John Kerry quickly filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission yesterday (link in title) after the announcement that a second Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad had been produced and would now be aired in select markets (read: battleground states). The second Swifties ad is far better than the first because there is no question as to its veracity -- it uses John Kerry's testimony to Congress in 1971 as a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Kerry repeating the Winter Soldier group's accusation that US servicemen were rapists and murderers. So Kerry needs to defuse its impact. How? By crying about it to the FEC.
[Note that Captain Ed found that the press is already dissembling for Kerry by saying he was just repeating the claims of others in that testimony. But Kerry repeated those claims under oath before the United States Congress, he cannot be absolved of responsibility for the claims because he ADOPTED them and REPEATED them in the most public forum he could use to spread them. Kerry also confessed to war crimes, transcript here.]
Under the execrable campaign-finance free speech restriction law that Congress passed, Bush failed to veto and the now anti-free speech Supreme Court upheld, the political parties and candidates cannot coordinate their advertisements and political activities with outside political action groups (aka "527 groups"); nonetheless, those groups can separately solicit contributions and spend the money on advertisements (within certain limits). Based on this NY Times "investigation," which reveals little more than the fact that Bush is a Republican from Texas and some of the Swifties are too, the Kerry campaign is charging that Bush is coordinating with the Swifties in violation of the horrendous law Kerry voted for and Bush signed.
Let's be realistic: the Swift boat vets are effective because they are credible. Bush filed an FEC complaint in April (to less fanfare than the Kerry complaint) based on Kerry's ties to MoveOn.org. Those ties include a chief MoveOn strategist joining the Kerry campaign. Moreover, unlike the second Swifties' ad, the claims by MoveOn are false -- Bush did not use any family connections to join the Texas Air National Guard, the President was not AWOL (a previous charge proven false by the President's military records) -- and they are otherwise heinous, such as comparing Bush to Hitler. Note also that nine of the top 10 527 groups, based on total receipts, are anywhere from left-leaning to far left: major unions, EMILY's List, Media Matters, America Coming Together, Joint Victory Campaign 2004, etc. and that they have publicly stated they were coordinating a campaign amongst themselves against Bush. I'm fully in favor of MORE speech (and political advocacy no matter how it's paid for is SPEECH, not just money), and there is value in truthful speech. There is no value in false speech, thus we allow libel and slander lawsuits.
But the big issue of Kerry's FEC complaint is not a question of illegal coordination (that's a misdirection play), it's not a question of the accuracy of the Swifties' charges, and it's not even how Kerry's been bitten by his own strategy of stressing his Vietnam service. Instead, it's Kerry's instincts when attacked -- sue, whine and disparage. The truth comes out about Kerry's immoral actions after he returned from Vietnam, which gave aid and comfort to the enemy -- Kerry's reaction is to claim that the messenger is a compendium of Republican stooges (and the press, upon encountering the Swifties, does NOT believe they are tools of the GOP), not to defend himself his merits and not to claim that his enemies are wrong on the facts or the conclusions they drew from the facts. This is not a strong man certain in his beliefs. He is a dithering flip-flopper who would merely strike back at political foes instead of acting to meet his challenges head-on.
This is not a LEADER. Instead, this is a small animal cornered and fearful. Imagining how Kerry would react in a real crisis does not inspire confidence.