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. Mark Republican in PA

    I think Kerry is absolutley right. The tactics used by right wing republican radicals in the 2004 election slandering Kerry's military record when Bush was AWOL during a large part of his military carreer was horrendous and cowardly. While I support Spector because of his stand on many issues even against the Republicans when he was a moderate in the party convince me he is independent and will continue to work for the people of PA. Sestak is to be thanked for his military commitment, but he is trying to ride the media whipped conservative radical right band wagon which will end up in defeat. I disagree with Sestak on too many issues. Either way its the issues that need attention not labeling each other or attacking each others character simply because you have different political views.

    May 10, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  2. independent thinker.

    I thought the swift boat thing was funny.

    May 10, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  3. John D

    Spectre is an embarassment to all those who voted him into office only to have him defect to Democrats. He's really an embarasment to himself and all encumbents trying to get reelected to office. Him and the likes of Kerry should just go away into obscurity and SHUT THE HELL UP!

    May 10, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  4. Larry L

    The "swift boat:' is the very core of Republican politics. Just listen to their leaders, Rush, Glenn, Shawn and Ann. Republicans don't require facts or truth, but would rather promote lies and hatred than cooperate to build a better America. I have personally switched from being a fiscally conservative and socially moderate Republican to actively and financially supporting the Democratic Party in every election. The Republican efforts to sabotage all actions regarding health, environment, and the well-being of our citizens have been obvious at every level. Now is the time for moderates to speak with their votes and with their dollars. A relatively small group of angry, ill-informed and hateful people shouldn't define the destiny of our country.

    May 10, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  5. Gus in CA

    Writers laying claim to the idea that the Swiftboat was never prover wrong probably do not read much. Most of the major national papers wrote long fact checks on the ad showing it was a tissue of lies. Pickens never paid up. Mostly all belt buckle and no cows.

    May 10, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  6. JonDie

    Republicans have no choice but to "swift boat" because otherwise all Republicans have are lies.

    May 10, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  7. Dave


    Seriously, who would want Kerry offering support?

    New rule, you run for President and lose, you lose your Senate seat.

    May 10, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  8. Rani McBride

    You people blow my mind. You are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts. Go check them again. All the facts show that the Swift Boat lies were never proven. Not a single one of them! It just goes to show that people will continue to believe only what they want to believe not matter how much proof is put in front of them. President Obama could personally show the Birthers his original Birth Certificate and they would still say its a lie. What a sad state of affairs.

    May 10, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  9. bobcat1a

    Bob in PA
    You didn't read the article. It was referring to Specter "swiftboating" Sestak, so you're is a Republican tactic since no matter what he calls himself now, specter is a Republican.
    Kerry was saying we should stop digging, not dig deeper..

    May 10, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  10. Ron in California

    Do any of you remember Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork? The late Senator Ted kennedy villified Bork in a hateful attack Speech that led to Bork's witdrawl for consideration. So the term "Borked" came into being. So, if Kerry wants to remove swift boat lets remove Borked as well.

    May 10, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  11. Hugo

    Mary H. Secor May 10th, 2010 12:14 pm ET

    It seems to me that the Court will benefit from having a person of great skill and knowledge on the bench. She has a most amazing background, is extremely intelligent, was highly regarded at Harvard and by the Harvard Law Review. As a woman, I am very pleased by the President's choice.
    Ahhhh yes! I've heard all this before, the most intelligent of the intelligent, the most highly regarded by the Harvard Law Review but as with President of the United States goes the same for Supreme Court Justice, the wrong stuff! I think we are living a carbon copy of libtard's gone wild as with our Commander in Chief. Not a clue as to what makes commerce in our economy because neither he nor she have ever truly participated in a private sector job for their livilehood or financial well being. They are both bureaucrat ticks on the underbelly of the working people... This is merely politics for our Wonder Boy to make another historical moment and plant even further the seeds of destruction for America!

    May 10, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  12. Speedy

    Funny how the Repugs only attack Specter's voting record and "personal greed for power" when he becomes a Democrat. If he were still a Repug you guys would be moving heaven and earth to defend him against the evil "libruls".

