President Bush enters swift boat fray
By Wolf Blitzer
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Flanked by his vice president and his national security team at his Crawford, Texas, ranch, the president went slightly further than his aides in calling for an end to those controversial Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads blasting Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.
"I think Senator Kerry served admirably and he ought to be proud of his record. But the question is who is best to lead the country in the war on terror," President Bush said Monday.
The president repeated his earlier calls for all of those so-called 527 independent attack ads -- tens of millions of dollars worth put out by Democrats, Republicans and Independents -- to be stopped.
Here's what he then said when pressed if that included the attack ad put out by Kerry's swift boat critics:
Bush: "All of them."
Reporter: "Does than mean..."
Bush: "That means that ad, every other ad."
Until now, the president's White House and campaign aides had refused to specifically call an end to those swift boat veteran ads -- insisting only that all independent attack ads, including those blasting Kerry, should be withdrawn.
Earlier in the day, Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards urged the president to intervene specifically in the case of the swift boat ads.
"The truth is he is the one man who can put an end to these ads. This is a moment of truth for the president. It is time for him to step forward and say three words: Stop these ads," Edwards said.
Shortly after the president spoke, the Kerry campaign said he did not go far enough.
"The moment of truth came and went, and the president still couldn't bring himself to do the right thing. We need a president with the strength and integrity to say when something is wrong," the campaign said via an issued statement.
The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth later said the president's statement would not effect them -- saying the group "...will continue to take its message directly to the American people."
It's become a hot button political issue in this presidential contest.
The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has released two anti-Kerry ads.
The first blasts his actual service in Vietnam, saying, "John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam. He is lying about his record."
The second blasts his anti-war statements once he came home, and features Kerry's 1971 congressional testimony:
Kerry: "They had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads..."
Announcer: "The accusations that John Kerry made against the veterans who served in Vietnam was just devastating..."
The Kerry campaign has released an ad of its own:
Announcer: "The people attacking John Kerry's war record are funded by Bush's big money supporters. Listen to someone who was there, the man whose life John Kerry saved..."
Lt. Jim Rassmann: "It blew me off the boat. All these Viet Cong were shooting at me. I expected I'd be shot. When he pulled me out of the river, he risked his live to save mine..."
The Bush campaign denies any involvement with the swift boat critics.
Both campaigns have filed separate complaints with the Federal Election Commission.