I hate the term "Swiftboating." I hate how the name of the boats we honored when we were in uniform in Vietnam has become a verb for the twisted politics of Karl Rove.
But today we need to fight the right wing's tactics not just to reclaim a word, but to reclaim our democracy.
And for anyone who thinks, "we don't even have a nominee yet, are the Republicans really attacking Democratic presidential candidates already?" -- the answer is not just yes, but it matters (and, yes, some people are really asking that).
Just think back to April of 2003. Yes, 2003.
In the New York Times the Republican narrative was first introduced:
"Another Bush adviser said of Mr. Kerry, 'He looks French.'"
In the same article, anonymous Republicans described John Edwards as the "Breck Girl."
Bottom line, we can't wait until we have a Democratic ticket to combat the right wing's efforts to "frame" our candidates.
In the last few years, I've defended Jack Murtha, Patrick Murphy, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and others (including a candidate in a state house race in New Jersey) from the smears of the right-wing, and I'll defend many more patriots in the months ahead.
I'll defend the nominee of our party, no matter who it is, and I'll defend people like Mark Udall in a Senate race in Colorado, or Jon Powers in a House race in central New York, or state house candidates across the country.
The right-wing has nothing to offer but fear and smears, and they are gearing up to deliver plenty of it. Already we hear of a conservative group with ties to the Bush White House -- Freedom's Watch -- that plans to spend a quarter of a billion dollars on this election. I think we all know enough about how the right-wing operates to know that this money won't go to helping voters make informed choices. That money will go to smearing candidates across America, up and down the ballot.
And right now, the most egregious right-wing smears are being spread about Barack Obama. Make no mistake, they'll spread them about any candidate we have, but they have some catch-up to do on Barack, so they are pushing out the most despicable lies. I couldn't stand by while that happened, so I sent this email:
I support Barack Obama because he doesn't seek to perfect the politics of Swiftboating -- he seeks to end it.
This is personal for me, and for a whole lot of Americans who lived through the 2004 election.
As a veteran, it disgusts me that the Swift Boats we loved while we were in uniform on the Mekong Delta have been rendered, in Karl Rove's twisted politics, an ugly verb meaning to lie about someone's character just to win an election. But as someone who cares about winning this election and changing the country I love, I know it's not enough to complain about a past we can't change when our challenge is to win the future -- which is why we must stop the Swiftboating, stop the push-polling, stop the front groups, and stop the email chain smears.
The truth matters, but how you fight the lies matters even more. We must be determined never again to lose any election to a lie.
This year, the attacks are already starting. Some of you may have heard about the disgusting lies about Barack Obama that are being circulated by email. These attacks smear Barack's Christian faith and deep patriotism, and they distort his record of more than two decades of public service. They are nothing short of "Swiftboat" style anonymous attacks.
These are the same tactics the right has used again and again, and as we've learned, these attacks, no matter how bogus, can spread and take root if they go unchecked.
But not this time -- we're fighting back.[....]
The Obama campaign has created a place where you can find the truth you'll need to push back on these smears and a way to spread the truth to all of your address book.
Take action here:
So when your inbox fills up with trash and the emails of smear and fear, find the facts, and help defeat the lies.[Ã¢â‚¬Â¦.]
The fight is just getting warm -- we won't let them steal this election with lies and distortions.
John KerryThanks. I'll be devoting some serious time, resources, and energy from both my staff and myself in fighting these smears and empowering all of you to fight them as well. I'll have more on what you can do to help combat smears as we go forward.
We can't let the right-wing steal another election with lies and distortions.
Editor's note: the original, unedited version of this piece can be read here.