Sen. John McCain's campaign on Monday launched the McCain "Truth Squad" - a group of political and Vietnam contemporaries who would counter attacks on the Senator's military record.
In hopes of nipping any criticism in the bud, the campaign brought on board a man quite familiar with how these types of attacks gain legs: Bud Day, a fellow POW who was part of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that worked so hard to defame Sen. John Kerry's own Vietnam record.
On the conference call, Day - in addition to the other participants - decried comments made by Gen. Wesley Clark over the weekend, in which he questioned whether McCain's war experience really qualified him to be commander-in-chief. Defending McCain's service, Day was quick to personalize his remarks, attacking Clark's military record in the process.
"Things were very difficult for [McCain]," he said. "He was horribly wounded in his extremities, and it was questionable if he would survive his experience. He set a high standard for himself because the Vietnamese tried to release him and he showed courage by refusing that to come about. We had an opportunity to watch a president in office, a Democrat who was extremely ineffective during those years. [McCain] learned an awful lot from that... General Clark spent a month in Vietnam, got badly wounded and was evacuated, that was his experience. I say let's hold the two of them up and compare them."
That Day would politicize Vietnam in his defense of McCain is not surprising. During the 2004 campaign, he said of Kerry: "My view is he basically will go down in history sometime as the Benedict Arnold of 1971." And after appearing in a national advertisement for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign, Day formed the Vietnam Veterans Legacy Foundation, an extension of the Swift Boat effort.
Asked to compare the attacks he helped launched against Kerry in 2004 to those being waged at McCain today, Day said the defining issue was truthfulness.
"The Swift Boat attacks were simply a revelation of the truth, the similarity does not exist here. What the Swift Boat campaign was about was to lay out John Kerry's record. John Kerry has never produced any evidence to deny that. We are producing the evidence of these attacks right now to show that those remarks were completely inaccurate."
The irony of it all is that McCain publicly deplored the Swift Boat ads back in 2004, saying they were reminiscent of the smear campaigns launched against him during his initial White House run in 2000.
"It was the same kind of deal that was pulled on me," said the Senator.
Not willing to let the irony go unnoticed, Kerry lashed out at McCain, on Monday, for using the same smear merchant he once decried.
"Colonel Day's comments today only further highlight the McCain campaign's disregard for a new kind of politics," said Kerry. "John McCain condemned these kinds of attacks in 2004 when he called the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth 'dishonest and dishonorable.' Senator McCain should condemn these remarks and cut ties with the Colonel and anyone else connected to SBVT. Day's comments only serve to disparage all those who served on swift boats in Vietnam."
Even prior to then, however, Obama had taken steps to distance himself from Clark's remarks. In a statement, spokesman Bill Burton, wrote: "As he's said many times before, Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain's service, and of course he rejects yesterday's statement by General Clark."
UPDATE: Here is a link to the audio of the McCain campaign conference call.
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