Swift Boater on McCain’s Truth Squad

John McCain’s Truth Squad, formed a few months ago in order to respond to charges by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth clone Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain, is prominently featuring an actual member of the Swifties as a spokesman, CNN’s Rebecca Sinderbrand reports.

Former Col. Bud Day appeared in a 2004 Swift Boat Vets spot. One of the members of John McCain’s new Truth Squad — which his campaign says was launched to respond to unfair attacks on his record of military service —- was a member of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and appeared in an attack ad for the group in 2004. The group was created to attack 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry’s military service record.

“How can you expect our sons and daughters to follow you when you condemned their fathers and grandfathers?” asked former Air Force Col. Bud Day, who was a prisoner of war with McCain in Vietnam, in a 2004 Swift Boat Vets spot.

McCain has said that he opposed the group’s efforts.

Politico‘s Ben Smith asked Day about the seeming inconsistency.

“The Swift Boat ‘attacks’ were simply revelation of the truth,” said Day, a former prisoner of war and Medal of Honor recipient who served I the Air Force. “The similarity does not exist here.”

“What the Swift Boat campaign was about was to lay out John Kerry’s record. John Kerry has never produced any evidence to deny that,” he said. In contrast, he said, he and others on the call had produced “evidence pointing out that [Clark’s] remarks were completely inaccurate.” “One was about laying out the truth. This one is about attempting to cast a new shadow on John McCain,” he said of the salvos at the two military men.

To the extent that Day’s attacks were limited to criticism of Kerry’s postwar accusations against his fellow veterans, rather than the business about whether Kerry truly “earned” his Vietnam medals, I’d agree that the equivalence is dubious. And, certainly Bud Day has earned quite a bit of latitude.

The truth/not truth argument, however, is an amusing one.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, US Politics, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tony says:

    You give veterans a bad reputation. As a veteran your war stories grow and so do your self importance. I bet have the accomplishments in your service records are “big fish stories” Got capture caused you screwed up.

  2. Boyd says:

    Whom are you addressing, Tony? Dr Joyner? Col. Day? All veterans?

    I’m not sure why I ask, since your comment is incoherent to me.

  3. RWB says:

    When the Bush 2000 campaign painted McCain as a coward and traitor, it pissed me off. It was entirely unfair, people always break under torture and tell you what you want to hear. Army training now recognizes this.

    When the Bush campaign attacked Kerry in 2004 I expected McCain to speak out against the same tactics that were used against him in 2000. He squeeked a little, was told to shut up and sit down or he would not get to play president, so he shut up and sat down. By this action he made his war record fair game, and all his opponents need do is quote the 2000 bush campaign.

    His war experience should have made McCain an expert on torture and prisoners of war. I expected him to speak out about torture and our treatment of what amounts in large part to prisoners of war. Again, he squeeked a little, was told to shut up and sit down or he would not get to play president, so he shut up and sat down.

    He shut up when they attacked Murtha and called him a coward, he shut up when they attacked Max Cleland.

    I guess Bush 2000 was right, he is a coward. I no longer support or respect him.

  4. Eric says:

    James, you’re being much too charitable here, and certainly forgetting what the SBVT really stood for. They weren’t just this, y’know, disinterested third party soberly laying out facts to lead people to a stoic truth. They were a smear group front and center.

    The SBVT clearly intended to call Kerry’s entire war record into question. They very well may have professed only trying to reveal the “real” John Kerry and his post-Vietnam War activities, but that was just a cover. I mean, what more proof could you ask for than that the verb “to swiftboat” has entered the English lexicon as a pejorative term meaning–wait for it!–“to smear” someone. That doesn’t happen because you’re helping orphans.

    Moreover, I don’t ever remember the SBVT “limiting” themselves to just Kerry’s “postwar accusations against his fellow veterans.” I remember many articles suggeting or questioning whether Kerry even deserved his medals. I can recount the elaborate logical contortions many conservatives went through to “prove” Kerry was a) not really wounded; or b) shot himself; or c) took credit for someone else’s valor. Witness Bithead’s tell when he comments in another post here that Kerry was just “sitting in a boat.”

    I therefore find any conservative’s sudden high-mindedness on “swiftboating” McCain’s war record to be deeply hypocritical. Talking Points Memo put up a good post from a commenter today that sums up this hypocrisy:

    Continues to boggle my mind what a difference 4 years can make to the conservatives.

