But as early as Aug. 5, when the Swifties were just getting traction, Edwards wanted to push back, hard. McCain had just told the Associated Press that the Swift Boat ads were “dishonest and dishonorable… the same kind of deal that was pulled on me.” Edwards wanted to begin a speech, “I join with Senator McCain in calling on the president to condemn this dishonest and dishonorable ad.” But Kerry headquarters said no. Stephanie Cutter, the boss of the Kerry communications shop, explained that the campaign didn’t need to give the Swift Boat vets any more attention than they were already getting.
Edwards played along, but his aides were indignant. They warned the veep candidate that the story was already out of control and about to get worse. Historian Douglas Brinkley, author of a wartime biography of Kerry, cautioned that Kerry’s diary included mention of a meeting with some North Vietnamese terrorists in Paris. Edwards was flabbergasted. “Let me get this straight,” the senator said. “He met with terrorists? Oh, that’s good.”Initially I read the section as Tom did, putting the “terrorist” tag together with the known visits to the North Vietnamese peace accord delegations in Paris.
Charles Johnson changed my mind.