May 10th, 2010
01:35 PM ET
12 years ago

Kerry endorses in PA despite spectre of 'swift boat' tactics

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Sen. John Kerry is endorsing his Senate colleague Arlen Specter for re-election."]Washington (CNN) – Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, used his endorsement Monday of Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pennsylvania, to call for the retirement of the term "swift boat" from the political lexicon.

After Kerry's office released a statement praising Specter, who switched from the Republican Party a year ago, Kerry Press Secretary Whitney Smith confirmed to CNN that the Massachusetts Democrat was endorsing Specter.

"I want to insist on a reality check about my colleague, Arlen Specter. I have known Arlen for 25 years and I know his character and the quality of his service to Pennsylvania," Kerry said in a statement.

But Kerry also said that he would not serve as referee in a hostile Democratic primary battle in which the term "swift boat" has once again become an issue.

The Pennsylvania primary race between incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter and challenger Rep. Joe Sestak has become increasingly bitter in recent weeks, with both candidates slinging accusations as Election Day approaches. But Kerry's statement is likely a reference to the fallout from a political ad released in April, in which Specter questions Sestak's military record.

The Specter ad alleged that Sestak, a former three-star Navy Admiral, was "relieved of duty in the Navy for creating a poor command climate," a charge that in turn caused Sestak to accuse Specter of employing "swift boat" tactics.

The accusations have prompted Kerry, who was the target of the initial "swift boat" salvo during the 2004 presidential campaign, to weigh in on the race.

"I've been reluctant to get involved in a primary between two friends, and even more reluctant to be drawn into arbitrating the definition of the term Swiftboating." Kerry said in his statement.

But the carefully worded statement does not push back against Specter's original ad, or refer directly to Sestak's use of the term "swift boat." Instead Kerry calls for a general halt.

"I'd like to see us get to a better place in politics where the word Swiftboating is retired from the political vocabulary," said Kerry.

A recent poll indicates that Sestak, who once trailed Specter by a significant margin, is narrowing the gap in Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate nomination battle.

–CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2010 • Arlen Specter • Joe Sestak • John Kerry • Pennsylvania • Popular Posts
soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. BeverlyNC

    I don't think it's a surprise to anyone how Republicans operate. They are totally characterless and dishonorable. When they have nothing to offer, they attack the opponent with outrageous lies, hate, and in-the-gutter tactics.

    Republicans are slimeballs and they have shown how anti-American they are this entire year. They care about no one but themselves and will do and say anything to get what they want for their corporate buddies who abuse Americans.

    Spectre moved to the Democratic Party because he wanted to do something positive for the People and he saw the Republicans were going to sit around and do nothing all year. He was right.

    Isn't is interesting how NONE of the Republican Gulf state governors have expressed any outrage or concern about the BP Oil spill on their very own coasts??? Mississippi's Barbour even went so far to say this spill (now larger than the state of Delaware) is "not a catastrophe"!
    These Republicans are standing with the oil industry against the people of their own state! How disgusting is that! They wouldn't be in office much longer if I lived in one of those states.

    Never trust a Republican.

    May 10, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  2. Klaxon McFlinderginder

    You can easily replace "swiftboating" with "typical sleazy conservative bully-tactics". Then again, the word "lying" is dead-on accurate as well.

    It's a shame the right-wing cannot discuss issues and have to resort to swiftboating. It's a shame their base is so propagandized that they prefer teh most insane spin to reality.

    The conservatives are no longer conservative: they are right wing radical fundamentalist extremists screaming for a totalitarian world and calling it freedom.

    May 10, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  3. Obama Enemy List Wannabe

    So, Kerry doesn't like the term 'swift boating'? Well, I don't like fake Purple Hearts and tearing down unit buddies. The Marine Corps has a term for people like Kerry, 'Buddy F&*!ers'. Kerry not likeing this term is a classic instance of the truth hurting....

    May 10, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  4. Nathaniel

    Kerry DID refute as did the others who were involved directly in the incident. The media researched and refuted the charges. Every legitimate news source that independently researched the mater determined that Kerry's war record was untarnished and that the "Swift Boaters" were only looking to smear a war heroes record.

    The only mistake Kerry did was to wait as long as he did to speak out against these phony charges from people who truly are a disgrace to the American flag and the uniform they claimed to have worn. Clearly the swiftboaters and those who supported them were not only un-American but treasonous to level false accusations against a war hero defending American policy.

    May 10, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  5. Just A Vet

    How more destructive these anglo republicans can be, is beyond anybody comprehension. They posses so much evil that It seems they do not identify with America's principles but with the words greed and hate.

    May 10, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  6. bobby

    No, Republicans are not the only ones to use...wait a minute! Could Sestak really be a Republican disguised as a Democrat to take the seat for conservatives no matter who wins the primary? I know he treats people who are on his staff like they are his personal servants. And I know he abused people who served under him in the Navy. And I know he claims three stars when it is only two. A liar and an abuser. This guy is no Democrat.

    May 10, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  7. hobart

    >Kerry and his workers were offered $1M to factually refute anything put forth on television, in print, or any other media by the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth".

    >Not one item was ever factually refuted.

    Uh, everyone on his boat, who was actually much closer to the action, refute every word of the swifties. The official record of the Navy refutes the swifties. Guess, that's not good enough.

    ."Swiftboating" may be used as a derogative term, but in the case of "reporting for duty Kerry", it meant laying bare the facts of his military service and his subsequent false testimony before the US Senate upon his leaving the military.

    It did no such thing. It made a whole bunch of allegations with not one shred of evidence to back any of it up, and then it shifted the burden of proof to guilty until proven innocent.

    >Hey John, did you ever disprove the claims the swiftboaters made about you? Did you ever collect the money that T. Boone Pickens offered up if you could prove them wrong?

    Why aren't the accusers held to your same high standards of burden of proof? Since when did we become a country of "guilty until proven innocent."

    >I believe the answer to those questions are NO. Lying hypocrite.

    Sounds like a much more apt description of the the swifites, who's accusations are at total odds with the official Naval Record.

    May 10, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  8. Vioxx

    You are getting Specter's motivations wrong, I think. He did not switch sides because he cares about getting himself reelected. He switched sides because he wanted to actually represent PA rather than the GOP, which lost its way during the Bush administration.

    May 10, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  9. Jim

    A few years ago, John Kerry made a $1M bet on National TV with T. Boone Pickens that he would prove within one year that the Swift Boat accusations were false. He never has. Wonder why??

    May 10, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  10. houston

    Dump the term "swiftboating" and it's related tactics? This – from a leader of the "borking" party?

    May 10, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  11. Jim,Virginia

    If your political beliefs don't change ,how do you change from that evil Republican to that nice thoughful Democrat?Politic's does make strange "bedfellows"

    May 10, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  12. Lucullus

    You gotta love the right wing scum who defend the swift boating campaign. They attack a man who did 3, count them, 3 tours of duty in Vietnam as a coward, yet they defend a smarmy, gutless, rich boy, who used his daddy's influence to keep from serving. Only in America could low lifes do something like that and get away with it. These clowns probably still think that George W. "Boy President" Bush, was one of the bravest, smartest occupants of the White House.

    May 10, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |

    Why does anyone put any credibility in what Kerry says or does. He is out come election time.

    May 10, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  14. SuperD

    If the Dems were not all creepy and backroom dealing (see healthcare bill), Republican's would not have to "swift boat" them with the truth and the facts. But at the same time, truth and facts never seem to stop Liberals, so they need to be swift boated.

    May 10, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  15. ted

    The statements of the "swift boat veterans for truth" have been pretty solidly proven false. The talking heads on the ads did not serve with Kerry, at least one interviewee admitted later to swearing to knowledge of events he had not been present and Nightline interviewed Viet Namese witnesses who acknowledged the ferocity of the firefight that Kerry was involved in. The surviving members of Kerry's crew (i.e. the people who were actually present) call the ads false and the Swift Boat book is riddled with shoddy research and specious conclusions. But this is all common knowledge for anyone who chooses to do a minimal amount of research. Oh, and Obama was born in the U.S.. FYI

    May 10, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  16. Scipio Africanus

    Kerry did not need to descend to Bush's tactics of "swift-boating". He did not need to respond to liars from Texas. He did not need to respond to people who stole elections. Kerry served honorably and well. More power to him and to hell with those who generated the lying campaign against him.

    May 10, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  17. Jaywing

    My guess, motruth and calcman10, is that neither of you are veterans or have ever served your country in combat. Instead of Kerry, a decorated Vietnam vet, having to prove anything, I think you are the ones who need to prove that your opinions have any merit. I suspect you are both loud-mounthed, low-brow couch potatos who have never lifted a finger in defense of this country, but are happy to blatter away the freedoms that Kerry and every other veteran has fought for.

    May 10, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  18. John

    It's kind of hard to win a challenge when the person "judging" the evidence is the same person who issued the challenge.

    T. Boone was given service records by Vietnam vets who support John Kerry, but Boone, who was a donor for SVPT, said the evidence was not enough to win the million dollars.

    Also, MoTruth, when Kerry accepted the challenge, Boone limited it to only the television ads, excluding everything in print, any interviews, and any other forms of media. Therefore, your statement is false.

    May 10, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  19. Larry

    I personally have NEVER used the words "swift" and "Al Gore" in the same sentence, unless "swift" was prefaced with "not too..."

    May 10, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  20. Served my country for 26 yrs

    It is unfortunate that Sen. Kerry is still being asked to "prove" his honorable service to our country at a time when many of today's politicians conveniently found a way out of actually serving during Vietnam. We can argue the finer points of two vs. three awards of the Purple Heart being deserved or not but there is no doubt that he served in the Navy's riverine forces in one of the most dangerous places on earth at the time – Viet Nam's rivers – and that he repeatedly faced intense close quarters combat.

    What data could the senator produce that the "swiftboaters" will actually accept? Official Navy records are apparently not good enough. President Obama's official certificate of live birth doesn't work for those who doubt his citizenship; those who hate Sen. Kerry so much won't likely be any more open to the truth.

    May 10, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  21. Don

    Get off it with the whole swift boat thing. Go to and shut up already! One thing for certain, John Kerry served in Viet Nam. John Kerry fought, numerous times, under enemy fire, and John Kerry did receive injuries and continue to fight and rescue wounded soldiers and John Kerry did kill North Viet Cong.
    Now what did Bush do?
    Now shut up already!

    May 10, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  22. SkooterPie

    Kerry didn't release his records because they also included medical records stating that he suffered from post- traumatic stress disorder and that would have wrecked his campaign. Karl Rove orchestrated that whole attack on him and WANTED him to release the medical records so he could attack him even more. John Kerry served this country well and no one can take that away from him. It's Karl Rove and his dirty politics that everyone should have been scared of during the Bush years. Rove is a monster.

    May 10, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  23. motruth is Notruth

    Wow motruth – is that the best you can do, still trotting old that old million dollar lie, even though it has been universally proven to be a falsehood?

    Picken's grandstanding was easily unmasked for what it was – nothing more than cheap political theater. Kerry agreed to meet and make his case, Picken said "No" (just like a republican, huh?).

    June 2008 a group of veterans (VETERANS!) presented 56 pages of military records. testimony, and affidavits disproving the swift boat lies. Did Pickens do the honorable thing and live up to his bargain? OK, all you republicans out there, one, two, three: "No"!

    May 10, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |

    Honestly you people. First off, Kerry did TRY to refute the charges. They WERE lies and worse, hypocritical. The GOP comes out and bleets about 'motherhood, our children and grandchildren, our TROOPS'...except for when they want to HURT someone. Let's see...Kerry, Murtha, Cleland...and that's OK with you??? You don't have to LIKE Kerry, or Specter but honest to God you need to vote and stop 'swiftboating' yourselves.

    May 10, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  25. Hows that oil slick coming along drillers?

    The best part is, these swiftboaters now own Vietnam and use it for their slave labor.

    May 10, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
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