Home Up Joe Paterno

Reputation Spin Harvest Moon Vesuvius SSQQ Victoria Alex Cheryl Google Politics Joe Paterno
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 recovered.

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 it.

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.


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. - Pericles

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 majority.

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 been exhausted.

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 Reagan

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 Congress.-Mark Twain

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 understand.

Whoever has any authority over you, no matter how small, will attempt to use it.



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
Reputation, 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
Boston Globe
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. 

On the 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:
That 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 charges. 

How in the world did that happen?

"I see my reputation is at stake, My fame is shrewdly gored."  Spoken by Achilles as he lays dying before the walls of Troy in William Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida.

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."

I 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 four articles. 
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 is Perception". 

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 Boats

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 campaign. 

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 of shrapnel.

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

December 1968

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. Rood.

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 an interview.

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 election.

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 humongous jaw."

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 injury.

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 the water.

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 forearm.

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 mile.

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 first."

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 comment.

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 hundred pages.

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 command."

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 Vietnam."

"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."

Washington Post Staff writer Linton Weeks contributed to this report.

Rick Archer's Note:
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 dice.

One more thing: two articles that are very supportive of John Kerry can be read at the widely-praised Snopes Urban Legend web site.

John Kerry Service RecordJohn Kerry Swift Boat

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. 

"What 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 administration.”

McCain Slurs Included Illegitimate Children, Homosexuality And A Drug-Addict Wife.
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 McCain.”

Rove Was In Close Touch With McConnell, McCain-Feingold’s Chief Opponent.
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 questions.”

Bush Used Fringe Veterans Group to Attack McCain as “Manchurian Candidate.”
“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 Manchurian Candidate.’”

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 McCain's Waterloo.

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 against them? 

The Anatomy of a Smear Campaign

By Richard H. Davis
Boston Globe
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 negativity.

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 smear.

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 issues.

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 margin.

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.


2008:  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 minimally effective.

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 year.

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 of honor.

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 Carolina, said:

"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.

Rick 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 Perception 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' fascinating:

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 opinion. 

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 lost.

End of story.

Bill Clinton and Gennifer Flowers

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 ridicule.

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 true! 


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 Reprinted from The Consortium

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 President Clinton's.

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 illegitimate child.

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 misconduct."

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 action.

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 reading.)

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 definition?

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 psychological denial?

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 his wife.

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 Clinton.

"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 the lies."

Subjectively speaking, Flowers's demeanor struck many as that of an icy gold-digger who had never loved a man in her adult life.

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 follow.

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.

Clinton Deposed

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 1989."

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."

Republican Flowers

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 the president.

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 his resignation.

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.

The List

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 aired them.

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 Connection."

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 murder.

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 enemies list.

Going National

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 money.

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 story broke:

"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!!

"Thanks, Gennifer."

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


Gennifer Flowers

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 Arkansas.

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.

Hillary Clinton

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.


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