The veterans group said it has at least 5,000 new contributors and has raised more than $230,000 since the ad started running last week.
Partisan? Who, Me?
In an interview with Talking Points on Wednesday, O'Neill took it a step further. He insisted Swift Boats Veterans for Truth was not partisan at all, but was merely an educational group put together to let people know the full truth about Kerry's record in Vietnam. As proof, he said he himself had planned on voting for John Edwards if the North Carolina Democrat had been his party's presidential nominee.
So if Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was completely nonpartisan and its sole purpose is to educate the public about what politicians did during Vietnam, why not raise the issue of how a Bush-family friend helped a young George W. Bush jump to the front of the waiting list for the National Guard and how Bush may not have shown up for all of his duty in his final year of service?
"We have urged the president to release all documents that would shed light on this," O'Neill said. "But the bottom line is, we didn't serve with Bush. We served with Kerry."
O'Neill and the group make the argument that Kerry lied or exaggerated facts to receive his three purple hearts, Bronze Star and Silver Star. O'Neill said he talked to more than 60 eyewitnesses, including former Swift boat crewmen who served in the same division with Kerry during Vietnam and who take issue with his interpretation of events.
It would take another book, or at least a long investigative report, to truth-squad every point made in the O'Neill book or the SBVT ads. And we won't attempt to do that here. We will, however, give you links to the organization's site, www.swiftvets.com, where, if you're really interested, you can get their side of the story -- and view the anti-Kerry rhetoric -- in detail.
For the sake of fairness, we'll also provide you the link for David Brock's Media Matters Web site, which has done a comprehensive deconstruction of the SBVT's arguments. Media Matters also exposed anti-Catholic, anti-Islamic and otherwise outrageous statements made by Corsi over the years on the conservative FreeRepublic.com Web site.
Instead, this column is meant to examine the larger issue of whether this group can rightly call itself nonpartisan while suggesting that its goals are educational, rather than political. Some of the most powerful evidence comes from one of the group's members, Andy Horne, who must have missed Russell's talking points briefing. Asked on CNN whether the intent of SBVT's ads was to defeat Kerry, he answered, "Yes, of course."
Also, public records show that two-thirds of the organization's initial funding, as of its June 30 financial report came from one man, Texas businessman Robert J. Perry, who, according to an Aug. 6 report in the Los Angeles Times, "is the most prolific political donor in Texas. A homebuilder who lives lakeside in [a] Houston suburb, Perry has helped bankroll the widespread success of Republican candidates here, has long-standing ties to many close associates of President Bush and has contributed to Bush's last four campaigns. According to interviews and campaign documents, he has given a total of more than $5 million to scores of political candidates." See also, "Spheres of Influence: The Bush Campaign Pioneers."
The Kerry campaign and top Democratic officials have argued that the group is stacked with conservative ideologues and partisan activists, such as well-known Republican operative Merrie Spaeth. Democrats also argue that neither O'Neill nor Corsi served with Kerry in Vietnam; that one of Kerry's main accusers, retired Rear Adm. Roy F. Hoffmann has changed his story about whether he knew Kerry in Vietnam; and that several of his SBVT accusers have actually relished lavish praise on Kerry in the past.
George Elliott is the best-known of the latter group. The Kerry camp this week released then-Capt. George Elliott's review of Kerry in 1969: "In a combat environment often requiring independent, decisive action, LTJG [Lieutenant Junior Grade] Kerry was unsurpassed. He constantly reviewed tactics and lessons learned in river operations and applied his experience at every opportunity. On one occasion, while in tactical command of a three boat operation his units were taken under fire from ambush. LTJG Kerry rapidly assessed the situation and ordered his units to turn directly into the ambush. This decision resulted in routing the attackers with several KIA [Killed in Action]. LTJG Kerry emerges as the acknowledged leader in his peer group. His bearing and appearance are above reproach."
Today, Elliott is among a group of 254 former Swift boat veterans who say Kerry is unfit to be commander-in-chief.
And Hoffmann, on the issue of whether he knew Kerry, says: "As his task force commander, I knew who he was and was aware of some of his problems."