The Vets' Case

A detailed analysis of the Swift Boat affair


I know you clicked through to this story expecting an analysis of the Swift Boat controversy. I'm sorry we had to deceive you.

This is an intervention. My name is Dr. Wilson. Your friends, family, and coworkers asked me to be here; they're concerned about how your obsession with the election is affecting your life.

READER: What the hell? Hey—dammit—how come the "back" button isn't working?

YOUR BOSS: We had it disabled.

READER: That's enough of this. I'm turning on MSNBC.

DR. WILSON: We cut off the cable, too. So you don't have anywhere to go. Please stay and listen to us.

YOUR FATHER: We love you. We really care about you. This is for your own sake.

READER: Look, I don't think you people understand. Bush hasn't specifically condemned the content of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads yet. He's the worst president ever. I have some important blogging to do.

YOUR SON, LITTLE NED: Daddy, you were gonna come see me play Mr. Rabbit in th' school play but you didin' come 'cause you were home blogging. I ask you why and you said you had to stop John Kerry before he turned Washington into Ho Chi Minh City. Daddy, I'm scared!

READER: OK, what was that all about? I don't even have a kid, and I'm for Kerry.

DR. WILSON: I'm sorry, we're still working out the kinks in this process. We're trying to conduct hundreds of personalized interventions in cyberspace, but it's a young technology. That was a little boy whose father is convinced that Kerry was "in insurgency" against the U.S. government during his antiwar years, and thus is not eligible for the presidency.

READER: You see? You see the kind of crap those Freepers are spreading? That's why we have to stop Bush now!

YOUR MOTHER: (quietly starts to weep)

YOUR FATHER: Stop it! You're killing your mother!

READER: I'm not—

YOUR BOSS: You used to be one of the most reliable workers I have. But in the last month, you've lost five clients by telling them the Bush administration is planning to lock up Michael Moore and use nuclear weapons in Najaf. The only person who's alienated more customers in that time is Bruno.

READER: Bruno?

YOUR BOSS: He works in the San Diego office. He keeps telling people that Bush should lock up Michael Moore and use nuclear weapons in Najaf.

DR. WILSON: We're getting off track. You were all going to explain how this election fixation has affected your relationship with this reader.

YOUR SISTER, LYNN: Remember how you babysat for me and Ted last week?

READER: Sure. What about it?

LYNN: Suzie's been having nightmares ever since! Who told you it was OK to tell her all those scary stories about Ralph Nader?

READER: I can't believe you're even bringing up that night. You got me to stop working on my psychological profile of Donald Rumsfeld and come over by saying you were going out to see Fahrenheit 9/11. But Ted told me yesterday that you actually saw Jersey Girl!

TED: Uh-oh. Did I let the cat out of the—

READER: And you, Dad! Sure, you want me to stop my blogging. You've been a Republican all your life! You just want me to stop telling people the truth!

YOUR FATHER: What people? No one reads your blog, son. We don't even open your e-mails anymore—the attachments are too big.

LYNN: I lost a day's worth of messages because you filled up my mailbox with those videos you downloaded from MoveOn.org. Couldn't you just send the URLs?

READER: Did you watch the videos? The Republicans are trying to make an issue of John Kerry's Vietnam service. That's despicable!

BRUNO: Well, then how come Kerry made such an issue out of his Vietnam service? That's all he talked about in Boston!

YOUR BOSS: Bruno, what are you doing here?

DR. WILSON: I'm sorry, we seem to be having technical difficulties again. Two of our interventions are getting mixed up.

READER: Well, it sounds like Bruno could use an intervention, 'cause maybe that way he'd learn that the Swift Boat Vets for Truth are a bunch of liars and partisan hacks.

BRUNO: That's what the liberal media wants you to believe. It took big media months to look at the Swift Boat Vets' charges. Compare that to the way they just jumped on those smears about Bush going AWOL from the National Guard!

TED: Hold on. What are you talking about? The Boston Globe broke that story in 2000. It was four years before it became a hot issue in the press.

LYNN: Ted! We're not supposed to get sucked into a political argument with the readers. That's called…"enabling," right?

DR. WILSON: Yes, it's enabling. Cut it out, Ted.

READER: The press is covering up Bush's desertion! And they aren't giving you all the facts about the Swift Boat Vets either. Jerry Corsi co-wrote the Swift Boat Vets' book about Kerry. Did you know he also posted a bunch of bigoted comments about Muslims and Catholics on FreeRepublic.com? That's what Bush is doing to this country!

TED: Dude, what's that supposed to prove? So the guy's a jerk. That doesn't mean you can write off everything he says—you have to examine the claims one by one.

BRUNO: Right on.

TED: And even if some of the stories are proven false, that doesn't mean they're all false. Sometimes truthful testimony comes from tainted sources.

BRUNO: Exactly!

DR. WILSON: Hold on, Bruno. That's not what you said when you guys caught me in a lie about whether my wife recommended me for the Niger trip. You said that meant you didn't have to believe anything else I said.

(stunned silence)

READER: Whoa. Are you Ambassador Joseph Wilson? I'm a huge fan.

DR. WILSON: Thank you, but I'm trying to put that part of my life behind me. I've been politics-free for a month now.

YOUR FATHER: It's really inspiring, son. He turned his life around, and so can you.

BRUNO: Hold on—it looks like the cable's working again. Wanna watch Hardball?

READER: Oh, God. I hate that right-wing moron Chris Matthews.

BRUNO: Right-wing? That idiot's a liberal!

YOUR BOSS: Boys! Please don't lea—


MATTHEWS: —so you're telling me he deliberately threw the hamster off the boat?

MALKIN: I'm saying the Swift Boat Veterinarians have raised serious questions about whether he dropped it.

MATTHEWS: You're saying he threw it off the boat!

MALKIN: I'm saying he's been accused of dropping it—

Managing Editor Jesse Walker is author of Rebels on the Air: An Alternative History of Radio in America (NYU Press). This is the last time he'll ever agree to host an intervention.