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August 18, 2008

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Does the word "smear" denote any negative attack? Or does the word describe only an unfair negative attack? Or, should we adopt Paul Boller's description in the Times article, “Religion and sex, and whether the other guy is a real ‘man.’”

The "Daisy" ad and the implication that McCain had fathered a black child were unfair, because they were groundless accusations.

IMHO the Swift Boat ads were appropriate. Kerry had made his valor in Vietnam a key part of his resume, so it was relevant that dozens of men who had served with him thought he had not been a valorous soldier.

The Willie Horton issue could hardly have been more appropriate. It was a foolilsh decision Governor Dukakis had made in his role as elected official and it led to harm.

Uh, the people who served with Kerry supported his accounts. Many of the attackers initially supported those accounts as well, only changing their stories at the request of Nixon when Kerry became a prominant critic of the war.

SBVfT are a bunch of liars and T. Boone Pickens should rot in hell for funding them.

It's a credit to the GOP mouthpieces in the media that people still believe the swiftboaters "served with" Kerry and that their allegations were based on anything but pure politics. Four years on, people still go around calling the swiftboaters "appropriate" without any apparent embarrassment.

A very good post. Another example of how complex making claims about historical causation can be. And how journalists rarely have the tools or temperment to deal with it.

The swiftboaters weren't lying when they said Kerry wasn't in Cambodia on Christmas Eve 1968, which he'd said was "seared" in his memory. They were telling the truth, and it turns out Kerry had to backtrack. (And see here.)

And whatever the disagreements about the specifics of the missions for which Kerry was decorated, the fact remains that he accumulated purple hearts for at best very minor injuries and did so in a sufficient number so that he could take advantage of the regulations and get out of Vietnam after service of only four and a half months. That's an issue the swiftboaters raised, and it's one that's pretty much undeniable.

Kerry and his military service are of only academic interest at this point. (And let it be noted that Kerry has refused to release the wartime diaries he showed to Douglas Brinkley and has refused to authorize the Pentagon to release his full military records to all.) However, Kerry's military service become relevant if people choose to smear the swiftboaters as liars. And let's be clear about it: that's as smeary a smear as a smear can be.

"...the fact remains that he accumulated purple hearts...so that he could take advantage of the regulations and get out of Vietnam after service of only four and a half months. That's an issue the swiftboaters raised, and it's one that's pretty much undeniable."

How did Kerry intentionally (and undeniably) accumulate purple hearts to "get out of Vietnam"?

Kerry was criticized by SBVT and some media entities for not authorizing independent public access to his privacy protected service records. After the election, on May 20, 2005, he did sign a Standard Form 180 allowing full release of all his military service records, including his reserve and discharge records, as well as his medical records, to the Associated Press, the Boston Globe, and the Los Angeles Times. Kerry refused a request from the New York Sun to permit the Sun's reporters to inspect the records. The Boston Globe reported that the material largely duplicated what Kerry had released during the campaign, and included no "substantive new material".

- Wikipedia

Howard, the phrase "so that he could take . . . " modifies "sufficient number"--which you cut out of the sentence and replaced with an ellipsis. It was a number of purple hearts that was sufficient for him to end his tour of duty in Vietnam. I didn't write that he intentionally accumulated that number of purple hearts; that's your addition.

And thanks for the Wikipedia confirmation of what I wrote: that Kerry has not authorized release of his military records to all. Why do you reckon that is?

"the fact remains that he accumulated purple hearts for at best very minor injuries and did so in a sufficient number so that he could take advantage of the regulations and get out of Vietnam after service of only four and a half months"

So it's "pretty much undeniable" that that Kerry had control over the number of purple hearts he was awarded?

Kerry had made his valor in Vietnam a key part of his resume, so it was relevant that dozens of men who had served with him thought he had not been a valorous soldier.

Funny, I remember a lot of pundits hitting the roof when Wesley Clark suggested that being shot down in Vietnam wasn't a qualification for the presidency. Can we stop referring to John McCain as a war hero and start describing him as a lousy pilot who only got into the Naval Academy through his family connections, now?

