Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Jayne Lyn Stahl Headshot

Swiftboating John McCain?

Posted: Updated:

On Monday, Senator John McCain, the Republican's lady in waiting for the presidential nomination, spoke vigorously of what he considered to be a "failure of leadership," on the part of his Democratic opponents, with respect not only to how the war in Iraq will flourish, but how it will be characterized to the public at large. The senator from Arizona even went so far as to suggest that Democratic candidates are being less than truthful when they call for troop withdrawal.

These remarks were made before an organization calling itself the Veterans of Foreign Wars, but another group, Vietnam Veterans against John McCain, has a thing or two to say about the wannabe commander-in-chief, and his prisoner of war record.

It now appears that John Kerry and John McCain have more in common than the fact that both their first names are John, and their years of service in Vietnam War. The Arizona senator is about to be swiftboated by the same group that attempted to blow away John Kerry's candidacy by launching a kamikaze attack against his military record.

Last March, the masterminds of the swift boat blitzkrieg against Kerry, in 2004, formed Vietnam Vets against McCain. As Raw Story revealed, Jerry Kiley, one of the group's founders, says that the Arizona senator "pretends to be a conservative Republican, but he's not the man that people have projected onto him.," and this may be the best thing they have to say about McCain.

In a series of television ads Vietnam Vets plans to air soon, they aim to "expose" his support of the Communist regime in Vietnam, as well as allege that, as president, the presumptive Republican nominee would grant drivers license to "illegal immigrants."

There are others who have gone so far as to allege that, while a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, McCain fabricated his war hero persona, collaborated with the Communists in order to avoid being tortured, recorded dozens of propaganda tapes for the North Vietnamese, as well as provided classified information thereby jeopardizing the lives of other American pilots. These wild-eyed allegations, like those leveled against Senator Kerry, have been largely unsubstantiated, and may, in fact, derive from the same sources as the accusations that not only took Kerry down, but brought us another four years of George W. Bush.

As we later learned, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was a Republican-funded group that went after then Senator Kerry with claims that he lied about acts of bravery in order to bolster his reputation as a Vietnam War hero, and to get two of his three purple hearts. Navy records repudiate those claims.

What is known is that initial financing for the 2004 Swift Boat venture came from a prosperous Houston contractor, Bob J. Perry, who gave millions to the Republicans, in support of the election of President Bush, and more than $25,000, in 2004, to the campaign of Tom DeLay.

But, who's putting up the bucks this time around? Odds are, it isn't anyone in either the Obama or Clinton camp. Maybe some folks in the Republican Party, fearful now that the neo-cons are on the endangered species list, folks who want to push through a more conservative agenda, and/or a more conservative presidential nominee. Like, for instance, former Republican congressman from Georgia, and newfangled Libertarian, Bob Barr who is now said to be "exploring" the possibility of a White House run.

Yes, the same Bob Barr who has been an outspoken proponent of the First Amendment, but also served as U.S. attorney under Ronald Reagan, and on the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association. And, let's not forget that Bob Barr has the dubious distinction of being among those who led the call for the impeachment of another president -- Bill Clinton.

Perhaps, this time around, the swiftboaters have an agenda to crash the Republican party, and infuse it with one whose values more closely resemble their own rich, white, Anglo-Saxon, male, conservative one?

But, regardless of their motivations, if allowed into the living rooms of Mr. and Mrs. Undecided, the upcoming effort by the folks from Swift Boat may inadvertently turn the spotlight on what John McCain really stands for, and help end the love affair the mainstream media has had with the Arizona senator. If nothing else, maybe this time around, their hyperbolic, and inflammable ads will call attention to the absence of substantive investigative reporting, in this country, and we may yet come to know a bit more not just about McCain's service to his country, but to the disservice he pays to to returning veterans by not backing programs that will enable them to improve their lives once they return from what can only be seen as a futile, and failed war.

Indeed, maybe a primetime advertising campaign that questions not the honor, but the honesty of his war hero status will bring John McCain back to earth with regard to what are rightfully this country's priorities after seven plus years of ravaging the environment and the economy. If it takes swiftboating to show the Arizona senator is more concerned with what he calls the "calamitous consequences to the Iraqi people" that will result from an American withdrawal than he is for the casualties of this war, which now number more than 4,000 dead, and nearly ten times as many injured, then so be it.

And, if this group manages to take a seismic shift of attention away from Reverend Wright, and make us focus instead on the more than half a million folks who come under the heading of "collateral damage," as well as other issues, posted on Senator McCain's Web site, that deserve our immediate, and undivided attention like his position on appointing judges who will overturn Roe v. Wade, his support of what he considers the Second Amendment right to bear arms, and his position that "gun control is a proven failure in fighting crime," so much the better.

Whatever it takes to ignite a wild fire of righteous indignation on the part of the American public is surely worth the sound byte as righteous indignation is justified when John McCain attempts to pass himself off as Obama lite, and blur the lines between red and blue. Righteous indignation is also a reasonable response to anyone who tries to extend his personal appeal beyond the upper one percent of the population who will benefit from his presidency, and on to our youngsters, especially our youngsters of color.

We already know how much John McCain supports the war in Iraq, the troop escalation, General Petraeus, and the continuation of George W. Bush's legacy as demander-in-chief with respect to the military, but does he support the vets? As a veteran of another less than distinguished battle himself , and a prisoner of war, to boot, he will have to prove his support, as well as stop posturing on where he stands on giving the green light to the CIA to waterboard. It is no longer okay to say we don't support torture, but legislatively allow techniques that can only be called torture.

If another Swift Boat campaign picks up momentum, like it did in 2004, maybe John McCain will be embarrassed into sponsoring a new G.I. bill, the Post 9-11 Veterans Assistance Act, which will help Iraq war veterans out with tuition, room, and board, and provide them with opportunity, a bill he currently has declined to sponsor. Maybe he will also work with Congress to come up with some solution to the agonizing problem of homelessness among returning veterans.

A little air time won't hurt with respect to demanding answers on other issues either like whether or not it's okay for the 44th president of the United States to have to consult an advisor before getting back to us on the economy, as well as whether or not to extend an abstinence-only requirement for HIV/AIDS funding. Which part of the word Africa is not worth saving?

While it may, after all, be child's play to discredit any veterans group that makes such explosive claims about a presidential candidate, the love affair between the media and John McCain must end, and there must be a closer examination of his stand on everything from how he plans to solve the health care crisis, deal with carpetbagger oil conglomerates to his plans for government assistance to corporate America.

It's too bad if it has to take something like swiftboating to set the record straight. That just means those who bring us the news aren't doing their job, or maybe their efforts are being obstructed. Either way, where John McCain is concerned, the hard questions are not being asked, and they're long overdue.

Register To Vote