Thursday, August 26, 2004

VIETNAM

I am too young to remember Vietnam, so all of the Vietnam furor seems like a bunch of Boomer angst to me. Therefore frankly I have not been paying close attentionto all the charges and countercharges over Kerry's service, I am more interested in the media coverage. On that front, up until the last day or so, the Bush/Swift Boat team was winning the media battle -- the charges were being reported, Kerry's campaign was slow on the response and Bush wasn't faced with any downside to this argument.

However, in the past couple days, the Kerry campaign seems to have gained the momentum. The Swift Boat charges about Kerry's medals seem to have been discredited as more and more witnesses speak up. Then it turns out that Ben Ginsburg, legal counsel to BC04, provided legal advice to the Swift Boat team, after the Bush campaign denied that they had any connection to the Swift Boaters. (As a legal question, this does not constitute coordination, but as a political question it is damaging and looks and smells like contact, if not coordination.) And then it turns out that Kerry's chief accuser told President Nixon, back in 1971, that like John Kerry he too was in Cambodia, although now he claims that he was just very, very, very close to the border.

I do not think that this story will fade under the noise of the GOP convention next week, so the smart political move by the BC04 team would be to stand up with John McCain and say that these Swift Boat ads should come down. Whatever damage that would be done has been done and the "denunciation" would serve to signal the end of the media hype, as well as, playing well with the 18 undecided voters in the country. Plus the Swift Boat ads are going to stay up anyway. Thanks to generous GOP donors, they have all the money they need to keep running the ads through November.

The tide is starting to turn on this controversy. If the President does not change the dynamics by announcing his disapproval of this specific ad, it will stop being a political plus and could turn into a real problem. Many voters may decided that the Bush team was behind the Swift Boat ads. Plus, since most or all of the charges seems to have been refuted, it just draws more attention to the fact that one candidate served in Vietnam and the other didn't, that one was awarded the Bronze Star, while the other can't find anyone who actually saw him complete his service in Alabama. The smart move would be to change the subject now. Honestly, I think both campaigns would benefit.


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