I missed this article on the Swift Boat Vets controversy by Elizabeth Bumiller in yesterday’s New York Times. Bumiller leads with this astonishing statement:
The national counsel for President Bush’s re-election campaign resigned on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after he acknowledged that he had provided legal advice to a veterans group that has leveled unsubstantiated attacks on Senator John Kerry’s Vietnam War record in a book and on the air.
Unsubstantiated? How could claims about Kerry’s conduct in Vietnam be better substantiated than by the eyewitness testimony of those who served with him? And how can the second Vets ad, which shows Kerry testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, possibly by “unsubstantiated”?
Further, the fact headlined by the Times (and many other newspapers), that a lawyer for the Bush campaign also provided legal representation to the Vets, is completely irrelevant from the standpoint of proving illegal coordination beween Bush’s campaign and the Swift Boat Vets group. And you have to read deep into the Times article to discover that exactly the same thing, and much more, is true of the Kerry campaign:
The Republicans, in an e-mail message to reporters, listed several Democrats who they said showed connections between Democratic 527 groups, Mr. Kerry’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Among them were Zack Exley, the former organizing director for MoveOn.org’s political action committee who now works for Mr. Kerry’s campaign; Jim Jordan, the former campaign manager for Mr. Kerry who now works as a consultant for the liberal groups America Coming Together and the Media Fund; and Joe Sandler, who is a lawyer for both the Democratic National Committee and MoveOn.org.
The Democrats’ response was a howler:
Democrats said all of their activities were legal and that the groups are not leveling similarly personal and unsubstantiated charges against the president.
Well, sure. Whether it’s legal or not depends on whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican. And God knows, MoveOn.org would never level a “personal or unsubstantiated charge” against President Bush.
But here is the weirdest aspect of the Times’s view of the Swift Boat Vets controversy:
Kerry campaign officials, who said they now saw the Swift boat controversy working to their advantage, took additional steps on Wednesday to keep it burning.
Sure, that’s right. The Democrats want nothing better than to keep the Swift Boat Vets at center stage. That’s why they tried to ban their book, Unfit for Command. That’s why they threatened to sue television stations who ran the Vets’ ads. That’s why they are desperately haranguing President Bush to persuade the Vets to go away, and why they sank so low as to send poor Max Cleland to Texas to refuse to deliver a letter on the Vets to the President.
Speaking of sinking, Kerry’s poll numbers have nosedived since the Swifties began to dominate the news. For the Times to report with a straight face the claim that the Vets are good for the Kerry campaign shows either cluelessness or loyalty to the Democratic Party that is astonishing even for that thoroughly-discredited newspaper.