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Thursday, August 12, 2004

More re John O'Neill's and the SwiftVets' "Tar Baby" strategy

It's always gratifying to a lawyer who's laid out his legal analysis of an issue when other lawyers — including a law professor — come to essentially the same conclusions, working independently.  I therefore enjoyed reading "Legal Terrorism," an article by Brooklyn Law School Professor Emeritus Henry Mark Holzer and lawyer-novelist Erika Holzer that appeared Tuesday in FrontPageMag.com and has now been reprinted on the SwiftVets website (where I came across it today). 

The Holzers' legal analysis — although written in response to the joint DNC/Kerry-Edwards 2004 threat letter intended to scare media outlets away from accepting the SwiftVets' video as a paid 527 political advertisement — closely tracks my own conclusions from my fisking of Kenneth Baer's piece in The New Republic Online entitled "Frontal Assault," in which Mr. Baer urged Kerry to sue the SwiftVets for defamation.

Here's one bit of information, however, that was new to me, but completely unsurprising in hindsight, given what I know from personal experience about John O'Neill's abilities as a legal strategist:

John O’Neill, partner in a Houston law firm and a founding member of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, anticipating the controversy the TV spot would generate and the need for documentation, sent a letter to station managers on August 2 (three days before the team of Elias and Sandler [lawyers for the DNC and KE2004] shifted into gear).  The letter itself, eight pages long, is buttressed with 27 exhibits — roughly 100 pages of what O’Neill correctly labeled “factual support for the advertisement.” 

Reading this, I let loose a long, low, and sincere whistle of admiration, and muttered the name "Brer Fox."  Yes, of course, the Kerry camp's reaction — to lawyer up and threaten lawsuits — was predictable.  But still.

Say it with me now:  "Tar Baby."


By the way, I've added a new archival category to BeldarBlog, stickied in my sidebar, to conveniently collect all of my posts regarding the controversy between Sen. Kerry and the SwiftVets, and I've added the appropriate tag to my prior posts to make sure they're included in that archive.

Note to readers:  I've only been able to find some of the affidavits that were referenced in John O'Neill's cover letter to the media outlets, and as far as I know, the SwiftVets themselves haven't yet put them all up in .pdf scan form on their own website.  Does anyone by chance have links to the complete set?  If so, please pass them along via email or comments.  Thanks!

Posted by Beldar at 09:35 PM in Law (2006 & earlier), Politics (2006 & earlier), SwiftVets | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to More re John O'Neill's and the SwiftVets' "Tar Baby" strategy and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» Swift Vets open a second front in their campaign against Kerry from Judicious Asininity

Tracked on Aug 20, 2004 1:55:04 PM


(1) lyle made the following comment | Aug 13, 2004 4:19:19 AM | Permalink

So far, the Kerry team has badly misunderestimated the SwiftVets and John O'Neill.

Now Kerry's 'historian', Douglas Brinkley, is rushing out a new, improved tale. Okay, the Christmas in Cambodia story was a boldfaced -- well, it wasn't accurate. But we're told that the new story will have Green Berets, Seals, and CIA assassins, all ripped from the pages of Kerry's own journals. Funny that the 'historian' missed them the first time around.

I'll bet John O'Neill is looking forward to Mr Brinkley's improvements.

(2) hank made the following comment | Aug 13, 2004 7:07:20 AM | Permalink

It's starting to look as if Lanny Davis might be just as unsuccessful spinning his new client's lies as he was in '98 when he attempted to spin his former client's perjury. As he tries desperately to get to sleep each night, I can picture Lanny mumbling to himself, "The horror... The horror..."

(3) Nick Vlachos made the following comment | Aug 16, 2004 2:53:49 PM | Permalink

I was appalled by Carville's co-host performance on Crossfire with Bob Novak. Mr. O'Neill was basically shouted down and not allowed to answer any questions. Novak lost total control of the situation.

Now with the revelation that Mr. David Alston,one of the Band of Brothers who spoke passionately for Kerry at the DNC, never actually served with Kerry and in fact totally lied about his assiciation with Kerry (please see this story from NRO's Byron York), it is imperative that the Swiftvets be allowed to tell their story.

