Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Is John McCain Really a War Hero, and Who Are the Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain...Really?

McCainland--Unsurprisingly, nobody has any answers to these questions so far. Perhaps the fog of war is obstructing a rational and clear view. What I can say is that--like Irving's Rip Van Winkle--John McCain is always going to be five years behind-the-times since he was held by the North Vietnamese for that long. Because of this and other facts, we can understand why he still thinks the war in Iraq and an invasion of Iran are good ideas. Did I write "five years"? Let's try forty. For McCain, it's still as recent as 2003 in America (or is it pre-1966?), and his ties and views appear dated. But as wrong-headed--and likely corrupt--as Senator John McCain is, he deserves a fair chance during an election like anyone else. Who are these detractors coming out of the shadows?

Like "The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," "Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain" is a 527, non-political PAC. The link below is to this PAC, started by one Jerry ("Gerard") Kiley. Who is Kiley? He is a member of the American Legion, works for a high-powered American corporation in some capacity, and he makes a lot of noise for someone who is so private. By-all-accounts, he's a veteran's provocateur who never served anywhere near John McCain during the Vietnam War, and in mid-January, representatives for his VVAJM were handing-out crude fliers before the South Carolina primaries in the state:
Vietnam Veterans Against McCain is led by Gerard W. Kiley, who led a similar effort against Senator John Kerry’s Democratic presidential campaign in 2004. Reached Wednesday at his home in Garnerville, N.Y., in Rockland County, Mr. Kiley said that he was effectively the only member of his group and that “we really don’t have any money to speak of.” Mr. Kiley said he thought Mr. McCain gave up too much information to the North Vietnamese and was wrongly claimed as a war hero.

Mr. Kiley, 61, a Vietnam veteran, said that he had worked for the past four decades for a major New York corporation that he declined to name.

Mr. Kiley said that his flier had been distributed by U.S. Veteran Dispatch, an online newspaper published by Ted Sampley, who did not return a telephone call on Wednesday afternoon. It was unclear how widely the flier was distributed. ("McCain Parries a Reprise of 2000 Smear Tactics," The New York Times, 01.17.2008)

Shadowy groups like VVAJM deserve greater scrutiny regardless of the party-in-question or their political affiliations. Where do their funds come from? Who paid for the fliers attacking McCain in South Carolina? It all stinks of Karl Rove, frankly, but now that McCain is winning, will Rove and his protege (and deposed U.S. Attorney appointee) Tim Griffin throw in their lot with the man who appears to be slated to win the his party's nomination as candidate for president? They may have well before January.

Maybe Kiley is as shell-shocked and confused as Senator McCain. Kiley is alleged to be a blustery veteran with a very pronounced fixation on the POW-issue, a now-dead political football for the Republicans. It is alleged that he has donated to the campaigns of Senator Joe Lieberman in-the-past. But he and Ted Sampley have a "thing" going, and both were present when Kiley allegedly assaulted (he tossed wine at) Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai in late-June of 2005 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C. McCain was also present at this incident. Sampley and Kiley have asserted that McCain was behind the charges of assault against Kiley. It appears that Kiley was found innocent of all charges in the incident. It wasn't his first time attempting to confront Khai, as he attempted the same in 1993 when the delegate from Vietnam was at a function in NYC. One has to wonder if Sampley was also present at that incident.

Again, who are these people? Are they for real? Talking Point's Muckraker finds that they might not be "for real" at all:

As for the size of the group and it's supporters, it's not clear. They filed papers with the FEC last February and March establishing the group, announcing in a statement of purpose that "We will collect donations to pay for a web site, radio and TV ads exposing John McCain only (negative advertizing). We are completely independant (sic) and not connected to any political organization. All of the money collected will be used for the express purpose of defeating John McCain.” But they've reported no contributions since then, even failing to file the required mid-year report, which won them a chiding letter from the FEC. ("Swift Boat Vet Appalled by McCain Smear," TPMuckraker, 01.16.2008)
TPM notes that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth treasurer Weymouth Symmes is denying any connection to VVAJM, even though their logo with their address is found on the anti-McCain fliers (image above, see bottom left-hand box for Swift Boat logo) handed-out by Sampley's U.S. Veterans Dispatch in South Carolina. In addition to this, VVAJM has an address in North Carolina, the same state that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is headquartered in. Either someone is trying to smear John McCain and the Swift Boat Vets simultaneously, or they really have a solid-connection to them in some form. Kiley isn't saying, and neither is Sampley.

One can only imagine why, yet they bear all the marks of being someone's operatives, and are not who they say they are. Who else would it be but the movers-and-shakers of the GOP? There is a good possibility that this is all being done for John McCain's benefit: he's received donations to his campaign from the Swift Boaters. On January 2nd, The Nation studied Swift Boat's FEC records.
The most notable recipient of Swift Boat largesse is John McCain, erstwhile front-runner and Stand Up Guy. When the Swift Boat ads were first unleashed, McCain was alone among his Republican colleagues to condemn them. A fellow Vietnam veteran, a good friend of Kerry's and a former target of smears about his own service, McCain called the ads "dishonest and dishonorable," a "cheap stunt," and he urged Bush to condemn them. But in pursuit of the GOP nomination, McCain ditched the mantle of maverick for that of hack, and his once-floundering, possibly rejuvenated campaign has been aided along the way by $61,650 from Swift Boat donors and their associates. ("Return of the Swift Boaters," The Nation, 01.02.2008)
The Swift Boat Vets have also changed their name in way that is very similar to the themes found within the propaganda of Kiley's VVAJM--they have changed it to "Swift Vets and POWs for Truth." Since when hasn't John McCain been someone's (notably, George W. Bush and his backers) hack? The Nation goes on to recount that T. Boone Pickens, "Houston homebuilder Bob Perry," and billionaire Harold Simmons have given $9.5 million to the Swift Boat Vets...I mean Swift Vets and POWs for Truth. Hopefully, they won't be able to keep that one straight (or McCain, if he's involved).

An annoying, quasi-legal enigma, wrapped in a riddle:
http://www.vietnamveteransagainstjohnmccain.com/

"Return of the Swift Boaters," The Nation, 01.02.2008: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080107/hayes

"Swift Boat Veteran Appalled by McCain Smear, Talking Points Muckraker, 01.16.2008:
http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/005084.php

"Vicious South Carolina Flyer Attacks McCain's Vietnam Service," TPMuckraker, 01.16.2008:
http://tpmelectioncentral.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/01/vicious_south_carolina_mailer_attacks_mccains_vietnam_service.php

The New York Times on shenanigans in South Carolina in January: