in a loveless, politically-expedient marriage?
Could it also be that Bill Clinton is not some sex
addict/predator living a lie in some textbook case of
The 12-Year Affair
So, let's go to the
videotape, shall we? On January 26, 1992, Bill and Hillary
Clinton appeared on CBS's "60 Minutes" to confront Gennifer
Flowers's lurid account of a 12- year love affair with the
candidate in the supermarket tabloid the Star. According to
the Wall Street Journal, Flowers was paid upwards of
$140,000 for her story.
On CBS' "60 Minutes," Steve Croft asked Bill Clinton about
Flowers' accusation of a 12-year affair. "That allegation,"
he replied firmly "is false."
In response to a backup question, Clinton added that both he
and Flowers herself had previously denied the affair. He
went on famously to acknowledge having "caused pain in my
marriage," added that he trusted voters to understand what
he meant by that, and indicated that he and Hillary would
have nothing more to say about it.
In effect, Clinton had admitted adultery. Croft never asked
the conclusive "have you ever" question, and Clinton
certainly never answered it. Long before the CBS interview,
Clinton was firmly on record as saying that he thought it
out of bounds and would never under any circumstances answer
it. It's been reported that he made that understanding an
explicit condition of the "60 Minutes" interview.
In a contemporaneous ABC News poll, 73 percent of
respondents said they agreed with Clinton that whether or
not he'd ever had an extramarital affair was between him and
On the following day, Flowers herself held a press
conference in a New York hotel ballroom. Dressed in a
scarlet dress with matching lipstick, she played excerpts
from tape-recordings of several telephone conversations with
"Yes, I was Bill Clinton's lover for 12 years, and for the
past two years I have lied about the relationship," she
asserted. "The truth is I loved him. Now he tells me to deny
it. Well, I'm sick of all the deceit, and I'm sick of all
Subjectively speaking, Flowers's demeanor struck many as
that of an icy gold-digger who had never loved a man in her
Asked about her remarks at a Baton Rouge campaign stop that
same day, Clinton commented, "She didn't tell the truth. She
hired a lawyer a year ago -- a year and a half ago -- to say
that anybody who says that was a liar and would be sued. And
she admitted that she changed her position for money.
Nothing happened in that press conference today to change
that. My wife and I have said everything we have to say
about this whole subject yesterday. As far as I'm concerned,
it's a closed matter."
The closest Clinton came to answering the "have you ever"
question was an off-handed quip a few days later about
accusations regarding a woman he never "slept with" and a
draft he never dodged. Odds are, as we shall see, that the
president never did "sleep" with Flowers, in the sense of
spending the night together.
That may not wash as a case of full candor, but that was as
close as Clinton came to telling a bald-faced lie about
Flowers. Readers will have to make up their own minds how
serious a transgression they think it in light of what's to
As for Flowers, she would earn another chunk of change for a
more sexually explicit Penthouse version of her story,
accompanied by a pictorial layout. "I dare Hillary to bare
her butt in any magazine," Flowers taunted. "They don't have
a page that broad."
As for the many married men she had seduced, Flowers
boasted, "I usually throw them back. ... I don't want to
keep them. Let the wives have them back." Flowers also set
up a 900 number to play her famous telephone tapes of
Clinton, and published a book, Passion and Betrayal.
Fast forward six years to January 1998. As a side-bar to
l'affaire Lewinsky, some mischievous sprite leaked to the
press the allegation that during his deposition in the Paula
Jones lawsuit, President Clinton admitted having sex with
Gennifer Flowers. Immediately taken as gospel truth amid the
general media freak-out over the Lewinsky tapes, the
disclosure led to the remarkable spectacle of an unrepentant
Flowers lecturing the president on sexual morality on
"Geraldo" and "Larry King Live."
White House spokesman Mike McCurry told reporters that the
president's testimony in the Jones deposition was perfectly
consistent with what he'd said on "60 Minutes" in 1992.
Then, a few days later came the Clinton counter-leak. Time
magazine reported that Clinton had testified to having had
sex with Flowers one time in 1977. A dalliance, a fling, or
a roll-in-the-hay, most would agree, but hardly a 12-year
love affair. Flowers propositioned him on a later occasion,
the president allegedly testified, but he turned her down.
To put things in perspective: Clinton turned 30 in 1977, the
boy attorney general of Arkansas. He'd been married to
Hillary Rodham since October 1975; Chelsea Clinton wouldn't
be born until 1980. Flowers was then briefly a Little Rock
TV reporter who boasted about her bedroom conquests. Her
availability was no secret around the KARK newsroom.