(4) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 16, 2004 3:06:19 PM | Permalink

Nick, I think the Byron York piece from NRO that you linked contends that Alston served at most one-to-two weeks with Kerry, and that's based in large part on his brief interview with Alston. Although York doesn't go through a rigorous chronology, the blogger who's been on top of this whole subject, Captain Ed, seems to be accepting York's "clarification," but both agree that there's been, at best, some loose language and misdirection, and at worst, some deception from the Kerry camp regarding his and Mr. Alston's ties. I certainly agree with you that it's an important branch of the whole controversy, but it's one that I haven't blogged much about — quite frankly because I didn't see much if anything that I could add to what Captain Ed's been doing.

(5) Ronald Proby made the following comment | Aug 16, 2004 4:41:46 PM | Permalink

Kerry would ordinarily have resigned before the end of Aug. rather than suffer the truckload of humiliation and exposure that is coming at him from all quarters. He will stall as long as possible to allow Hillary or whomever else to jump in with minimum scrutiny time left before Nov. 2. .....just a hunch.

(6) David made the following comment | Aug 16, 2004 7:39:58 PM | Permalink

The Kerry Assault Team's responses have been singularly ineffective because they have misconstrued the revelations of his mendacity and cowardice as politically motivated.

They're not. The controversy is playing itself out in the political arena because it's the silly season, but it isn't politics for Swift Boat vets - it's payback.

I spent 15 months (11/66 to 1/68)in the mud and the blood as an infantryman with the 5th Mech and 101st Airborne and came away with two purple hearts. John Kerry, Jane Fonda, the SDS, et. al. didn't just betray me - they betrayed my dead.

Never forgive. Never forget. That's what's driving my fellow Viet Nam veterans, and that's why Lanny Davis will never get it right.

(7) Dan made the following comment | Aug 16, 2004 8:48:34 PM | Permalink

Just found this site [instapundit] today. Looks like it could be great.

If you haven't read it yet, there is a lengthy response to the criticisms made by Swiftboat Veterans for Truth posted on eRiposte.com. Needless to say, it is self-contradictory and based on preposterous assumptions. I'll let the readers read for themselves. Be forewarned, it is rather lengthy.

(8) Dan made the following comment | Aug 16, 2004 8:51:01 PM | Permalink

Sorry about the mixup. I linked to BeldarBlog from Instapundit without realizing that I was no longer at Instapundit. I'm a newbie, but I'll not make that mistake again...

(9) TomCom made the following comment | Aug 16, 2004 8:52:14 PM | Permalink


Lanny Davis feels that he won in '98 one way or another since Slick Willie served out his term. And he's still a talkinghead rather than in well deserved disgrace.

Most people I know (the Pauline Kael syndrome) are not enamored of Kerry in the first place and are tired of Viet Nam. The Media is protective of Kerry. So, it seems to me, there is no one who seems to care but the committed on both sides.

Does Kerry win this by default?

(10) Richard R made the following comment | Aug 16, 2004 11:20:30 PM | Permalink

David -

"John Kerry, Jane Fonda, the SDS, et. al. didn't just betray me - they betrayed my dead."

The most powerful line I've read all year.

I'm just a civilian, the closest I get to the front is that the things I make go there. But thank you for your service.


(11) Brer Rabbit made the following comment | Aug 17, 2004 12:01:13 AM | Permalink

The last "Tar Baby" reference I've seen was touting that crafty Flypaper Strategy. Some things are obviously correct in and of themselves, and some things require repetitive rationalization. These poll results don't look too promising. But considering that the ad itself is basically content free in an equal time, "What my opposing shill just said is not true," kinda way, that's understandable. Keep hammering.

(12) Lloyd made the following comment | Aug 17, 2004 1:04:39 PM | Permalink

Seeing John O'Neil outmaneuver Kerry and his shills is a joy to behold. The phrase "payback's a bitch" never sounded so sweet!

(13) Dan made the following comment | Aug 17, 2004 9:35:36 PM | Permalink

O'Neil is a very well respected Houston attorney. I have never used him, but twice over about a 5 year period, I had a client who needed a securities lawyer in Houston. I searched around for referalls for them, and he made both lists. Clients didn't end up using him, but nor becuase of any deficiency on his part. I know once he had a conflict, the other time I think he was just too pricey-- or maybe just too honest in telling the client what it would really cost to defend their case.

(14) Al Rolston made the following comment | Sep 4, 2004 11:57:26 AM | Permalink

As a WWII veteran (B-29 navigator, 22 missions), I am proud of what John O'Neill and the Swift Boat Vets have done. I hope Bush wins by a greater percentage than Reagan in 1984. The Democrats, by and large, are takers not givers to their country.

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