Democrats are furious after a number of GOP delegates here showed up Monday wearing bandages bearing tiny purple hearts, a mocking reference to Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry's wounds from the Vietnam War -- for which he was awarded three Purple Hearts.
"It was just a self-inflicted scratch, but you see I got a Purple Heart for it," the bandage said, echoing a group of Vietnam veterans' widely noted but poorly substantiated charges that Kerry did not deserve some of the military awards he won.
"It is inexcusable for a Republican delegate to mock anyone who has ever put on a soldier's uniform," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Terence R. McAuliffe. "It is inexcusable to mock service and sacrifice."
Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said in an interview Tuesday that the bandages were distributed by one delegate -- Virginia conservative activist Morton Blackwell -- without authorization. Gillespie said they have agreed to put an end to the stunt, saying the party is "focused on the future." He did not directly respond to a question asking whether the party should apologize, saying instead that he did not know whether Blackwell was inclined to apologize.
That was not good enough for the Democrats, who accused Republicans of orchestrating the episode and demanded an apology. "We happened to have held a convention ourselves -- and we knew what tchotchkes were being passed around on the floor," DNC spokesman Jano Cabrera said. "If you sneezed on the floor of our convention, we were aware of it."
A Broader Swift Boat Ad Campaign
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is going national. The group, which has been running its anti-Kerry ads only in a few swing states, said Tuesday that it will begin airing its current ad on three cable news networks and the History Channel, and it said it will run a new spot in Florida.
The new ad opens with shots of the American flag, the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument as an announcer says, "Symbols . . . like the heroes they represent, are meant to be respected." Then it cuts to footage from the April 23, 1971, anti-Vietnam War demonstration at the U.S. Capitol, where Kerry threw several of his military ribbons. The ad shows footage from a 1971 interview on WRC-TV in which Kerry said the veterans wanted to "renounce the symbols which this country gives" by giving medals back to their country. "I gave back -- I can't remember -- six, seven, eight, nine," he said. The ad closes with the announcer asking, "How can the man who renounced his country's symbols now be trusted?"
The group says it has raised more than $2.5 million from 38,000 people in three weeks.
GOP Not Warm to This Embrace
Despite Republicans' occasional calls for greater bipartisanship, some think Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) has gone way overboard in his latest TV campaign ad.
The 60-second spot shows Daschle and President Bush embracing on the House floor the day Bush addressed Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. John Thune, the Republican challenging the senator, is not amused, noting that Daschle has criticized Bush's administration throughout his campaign. ("I think their tax policy has been an abomination," Daschle said in a typical comment).
Thune, meeting with reporters here Tuesday, called the ad "complete hypocrisy" and "a farcical ploy." He said it suggests Daschle's campaign is slipping in a state where Republicans easily outnumber Democrats and Bush is expected to win easily. The Republican National Committee called on Daschle to stop running the ad.
Daschle campaign spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said the embrace consumes about two seconds. "This ad is about Tom Daschle's efforts to bring the country together in the wake of 9/11," he said, "and certainly that moment with President Bush was part of that."
Staff writers Mike Allen and Charles Babington contributed to this report.