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Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

Eight years on, John McCain is the victim of another vile smear in South Carolina by something calling itself Vietnam Veterans Against McCain. (They don’t deserve a link.) The line of attack is that McCain somehow betrayed his fellow POWs in Hanoi, when in fact, McCain—son of the Admiral in charge of U.S. Pacific Command—famously refused an early release if it meant his fellow inmates remained imprisoned. He was tortured for five years, and now, once again, he’s being Swiftboated. McClatchy’s Jim Morrill has the campaign’s response:

In a conference call with reporters, Orson Swindle, a fellow POW, described the charges as “slander.” He called it “a collection of half truths and misinformation, and they’re simply done to try to destroy John McCain in the election Saturday.”

True enough. But.

There’s an unfortunate irony at work here. Earlier this month, my friend Chris Hayes uncovered an astonishing fact for The Nation . McCain, victim of precisely this kind of Swiftboating in 2000, actually took a huge chunk of cash from the actual Swift Boat Veterans For “Truth” who maligned John Kerry’s Vietnam record in 2004:

The most notable recipient of Swift Boat largesse is John McCain, erstwhile front-runner and Stand Up Guy. When the Swift Boat ads were first unleashed, McCain was alone among his Republican colleagues to condemn them. A fellow Vietnam veteran, a good friend of Kerry’s and a former target of smears about his own service, McCain called the ads “dishonest and dishonorable,” a “cheap stunt,” and he urged Bush to condemn them. But in pursuit of the GOP nomination, McCain ditched the mantle of maverick for that of hack, and his once-floundering, possibly rejuvenated campaign has been aided along the way by $61,650 from Swift Boat donors and their associates. “There is such a thing as dirty money,” said Senator Kerry in a statement, after The Nation informed him of McCain’s FEC records. “I’m surprised that the John McCain I knew who was smeared in 2000 and thought so-called Swift Boating was wrong in 2004 would feel comfortable taking their money after seeing the way it was used to hurt the veterans I know he loves.” (McCain’s office did not return calls for comment.)

Sail in the Swift Boat, drown in the Swift Boat, Senator.

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