Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Swiftboating, Round II

And so it begins?

If you don't want to watch that, the accusations are from a group called "Vietnam Veterans Against McCain", and arise out of McCain's opposition to efforts to find POW's allegedly remaining in Vietnam after the war. The allegations, in essence, are:
  1. McCain cooperated (and perhaps collaborated) with the enemy as a POW;
  2. McCain turned down the opportunity to go home early because he would have been repatriated with collaborators, and the inference that he had also collaborated would have ruined his military and political career;
  3. McCain's reported opposition to efforts to investigate what happened to POW's, alleged efforts to protect government employees who made false statements, and his getting Vietnam to agree not to release interrogation files of U.S. prisoners, was part of an effort to hide his own record as a POW and the content of the tapes he recorded for the Vietnamese.
You don't actually get much out of the interview, because of the way it is edited together. I got the sense that the accusations are sincere, but that doesn't mean that they are either fair or accurate - there's a lot of "I think" / "I feel" stuff here - and the presentation is designed to take the worst accusations and insinuations out of what were obviously much longer interviews.

As with the Swift Boat Liars, the motives of the sponsors come into play - you don't need everybody to be deceptive to present a highly misleading picture; just the people who spearhead the "organization" and determine what to feed to the media. Let me say here that I haven't investigated this organization past this video, so I'm not trying to gauge their sincerity. But the issues presented for the campaign are analogous to the Swift Boat Liars, where there was obvious mendacity among the leaders and financial backers.

At this point we can ask,
  • Will the issue gain traction? Will it cause the harm of the swift boat propaganda campaign, or will it be shrugged off like Bush's dubious record in the Texas Air National Guard?
  • Will McCain act swiftly to try to refute the allegations? If not, will his approach change if they start to gain traction?
  • The ability to use a war record may fade, but are we reaching the point where this type of attack is inevitable on anybody who has any appreciable record of public service?
Given that McCain's campaign ads to date focus heavily upon his history as a POW, if I were him I would not take a passive response. The hard part is figuring out how to respond without breathing more life into the accusations.
Clarification: This stuff has been in the background for a long time, but this is the first evidence I've seen that it might "go viral".

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