Swift Boat Controversy Remains Hot Topic for Democrats

By Robert B. Bluey | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

New York (CNSNews.com) - Supporters of Sen. John Kerry can't seem to get enough of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The issue continued to figure prominently in the political race, popping up repeatedly at the Democrats' rally Monday at Grant's Tomb.

One of Kerry's most prominent Vietnam crewmates, Del Sandusky, wasted little time in his speech Monday attacking the anti-Kerry group.

"I served with John Kerry," Sandusky said to a round of applause. "Those twinkies on TV are spreading a pack of lies."

The Kerry campaign has dispatched Sandusky and other Vietnam veterans to back up the Democrat's record, which came under attack earlier this month by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The group has released two television ads and a best-selling book.

"I was with John Kerry when he won his Silver Star, his Bronze Star and two of three Purple Hearts, and he earned every one of them," Sandusky claimed.

"Thirty-five years I've known John Kerry, and he's never lied to me," he added. "When he says something, I know it's true. I've never heard him tell a lie in the last 35 years, and that includes the things he says in front of the press. He says the same things in private."

Sandusky wasn't the only participant in Monday's rally willing to bring up the issue of Kerry's Vietnam service. U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) mentioned it both in his speech and afterward to reporters.

"I wish [Kerry] would just take them to the mat," Rangel said. "I wish he would just ask for everyone's discharge papers and put them on the table. Then put this behind us so we can discuss the economy and jobs and education and housing."

Rangel added, "It is so abundantly clear that as long as we're discussing something that happened 30 years ago, every issue that has been raised in every presidential campaign is moot."

The issue didn't get as much play at the Democrats' press briefing Monday morning. Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack called it a "smokescreen that was created in an effort to get people's attention away from the record of [the Bush] administration."

But veterans who spoke at the rally seemed eager to take on the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. World War II veteran Percy Sutton, who served with the Tuskegee Airmen, concluded his remarks with a condemnation of President Bush.

"Wherever you are on Election Day, run to the nearest place to vote," Sutton told the crowd. "Run to vote out this man from Texas, this cowboy, this man who never served in the military, but instead has initiated a string of people to attack Kerry, who did serve."

Sandusky also blamed Bush for the veterans' attacks. The president's campaign has denied any connections to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, although its lawyer resigned last week after acknowledging he offered legal advice to the veterans' group.

"I've never heard dirty politics, never heard any mudslinging, never heard any plots," Sandusky said of his yearlong association with the Kerry campaign. "Nothing like the Republicans are doing. You can't trust a Republican with a nickel."

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