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Swift Boaters, Tea Party Losers Go After Kerry

By Bill O'Donnell, January 7, 2013

Swift Boaters, Tea Party Losers Go After Kerry – It comes as no surprise that the Swift Boat gang that helped torpedo US Sen. John Kerry’s presidential bid in 2004 has been resurrected to do the same for his expected appointment as Secretary of State. They will have as allies in the attempted Kerry take-down the shrinking Tea Party stalwarts whose advocacy of right wing nut-case candidates has probably cost the Republican party five US Senate seats in just the past two elections.

The latest rumblings of the Swift Boat reactivation was reported in print by the Wall Street Journal and picked up in lock-step conformity by the puny Boston Herald, fortunate enough to be editorially alive because Boston revels in the good-sport label as a “two newspaper town.” To what price? it could be asked.

The revisit this year of the Swift Boaters came unsurprisingly by the hand of the Journal, the reliably conservative house organ, in the form of an op-ed piece by former WSJ editorial board member Seth Lipsky wherein the hired gun revisits the 1971 testimony by Kerry regarding US troop actions and supposed atrocities in the Vietnam war, and asks “Why in the world would the president consider” appointing Kerry to either a State or a Defense department post?

Kerry’s testimony of 40 years ago has been repeatedly supported by FactCheck and the official record while Lipsky cites Swift Boat Veterans for Truth founder John O’Neill’s smear of three-time Purple Heart recipient Kerry as “... well qualified to be the Secretary of Defense – of Cuba or Venezuela.”

As part of the full-court press by the right wing media, an earlier Fox TV report by anchor Megyn Kelly noted the Swift Boaters’ challenge to Senator Kerry’s record as a war hero. In yet another program with O’Neill and the Boaters, Fox’s Sean Hannity praised their 2004 TV ads as having been “powerful and effective” even as they were being discredited by extensive media reporting. The double-barreled attack by the Journal and Fox, both Rupert Murdoch-owned, is no coincidence.

Despite the efforts of the truth-challenged Swift Boaters and their Tea Party junior partners, Senator Kerry will skate through the Senate confirmation hearings and will be easily confirmed to succeed Hillary Clinton.

Remembering “Tip” at the JFK Library – It was Sun., Dec. 9, at the Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum in glorious Columbia Point when media veterans of the Tip O’Neill era gathered to celebrate the late US House speaker’s 100th birthday on that very day. And what a party!  The panel discussion audience was greeted by JFK Library Director Tom Putnam and opened by Tip O’Neill’s longtime gatekeeper, Christine Sullivan. Contributing memories and anecdotes were: Charlie Gibson, ABC-TV; Al Hunt, Bloomberg News; Cokie Roberts, ABC-TV; Steve Roberts, NY Times; Mike Barnicle, MSNBC; and former O’Neill staffer Chris Matthews, Hardball, MSNBC.

For nearly two hours the panelists recalled the life and times of the legendary Tip. How he reacted to his Cambridge constituency, and his fellow lawmakers in Washington, and how every day he lived the most famous of O’Neill quotes, “All politics is local.”  The panel stories recalled O’Neill the schmoozer, the smiling arm-twister, the loving husband, the tough negotiator, and the feet-on-the-ground legislator who never for a moment forgot where he came from. The comments were book-ended by two excellent excerpts from a Barnicle feature on Boston’s Chronicle TV program on WCVB-Ch. 5.

The John F. Kennedy Library & Museum has shown the Tip tribute via its website and is likely to make the panel discussion available on tape after the first of the year. As one viewer who watched and remembered, I want to express my thanks to the Library for hosting the birthday party for Tip and arranging to make it available to a wider audience. For further information the Library phone number is 617-514-1600.

Ireland and Gtech Firm Could Join in National Lottery – The Republic of Ireland is in the final stages of selecting a company to run its national lottery and a Rhode Island firm is the front-runner to win the coveted license. GTech, a subsidiary of Lottomattica with 7,500 employees in 50 countries and its headquarters in Providence, is a high-stakes bidder for the Irish contract. Gtech has recently raised a stunning $650 million war chest to bid on the lottery license that is also being sought by similarly large lottery operators in the UK and Australia.

The Irish lottery, the modern successor to the famed Irish Sweepstakes, has raised some $5 billion in its brief history, which is used by the Irish to underwrite charitable and other good causes. Some of the proceeds from the licensing fee collected by the government – $260 million – will help finance the new National Childrens Hospital.

Brits “Sorry” … Finucane Widow Calls Report a “Sham” – Despite the fact that British Prime Minister David Cameron, in addressing the House of Commons, called the evidence in the 500-page Finucane Report “unacceptable,” with “shocking levels of collusion,” there will be no public inquiry as demanded by the family of the slain Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane. Cameron apologized, saying he was “deeply sorry.” Finucane’s widow, Geraldine, dismissed the report as “a sham...a whitewash...a confidence trick.”

The author and journalist Ed Moloney has publicly stated that both the Irish and British governments were aware that the lives of Finucane and two other solicitors were under threat from loyalist assassins well before the Finucane murder in February 1989.  Moloney’s statement directly contradicts the findings of the Finucane Report’s author, Sir Desmond de Silva, who claims that the first contact between the two governments relating to loyalist threats against nationalist lawyers did not happen until the day after Finucane’s murder, on February 13.

Moloney recounts a conversation he had with Tommy Lyttle , the west Belfast commander of the loyalist UDA in December 1988, in which Lyttle told Moloney about a RUC detective who had recently suggested that the UDA ought to consider killing three “IRA lawyers,” Pat Finucane, Oliver Kelly, and PJ McGrory. On Feb. 12, 1989, Finucane was gunned down as he was having a meal with his family. 

All in all, the de Silva inquiry states, there were three UDA conspiracies to murder Finucane (1981, 1985, and 1988/89) that were known to the RUC special branch and/or MI5, but on none of those occasions was Finucane warned of the threat against his life. It is hard to believe when one listens to the official findings of the government appointed Queen’s Counsel in this report that a public inquiry, of whatever shape or context, could be any more damning for the British government than this document.

Do Dead Politicians Have Any Reputational Rights? – The FBI had a file on the late Boston Mayor Kevin White that it added to and updated over the years until it reached some 500 pages. There was information or alleged claims masquerading as fact, some hand-written, some scribbled or neatly typed notes in numbered pages on topics ranging from alleged illegal firings of city employees to murky lawsuits that seem to belong in the dust bins of some white shoe Boston law firm. In page after page the names of accusers are redacted, erased from hard scrabble follow-up or clarifying testimony from the aggrieved finger-pointers.

In looking at some of the FBI file contents, it is hard to say whether the files compiled for the Boston Globe by MuckRock could be defined as finished files or merely “raw files,” dumpster-style files that collect everything, clear nothing, and constitute a mish-mash of accusations and innuendo by now nameless individuals, some good citizens, and some with unrequited grudges.

It was fairly well known that Bill Weld, the US Attorney during the final years of White’s 16-year reign, was aggressive and upwardly mobile and there was the usual gossip and street talk about the long-in-the-tooth White administration and the possibility of City Hall corruption, which comes with the tenure and territory.

No charges were ever brought, no legal proceedings initiated, and Kevin White drifted into his long goodbye with reputation reasonably intact. Now comes the Globe. First on Nov. 29 with a neutral headline in the Metro section, “Kevin White’s FBI Files Released.” White had been dead ten months. The release prompted little public reaction but George Regan, longtime White press secretary, sent a letter to the editor and complained of the libeling of a dead man and the vulnerability of the FBI at the time. Good for him.

In a Dec. 9 revisit  of the propriety of dredging up a damaging file simply because you can, Joan Vennochi was not particularly critical or fault finding of the November story. She wrote, as some possible attempt at armor-plating of the Globe’s two articles on White, that “death is not reason enough to withhold negative information about a public figure.” True, no quarrel there, but who said that it should be?

But Kevin White has gone to his reward, and is no longer a “public figure.” There is only one thing that the Globe stories can accomplish: the diminution of Kevin White’s reputation and, arguably, his place in Boston’s history. It seems to this Boston native, a City Hall presence for a period after Kevin White’s tenure, and someone who believes that your good name is precious, that there should have been a hell of a lot more meat on the bone to justify the unreeling of those purposeless, dead-end files.

Peter Robinson Poking Around in Bonfires Past – DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson’s life these days must be mildly mundane or less exciting than when he was dodging

brickbats aimed at his wife Iris and himself not all that long ago. In an apparent attempt to stir up some mischief or to get a feel for upcoming electioneering, Peter has found a new phrase to add to the Northern demographic lexicon — “Northern Irish.” It is something that has the world’s top golfer, another native of the province, thinking about himself these days.

Robinson recently told a DUP party gathering that the fastest-growing section of Northern Ireland society is neither “unionist” nor “nationalist.” No, indeed, it is “Northern Irish” and Peter is going to get him some. It is his belief that the real political crisis at present is within nationalism. He said that the views of many Catholics on social issues, education, and the economy are not reflected in the policies of the SDLP and Sinn Fein. Easy enough to claim by Robinson, but truth is another issue.

In the wrap-up rap on unionism’s place in Northern society, the First Minister is telling his people that his pursuit of Catholic votes will not lead to an abandonment of sections of unionism. “Unionism is not a religion,” sayeth Peter and it is “capable of attracting a working class Protestant, a Catholic businessman, and an immigrant seeking a new life in our country.”

