I hate the term "Swiftboating." I hate how the name of the boats we honored when we were in uniform in Vietnam has become a verb for the twisted politics of Karl Rove.
But today we need to fight the right wing's tactics not just to reclaim a word, but to reclaim our democracy.
And for anyone who thinks, "we don't even have a nominee yet, are the Republicans really attacking Democratic presidential candidates already?" -- the answer is not just yes, but it matters (and, yes, some people are really asking that).
Just think back to April of 2003. Yes, 2003.
In the New York Times the Republican narrative was first introduced:
"Another Bush adviser said of Mr. Kerry, 'He looks French.'"
In the same article, anonymous Republicans described John Edwards as the "Breck Girl"
Bottom line, we can't wait until we have a Democratic ticket to combat the right wing's efforts to "frame" our candidates.
Yesterday, I sent out an email to Barack Obama's email community urging people to fight against the vicious smears from the modern conservative movement (they began in a right wing magazine) that have been bouncing around the Internet for months. I'll reprint it below, but first I want to mention one thing.
I'm supporting Barack Obama because I think he's the right person for this moment, but I have -- and I will -- condemn and fight against these kinds of smears no matter who is the target.
In the last few years, I've defended Jack Murtha, Patrick Murphy, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and others (including a candidate in a state house race in New Jersey) from the smears of the right-wing, and I'll defend many more patriots in the months ahead.
I'll defend the nominee of our party, no matter who it is, and I'll defend people like Mark Udall in a Senate race in Colorado, or Jon Powers in a House race in central New York, or state house candidates across the country.
The right-wing has nothing to offer but fear and smears, and they are gearing up to deliver plenty of it. Already we hear of a conservative group with ties to the Bush White House -- Freedom's Watch -- that plans to spend a quarter of a billion dollars on this election. I think we all know enough about how the right-wing operates to know that this money won't go to helping voters make informed choices. That money will go to smearing candidates across America, up and down the ballot.
And right now, the most egregious right-wing smears are being spread about Barack Obama. Make no mistake, they'll spread them about any candidate we have, but they have some catch-up to do on Barack, so they are pushing out the most despicable lies. I couldn't stand by while that happened, so I sent this email:
I support Barack Obama because he doesn't seek to perfect the politics of Swiftboating -- he seeks to end it.
This is personal for me, and for a whole lot of Americans who lived through the 2004 election.
As a veteran, it disgusts me that the Swift Boats we loved while we were in uniform on the Mekong Delta have been rendered, in Karl Rove's twisted politics, an ugly verb meaning to lie about someone's character just to win an election. But as someone who cares about winning this election and changing the country I love, I know it's not enough to complain about a past we can't change when our challenge is to win the future -- which is why we must stop the Swiftboating, stop the push-polling, stop the front groups, and stop the email chain smears.
The truth matters, but how you fight the lies matters even more. We must be determined never again to lose any election to a lie.
This year, the attacks are already starting. Some of you may have heard about the disgusting lies about Barack Obama that are being circulated by email. These attacks smear Barack's Christian faith and deep patriotism, and they distort his record of more than two decades of public service. They are nothing short of "Swiftboat" style anonymous attacks.
These are the same tactics the right has used again and again, and as we've learned, these attacks, no matter how bogus, can spread and take root if they go unchecked.
But not this time -- we're fighting back.
And when I say "we," I mean that literally. I know Barack is committed to fighting every smear every time. He'll fight hard and stand up for the truth. But he can't do it alone.
We need you to email the truth to your address books. Print it out and post it at work. Talk to your neighbors. Call your local radio station. Write a letter to the editor. If lies can be spread virally, let's prove to the cynics that the truth can be every bit as persuasive as it is powerful.
The Obama campaign has created a place where you can find the truth you'll need to push back on these smears and a way to spread the truth to all of your address book.
Take action here:
So when your inbox fills up with trash and the emails of smear and fear, find the facts, and help defeat the lies.
Barack Obama is committed to bringing our country together to meet the challenges we face, but he knows that power gives up nothing without a struggle -- and to win the chance to change America, we must first defeat the hateful tactics that have been used to tear us apart for too long.
With you help, we can turn the page on an era of small, divisive politics -- but only if next time you hear these attacks on Barack, you take action immediately:
The fight is just getting warm -- we won't let them steal this election with lies and distortions.
Thanks. I'll be devoting some serious time, resources, and energy from both my staff and myself in fighting these smears and empowering all of you to fight them as well. I'll have more on what you can do to help combat smears as we go forward.
We can't let the right-wing steal another election with lies and distortions.
Follow Sen. John Kerry on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JohnKerry