Amazing. President Bush isn’t even man enough to answer a straight question about these Swift Boat ads. (You’ll have to pardon my antiquated and gendered language. But I’m not sure English has any more presentable way to convey the same meaning.) Not only will Bush not answer them. He won’t even let his press secretary do so.
Just one example from the Austin American-Statesman may serve to illustrate the point …
The [Swift Boat] group was organized last spring with the assistance of Merrie Spaeth, a Republican public relations executive from Houston, who also was a public relations consultant to independent counsel Kenneth Starr during his investigation of former Democratic President Bill Clinton. Her late husband, Tex Lezar, ran for lieutenant governor of Texas on George W. Bush’s GOP ticket in 1994.
Obviously folks he’s never <$Ad$>had any contact with at all.
In any real world sense, this is a front for the president. And for the saps who are willing to give the president the most improbable benefits of the doubt — that this is something he has nothing to do with and is utterly beyond his control — well, he won’t even toss them a bone by making even the most innocuous statement of disassociation. (Talk about being someone’s … well, you get the idea.)
In addition to this, as we noted yesterday, the president now goes around the country with his ‘Ask the President’ town hall meetings and uses them as a forum where questioners repeat these slurs without, again, his making even the most perfunctory statements of disassociation. (“Well, I respect your views, sir. And I appreciate your support. But I don’t want to question Mr. Kerry’s service.”)
The example we noted yesterday evening from Oregon a week ago …
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, sir.
Q On behalf of Vietnam veterans — and I served six tours over there — we do support the President. I only have one concern, and that’s on the Purple Heart, and that is, is that there are over 200,000 Vietnam vets that died from Agent Orange and were never — no Purple Heart has ever been awarded to a Vietnam veteran because of Agent Orange because it’s never been changed in the regulations. Yet, we’ve got a candidate for President out here with two self-inflicted scratches, and I take that as an insult. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate that. Thank you. Thank you for your service. Six tours? Whew. That’s a lot of tours.
Let’s see, who’ve we got here? You got a question?
Now, today Scott McClellan got asked about these ads again and again. And he kept refusing to answer the question, insisting on reframing the question as one about unregulated soft-money (that is, 527s) and all the “shadowy groups” that are out there attacking president. (In other words, this is no different from the Moveon ads that say Bush has piled up a deficit for our grandchildren or accusing him of misleading the country about Iraqi WMD) After hitting on the question again and again, that led to this exchange in which the Oregon incident finally gets brought up …
Q Well, the charge, though, has been made not just in advertisements, but it has now been made directly to the President.
MR. McCLELLAN: And there have been a lot of false, negative charges made against the President by these shadowy groups. So if he would join us, we could get rid of all of this unregulated soft money activity.
Q Let me ask it this way: The President has said and believes that John Kerry served honorably in Vietnam, right?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, he’s made that very clear. We’ve made it very clear that we will not make his — will never raise questions about his service. We haven’t, and we won’t.
Q This advertisement raises questions about his service, and in fact concludes that he served dishonorably. So the President thinks this ad is false, right?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the issue here is these unregulated soft money groups that exist. The campaign finance reforms were passed in order to get rid of this kind of activity. Yet there is a loophole in the law, and the FEC has refused to address it. We think that all of this activity should be stopped.
Q Could I follow on that? Because what Terry seems to be getting at, what’s clear from this event that Bush had last week —
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let’s not be selective here. Let’s look at the overall activity that’s going on by all of these shadowy groups. I think we’re being a little selective right now. And Senator Kerry is being — is trying to have it all ways, yet again. He says one thing, while his campaign goes out there and does another thing.
As I said, afraid to answer the question. Afraid to stand up. Just … afraid.
Maybe pops can pull some strings. Remember, he used to be a congressman from Houston.