There might be a day in the distant future when the Democratic party will come to terms with the SBVT but they will never forget it. Furthermore, it appears that they will also not learn the right lessons from it. Most any beyond the pale broad side attack from their party or its surrogates will inevitably be excused or explained by references to the SBVT.
I watched Juan Williams pull just such a stunt in partially explaining the broadside attack of Wesley Clark on John McCain. On so many levels, the Democrats continue to be stunned and at a loss to explain how this narrow and modestly funded group made such a huge impact in the last election. Furthermore, they allow their partisan beliefs to drive their analysis rather than reality. Democrats everywhere continue to believe that it was SBVT SMEARS on John Kerry's EXEMPLARY war record that caused his demise. As such, they not only continue to see it as a miscarriage of justice, but also, they see hope that their side can accomplish the same sort of thing to John McCain and future Republican war heroes. What the Democrats continue to miss is that the SBVT became a phenonenon due to a confluence of events that will likely not be replicated. Most importantly, their influence on the election was completely legitimate, and ultimately Kerry got what he deserved. Here are the three main reasons that caused the perfect storm of the SBVT.
1) Kerry foolishly decided to make his three month tour in the 1960's a center piece of his campaign. It really got started when John Kerry saluted the audience at the Democratic National Convention and said that he was reporting for duty. From that moment forward, Kerry wanted people to vote for him in large part because he created the perception that he was a war hero. Since, his supposed war heroism, not necessarily anything he had done politically, became the central portion of his campaign, that record became open to scrutiny.
Of course, it was absurd for Kerry to make his war record a bigger issue than even Ike, but that's what he did. By doing it, he opened himself up to the scrutiny of just such a group as the SBVT.
2) The SBVT had a narrow scope and they had significant credibility on their scope. Unlike most attack groups, the SBVT had only one purpose, to attack Kerry's war record. Many in the group were themselves Democrats. They only had one priority...the truth, as they saw it, of Kerry's war record. When Moveon.org attacked General Petraeus, there was a strong partisan undercurrent. Obviously, you lose serious credibility when the attack looks partisan rather than real. Furthermore, Moveon.org is a politcal organization questioning the wisdom and patriotism of a General in the battlefield.
The SBVT weren't questioning Kerry on policy. They weren't attacking his Senate record. All they attacked was his war record. On this they had plenty of credibility. The entire group was made up of veterans themselves. Many served with Kerry. Unlike Wes Clark, they had no political axe to grind with Kerry.
3) Kerry's record was in fact full of holes. It turned out that Kerry had been lying for years about going into Cambodia illegally even though it was supposedly seared into his memory. More than his war time record, Kerry came back to the States and became the face of the anti war movement. He himself smeared his fellow officers during his Senate testimony. He met with leaders of the VC in Europe after the war. He allied himself with Jane Fonda. His record had plenty of material with which to attack.
If I could give the Democrats some unsolicited advice, I would tell them to get over it. The can refer to smears as Swift Boating. They can pretend as though the election was stolen from them by unsubstantiated rumors and innuendo, but all that does is question the intelligence of Americans that were affected by the revelations that the SBVT brought to light. The Democrats need to realize the absurdity of the strategy that Kerry employed that the SBVT so acutely destroyed, and stop making excuses and accusations.
The SBVT were a phenomenon of unique proportions and they will likely never be replicated. The Democrats need to get over it. All the SBVT really did was expose a flawed strategy. The sooner the Dems realize this the better it is for them. They need to stop fooling themselves into believing that they played a nefarious role in that election. They need to stop using them as an excuse for any broadside attack of theirs and their allies. Most importantly, they need to stop pretending they can replicate them.
The reality is that the political landscape hasn't changed that much in the aftermath of the SBVT. Its unlikely that such a moment will ever bring such an opportunity for such a group again. Once the Democrats realize this they can move on. If, on the other hand, they continue to insist that the SBVT smeared and lied, and use those supposed lies as excuses for the lies of their own allies, the SBVT will be an albatross around their necks indefinitely.
Please check out my new books, "Bullied to Death: Chris Mackney's Kafkaesque Divorce and Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and the World's Last Custody Trial"