POLITICS

Still Fighting 'Nam: Kerry Allies Urge McCain To Drop Swift Boat Surrogate

07/10/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Despite pledges from both Barack Obama and John McCain to move this presidential campaign beyond the disagreements of past generations, the political world is still adjudicating Vietnam battles.

Seven naval contemporaries of Sen. John Kerry sent a letter today to McCain calling on him to renounce recent statements made by surrogate Bud Day in which he defended his Swift Boat Veteran for Truth attacks as true.

"[W]e are deeply concerned over the comments of your campaign surrogate Bud Day, whom you tapped to represent your campaign the day after General Clark's comments. Your campaign provided a platform for Mr. Day to continue spreading the false and malicious smears of the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT).

[Snip]

"In 2004, you yourself called the SBVT campaign "dishonest and dishonorable," and said that you "deplored this type of politics," but your actions in providing a platform for Mr. Day persuaded us that perhaps you needed a reminder just how dishonest and dishonorable the campaign was.

"With this information in mind, we respectfully request that you and Mr. Day disown the proven lies and shameful tactics of the SBVT, or, failing that, we ask that you disassociate your campaign from Bud Day and from anyone who was a part of the SBVT. We understand that there are decisions made in haste during the heat of the campaign that do not reflect the underlying values of the candidate. We sincerely hope and believe that this was one of them, and we look forward to your announcement that your campaign has renounced this action."

At issue, again, is the denigration of military service. McCain and his aides initially complained when Gen. Wesley Clark said that time as a fighter pilot or POW did not make one qualified to be commander in chief. The campaign then furthered its complaint by attacking Sen. Jim Webb for urging the Arizona Republican to "calm down" with the insertion of military affairs into presidential politics.

But in the process, McCain's aides questioned and devalued the service of Clark (Orson Swindle, a surrogate, said "[Clark's] record in his last command I think was somewhat less than stellar"). And by including Day in a conference call, in which Day insisted that the Swift Boat ads from 2004 were merely a "revelation of truth," Kerry's allies are arguing that McCain is complicit in denigrating the service of the Massachusetts Democrat as well.

The fact that this argument is being waged a full four days after it began (though Kerry's allies have been fighting a separate battle with Swift Boat backer T. Boone Pickens) shows how deep the wounds of the Vietnam generation remain; and it may end up muddying Obama's message to move past these generation tiffs.

Full Text Of The Letter Below

Dear Senator McCain:

After General Clark's comments last weekend, your campaign stated strongly that dismissing anyone's service has no place in any campaign in our country. No matter what anyone thinks of General Clark's comments, as veterans, we wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment that casting aspersions on anyone's service is not acceptable discourse.

In that spirit, we are deeply concerned over the comments of your campaign surrogate Bud Day, whom you tapped to represent your campaign the day after General Clark's comments. Your campaign provided a platform for Mr. Day to continue spreading the false and malicious smears of the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT).

As Swiftboat veterans, we believe very strongly that there is no place in a campaign for perpetuating the continuing denigration of the honorable service of so many men, including Senator Kerry but also including the many men who served with him during the events that served as the backdrop for the SBVT lies. Your campaign's statements about General Clark's comments indicate that your campaign believes the same, but your actions with Mr. Day are not consistent with that belief.

We recently wrote a letter to SBVT funder T. Boone Pickens detailing just a portion of the lies spread by the SBVT, contradicting Mr. Day's contention of Monday that, "The Swift Boat 'attacks' were simply revelation of the truth." We are attaching that letter so you can get a sense of the scope of the dishonesty of those attacks.

In 2004, you yourself called the SBVT campaign "dishonest and dishonorable," and said that you "deplored this type of politics," but your actions in providing a platform for Mr. Day persuaded us that perhaps you needed a reminder just how dishonest and dishonorable the campaign was.

With this information in mind, we respectfully request that you and Mr. Day disown the proven lies and shameful tactics of the SBVT, or, failing that, we ask that you disassociate your campaign from Bud Day and from anyone who was a part of the SBVT. We understand that there are decisions made in haste during the heat of the campaign that do not reflect the underlying values of the candidate. We sincerely hope and believe that this was one of them, and we look forward to your announcement that your campaign has renounced this action.

Sincerely:

James Rassman
Veteran, US Army

Wade Sanders
Veteran, US Navy

Drew Whitlow
Veteran, US Navy

Fred Short
Veteran, US Navy

Eugene Thorson
Veteran, US Navy

Jim Wasser
Veteran, US Navy

Pat Runyon
Veteran, US Navy

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