    BTW, I will offer anyone $1 million to prove that George Bush Sr. didn't assassinate John F. Kennedy. Take that, neocons! Prove it didn't happen!

    (And for the record, and for all you TP members who don't understand irony, I make the above statement to illustrate the fact that you can't prove a negative, and no matter how much the right-wingers offered Kerry to "disprove" them, they would never have been able to provide enough evidence to satisfy the accusers. But then, that's using logic and logic isn't exactly your strong suit...)

    May 10, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  13. cspurgeon

    Specter needs to go home and retire as do many other incumbents. Term Limits would prevent this mess.

    May 10, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  14. Steve- Illinois

    Republicans should take Specter's lead and switch to the dem party to vote in the primary, against Specter!

    May 10, 2010 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  15. S Callahan

    The next few elections are going to see God's elect acting and voting as one has never seen before...there is a fight for the soul of this nation in a throne of addiction...yet God is honorable, and true to His word, and can heal and restore this nation. I don't think any one anywhere believes those in office now have acted honroable to the care of this nation, and will respond accordingly.

    May 10, 2010 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  16. aproudmemberoftheunpatrioticmob

    This makes a lot of sense, a slimy, corrupt loser endorsing the same. This idiot and Specter set the tone for libertards. The unions must absolutely love them, they like the slimy, corrupt politicos.

    May 10, 2010 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  17. Dave

    Sorry. Kerry, the mere notion you are endorsing someone makes me want to look at the candidates you are not endorsing.

    May 10, 2010 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  18. cocitizen

    I am very disappointed in Sen. Kerry for endorsing Specter. Specter is and always has been an opportunist that goes the wind happens to be blowing. I cannot believe that Kerry would endorse someone that went out of his way to do everything he could to help George W. Bush carry PA in 2004 to defeat Kerry nationally.

    May 10, 2010 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  19. pete

    to motruth and calcman10 – the whole swiftboat thing has been proven to be bs by many, including some of those who started it. what's your military record. where were you big, brave men when he was getting shot at. grow up and get over it.

    May 10, 2010 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  20. Dano


    If I claim you are a child molester can you prove me wrong? I'm not saying what I said is true, I'm just wondering how you would prove it's not true?

    May 10, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  21. No Incumbents 2010

    2004 – Kerry gets swift boated.
    2010 – Kerry supports a former Republican for Senate who is swift boating his opponent.

    May 10, 2010 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  22. SensibleDem2

    I sure don't know how anyone can,write or say anything about,Gore or Kerry,that voted for the,draft dodger+traditor(bushie)&and the other draft dodger(cheney)because Gore&Kerry,voluntarily,just like me,went and served our country&earned our right&vote in this great country during wartime.Not to say anything about 911.

    May 10, 2010 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  23. victim of democrat hypocrisy

    That's funny, Kerry, because up until the traitor Specter switched parties, you didn't consider him your "friend".

    Is it any wonder the dems are called "hypo-crats"?

    May 10, 2010 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  24. EricD

    The "swift boat" tactics that i seen used during that presidential campaign was the last straw for me from switching from an independant to a full blown Democrat. The republicans went too far trying to get Bush elected, and i will never let myself be associated with those who will go that extra step over integrity, truth, or even comon descency to defraud the public to win.

    Those on here defending the swift boat tactics?? OMG.. much like the birth certificate tactics.. Kerry didn't take Pickens money because why would anyone bother to defend themselves against charges that aren't worthy of the national inquirer?. The GOP has leaned way to far to the right, and i'm glad that i can call myself a member of the democratic party now. I'm a moderate, and still have my issues with some of thier opinions. But the republican party is just to far out of whack with everything else i believe in..

    swift boat tactics... OMG.. just wrong for america

    May 10, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  25. Jason

    I offer anyone reading this $1,000,000 to offer proof to my satisfaction that you are not an idiot. How meaningful is it to offer large sums of money in exchange for proof of something when the evidence will be evaluated by someone who has no interest in impartial evaluation of evidence? If a creationist offers $1,000,000 if anyone shows proof of evolution, would any scientist bother trying to claim it when they know he'll stick his fingers in his ears and start singing la-la-la when you break out the data?

    May 10, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
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