WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kerry's (search) campaign released a video Saturday comparing the controversy over Kerry's Vietnam service to attacks on John McCain (search) during the 2000 Republican primaries.
The video, sent via e-mail to supporters, says, "George Bush is up to his old tricks" and shows then-Texas Gov. Bush and Arizona Sen. John McCain at a debate in February 2000.
McCain, sitting next to Bush, says that when "fringe veterans groups" attacked him at a Bush campaign function, Bush stood by and didn't say a word. McCain says a group of senators wrote Bush a letter that said: "Apologize. You should be ashamed."
McCain, also a Vietnam (search) veteran, says Bush "really went over the line."
"I don't know how you can understand this, George, but that really hurts," McCain says.
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (search), a group funded in part by a top GOP donor in Texas, has been running ads featuring veterans who served in Vietnam at the same time as Kerry and question his wartime record.
Those critics are being challenged by a Chicago Tribune editor who was on the Feb. 28, 1969, mission for which Kerry received the Silver Star. William Rood, 61, said he decided to break his silence about the mission because recent reports of Kerry's actions in that battle are incorrect and darken the reputations of veterans who served with Kerry.
"The critics have taken pains to say they're not trying to cast doubts on the merit of what others did, but their version of events has splashed doubt on all of us," Rood said in a 1,700-word first-person account published in Sunday's edition of the Tribune. "It's gotten harder and harder for those of us who were there to listen to accounts we know to be untrue, especially when they come from people who were not there."
In Roanoke, Va., on Saturday, Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards called on Bush to end the ads.
"This is a moment of truth for George W. Bush," Edwards said at a Democratic rally. "We're going to see what kind of man he is and what kind of leader he is. ... We want to hear three words: Stop these ads."
Edwards said the commercials were from "people who financed the same kind of attacks against John McCain in the 2000 presidential campaign."
Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said Saturday, "John Kerry has run a relentlessly negative campaign, the only campaign that has ever questioned anyone's service during the Vietnam War, repeatedly making baseless accusations about the president."
Brian Jones, another Bush campaign spokesman, said, "The president has made it repeatedly clear that he wants to see an end to all" advertising from outside groups.
The Kerry campaign has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, alleging the Swift Boat Veterans group is coordinating its ads with the Bush campaign. The Bush campaign has denied the claim.