Election campaigns of Bush and Kerry

A veteran who disputed Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's Vietnam war record acknowledged on Sunday he had no proof to back his charge that Kerry fabricated the reports of enemy fire that won him two medals, informs Reuter. Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Van Odell, a member of the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that has spearheaded a campaign against Kerry's service record, said his was one of seven eyewitness accounts and he was not being directed by President Bush's campaign. He has charged that then Navy Lt. Kerry, a Swift boat commander, fabricated the "after-action" report saying he faced enemy fire on March 13, 1969, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star and his third Purple Heart for being wounded while pulling a fellow soldier to safety. "I do not have a single document," Odell said. "I have the fact that I wasn't wounded in that 5,000 meters of fire that he wrote about." "There was no enemy fire from either bank," he added. The assertion was another broadside in a debate that has been raging for weeks, and with at least one CBS poll showing the issue cutting into Kerry's support among veterans, the Massachusetts senator has accused the group of collaborating with the Bush campaign and demanded Bush repudiate the ads. Odell said he had met with Republican strategist Merrie Spaeth, a public relations consultant to his group, and once bought a home from Bob Perry, a large Republican donor from Texas and close associate of Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser. Former Republican Sen. Bob Dole joined critics of Kerry, telling CNN's "Late Edition" Kerry should apologize for his testimony to Congress more than 30 years ago in which he quoted other veterans talking about alleged atrocities in Vietnam. Dole also said Kerry had received only "superficial wounds" in Vietnam and had been taken out of combat as a result. "I respect his record. But three Purple Hearts and he never bled, that I know of. I mean, they're all superficial wounds. Three Purple Hearts and you're out," said Dole who himself was badly wounded in World War II. "Maybe he should apologize to the other 2.5 million veterans who served," said Dole. "He wasn't the only one who was in Vietnam." According to CNN, the Bush campaign rejected accusations Sunday from Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign that it was using "tired, old smear tactics" by letting backers attack Kerry's Vietnam War record through an independent group. "The fact is this campaign is unprecedented in our praise of our opponent's service during Vietnam," Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman said on NBC's "Meet the Press." The remark came two days after the Kerry campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission arguing that a group calling itself Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was illegally coordinating with President's Bush re-election campaign -- a charge the Bush campaign denies. Kerry's campaign compared the assault to tactics used against Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Bush's rival for the Republican nomination in 2000. In a news release, the Kerry campaign claimed the Bush-Cheney campaign was "more intent on using its tired, old smear tactics than addressing the concerns of the American people." An ad on the Kerry campaign Web site features an exchange between McCain and Bush during a CNN-sponsored debate before the 2000 South Carolina primary. In it, McCain said a spokesman for a veterans' group, at a Bush-sponsored event, accused McCain of abandoning fellow veterans. McCain, who as a Navy pilot was shot down during the Vietnam War and spent 5.5 years as a prisoner of war, complained in the debate that Bush had not apologized, and called the move "shameful." Mehlman also was asked whether comments made Friday by White House spokesman Scott McClellan and campaign chairman Marc Racicot were reminiscent of comments questioning McCain's temperament four years ago. McClellan said Kerry was "losing his cool," and Racicot said the Kerry campaign had "come completely unhinged." Mehlman denied any pattern of campaign behavior and argued that the Kerry campaign was trying to avoid a focus on issues. The rhetorical battle over Sen. John Kerry's record in Vietnam continued to rage Sunday, as Kerry's campaign released a new television ad calling on President Bush to "denounce the smear." The ad is the latest effort by Kerry to derail a campaign by a group of Vietnam War veterans and Bush supporters called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The group disputes the circumstances under which Kerry won a Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. At a fundraiser in East Hampton, N.Y., on Saturday, Kerry called on Bush to "stand up and stop" what he described as attacks against him and his service in Vietnam. The ad, the fourth released by Democrats since Thursday in response to the charges, closes with a call for Bush to "denounce the smear. Get back to the issues." Kerry and Bush did not make campaign appearances Sunday. Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman, appearing Sunday on NBC's Meet The Press, repeated White House denials of any links to the Swift Boat Veterans. "There's absolutely no connection," he said. On Saturday, a former Vietnam POW resigned as a Bush volunteer after it was learned that he appears in a new anti-Kerry ad produced by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Retired Air Force colonel Ken Cordier, a member of the Bush campaign's veterans' steering committee, "did not inform the campaign of his involvement in the advertisement," the Bush campaign said. Kerry supporters expressed frustration with criticism of his Vietnam service. "I just have the question of which wound do you want to see, which scar do you need to see to prove that my father served?" Kerry's daughter Vanessa said on CBS' Face The Nation, reports USATODAY.

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