* * *
From the transcript of the Aug. 5, 2004 White House Press Briefing with Scott McClellan:
Q Do you -- does the President repudiate this 527 ad that calls Kerry a liar on Vietnam?MR. McCLELLAN: The President deplores all the unregulated soft money activity. We have been very clear in stating that, you know, we will not -- and we have not and we will not question Senator Kerry's service in Vietnam. I think that this is another example of the problem with the unregulated soft money activity that is going on. The President thought he put an end -- or the President thought he got rid of this kind of unregulated soft money when he signed the bipartisan campaign finance reforms into law. And, you know, the President has been on the receiving end of more than $62 million in negative attacks from shadowy groups.
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On Aug. 10, 2004 Democracy 21, the Campaign Legal Center and the Center for Responsive Politics filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) charging that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is illegally raising and spending soft money on ads to influence the 2004 presidential elections. [press release]
* * *
transcript of Bush's Aug. 12, 2004 appearance on CNN'S Larry
KING: In view of
that, do you think
that it's fair, for the record, John Kerry's service record, to be an
at all? I know that Senator McCain...
G. BUSH: You know, I think it is an issue, because he views it as honorable service, and so do I. I mean...
KING: Oh, so it is. But, I mean, Senator McCain has asked to be condemned, the attack on his service. What do you say to that?
G. BUSH: Well, I say they ought to get rid of all those 527s, independent expenditures that have flooded the airwaves.
There have been millions of dollars spent up until this point in time. I signed a law that I thought would get rid of
those, and I called on the senator to -- let's just get anybody who feels like they got to run to not do so.
KING: Do you condemn the statements made about his...
G. BUSH: Well, I haven't seen the ad, but what I do condemn is these unregulated, soft-money expenditures by very wealthy people, and they've said some bad things about me. I guess they're saying bad things about him. And what I think we ought to do is not have them on the air. I think there ought to be full disclosure. The campaign funding law I signed I thought was going to get rid of that. But evidently the Federal Election Commission had a different view...
response to Bush's Aug. 12, 2004 appearance:
"Tonight President Bush called Kerry's service in Vietnam 'noble.' But in the same breath refused to heed Senator McCain's call to condemn the dirty work being done by the 'Swift Boat Vets for Bush.' Once again, the President side-stepped responsibility and refused to do the right thing. His credibility is running out as fast as his time in the White House."
Aug. 17, 2004 the campaign held a press
conference at which Gen.
Wesley Clark (ret.), Adm. Stansfield Turner (ret.), and several swift
veterans rebutted the charges.
DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe issued a statement on Aug. 18, 2004:
"By saying nothing at all George W. Bush is a complicit contributor to the slanderous, lie-filled attack ads that have been launched on John Kerry on Bush's behalf. Instead of stepping up and taking the high road, George Bush's response has been evasion, avoidance, everything but disavowal.
"Larry King asked George Bush to 'condemn' it. He refused. Reporters asked the President's Press Secretary if he'd 'repudiate' it. He ducked. They can try to blame it on the rules or whoever else they want, but the blame belongs squarely on the Republicans. They wrote it. They produced it. They placed it. They paid for it. And now it is time for George W. Bush to stand up and say, 'enough.'
"This is not debate, Mr. President, and this unfounded attack
Senator Kerry has crossed the line of decency. I call on you
condemn this ad, the men who put their lies behind it, and the donors
who paid for it. It's time."
* * *
On Aug. 19, 2004 Kerry himself responded directly in a speech to the International Association of Firefighters' Convention in Boston. (from prepared remarks)
Over the last week or so, a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has been attacking me. Of course, this group isn’t interested in the truth – and they're not telling the truth. They didn't even exist until I won the nomination for president.
But here's what you really need to know about
them. They're funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars from a
Republican contributor out of
Thirty years ago, official Navy reports documented my
As firefighters you risk your lives everyday. You know what it’s like to see the truth in the moment. You're proud of what you’ve done—and so am I.
