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MoveOn.org's Swift Response to Anti-Kerry Ad

By Howard Kurtz
Tuesday, August 17, 2004; Page A08

A liberal organization is taking to the airwaves today to challenge an ad by a group of Navy veterans that accuses Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) of distorting his Vietnam record.

"George Bush: Take that ad off the air," says the 30-second spot from MoveOn.org PAC.

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The ad in question, from a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, charges Kerry with "lying about his first Purple Heart" in Vietnam 35 years ago. The MoveOn response -- airing in the same four markets in Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin, and on CNN and Fox News -- begins by attacking President Bush's military record.

"George Bush used his father to get into the National Guard, and when the chips were down, went missing," a narrator says. "Now he's allowing false advertising that attacks John Kerry, a man who asked to go to Vietnam and served with dignity and heroism." The ad quotes Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as calling on the Bush campaign to condemn the "dishonest and dishonorable" ad.

Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt called MoveOn "an extremist organization" making "completely baseless attacks." Schmidt said, "They have continued that tradition with this one, impugning the honorable service of the president in the Air National Guard." Noting that the campaign has praised Kerry's military service, Schmidt repeated Bush's call for both campaigns to denounce all ads by independent "527" groups, far more of which have aired in support of Kerry. But he did not denounce the content of the Swift boat group's ad.

Retired Rear Adm. Roy Hoffmann, founder of the Swift boat group, much of whose funding has come from a Texas developer, said in a statement: "We find it odd that MoveOn PAC would question the right of a group of veterans to voice an opinion on a legitimate issue -- an issue first raised by John Kerry -- and now the centerpiece of his campaign. . . . We will not be silenced."

Asked why Bush should be responsible for an ad by an independent group with the same legal status as MoveOn, Eli Pariser, the PAC's executive director, said: "They're clearly a surrogate organization. The Bush campaign has a responsibility for what's being done on its behalf. Certainly if Kerry felt MoveOn was doing something he didn't agree with, he has every right to condemn our ads."

Southern Discomfort

An unabashed racist won the Republican nomination for a House district in Tennessee earlier this month. James Hart, who contends that whites should not mix with "less favored races," thumped a Republican write-in candidate -- 7,865 to 2,061 -- to win the party's nomination for the state's 8th Congressional District.

"The poverty genes of less 'favored races', which are spread by welfare and immigration, are destroying our cities no less than if they were hit by a nuclear bomb," Hart said on his campaign Web site. "Unless we stop dysgenic welfare and immigration policies, the U.S. will look like one big Detroit."

The state GOP, which was unable to find another candidate in time for the election's filing deadline, has disowned Hart's campaign, calling his views "outrageous." The district, which is represented by Rep. John S. Tanner (D-Tenn.), is considered Democratic country. But Hart's candidacy will nevertheless give him a platform for his views and the Republican Party a headache.

Political researcher Brian Faler contributed to this report.

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