That Bill Clinton, new to celebrity in those bygone days of
"sexual liberation," had also been known to succumb to the
allure of star-struck groupies was likewise widely rumored.
It should be stipulated that as an island of relative
cosmopolitanism in a sea of sex-obsessed fundamentalists,
Little Rock is always alive with sexual rumor and intrigue,
much of it imaginary.
Exactly how much pain Bill Clinton caused in his marriage
remains his and his wife's secret.
Yet, Clinton's apparent testimony about a brief dalliance
with Flowers squares with what some of Flowers's friends
told reporters in 1992. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist
John Brummett, who's covered Clinton for more than 20 years,
wrote that "my sources say that nearly 15 years ago, around
1977-78, and maybe a little later, she [Flowers] mentioned
to friends that she was having a fling with Clinton. ...
They heard nothing from her after 1979 about a relationship
with Clinton and were surprised and skeptical upon reading
her assertion ... of a 12-year affair that ended only in
More graphically, her ex-roomate Lauren Kirk told Penthouse
that she believed Flowers to be lying for revenge and money:
"She just can't accept the fact that he came, wiped himself
off, zipped up, and left. He was probably using her, and she
just doesn't like being used. She likes to use."
Now there are cynical explanations as to why Clinton might
have chosen to admit a one-night stand with Flowers in a
sworn deposition 21 years after the fact. Maybe he feared
that Gennifer had kept a semen-stained dress for lo, these
many years, cunningly anticipating the advent of DNA
testing. Or maybe he thought that a not-so-damaging
confession of a long-ago indiscretion would make subsequent
lies regarding, say, Monica Lewinsky, seem more credible.
But the simplest explanation that fits all the available
facts is that Clinton testified truthfully, and that
Gennifer Flowers -- a registered Republican, part hired gun,
part sexual entrepreneur -- was merely the opening act in a
long-running right-wing "dirty tricks" campaign to destroy
To understand fully, it's necessary to explain Flowers's
oddly symbiotic relationship with Arkansas con man and
professional "Clinton-crazy," Larry Nichols.
In 1988, Nichols a one-time high school football star from
Conway, Ark., who recorded advertising jingles for a living,
worked for several months as a marketing consultant for the
Arkansas Finance Development Authority, the state's
centralized bonding agency. Alas, Nichols had his own
agenda. He told people he was a CIA operative and got
involved with various right-wing causes.
In September 1988, The Associated Press learned that Nichols
had taken his politics to work: he'd made 642 long-distance
calls at state expense to Nicaraguan contra leaders and
politicians who supported them. At first, Nichols claimed
that the calls had dealt with Arkansas municipal bond sales,
but that story collapsed after reporters phoned the same
numbers and made inquiries. Gov. Bill Clinton soon demanded
It turned out that Nichols also faced "theft by deception"
charges in several Arkansas counties. He avoided prosecution
by promising to make restitution, but later took bankruptcy
and never paid.
A few weeks before the 1990 Arkansas gubernatorial election
between Gov. Clinton and Republican Sheffield Nelson,
Nichols held a press conference at the state capitol. He
handed out copies of a lawsuit against Clinton alleging that
he'd been wrongly fired from his state job, and appending a
list of five mistresses upon whom the governor had allegedly
spent state money. Nichols offered no proof.
Among the names on his list, however, was Gennifer Flowers.
In a very competitive media market -- Little Rock was then
in the middle of a bitter "newspaper war" that ended in 1991
with the demise of the liberal Arkansas Gazette -- reporters
contacted the women, who made vehement denials. Flowers and
her lawyer threatened in writing to sue anybody who
published or broadcast what she characterized as a slander.
Considering Nichols's reputation for tall tales and faced
with denials all around, every media outlet in Little Rock
made the same decision: the women's names were not
published. But copies of the lawsuit were readily available
at Sheffield Nelson's campaign headquarters.
Faxed copies also began appearing at out-of-town newspapers
and broadcast stations all over Arkansas. With one
exception, nobody used them. After a right-wing talk show
host at a small Little Rock station allowed a caller to read
Nichols's list over the air, its owner received a brisk
letter from Gennifer Flowers's lawyer promising to sue if
the incident was repeated. It was not.
