As the Trunk noted earlier today, lawyers representing the Democratic National Committee and Kerry-Edwards 2004 have written letters to television stations denouncing the ad by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and demanding that the stations refuse to run the ad. The letter implicitly threatens legal action if the ad is run.
The letter has been reproduced by Human Events here. At this point, I have no way to know whether the charges made by the Swift Boat group are true or not. But in some respects, the claims made in the Kerry lawyers’ letter are ludicrous. The lawyers write:
The advertisement contains by men who purport to have served on Senator Kerry’s SWIFT boat in Vietnam, and one statement by a man pretending to be the doctor who treated Senator Kerry for one of his injuries. In fact, not a single one of the men who pretend to have served with Senator Kerry was actually a crewmate of Senator Kerry’s and the man pretending to be his doctor was not.
This attack is absurd; the Swift Boat ad never says that the sailors depicted were on Kerry’s boat. Rather, they say they served with Kerry in Vietnam. In some instances they were on other Swift Boats. In some instances, they were obviously senior commanders in Vietnam, not “crewmates” of John Kerry.
As to the physician, the Kerry letter seems very artfully phrased. The paragraph quoted above says the man in the ad was “not [Kerry’s] doctor.” Later, the letter says “the ‘doctor’ who appears in the ad, Louis Letson, was not a crewmate of Senator Kerry’s and was not the doctor who actually signed Senator Kerry’s sick call sheet. Letson is not listed on any document as having treated Senator Kerry after the December 2, 1968, firefight.”
Note that, if you add up all of these allegations, the letter never actually says that Letson didn’t treat Kerry. When a lawyer says that a particular fact is not reflected in “any document” — I speak from experience here — alarm bells should go off. That’s very different from saying that it isn’t true. And the assertion that Dr. Letson was not a crewmate of Kerry’s seems ridiculous on its face; I assume that the Swift boats didn’t have doctors on them.
Maybe I’m missing something here, but this seems like an amazingly dumb strategy. The Democratic talking points on the Swift Boat Veterans include the claim–as stated in the Kerry lawyers’ letter–that “the group is a sham organization spearheaded by a Texas media consultant. It has been financed largely with funds from a Houston homebuilder.”
For the Democrats to denounce an organization like the Swift Boat Vets on these grounds, in the midst of an election in which they have funnelled hundreds of millions of dollars into sham organizations, financed by disreputable billionaires like George Soros, is hypocrisy of an extraordinary order. What is really striking about the Swift Boat Vets is how pathetically little money they have raised: a total of around $150,000. This is peanuts in the world of Democratic high finance.
The Swift Boat Vets don’t have the money to secure broad distribution for their ad. Their strategy, obviously, is to try to make up in news coverage what they lack in cash. It seems to me that Kerry’s strategy plays into the Vets’ hands. The more time between now and November that is spent debating the truth of the Vets’ charges, the worse for John Kerry.