    1996: Bob Dole is a war hero! Clinton is a draft dodger! WORSHIP THE WAR HERO!

    2000: Forget the war! Ignore the potential Vietnam-era AWOL-ness of our candidate, and his complete lack of foreign policy knowledge! He’s got integrity!

    2004: So what your candidate actually fought and was injured in the same war during which our candidate was so very much NOT AWOL! We mock his service and question the legitimacy of his injuries! Have a purple band-aid to wear at our convention!

    2008: Only a certified war hero can lead this country! WORSHIP THE WAR HERO!

    This is not to say that I don’t agree with you in principle, James, that perhaps we would all do better to leave such topics on the fringes of acceptable discourse. But to pretend that the SBVT were just some group, and that Bud Day deserves any latitude whatsoever, and that conservatives are shocked–shocked!–that anyone would say anything untoward about a war hero is simply laughable on its face.

  5. davod says:

    I can only imagine RWB and Eric have spent their lives living in the cloisters of a leftist indoctrination camp and have not actually seen of heard anything themselves.

    RWB: I do not recall the Bush campaign attacking either McCain on his war record in 2000 or Kerry’s war record in 2004. McCain has spoken out on torture consistently, and I have not heard him moderate his view recently. Max Clellan was attacked on his views on the Homeland Security legislation, not because he was a veteran.

    Murtha deserves his own place in the rat bag hall of fame for what he did to the Haditha marines. He deserves no support from anyone.

    Eric: See above.

    Additionally – Most of the Swift Boat people served on Swift Boats during the Vietnam War. Others were POWs in Vietnam.

    The SBVT was orchestrated by a guy called John O’Neil, a lifelong Democrat and a swift boat captain in Vietnam around the time Kerry was there. O’Neil got exercised by Kerry’s attempt to run on his war record, and what he did in accusing all Vietnam vets of atrocious acts. Kerry’s war record was questioned by people who were there at the time.

    The POWs were upset with Kerry because they thought his testimony to Congress, made at a time they were still in captivity, made their treatment worse. It gave the North Vietnamese greater legitimacy. I do recall that, most if not all of his testimony was discredited.

    This, mind you, from a man who admits to twice visiting the North Vietnamese in Paris, while we were still at war, and while he was still attached to the Navy. His suggestions for ending the war mirrored those of the North Vietnamese.

    1996 – Clinton was a draft dodger, Dole was a war hero.

    2000- I do not recall anyone Democrat or Republican campaigning on the Vietnam war?

    2004 – Kerry chose to open his campaign at the convention with a film of his interpretation of how he won his Silver Star. This was the first time others on the scene at the time saw the narrative for him being awarded the Silver Star. Their memories differed sharply and that’s when the SBVT was born. Kerry brought it on himself.

    2008 – who says only a certified hero can lead this country and the only worship I see in the Presidential campaign is of Obama and the Obamites.

    Obama is where he is today because he has a good delivery and a fawning press. He will win if no-one looks into his past. I prefer that people know who their candidates are from the start –

    Why I do not like Obama.

    “…I began to dislike Obama when I discovered that while in the Illinois state legislature in 2002, he voted against the Induced Birth Infant Liability Act. The bill was designed to extend the same medical care to babies who happen to survive an abortion attempt as is enjoyed by all babies born alive.

    I couldn’t believe anyone would vote against such a bill. In fact, when a similar measure– the Born Alive Infant Protection Act– was brought before the U.S. Senate, not one Senator voted against it. Even NARAL Pro-Choice America didn’t oppose the bill….Perhaps it’s a failure to comprehend Obama’s exquisite intellectual nuance. He rationalized his vote in language that evokes Dred Scott. Obama challenged the constitutionality of the bill,contending that conferring equal protection, i.e.,personhood, upon a “pre-viable fetus” would render the bill an unlawful anti-abortion statute.

    At what point after birth does Obama call a baby a person and not a fetus? One day? Six months?”

  6. Bithead says:

    They weren’t just this, y’know, disinterested third party soberly laying out facts to lead people to a stoic truth.

    Translation: You don’t like the truth because of it’s implications.

    The truth, my friend, is never bipartisan. It always takes sides.

  7. cian says:

    What was that great Simpson’s line?

    “Support (some of) The Troops”.

    This has always been the republican way. In ridiculing Kerry’s war time injuries, they were too dumb to realize they were ridiculing everyones’.