Of course, the President keeps telling people he would
never question my service to our country. Instead, he watches as
Republican-funded attack group does just that. Well, if he wants
to have a
debate about our service in
I'm not going to let anyone question my commitment to
let me make this commitment today: their
lies about my record will not stop me from fighting for jobs, health
our security – the issues that really matter to the American people...
Bush fielded some questions on Aug. 23, 2004 at his ranch
THE PRESIDENT: ...I'll answer some questions. Deb.
Q Some of your supporters are refighting the Vietnam War with their comments about Kerry's war record. Do you think that these attacks of this nature are unpatriotic, un-American, seeing as we're sending young people to war at this time?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I think we ought to be debating who best to be leading this country in the war against terror. And that's what I'll continue to try to convince the American people of, is that I'm the right person to continue to lead the country in the war on terror. I think we ought to be looking forward, not backward. And that's the kind of campaign I'll continue to run.
Q But why won't you denounce the charges that your supporters are making against Kerry?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm denouncing all the stuff being on TV of the 527s. That's what I've said. I said this kind of unregulated soft money is wrong for the process. And I asked Senator Kerry to join me in getting rid of all that kind of soft money, not only on TV, but used for other purposes, as well. I, frankly, thought we'd gotten rid of that when I signed the McCain-Feingold bill. I thought we were going to, once and for all, get rid of a system where people could just pour tons of money in and not be held to account for the advertising. And so I'm disappointed with all those kinds of ads.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. This doesn't have anything to do with other 527 ads. You've been accused of mounting a smear campaign. Do you think Senator Kerry lied about his war record?
THE PRESIDENT: I think Senator Kerry served admirably, and he ought to be -- he ought to be proud of his record. But the question is, who best to lead the country in the war on terror; who can handle the responsibilities of the Commander-in-Chief; who's got a clear vision of the risks that the country faces.
Q Mr. President, some Republicans, such as Bob Dole and some Republican donors such as --
THE PRESIDENT: What paper are you with?
Q I'm with Bloomberg.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. First time I've seen you ought here. Welcome.
Q Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: No problem. Did you write the story about the Vice President? (Laughter.) Yes, go ahead.
Q That's okay. Some Republicans such as Bob Dole and some Republican donors such as Bob Perry have contributed and endorsed the message of these 527 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads --
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q Do you -- when you say that you want to stop all --
THE PRESIDENT: All of them.
Q Does that mean --
THE PRESIDENT: That means that ad, every other ad.
Q Would you encourage Republicans not to give to --
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. I don't think
we ought to have 527s.
I can't be more plain about it. And I wish -- I hope my opponent joins
me in saying, condemning these activities of the 527s. It's the -- I
think they're bad for the system. That's why I signed the bill,
McCain-Feingold. I've been disappointed that for the first six months
of this year, 527s were just pouring tons of money, billionaires
writing checks. And I spoke out against them early. I tried to get
others to speak out against them, as well. And I just don't -- I think
they're bad for the system.
Kerry-Edwards campaign generated some media attention on Aug. 25,
2004 when it dispatched former Sen. Max Cleland and Jim Rassmann, whose
life Kerry saved in Vietnam, to Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas to
deliver to the President a letter
signed by Democratic Senators who are
veterans. The Senators asked Bush to "recognize this
blatant attempt at character
assassination, and publicly condemn it." They did not get through.
The Bush-Cheney campaign responded with a letter of its own in
which veterans expressed concern about Kerry's activities upon his
return from Vietnam. [exchange
* * *
On Sept. 1, 2004 Tom Josefiak, General Counsel to Bush Cheney '04, issued this statement:
"Today, the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign moved forward on President Bush's commitment to shut down illegal activities of those soft money 527s that engage in federal elections. Over five months ago, we filed administrative complaints with the FEC to stop certain 527 organizations from their stated goal of spending more than $300 million in banned soft money on the presidential election. To date, the FEC has given no public indication that it has taken any action on the important issues we raised. These particular 527s have already spent more than $63 million on attack ads and $20 million on grassroots voter programs. To prevent these 527s from continuing to violate federal election law, we have asked the federal court to step in and order the FEC to act. The campaign will be filing today in the US District Court for the District of Columbia."
ema Sept. 8, 2004