08/24/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

August May Be "Swift Boat" Health Care Month

President Obama now acknowledges that health care legislation won't happen before the August congressional recess, which lasts all month. In Cleveland on Thursday, he spoke of an "end of the year" deadline, and also mentioned, more hopefully, "this fall."

Beware. When the cat's away, the rats will play.

We all saw what happened in July and August 2004, as John Kerry took time off to gear up for the fall presidential campaign. In his case, the gear was for para-sailing and road biking. He essentially hit autopilot, while a band of unethical and amoral creeps unleashed scurrilous attacks on his military record.

By the time Kerry gave his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention on July 29, he obviously knew what was coming. The stage behind him was filled with fellow veterans from the Vietnam War. Yet remarkably, there was no bounce for the Democrats coming out of their quadrennial soirée.

It's important to remember that "Swift Boat Veterans For Truth" didn't use the official Republican Party apparatus to move their message. The entire campaign against Kerry was a separate entity, financed mainly by three wealthy George Bush supporters from Texas.

Bob Perry (no relation to the current governor) was the rainmaker, pitching in $4.4 million. Harold Simmons ($2 million) and T. Boone Pickens ($2 million) rounded out the principal triumvirate. Ultimately, the effort raised and spent $20 million. (Simmons also funded the anti-Obama William Ayers-is-a-terrorist-pal-of-Barack ads in the 2008 election cycle.)

The first Swift Boat ad hit the airwaves August 5, 2004. The Kerry campaign didn't respond in any appreciable way until August 17, and Kerry himself didn't address the matter until August 19. The next day, the second Swift Boat ad started running. The piling on had begun, and Kerry would be dogged all the way to a November defeat.

Fast forward five years. Republicans make no bones about their desire to block meaningful health care reform for middle class Americans. They openly want it to be Obama's "Waterloo," and are committed to stopping it on behalf of insurance and pharmaceutical patrons. They don't hide the fact that the long August recess is key to their strategy of building opposition.

A "Swift Boat" type effort could well be nigh as the dog days of summer settle in. From bow to stern and port to starboard, the White House better be on guard. And have a plan, too.

There are sharks in the water, and they're circling.