The New York Times' Kate Zernike and Jim Rutenberg bring you today a damning takedown of the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" campaign. The Times not only illustrates, with graphics and all, the decades-long relationship between the anti-Kerry vets group, the Bush family and Karl Rove, but on a substantive level debunks the charges leveled against Kerry by these veterans (except for the relatively irrelevant Christmas in Cambodia question) and shows how several of the now rabidly anti-Kerry vets until not too recently told different stories about Kerry's record and character.
From the Times: "Records show that the group received the bulk of its initial financing from two men with ties to the president and his family -- one a longtime political associate of Mr. Rove's, the other a trustee of the foundation for Mr. Bush's father's presidential library. A Texas publicist who once helped prepare Mr. Bush's father for his debate when he was running for vice president provided them with strategic advice. And the group's television commercial was produced by the same team that made the devastating ad mocking Michael S. Dukakis in an oversized tank helmet when he and Mr. Bush's father faced off in the 1988 presidential election."
"The strategy the veterans devised would ultimately paint John Kerry the war hero as John Kerry the 'baby killer' and the fabricator of the events that resulted in his war medals. But on close examination, the accounts of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth' prove to be riddled with inconsistencies. In many cases, material offered as proof by these veterans is undercut by official Navy records and the men's own statements. Several of those now declaring Mr. Kerry 'unfit' had lavished praise on him, some as recently as last year."
Can we now proceed with the issues of this presidential campaign -- and this war -- and lose the distraction of these truth-challenged gentlemen and their GOP benefactors?
The Los Angeles Times reports on the president's theoretical second-term plan to overhaul Social Security -- but don't expect to hear any details before the election.
"Instead of getting into details, which would almost certainly embroil him in controversy, Bush is campaigning on broad principles for revamping the 70-year-old retirement system in a way that fits his vision for an 'ownership society,' the sources said. Bush revised his campaign speech in recent weeks to include a push for changing the program to permit personal investment accounts, a proposal many conservative activists have been hoping for months he would spotlight."
What, Alan Keyes is not the golden boy of Illinois GOP politics? The Chicago Tribune reports on the Illinois Republicans' lukewarm embrace of their last-ditch candidate.
"Republican U.S. Senate candidate Alan Keyes finished a booming stemwinder of a speech to his party's State Central Committee here on Thursday, then stepped away from the podium to find only a couple of people in the group rising to shake his hand. That's largely how things went for Keyes--and for the party--for much of Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair, formerly a raucous event in the heady days when the party controlled most of the apparatus of state government."
"... Perhaps summing up the temperament of the day was an address from U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), who assured a sparse crowd at a noontime rally: 'Our party is not dead. Our party is alive.'"
Only New Jersey politics can top the Illinois Senate race in the drama category. The New York Times reports on the latest nasty twist(s) in the Jim McGreevey story. "The effort to force embattled Gov. James E. McGreevey to leave office in time to schedule a special election appeared to collapse on Thursday, as Democratic leaders indicated they feared an escalating and increasingly personal fight with the governor."
" ... On Wednesday, six days after Mr. McGreevey said he would resign because of an extramarital affair with another man, Channel 2 reported that an unnamed administration official was warning United States Representative Robert Menendez to stop criticizing Mr. McGreevey because Mr. Menendez himself had engaged in an affair. The official cited in the Channel 2 report accused Mr. Menendez of setting the woman up in business and referring clients to her."
"State Democratic leaders said the report sent a chill through party officials, who had been bracing for new revelations about Mr. McGreevey but feared that the political standoff would descend into broader personal attacks and public embarrassments. 'This could turn into a bloodbath,' said one county leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity."
"By mid-afternoon on Thursday, Mr. Menendez, who had been pressing behind the scenes all week for Mr. McGreevey's immediate resignation, released a brief statement saying that he would support Mr. McGreevey's decision to remain in office until Nov. 15 and avoid a special election."
The NYPD, which trotted out its convention protest crowd control toys for journalists on Thursday, sees anarchists as "the great unknown factor in whether the demonstrations remain under control or veer toward violence and disorder," the New York Times reports.
"The city is trying everything from giving protesters discount coupons to using an army of police officers to deter violent protests, and police officials said yesterday that they had identified about 60 people as militants, some of whom were arrested for violent acts in past protests. In a show of force yesterday, the department rolled out its arsenal to show reporters the techniques it is using during convention week."
"But even anarchists who are against violence are warning of trouble and admit that they are planning acts of civil disobedience, including blocking intersections, staging 'chaos on Broadway' when the delegates attend Broadway shows on Sunday night, holding a 'die-in' near Madison Square Garden, sneaking into parties and other functions and generally harassing the 4,853 delegates and alternate delegates."
Secret evidence isn't just for holding suspects anymore. The Washington Post reports that John Ashcroft's Justice Department is now "using secret evidence in its ongoing legal battles over secrecy with the American Civil Liberties Union, submitting material to two federal judges that cannot be seen by the public or even the plaintiffs, according to documents released yesterday."
"In one of the cases, the government also censored more than a dozen seemingly innocuous passages from court filings on national security grounds, only to be overruled by the judge, according to ACLU documents."
"Among the phrases originally redacted by the government was a quotation from a 1972 Supreme Court ruling: 'The danger to political dissent is acute where the Government attempts to act under so vague a concept as the power to protect 'domestic security.' Given the difficulty of defining the domestic security interest, the danger of abuse in acting to protect that interest becomes apparent.'"