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August 05, 2004

The McLaughlin Blog

An unscripted program discussing issues of the day, moderated by your host, bloviating ex-Jesuit hardass Ace of Spades.

ACE OF SPADES: Issue Number One. That blistering anti-Kerry ad by a group of Vietnam veterans calling themselves Swift Boat Vets for Truth. It's a tough, effective ad in which decorated Vietnam war veterans -- many having been awarded the Bronze Star and other decorations -- call John Forbes Kerry a "liar" and allege he "betrayed" his men, and his nation.

On a scale of one to ten, one indicating no damage from the ad, ten indicating complete metaphysical destruction, how do you rate the ad's effectiveness and likely impact on the presidential campaign?

SAY ANYTHING BLOG: You have to admit, this commercial is going to be hard for Kerry to refute. ... This doesn't look good for John Kerry. [Ace's guess as to rating: 5]

ACE: WRONG!!!! Allah?

ALLAH PUNDIT: Allah's taking a cautious line on the swift boat vets... [Ace's guess as to rating: 3]

ACE: WRONG!!! And don't refer to yourself in the third person. It's presumptuous, even for a deity. Roger "The Dodger" Simon?

ROGER L. SIMON: If one person says you're drunk, ignore him. If six people say you're drunk, sit down. I don't think Kerry is going to sit down, but maybe he should. And as Instapundit notes, the candidate asked for it by making his supposed heroism in the Vietnam War, of all things, the centerpiece of his presidential campaign in 2004.... He better have a good answer to these allegations, other than the ad being paid for by Bush People, because that dog don't hunt. We need the truth. [Ace's guess as to rating: 6]

ACE: WRONG!!! Spoons!!!

SPOONS: I think it quite likely that the representations in this ad are true. An ad like this is dangerous business, though. I can easily see it backfiring. [Ace's guess: 6 or 0 if it backfires; average, 3]

ACE: WRONG!!! WILDLY WRONG!!! So wrong, in fact, you're not getting your parking validated. Lorie "Poli Want a Cracker" Byrd!!!!

LORIE BYRD/POLIPUNDIT: Speechless! ... This is the most devastating political ad I have ever seen - bar none. ...

Then the men who served with him are shown in front of the picture Poli linked to today. They look distinguished, professional, not bitter or wacko. There is no sinister music playing like in so many negative ads. The statement from the man who treated Kerry for one of his purple heart wounds is incredible. The fact that these men would "face the fire" that will surely come with appearing in a controversial campaign ad, in itself, adds tons of credibility to the ad and its message. Just thinking about that ad still takes my breath away. It really is powerful. .... [Ace's guess: 9]

INSTAPUNDIT [crosstalk]: Yeah, I'd say that's right. And Kerry played right into this with all the stuff about Vietnam and medals. [Ace's guess: probably a little less enthusiastic than Polipundit; 7]

ACE: Instapundit, WRONG!!! Poli-- Right church, wrong pew. Powerline!!!

POWERLINE BLOG (HINDROCKET): The ad is powerful, but, in my opinion, not as persuasive as it could be because it is so general. The veterans say that Kerry has lied about his service; the doctor who treated Kerry for the wound that gave rise to his first Purple Heart says Kerry's account is untrue; they say Kerry betrayed his comrades. But there are no details, no facts. Of course, there is only so much you can do in thirty seconds. Despite the lack of detail, the ad is a lot more powerful than anything the Bush campaign has come up with, and I've given the Swift Boat Veterans some money to put it on the air. I hope you will too. [Ace's guess: 5]

ACE: METAPHYSICALLY WRONG!!! Details are for follow-up media stories and for books. An advertisement is a medium for conveying a meme, a single idea. Ads don't sell a candidate's health care policy, to the extent such a "policy" even exists; they sell the simple idea that the candidate has a health care policy at all. The ad's power and effectiveness cannot be discounted due to its brevity, no more than a sonnet should have points deducted for not having four more lines. The ad exists to introduce a couter-story to the prevailing Kerry Vietnam myth favored to by the media. And it succeeds brilliantly at introducing that counter-story. It does not prove it; but then, it could not prove it, due to the limitations of the medium.

POWERLINE BLOG: But--

ACE: WRONG!!! You had your chance and you BLEW IT! You'll just have to LIVE WITH THAT SHAME for the rest of your life. Florida Cracker!!!

FLORIDA CRACKER: Live by Vietnam, die by Vietnam, Mr. Kerry. [Ace's guess: 8]

ACE: Your aphorisms are intoxicating. But not quite right. Ryne "My Momma Was Too Poor to Afford Me a Proper First Name" McLaren!!!

RYNE McCLAREN: Will this be the moment when photo-ops will no longer be enough for John Kerry? This ad, and others that will surely follow, could be that big. [Ace's guess: 8]

ACE: I like the recent convergence. SondraK!

SONDRA K: HOLY ****!!!! [Ace's guess: 8.5]

ACE: I think that's the most precisely-correct reaction so far.

The correct answer is that the ad scores between a 6 and an 8 on the political damage scale. The ad doesn't prove any of the allegations, nor even precisely detail them; but if there's one thing the Democrats have taught us all in the past two years, it's not necessary to prove an allegation for it to be damaging. It is enough to simply assert it enough times that the public begins assuming that at least a good fraction of it is true. [For the record, I think everything they're saying is true-- whether that can be proven, however, is a different story, as is whether a generally-underinformed public can be persuaded to look at the available evidence and make a competent decision.]

The tone of the ad-- sober and reasonable -- makes the ferocious charges leveled all the more damning. As Polipundit points out, had this ad been filled with the typical cheeseball conventions of the negative political ad-- creepy synthesizer chords, grainy black-and-white photos -- it would have diminished the ad's power. Instead, each of the heroic Vietnam veterans is simply allowed to speak as a chyron displays their name, rank, and decorations earned in battle.

The ad is potentially devastating. Vietnam is John Kerry's only claim on the White House. If that "fortress" becomes damaged by the public beginning to suspect that at least part of what these men say is true (just as the Democrats have convinced the public, absent strong evidence, to believe at least part of their "Bush lied, kids died" thesis), then Kerry's support will drop by two to four points -- enough to swing a tight election.

And Kerry will be forced to answer difficult questions about how exactly he did come to be transferred to the safety of a Pentagon office after serving only four months in Vietnam. He cannot be helped by answering such questions, even if he's telling the truth. Because the truth of the matter is -- no matter how much the media wants to hide it -- that John Kerry began filing Paperwork over Papercuts from the moment he got into 'Nam in order to get his rich pampered white ass home as soon as possible. Even if he did nothing illegal, that's not the part of his Vietnam Legend he wishes the public to be focusing on.

And that doesn't even take into account his slanderous blood-libels against his fellow veterans. All that crap about widespread atrocities -- which Kerry claimed to have personally witnessed -- is all preserved on videotape.

The media has been hell-bent to ignore Kerry's vicious pro-enemy lies until now. This ad could force them to actually examine them.

How damaging the ad will be depends on the coming weeks-- how frequently the ad is run, how disciplined the media is in closing ranks, mafia-like, around their wounded liberal capo. Assuming minor penetration, the ad will score a hit, a palpable hit, but not a deadly one.

With actual media follow-up -- and this does have the potential for a major shitstorm-- Kerry could be politically crippled in a month.

Update-- The Drudge Factor: Well, Drudge still features this as his big banner headline, so it looks like this should be the big story of tomorrow as the world wakes up.

Sleep late. Sleep till 2:00 pm. Leave that banner up, Drudge.

Leave that banner up.


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posted by Ace at 02:19 AM

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