Click the image to see the clip For pretty much the duration of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth controversy, the Kerry campaign has been trying to demonstrate that the smear campaign being conducted against the Democratic presidential nominee is all the more loathsome because it is part of a pattern of behavior by George W. Bush: the use of front groups to damage his campaign opponents by putting false statements into the political bloodstream. Particularly salient, Democrats believe, is the 2000 campaign conducted against John McCain during the South Carolina primary.
Democrats now have an unlikely ally in their quest to prove that Bush has a history of these kinds of dirty tricks: Bob Dole. No one has done more to lend establishment respectability to the falsehoods being peddled against Kerry than Dole. The former Senate majority leader and 1996 presidential nominee of the Republican Party made several demonstrably false statements about John Kerry’s war record this past Sunday on CNN’s Late Edition before saying that “not every one of these people can be Republican liars. There’s got to be some truth to the charges.”
But Dole also made another statement that day, one that hasn’t been aired until now. Of McCain’s charge to President Bush during a 2000 debate—”You should be ashamed”—Dole told Wolf Blitzer, “He was right.” Dole made the remark off-air, while CNN broadcast a portion of McCain’s 2000 debate remarks. The Kerry campaign had been using the debate footage in an ad called “Old Tricks” but stopped airing it recently at McCain’s request. *
Although the remark was made off-air, it wasn’t made off-camera. A CNN employee who asked not to be named made a digital file of the raw camera feed from the Late Edition studio. The footage does not include the graphics or other video, such as the McCain ad, that was shown during the live broadcast. “Once the control room punches the ad, it automatically kills the mics in the studio,” the CNN employee told me. “He knows he can speak to Wolf and no one will hear him.” Slate has posted the video, so you can see Dole’s remark for yourself. (Click the image to view the clip.)
Question for Bob Dole: If President Bush should be ashamed of his behavior four years ago, why aren’t you ashamed now?