Our national commentariat is twisted in an impossible yoga pose trying to compare anti-Bain Capital coverage to the famous 2004 “Swift Boat” ad campaign. The two situations are not close to analogous. I have a more-than-passing acquaintance with the Swift Boat ads – I helped produce them.
Our liberal news media continue to fabricate and fantasize about the Swift Boat saga, which proved to be a decisive moment in the 2004 election. In the parlance of the media, the ads run by a group of veterans opposed to John Kerry were a “smear” and were “discredited.” They were neither, and the only institution that smeared and ultimately was discredited was the liberal press.
Mr. Kerry’s entire chain of command in Vietnam and most of the officers in his own unit, with little political help and funding, stood up at the National Press Club in the spring of 2004 and gave detailed reasons that their colleague was unfit to be president. They used their names and were specific and powerful about their complaints. Had the same collection of respected veterans aired grievances against President George W. Bush’s National Guard service, the coverage would have been thunderous. But because it would have hurt Mr. Kerry and thus helped Mr. Bush, the media flatly refused to cover the powerful Swift Boat story, using flimsy excuses that the testimonials didn’t “advance the ball” on known facts.
So instead of accepting the blatant media bias, the Swift Boat Veterans and POWs for Truth initially raised a small amount of money and took their case directly to the public, circumventing the liberal media filter. Despite constant attacks from the left-in-the-dust media, the television ads proved to be a critical turning point in the race. The liberal media tried to fight back by planting a phony memo in President Bushs military personnel file, but the conservative new media exposed that lie and the CBS/Dan Rather smear backfired.