He could be right, I suppose. If the Orange Order, a tired relic of the 17th century, can get all cuddly, start hosting community festivals, hiring marketing consultants, and emerge as champions for its Papist neighbors, who’s to say that the Robinson vision of Catholic voters sprinting to gatherings around unionist campfires is not destined to become the new reality.

A Christmas-Hanukkah Story – It’s a true story not a fable and it happened almost two decades ago in the Big Sky region of Billings, Montana. It was December 1993 and the edges of this quiet Montana town were growing a bit ragged. Some neo-Nazis in small numbers had come to town and pockets of anti-Semitism were popping up from time to time. The Ku Klux Klan also had quietly moved a few members into town. The overwhelmingly white, Christian community didn’t say much at first, hoping to work through it or around it, quietly. But many knew it would likely get worse before it got better.

One December evening a rock came crashing through a window in a Billings home, demolishing a menorah, a nine-branch candelabra, and a Star of David display, all part of the Schnitzer family’s Hanukkah remembrance, and upending the equanimity of Isaac, aged 5 and his 2-year-old sister, Rachel. For safety the children were bundled into sleeping bags under their parents’ four- poster bed, far from the windows. But it was a terrifying night for this young family.Swift Boaters, Tea Party Losers Go After KerryThe police came, surveyed the damage, and said they would look into it but offered no assurances. In the days that followed several incidents were reported that involved skinheads and another when racist youths had to be turned away from an African-American church event by friendly white neighbors.

Then the local paper, noting the ugly incidents, wrote an editorial and at the suggestion of one of the paper’s readers, the Billings Gazette printed a full-page image of a menorah and by the end of that week more than 6,000 Billings households had cut out the paper menorahs and placed them in their windows across town as a defiant show of solidarity for their Jewish neighbors.
The response was gradual in coming. Bricks and bullets broke some windows at the Central Catholic High School that had been displaying a banner reading, “Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish Friends.” And several other troubling incidents proved the newly discovered sentiment was not unanimous, but slowly the harassment stopped. The bigots eventually withdrew because a town faced reality, joined together, and faced down bigotry.

It probably couldn’t happen everywhere but it did happen in Billings, Montana, in 1993 when fewer that 50 Jewish families and thousands of white Christian neighbors stood together and won out over intolerance. And that’s the Truth.

RANDOM CLIPPINGS

Dan Rooney, 80, the good man who co-owns the Pittsburgh Steelers ,has finished his three plus years as our Ambassador to Ireland and is heading home. His daughter recently died and he reportedly misses the NFL action. And forget the Chicago newspaper suggesting that Bill Clinton could have the job. Not a chance. … Rebecca Brooks, Rupert Murdoch’s former editor of the Sun & News of the World isn’t leaving broke. Her parachute is purely platinum, valued at $17 million. Is that severance, or hush money? … Elizabeth Warren landed right where the American consumer needs her — on the US Senate Banking Committee. …
Speaking of high finance it should be noted that AIG, recipient of a huge $180 billion federal bailout ,will soon see the last of its US-owned shares hit the market as US taxpayers gain another windfall. … Galway is leading the Irish in planned “Gatherings” for this new year 2013 with scores of events already booked. … Rollcall, the political bible in Washington, picked the biggest upset in the last election, choosing Bay State congressman John Tierney, who surprised us with a re-election win.

Ryanair is hanging in there, pursuing enough shares to gain control of Aer Lingus. … New York’s Cardinal Dolan surprised most everyone by his early support for Dorothy Day’s sainthood push. ... A poignant moment when Kevin McHale, who had just lost a daughter to lupus was embraced by old Celtic friends when he and Houston came to the garden. … Tim Pat Coogan, author and historian, was twice denied a visa to visit the US on a book tour and one wonders if he was trying to hustle some free PR or had problems doing his application. … Prior to his recent health problems and extended hospital stay ,it was assumed Tom Menino was ready and eager for a sixth mayoral term. That could be a no-go now. … Only in a courtroom could anyone ever try to make a case that federal law enforcement would ever think they could get away with granting immunity to Whitey Bulger. Talk about crazy time. … The news out of Killarney in my Kerry homeland is that officials there are looking to build an artificial roof over entire streets to allow locals and tourists to shop sans the rain drops. … There will be no nude female bathing at Forty Foot Landing at Sandycove, Dublin. No women members, say the suitless male members. … Labour’s Taniste Eamon Gilmore is accusing Sinn Fein of hypocrisy for advocating taxes in the North but opposing property taxes in the Republic. … Another laurel for Ireland’s gift to the ages, Seamus Heaney, who has a new chair in writing in his name at Trinity. … Kudos to the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy for his flat-out pre-game prediction that the Patriots would blow away the then 11-1 Houston Texan. And that they did, in convincing fashion!

A happy, healthy, and peaceful New Year to all out there.

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