    To young soldiers risking their lives at this very moment for their country and their families, the word from the right is simple- you’re a hero as long as you agree with us. Cross us and we’ll crucify you.

    No wonder the republican party is on the way out.

  8. DL says:

    “The truth, my friend, is never bipartisan. It always takes sides.”

    Sorry but this is too close to the disease of the mind that is destroying modern man -relative truth.

    There exists, by definition, fixed, absolute and immutable truth (which one famously perfect person once said “…would set us free) and then there are the many imitators who pretend that there is no truth, just opinion because they are uncomfortable with its implications. So they become “deniers” – spelled L I A R S.

  9. Chris says:

    What was that great Simpson’s line?

    “Support (some of) The Troops”.

    There was also an article in The Onion about a man who supported the troops, except those he went to high school with.

  10. Bithead says:

    Sorry but this is too close to the disease of the mind that is destroying modern man -relative truth.

    You apparently missed the point; There’s no relativity about what I said. Non-relative truth takes sides.

    This has always been the republican way. In ridiculing Kerry’s war time injuries, they were too dumb to realize they were ridiculing everyones’.

    If that’s what you think, then you clearly don’t understand the central issue. Let me explain it, by way of a writeup I did a few years ago about Pat Tillman:

    I find the amount of press Tillman’s getting to be a little disturbing. Don’t misunderstand; I have a small mountain of respect for Tillman. I have sympathy for his family, his loved ones, his buddies in the field.

    However, I outright refuse to be caught in the trap of regarding the death of this one soldier as being of greater impact than the death of any other. I will not hold the service of this one to be unequal to any other that serves us true.

    I cannot dispute that Tillman gave up greater financial wealth to put on the uniform of his country, than most soldiers do. Certainly, he wasn’t after the glory, as someone else in the news recently would seem to have done. I don’t call THAT true service. He could have covered himself in a certain kind of personal glory on the football field if that was what he was about.

    Perhaps some historical perspective will help me make my point clearer.

    I had occasion to see “The Glenn Miller Story” again just recently, and am now struck by the parallels, as I have been in the past. Miller put on his uniform because he thought he could do some good in his country’s efforts against the Nazi threat. He ended up giving his life for his choice. Who knows where Miller’s music would have taken him, had he lived out his natural life, instead of ending up at the bottom of the English Channel.

    Like Miller, Pat Tillman’s choice was about personal sacrifice, and of service… Service of an ideal he thought bigger than himself. That kind of dedication is be cherished, certainly.

    However, we must not allow ourselves to be swayed by the life position the soldier had, before he/she was a soldier. We must not allow that metric to guide us in the amount of respect shown them, be they living or dead after their service.

    They’re all worthy of the very same respect, living or dead. Not because of their having lived or died, not because of the amounts of money or positions they gave up, or what impact they had on us when they weren’t wearing the uniform, but because of their respect and understanding of the ideals that uniform represents. Ideals they hold highest… to the point where they chose to put ON that uniform, to accept the risks associated with it… to advance those ideals.

    We should hold such people, ALL who serve us true, in our hearts. And Tillman would be, I suppose, among the first to agree with my thought.

    PS:
    I suppose I should clarify about true service…..Compare the record of Tillman vs that of one other who is in the public eye of late, and see if you can’t see any differences between them.

    Note the emph on ‘true service”. The “one other” I’m talking about in that peice is John F’ing Kerry, of course. There’s a major difference between someone serving because he holds the American ideal larger than himself, and one gaming the system for his own glory. Most of the American people knew that for what it was in John Kerry; Kerry was not about true service. His actions upon his return confirm this. That’s what annoys vets so about Kerry. THEY certainly understand. That’s also a major reason he’s not president.. even those who are not vets understand. It’s also why your comparisons dont’ work.

  11. jukeboxgrad says:

    “McCain has spoken out on torture consistently, and I have not heard him moderate his view recently”

    If you would like to become familiar with the facts of this matter, a good place to start is here.

    “a guy called John O’Neil, a lifelong Democrat”

    That’s not what it says here. So it would be nice if you could prove that claim.

  12. cian says:

    PS:
    I suppose I should clarify about true service…..Compare the record of Tillman vs that of one other who is in the public eye of late, and see if you can’t see any differences between them.

    And of course, had Tillman lived, and had he decided on a political career as a democrat, Bit would be denigrating Pat’s service too, boring us with another long-winded hack job (so many grand words to say something so shallow and thoughtless – Kerry’s a bad American).

