John Kerry's Vietnam Crew Mates Still Fighting Swift Boating
Perhaps Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens is haunted by his role in the 2004 "swift boating" smear campaign against Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).
The billionaire financier gave $3 million to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004. But this year he has decided he won't finance any so-called 527 groups. In its story Friday about a "nonexistent" GOP third-party effort to tarnish Barack Obama, Politico reported that Pickens is among those who have decided not to open his wallet for any 2008 efforts similar to the '04 Swift Boaters.
"He is not giving anything to 527s involved in the presidential race this cycle, and has communicated that...to Republican strategists and operatives," Pickens spokesman, Jay Rosser, told Politico.
But Pickens could be out serious money if he follows through on his pledge to give a million bucks to anyone who can prove that any of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's assertions were wrong. Pickens made the pledge last November and Kerry personally accepted the challenge. And now, Kerry's crew mates are bellying up to take the Swift Boat challenge.
The men who served with Kerry on Patrol Craft Fast 94 sent a 13-page letter to Pickens on Friday picking apart in excruciating detail the SBVT's claims that Kerry wasn't truly worthy of the Silver Star, Bronze Star and two purple hearts he was awarded for his service in Vietnam. The debunking letter includes a thorough defense of the Vietnamese enemy fighter who Kerry killed, an incident the Swift Boaters in 2004 described as a murder of an harmless young Viet Cong.
"Mr. Pickens: the lies put forward by the SBVT are so plentiful and outrageous, from the significant to the trivial, that we would lose your attention going through all of them," the veterans write. "You've only challenged us to show one thing was false but this is important enough to all of us that we will do that and more so that you fully comprehend the nature of the people you've been dealing with and consequences of your support for them."
The letter was accompanied by pages and pages of Vietnam documents and other evidence to back up their defense, including a 2004 letter from the Naval inspector general asserting Senator Kerry's medals were properly awarded.
They conclude their letter by offering to travel to Texas to meet personally with Pickens and show him a Pentagon certified copy of Kerry's full military record. "We know the truth because we were there on the boat," write Kerry's crew mates. "We believe you will find this truth unavoidable and hope you will feel the right thing has been done in keeping your promise to write a check for one million dollars to anyone who can show anything SBVT said was false. We believe it would be appropriate for this money to go to the veteran's charity of our choice."
It's unclear why Kerry's crew mates are just now sending the letter, especially since there seems to be no danger of a Swift Boat sequel this presidential election year. Relieved as he may be that Pickens won't be participating in the destruction of this year's Democratic presidential nominee, Kerry is still clearly bitter.
"With the McCain campaign coasting on fumes, perhaps T. Boone Pickens has decided there's more money to be made in the oil business than there is to lose in the smears business," says Kerry's deputy chief of staff David Wade.
But stay tuned to see how Pickens responds to Kerry's crew mates' letter.
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