A judge soon dismissed Nichols's own lawsuit for lack of
evidence. The Nelson campaign shot at least two campaign
commercials charging Clinton with drug use and sexual
misbehavior, but feared the ads might backfire and never
But if the name "Larry Nichols" sounds familiar, that's
probably because the former jingle writer and marketing
consultant has gone on to become one of the biggest stars of
Clinton-phobic talk radio, inveighing almost nightly against
the president's imaginary high crimes and misdemeanors from
sea to shining sea. Along with a jackleg Arkansas pol known
as "Justice Jim" Johnson, Nichols is the narrator of two
bizarre videos called "The Clinton Chronicles" and "The Mena
Produced by a California outfit called Citizens for Honest
Government and promoted by televangelist Rev. Jerry Falwell,
the tapes make scores of clearly false charges regarding
Clinton's tenure as Arkansas governor. Even the fiercely
Republican Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has written articles
detailing their near-delusional inaccuracy. More alarmingly,
both tapes also accuse the president of a host of crimes,
including cocaine use, rape, gun-running, drug smuggling and
Some historians of Arkansas political mischief are intrigued
by the many parallels between "The Clinton Chronicles" and a
series of equally vicious pamphlets distributed during
"Justice Jim" Johnson's 1966 gubernatorial campaign against
reformist Republican Winthrop Rockefeller.
Among other crimes, "nigger lover" Rockefeller was accused
of being a pornographer who engaged in homosexual affairs
with black men. In stump speeches, Justice Jim, an ardent
segregationist who has never relented, flailed away at
Rockefeller as a "prissy sissy," a "Santa Gertrudis steer,"
and other synonyms for "queer." Johnson himself, meanwhile,
accepted the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan.
By coming home from Georgetown in the spring of 1966 to work
in the campaign of Johnson's Democratic opponent, Bill
Clinton earned himself a permanent spot on Justice Jim's
Fast forward again to the Democratic presidential primaries
of 1992. Exactly one week before the Star published Gennifer
Flowers's account of her 12-year affair with Clinton, it had
run a similar "expose" based upon Larry Nichols's lawsuit.
The official version of the Gennifer Flowers story holds
that her resistance broke down after Nichols's allegations
hit the Star. Realizing that the tabloid planned to publish
anyway, she decided that it would be better to make some
Far likelier, in view of subsequent events, is that Flowers
and Nichols cooked up the scheme together. Soon after
Nichols's original 1990 press conference, Flowers had begun
to call Gov. Bill Clinton's office with tales of woe. Due to
the notoriety, she complained, she was having terrible
difficulty getting gigs as a nightclub singer.
Clinton himself referred her to an aide named Judy Gaddy who
handled 30 to 50 such inquiries a week. Here is the complete
text of a letter Bill Clinton's purported lover of 12 years
subsequently sent him at the office. It arrived in an
envelope marked "Personal," but was kept in a file with
Flowers's other correspondence and released after the Star
"Bill, I certainly enjoyed speaking with you by phone!
Enclosed please find a business resume and an entertainment
resume. Anything you can do is much appreciated!!
Over the next three months, Gaddy sent Flowers notices of
job openings in state agencies for which she might qualify.
In early 1991, Flowers interviewed at the Department of
Arkansas Heritage for a $15,200 job as a "multi-media
specialist." She didn't get the job.
On Feb. 25, 1991, she wrote her supposed lover again. "Since
we were unable to connect by phone," the missive began, "I
thought I should drop you a note."
Flowers complained that Judy Gaddy hadn't been very
successful in helping her. It had taken Gaddy three weeks to
come up with the first interview, and Gennifer hadn't been
offered the job. Her financial situation, she explained, was
dire. Flowers enclosed a copy of her lawyer's letter
threatening to sue Larry Nichols, and closed by asking
Clinton to "Please, be in touch."
Three months later, Gaddy sent her to the Arkansas Merit
System to be tested for an administrative assistant's
position at the state Appeals Tribunal that paid $17,524.
This time around, Gennifer got the job.
Gene Lyons is author of Fools for Scandal, a
critique of the Washington's media's Whitewater coverage.
Copyright (c) 1998
Ms Flowers is a former nightclub
singer who became the focus of attention during
Mr Clinton's 1992 election campaign. She alleged
at the time that the she had an affair with Bill
Clinton for 12 years while he was governor of
She sold tapes of their telephone conversations
and said that he offered her a job in local
government in exchange for sexual favours. These
accusations prompted Mr and Mrs Clinton to admit
on national television that they had experienced
problems in their marriage.
Mrs Clinton is a high powered
lawyer who married Mr Clinton in 1977.
Mr Clinton's wife has been always been fiercely
loyal to her husband. When allegations arose about Mr Clinton
and Gennifer Flowers in 1992, the couple went on
TV to talk about it. This frankness was seen as
laudable honesty at the time.
In public she has criticized many of the
allegations against her husband as politically
motivated slurs. However, behind closed doors
the two are reported to have had blazing rows.