SBVT more interested in politics then truth

Local Voices: SBVT more interested in politics then truth

09/18/2004

To the Times: In Gil Spencer’s column “Not everyone sold on Kerry’s Vietnam valor” (July 30), he introduced readers to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group founded to oppose the presidential candidacy of John Kerry. SBVT is a “527” group, a tax-exempt public advocacy group, free to spend money to influence elections as long as they do not work in coordination with political parties or candidates. On its Web site (www.swiftvets.com), SBVT describes itself as “non-partisan.” The connections and loyalties SBVT has to the Republican Party, Bush family, and the Bush/Cheney 2004 re-election campaign makes any non-partisan claim by this group ridiculous. SBVT has waged a politically motivated smear campaign against John Kerry in an attempt to divert attention from questions surrounding President George W. Bush’s own military service record during Vietnam and his record as president of the United States for the past four years.

Sen. John McCain condemned the SBVT advertisement after it first aired as “dishonest and dishonorable” and called on the White House to condemn it as well. The White House declined to do so and let the ad run its course. President Bush finally spoke out Aug. 23, suggesting all 527 groups are bad for the presidential election.

Bush failed to specifically criticize the ad from SBVT. He chose to collectively bunch all 527 groups with the SBVT group. Many of these groups are involved in “get out the vote” campaigns. Most of these 527 groups are not engaging in smear campaigns with unsupported libelous allegations.

In the 60-second TV ad, members of SBVT are presented as men who “served with John Kerry.” None of the veterans featured in the ad served on either of John Kerry’s two swift boats (PCF 44 and PCF 94).

In the ad, Louis Letson claims he knew Kerry was lying about his first Purple Heart because he treated him for that injury. Navy records show that Letson was not his doctor and did not treat Kerry for the injury in question.

Adrian Lonsdale said in the advertisement that “(Kerry) lacks the capacity to lead.” This opinion contradicts Lonsdale’s own assessment in 1996 of the courage and bravado demonstrated by the young officers that ran the swift boats. Lonsdale stated, “Sen. John Kerry was no exception.”

Another veteran in the ad, Lt. Commander George Elliot, states, “John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam.” However, during Kerry’s Senate re-election campaign in 1996, Elliott defended Kerry and described the action that merited him the Silver Star as “an act of courage.”

John E. O’Neill, co-author of “Unfit for Command,” (which details SBVT claims), is listed as co-chairman of SBVT. He is a lawyer at the Houston-based firm Clements, O’Neill, Pierce, Wilson and Fulkerson. The clients of this law firm include oil and energy giants. President George W. Bush’s general counsel when he was the Texas governor, Margaret Wilson, is also a partner at the firm. She followed President George W. Bush to Washington and now serves as the deputy counsel for the Department of Commerce.

In his column, Spencer cited comments by Rear Adm. Roy Hoffman (retired), chairman of SBVT. He failed to include the information that a Los Angeles Times examination of Navy archives found Hoffman actually praised Kerry’s performance in cabled messages during the Vietnam War. Spencer also cited comments by Kerry’s commanding officer, Lt. Commander Grant Hibberd, concerning the first Purple Heart Kerry was awarded for a shrapnel wound received Dec 2, 1968. Hibberd now expresses doubts about the source and severity of Kerry’s wound. Yet Hibberd made no mention of his doubts in a 1969 evaluation in which he gave Kerry the highest possible marks for the categories of moral courage, judgment and decisiveness and the second highest possible marks for the category of military bearing. If Hibberd was so troubled after the incident, why didn’t he include his doubts in his evaluation?

It would also be easier to take the word of SBVT as truth if the major monetary contributors to the group didn’t include some Texans with deep pockets and longstanding loyalties to the Republican Party and Bush family. The most generous donors include Bob Perry, CEO of Houston-based Perry Homes, one of the largest builders in Texas. A campaign finance watchdog group, Texans for Public Justice, ranked Perry as the No. 3 donor in the state of Texas during the 2002 election cycle, with more than $4 million in donations to Republican political action committees and Republican candidates.

The Bush administration has repeatedly denied any involvement or connection with the group launching these attack ads. It is hard to explain why a veteran featured in the recent ad, Kenneth Cordier, was a member of the Bush/Cheney 2004 Veteran’s Steering Committee. Cordier resigned from his position on Aug. 21, and his name was promptly removed from the Bush/Cheney 2004 Web site.

It is difficult to believe the claims made by the veterans in the SBVT ad campaign because many of them have gone on record in the past praising John Kerry’s service in Vietnam. (That they came) forward with these accusations only after Kerry became the presumptive presidential nominee for the Democratic Party shows SBVT is more interested in politics than truth.

One would sensibly think veterans who served as John Kerry’s crewmates would be the best judges of his honesty, character and leadership ability. Most of the veterans who actually served as crewmates of John Kerry showed their support for his candidacy for president by appearing on stage with him at the Democratic National Convention in July.

JONATHAN THOMAS

Aston

©The Daily Times 2004

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