Kerry Sues Bush

Kerry takes legal action against Vietnam critics (YahooNews – AFP)

Democratic White House hopeful John Kerry’s campaign formally alleged that a group attacking his Vietnam war record had illegal ties to US President George W. Bush’s reelection bid. In a statement released to reporters, Kerry’s campaign announced it had “filed a legal complaint against Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT) before the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for violating the law with inaccurate ads that are illegally coordinated with the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign.”

The move by the Kerry campaign came shortly after the Swift Boat group released a second ad attacking the Democratic presidential candidate, who was wounded three times while serving on a Swift Boat in Vietnam and decorated twice for valor. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have accused Kerry of lying about one of the wounds he suffered and of embellishing his acts of heroism during his four months in Vietnam, charges strongly rejected by the senator from Massachusetts.

Kerry on Thursday accused the Bush administration of using the Swift Boat veterans as a front group to do the “dirty work” of attacking his Vietnam War record. The New York Times on Friday reported that there is a “web of connections” between the Swift Boat group and the “Bush family, high-profile Texas political figures and President Bush’s chief political aide, Karl Rove.”

I can’t decide whether this move is bold or stupid. On the one hand, it seems incredibly desperate. On the other, it forces the Bush campaign to devote resources trying to prove a negative.

See also Kerry files FEC complaint against critical veterans group (CNN)

For background on this story, see Kerry Camp Calls for Censorship.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Sean says:

    This is a stupid move. Bush’s defense to the charge that his campaign illegally coordinated with the Swifties is simple: “No, we didn’t.”

    Kerry will then be forced to prove it. All he has is a Moore-like six degrees of separation argument that Republican Bush backers from Texas who once drove past Bush’s ranch contributed money to the Swifties, therefore Bush is guilty. That won’t hold up in an FEC litigation.

    Kerry is going to lose this and he is going to look foolish when the FEC vindicates Bush.

  2. I’m not sure, but I think Karl Rove may be a frickin’ genius here, getting Kerry and Big media to do the heavy lifting to get McCain-Fiengold overturned.

    It’s also funny the way the NY Times spins a conspiratorial “web of connections” in its story. Oh, and that leads to a a variant on the six degrees of Kevin Bacon (see my blog for details).

  3. bryan says:

    I may be wrong, but isn’t it incorrect to say that Kerry is “suing” Bush. Filing a complaint with the election commission isn’t the same thing as taking him to court, is it?

  4. James Joyner says:

    bryan: It’s a better headline my way, though 🙂

    And it emphasizes that Kerry is trying to deflect the attention from himself by filing a bogus suit making allegations against Bush he can’t possibly make stick (legally).

  5. bryan says:


    tsk, tsk. Going the way of all big media, I see. 😉

  6. Fredrik Nyman says:

    Question: doesn’t the complaint draw attention to the Swifties?

    Question: wouldn’t the D’s prefer that nobody gets to hear what the Swifties have to say? They are certainly acting that way, asking for the books and the ads to be banned.

    Question: haven’t the D’s backers in the media tried to bury this story?

    Question: won’t the complaint draw unwelcome attention to the ties between the D’s and their 527’s? It seems that MoveOn, for example, is considerably closer to the DNC than the Swifties are to the RNC.

    Question: Given that the D 527’s have raised something like $200M, compared to the swifties’ $200K, shouldn’t the D’s be careful what they wish for, lest they get it?

    I’m inclined to think it’s adumb, desperate move; the Kerry camp has been doing a remarkable number of them lately. Accusing NASA of dirty tricks comes to mind.

  7. Paul says:

    stupid- All it does is give the Swifties air time. –Which according to the polls is stupid.