who are already familiar with the smear job pulled
by the "Swift Boat Vets Against Kerry" will probably
want to skip this piece; you've already spent
the last couple of days alternating between grinning
in disbelief and shaking your head in disgust.
The rest of you, gather Śround, because Uncle
Zepp is gonna tell you a story.
was this guy, a Vietnam Vet, who was approached
in 1971 by Charles Colson, who was then one of
Nixon's nastiest hatchetmen. The guy, one John
Ellis O'Neill, had formed a group called "Vietnam
Veterans for a Just Peace." This group was formed
to counter the much vaster "Vietnam Veterans Against
the War," who had basically taken over the anti-war
movement in recent years. Nixon was dismayed,
both by the size of the anti-war movement, and
the fact that they had found a charismatic and
fearless representative to expound their views
before Congress, Lieutenant John F. Kerry.
wanted O'Neill to do anything possible to discredit
Kerry. He wrote, "Let's destroy this young demagogue
before he becomes another Ralph Nader." Colson
did everything he could to boost O'Neill and his
group of vets (the term, "Astroturf political
groups" didn't exist yet, but the VVJP definitely
fit the description). They even arranged a meeting
with the President so they could shake hands and
Nixon could tell them what brave patriots they
were and all the rest of it. O'Neill's moment
of glory came when he got to debate John Kerry
about the war on the old Dick Cavett Show. The
tone taken by each man is illustrated by the following
"Mr. Kerry is the type of person who lives and
survives only on the war weariness and fears of
the American people. This is the same little man
who on nationwide television in April spoke of,
quote, crimes committed on a day to day basis
with the full awareness of officers at all levels
"We believe as veterans who took part in this
war we have nothing to gain by coming back here
and talking about those things that have happened
except to try and point the way to America, to
try and say, here is where we went wrong, and
we've got to change."
the end, the disgraceful war staggered to a disgraceful
end, and the disgraceful Nixon presidency also
staggered to a disgraceful end. Kerry went on
to law school and then became a prosecuting attorney.
O'Neill clerked for William Rehnquist for a year,
and then wound up in the law firm of Clements,
O'Neill, Pierce, Wilson and Fulkerson. His partners
included Margaret A. Wilson, who was George Putsch's
general counsel, and the late Tex Lezer, champion
of conservative causes and, like O'Neill, a permanent
Kerry enemy. He, in turn, was married to one Merrie
Spaeth. Her name will appear several times more.
the next 25 years, O'Neill was a generally apolitical
and obscure cog on one of the right wing's legal
apparatuses, while Kerry went into politics and
eventually became a United States Senator.
April, when it became clear that Kerry was going
to be the Democratic nominee in the Presidential
elections, the right wing blew the dust off O'Neill's
container and led him, blinking and scowling,
into the light to square off once again against
his foe from thirty years past.
still steaming over the effrontery of Kerry in
describing war crimes and other atrocities committed
by US troops (Colin Powell described the same
things, but apparently it's ok if a conservative
does it) was more than up for the task of rekindling
his thirty year feud, and, in conjunction with
Gannon Industries, a big Putsch supporter, set
up "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." This groups'
existence was announced in May, when right wing
operative Merrie Spaeth (remember Merrie? Widow
of the late Tex, O'Neill's late law partner) arranged
a press conference, seeing to it that outfits
such as Drudge, Fox, NewsMax, Free Republic, Washington
Times and Regnery Publishing were there.
this point, there's nothing unusual about the
story. The right wing is constantly dragging old
warriors back for carefully orchestrated promotions
in the right wing echo chamber of newly-founded
astroturf groups. In the normal course of events,
the group would get a blaze of publicity from
the Scaife, Aielles and Murdoch empires, along
with the Drudge Report, and they would hope the
real media would notice and report on it. Eventually,
a right wing hack or two would write a book about
the group for Regnery Press, Scaife or someone
would make bulk purchases in order to push the
book into the top twenty sales, and a new right
wing propaganda piece would be born. These carefully
orchestrated hit pieces have been run, over and
over, attacking the Clintons, and any and all
liberals and moderates that the right thinks needs
to be destroyed.
sure enough, Hannity and O'Reilly and Limbaugh
and Scarsborough and all the rest praised the
group to the skies, incorrectly describing them
as "crewmates" and superior officers of Kerry,
and assuring one and all that Kerry was a phony
who didn't deserve the medals he threw away.
