As a follow-up to Attack Ads: The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and all that...
Below? Arguments that Bush is either a liar or cannot remember what he said, he's a moral coward who has others do his dirty work, and he's a shallow sadist.
Monday's statement from President Bush, as reported the Associated Press (byline David Espo, AP Special Correspondent - Monday, August 23, 2004)
And this is followed by a whole lot of reported comment - Democrats saying this was too little too late, Republicans calling for Michael Moore's movie to be pulled, and late in the day Bush saying he was disappointed that Kerry didn't join him in this call for and end to these "Exception 527 to the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Bill" advertisements.
President Bush on Monday criticized a commercial that accused John Kerry of inflating his own Vietnam War record, more than a week after the ad stopped running, and said broadcast attacks by outside groups have no place in the race for the White House.
"I think they're bad for the system," added Bush, who had ignored calls to condemn the ad while it was on the air. ...
Yeah, when Bush signed the bill into law he said these 527 exemptions were wonderful - allowing for free speech to bloom. Oops.
Nick Confessore over at Tapped rightly says this (with active links to document it all) -
Oh well, Bush's statement sounds good for the masses, now that it is too late to do anything about the anti-Kerry ads. Ha, ha.
President Bush's denunciation of 527s is hypocritical and self-contradictory. This is especially true given (let me add some more examples) that the campaign finance law the president signed just a few years ago deliberately avoided closing the 527 loophole; that Bush beat Sen. John McCain (R-Ari.) during the 2000 primary in part with the help of a 527 run by his supporter Sam Wylie; that Bush's own campaign manager, campaign counsel, and political guru (Ken Melhman, Ben Ginsburg, and Karl Rove, respectively) have attended fundraising and organizational events for Progress for America, a 527 founded by Bush's political director from the 2000 campaign, Tony Feather; that GOP chairman Ed Gillespie and Bush campaign chairman Mark Racicot recently issued a statement designating PFA and yet another GOP 527, the Leadership Forum, as a good place for Republicans to give money to; and that the second-biggest 527 in the U.S. is the Republican Governors Association, a group spun off by the Republican National Committee two years ago specifically to collect and harness soft money for state and local GOP candidates.
If President Bush is opposed to 527s, somebody better tell his senior campaign staff, and quick.
[Over at Open Secrets you will find a ranked list of political 527 organizations with the amounts they have spent so far.]
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo gives this perspective -
Then Marshall prints a long block of verbatim comments from Bush ending with this -
THERE WAS A brief hubbub over the web earlier this afternoon when it seemed that President Bush had denounced the Swift Boat ads. Needless to say, of course, he had done no such thing. He simply repeated the line Scott McClellan has been peddling for days -- that he denounces all independent expenditure ads.
Really? Yeah, he said the opposite, but this is probably not lying. He probably believes he once said that. He didn't. But, you know, he has some problems in expressing himself. We get the idea. Maybe he didn't understand what he was signing? It happens.
BUSH: Absolutely. I don't think we ought to have 527s.
I can't be more plain about it. And I wish -- I hope my opponent joins me in saying -- condemning these activities of the 527s. It's -- I think they're bad for the system. That's why I signed the bill, McCain-Feingold.
I've been disappointed that for the first, you know, six months of this year, 527s were just pouring tons of money -- billionaires writing checks. And, you know, I spoke out against them early. I tried to get others to speak out against them as well. And I just don't -- I think they're bad for the system.
But all though the verbatim transcript Bush will NOT say that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth advertisements were wrong in and of themselves.
Marshall nails it here -
And what did Marshall say earlier?
... of course the bigger point is that President Bush won't denounce the ads. If someone asks me to denounce Joseph Stalin and I say, "Well, yes, I'm against all politicians who support the death penalty" then I haven't denounced Joseph Stalin, right? This is the same thing.
Now, let's step back and consider where we are. Everyone in the country seems to have an opinion on this -- just go see the chat shows, the opinion columns and talk radio. Everybody has an opinion but George W. Bush, the man at the center of it all.
The reason, as we said earlier, is that the president is a coward -- a fact for which this dust-up constitutes merely an example. And ... President Bush's moral cowardice -- not his physical cowardice or bravery, of which we know little and which is simply a side issue -- is the essence of this campaign.
He said this -
The pattern is clear. Marshall goes into great detail of what the Bush folks did to McCain in 2000 and all the rest.
I don't say he's a coward because he kept himself out of Vietnam three decades ago. I know no end of men of that age who in one fashion or another made sure they didn't end up in Indochina in those days. (I quickly ran through both hands counting guys I talk to on a regular basis.) And they include many of the most admirable people I know.
He's a coward because he has other people smear good men without taking any responsibility, without owning up to it or standing behind it. And when someone takes it to him and puts him on the spot to defend his actions ... he's literally speechless. Like I say, a coward.
But the key contention - that moral cowardice is the essence of this campaign? Gee, which of the two candidates volunteered for service in Vietnam? Cheney himself managed five deferments in a row - as, he has said, he had other priorities.
And now their surrogates claim Kerry wasn't really any kind of hero and his wounds superficial and his medals not merited. And Bush says, oh well, everyone should stop such ads.
The Middle East expert from the University of Michigan, Juan Cole, puts it this way -
What? He's either a liar or cannot remember what he said, he's a moral coward who has others do his dirty work, and he's a shallow sadist.
The true absurdity of the entire situation is easily appreciated when we consider that George W. Bush never showed any bravery at all at any point in his life. He has never lived in a war zone. If some of John Kerry's wounds were superficial, Bush received no wounds. (And, a piece of shrapnel in the forearm that caused only a minor wound would have killed had it hit an eye and gone into the brain; the shrapnel being in your body demonstrates you were in mortal danger and didn't absent yourself from it. That is the logic of the medal). Kerry saved a man's life while under fire. Bush did no such thing.
What was Bush doing with his youth? He was drinking. He was drinking like a fish, every night, into the wee hours. For decades. He gave no service to anyone, risked nothing, and did not even slack off efficiently.
The history of alcoholism and possibly other drug use is a key issue because it not only speaks to Bush's character as an addictive personality, but may tell us something about his erratic and alarming actions as president. His explosive temper probably provoked the disastrous siege of Fallujah last spring, killing 600 Iraqis, most of them women and children, in revenge for the deaths of 4 civilian mercenaries, one of them a South African. (Newsweek reported that Bush commanded his cabinet, "Let heads roll!") That temper is only one problem. Bush has a sadistic streak. He clearly enjoyed, as governor, watching executions. His delight in killing people became a campaign issue in 2000 when he seemed, in one debate, to enjoy the prospect of executing wrong-doers a little too much. He has clearly gone on enjoying killing people on a large scale in Iraq. Drug abuse can affect the ability of the person to feel deep emotions like empathy. Two decades of pickling his nervous system in various highly toxic substances have left Bush damaged goods. Even for those who later abstain, "visual-spatial abilities, abstraction, problem solving, and short-term memory, are the slowest to recover." [source linked at site] That he managed to get on the wagon (though with that pretzel incident, you wonder how firmly) is laudable. But he suffers the severe effects of the aftermath, and we are all suffering along with him now, since he is the most powerful man in the world.
... decades of this sort of behavior do not leave a person untouched. Our world is in crisis and our Republic is in danger. It should not be left in the hands of a man who spent his life like this.
So? He sort of won the last election. He will probably win this one. Maybe that's what we want.