Howard Kurtz is the “Ad Watch” for The Washington Post this election. Today, he reviews the latest Swift Boat ad.
The strength of this spot, by the independent group that has roiled the campaign by accusing the senator of lying about his military record, is that it uses Kerry’s own words and voice.
But Kerry’s testimony is selectively edited in a way that is misleading. He began by talking about a conference in Detroit several months earlier in which some of the 150 veterans told him stories of atrocities. “They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads.” Kerry said, but the ad deletes the first six words, making it sound like Kerry is offering a firsthand account instead of reporting on what was dubbed the “Winter Soldier” investigation. Swift boat veteran John O’Neill says the ad is “very fair” because Kerry was describing crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the knowledge of officers at all levels of command and “there’s no way to put the whole speech in.”
Some of the atrocities Kerry described have been documented, such as at the My Lai massacre, and others remain in dispute. While Kerry’s testimony angered many veterans, he portrayed himself as speaking out on behalf of disaffected vets, not attacking them.
But then Kurtz adds.
By using Kerry’s testimony, the group avoids the credibility issues raised by its first attack spot in which some veterans have given inconsistent accounts of the candidate’s military record.
“[A]voids the credibility issue”? If The Post had characterized Kerry’s testimony in the way this ad does would Kurtz think the paper’s credibility was hurt? The ad is one more piece of evidence that the Swifties are liars, but maybe Kurtz just had to find a way to prove his “balance” by suggesting the charge is credible.
More on the Swifties credibility at Eschaton