time, things went catastrophically wrong.
questions were raised about the group's basis
for their claims. A group of people who said they
were Kerry's crewmates had appeared at the Democratic
convention, and a quick check showed they WERE
his crewmates, and the people at "Swift Boats"
were not. In fact, most of them didn't even know
Kerry over in Vietnam, hadn't heard of him until
he appeared before Congress in 1971. None of them
- not one - had actually served with Kerry on
there was the nature of the accusations. Claims
were made that Kerry had somehow put in himself
for his medals, that he had received purple hearts
for minor scratches, even that he had self-inflicted
wounds in order to get medals. Talk like this
doesn't sit well with vets, and to top it off,
here were Kerry's real crewmates, staunchly defending
one of the star witnesses to the entire Kerry
affaire, one George Elliott, had said that Kerry,
who was then under his command, didn't deserve
the silver star. According to Elliott, Kerry "lied
about what occurred in Vietnam. . . for example,
in connection with his Silver Star, I was never
informed that he had simply shot a wounded, fleeing
Viet Cong in the back."
was tried out on the under-the-media-radar area
of Free Republic, Usenet, and other internet conversation
areas, and while people asked why Elliott, as
commanding officer, put Kerry up for a silver
star he felt he didn't deserve, right wingers
noted approvingly that the accusation caused consternation
among the hated liberals and Democrats. They decided
it was good to go, and made a TV ad and had a
hack "co-write" [ghost-write] a book for Regnery
which point, the whole smear job blew apart. Elliott,
in an interview with the Boston Globe, said, "I
still don't think he shot the guy in the back.
It was a terrible mistake probably for me to sign
the affidavit with those words. I'm the one in
quickly discovered that none of the group had
actually served with Kerry. Some never even met
him under any circumstances. The ones who had
were all at the convention, supporting him. Ooops.
McCain, Republican Senator from Arizona, said
of the ad, "I deplore this kind of politics. I
think the ad is dishonest and dishonorable." He
went on to say he couldn't believe the President
could be involved in such a cheap stunt. The White
House hurriedly put out a memo denying any involvement
with the ad while failing to condemn it, which
is their usual feint-and-jab response when called
on dirty tricks.
reporters noticed that Merrie Spaeth, along with
the law offices of Stevens, Reed, Curcio & Potham,
had been involved in the smear campaigns against
John McCain in the South Carolina primary in 2000,
and the Max Cleland campaign in 2002 in Georgia.
The woman apparently doesn't mind pissing on war
vets if it's for a good, partisan cause. McCain
himself drew a sharp focus on the White House
by reminding everyone that he had been subject
to the same sort of smear in 2000, when he was
accused of, among other things, betraying his
prison mates to the North Vietnamese in return
there was the matter of the BOOK. "Unfit for Command:
Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry."
Everyone knows that O'Neill is the supposed author.
But the fellow who "co-wrote" it was one Jerome
R. Corsi, PhD. And Corsi, it seems, is what can
be best described as a vicious right wing crackpot.
Media Matters, David Brock's outfit, looked into
Corsi, and discovered that he was an active participant
in the lunatic-fringe "Free Republic" website.
Posting under the name "jrlc" he opined that Kerry
was secretly Jewish (apparently this is a grave
character flaw in Corsi's eyes) and usually referred
to the Senator as "John F*ing Commie Kerry" (For
full details about this guy and a list of the
utterly insane stuff he posts, go to http://mediamatters.org/items/200408060010
only has this smear attempt backfired and made
all the right people look stupid and ridiculous,
but if Putsch doesn't condemn it in strong terms,
he will lose a lot of military votes, and it almost
certainly will ruin any hope he has of winning
this election. It may put him so far behind he
won't even be able to steal it.
on the right wing may have already realized this.
When researching for material about Corsi and
his book, I went to Regnery's Press website. I
found no mention of the book anywhere on the site,
which is a very strange omission for a publisher
to make regarding a book where all the other promotions,
including TV ads and interviews on Faux, are in
then, this isn't the first time Regnery Press
has engaged in the Stalinesque habit of making
books and authors "unhappen." You can search in
vain for their all-time best selling author, the
man who wrote three of their top five best sellers:
Regnery has dropped the promotion is the best
evidence yet that this is a smear job that backfired.
My prediction: if you hear anything more about
the Swift Boat Veterans, it won't be from the
GOP and their vast right wing echo chamber.
Posted: August 14, 2004