    The wearing of purple band aids by attendees at the republican convention in 2004 insulted everyone who had ever suffered injury for their country. Only a republican could fail to see that

    And Tillman would be, I suppose, among the first to agree with my thought.

    From everything I’ve read of him, Tillman would have seen right through you, pal.

  13. Bithead says:

    And of course, had Tillman lived, and had he decided on a political career as a democrat, Bit would be denigrating Pat’s service too

    And on what basis do you say that, save for it doesn’t run afoul of your own rather stunted worldview? Some proof would not only be nice, it’d be a shock.

    The wearing of purple band aids by attendees at the republican convention in 2004 insulted everyone who had ever suffered injury for their country

    Except of course by those wearing such armbands who were injured during wartime, huh?

    You really think this stuff of yours isn’t tranparent?

  14. jukeboxgrad says:

    bit: “Except of course by those wearing such armbands who were injured during wartime”

    I recall seeing bandaids, not armbands. And let us know your basis for claiming that the people in this photo “were injured during wartime.” Or that any person who was “injured during wartime” wore one of these bandaids.

  15. c. wagener says:

    When the Bush 2000 campaign painted McCain as a coward and traitor

    Can you provide any support to this? This all seems to be based on some idiot that was on stage with Bush in S.C. Almost certainly Bush had no idea who this guy was, given that he said equally bizarre things about Bush’s dad.

    As for Max Cleland, can you explain how criticizing a vote Of Cleland’s is an attack on his military service? Just because the DNC says it a few million times does make it so.

    As for Kerry, he clearly lied about his first purple heart given that his diary didn’t even have him facing combat until well after the incident. He also lied about Cambodia (seared in his memory as it was) and lied about atrocities committed by his fellow soldiers. Forget about the medals he threw over the fence (OK, not actually his medals), he threw all the Vietnam Vets over the fence for political gain.

  16. davod says:

    Where in the Wikepedia entry is O’Neil’s politics mentioned?

  17. od says:

    The truth, my friend, is never bipartisan. It always takes sides.

    And usually the side it takes is that of the cynic who says both sides are hypocritical on most election issues. If our candidate does popular action A it’s relevant, if their candidate does it it’s irrelevant. Reverse polarity if action A turns out to be unpopular. Nothing like an election to confirm the rationality of being an independent.

  18. cian says:

    And on what basis do you say that, save for it doesn’t run afoul of your own rather stunted worldview? Some proof would not only be nice, it’d be a shock.

    Maybe its because you’re happy to use the death of one soldier to disparage the patriotism of another.

    Perhaps its the fact that wearing band aids to mock the awarding of purple hearts doesn’t seem to bother you, suggesting the sacrifice of others doesn’t really matter to you either, unless of course, they are displaying the correct political stripes.

    Most likely though, its the utterly graceless ‘John F’ing Kerry’ reference. Low enough to question another’s bravery, but too squeamish to add ‘uck’.

    Yeah, you’re just the kind of guy to slime Tillman if he had turned out to be anything other than a loyal 23 per center.

  19. jukeboxgrad says:

    wag: “Can you provide any support to this [Bush’s attacks on McCain]? This all seems to be based on some idiot that was on stage with Bush in S.C.”

    There was a lot more than just that. A nice summary is here.

    “As for Max Cleland, can you explain how criticizing a vote Of Cleland’s is an attack on his military service?”

    The ad Chambliss ran went beyond just “criticizing a vote.” It suggested that Cleland lacked the “courage to lead.” Chambliss also accused Cleland of “breaking his oath to protect and defend the Constitution.”

    Chambliss didn’t go to Vietnam because of a bad knee.

    “As for Kerry, he clearly lied about his first purple heart”

    Your claim is addressed at the end of this section.

    A scrupulously documented reference that thoroughly dismantles the SBVT nonsense is here.

    “He also lied about Cambodia”

    I guess you must be thinking of O’Neil, who told Nixon he was “in Cambodia,” and then later wrote “no one could cross the border.”

  20. jukeboxgrad says:

    davod: “Where in the Wikepedia entry is O’Neil’s politics mentioned?”

    Are you serious? His entry is not that large. There are 9 short sections. One is called “Political Contributions and Activities.” It contains quite a few relevant details, with supporting citations.

    In which part of freeperville did you pick up the specious idea that he’s “a lifelong Democrat?”