Or is that off limits?

Howard, I didn't say intentionally, and I also didn't say he had control. Kerry received enough purple hearts to leave Vietnam after only four and a half months of service. Isn't that undeniable?

Jinchi, I agree with General Clark that McCain's military experience doesn't automatically qualify him to be President. McCain's exceptional behavior as a POW speaks very well for his character and makes him a hero in my book, but even that alone doesn't qualify him to be President. Note that Clark was addressing a straw man, as McCain had never claimed that his military experience alone qualified him to be President.

McCain's long service in the US Senate and his many accomplishments there make him the most qualified Presidential candidate we've seen in many years. Obama's 3 years in the Senate and lack of accomplishments there make him the opposite.

I have no idea whether McCain was a good or lousy pilot nor whether he would have gotten into the Naval Acadamy if his father and grandfather hadn't been Admirals. Do you have evidence on these points?

Note that Clark was addressing a straw man

Actually, Clark was responding to a specific statement made seconds before by the host:

Schieffer: I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences, either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean...

Clark: Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.

As for your more general point, McCain has made his POW status the central focus of his campaign (you may be looking at a picture of him saluting after being freed from captivity on Brendan's site right now). From your original post, I assume that means you consider ads attacking his service to be fair game. We know he crashed several planes, we know he graduated at the bottom of his class and we know he received a coveted position despite his poor record at the Academy. If you consider the Swift Boat attacks legitimate (complete with the purple heart band-aids at the Republican convention), can you honestly argue that McCain critics couldn't go after his record?

Jinchi, I'm happy to see McCain critics going after his military record. That's fighting the election in an area where McCain's record is far superior to Obama's.

I cant speak for LBJ's 'Daisy' ads or the Willie Horton ads (though I suspect they linger in the memory for a reason beyond any attempt at a post-hoc narrative), But I can remember the 'Swift Boat' advertisements and the 'Dean Scream' and their narrative seemed entirely current, rather than after the event, to me.

I also remember Bush and Kerry being at a dead-heat for pretty much the entire campaign, right until the election night. The swift-boat ads certainly had an effect in the polls in places like W Virginia, while the Dean scream had the immediate effect of killing off the crashing Dean candidacy.

There is no doubt that the media creates post-hoc narratives, it has to, but surely they're going to be sculpted less by the pressures of time and money, and will benefit more from hindsight and a clear-sighted analysis of history? Perhaps I'm being naive.

That's what everyone thought about Bush vs Kerry in 2004.

McCain's record as in the Navy isn't a qualification to be president, nor is it a get out of jail free card every time someone criticizes his character.

But personally, I'm in Brendan's camp. I'd much rather see this election focused on the issues rather than the nonsense we've seen so far. I don't think the Swift Boat attacks particularly hurt Kerry (they were a rallying cry for partisan Republicans, but few others). And I doubt "Hot Chicks dig Obama" is really a credible attack ad.

Exactly. Most elections have an underlying dynamic and are decided by that. And the underlying dynamic of this race clearly favors Obama, which is not the same as saying it should be a blowout.

Reagan and Star Wars ....

Hi guys; remember when the scientific "experts," i.e., the same guys with the man-made-global-warming views, said "dumb" Ronald Reagan was throwing money to defense contractors for an impossible hitting a bullet with a bullet technology? Well; again, as with the economy and anti-detente, Reagan proves that he still "rules" this land. Even Obama wants to emulate him, in his way, but both parties are competing over tax-and-spend marginal changes from RR's course.

He might actually be in the long run the greatest President this nation ever had; with George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, George W. Bush, and Harry Truman competing for #2 (FDR is out; OK on economy, but let Japanese and Germans sneak up on us; Lincoln is out; had an industrialized "nation" and took 4 years and 300,000 Union dead to defeat a bunch of red-neck farmers).

TOH

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