The story so far: Veterans, disgruntled over Kerry's post-service, anti-war testimony, take to the airwaves to set straight his service record - they were flesh wounds, there were no enemies, Kerry's a grandstander and a coward. Meanwhile, official Naval records show the group's most serious claims to be false or at least questionable. Wingnut and moderate Reeps pick up the slack saying, "well, what about the stuff that isn't categorically false." To which Dems and Kerry supporters say "what, are you kidding me? Bush et al. pull this crap every time. Don't you care about truth?" You've got famous Veterans on each side using the same facts to construct fuzzy truths via which they hope to persuade voters. Yup, that about covers it.
Kerry's reponse, however, of continuously blaming Bush and asserting his official connection to the ads is wearing thin.
It may be true - literally or by implication. Certainly, Bush isn't going out of his way to shut up this jungle mud slinging.
But instead of wasting news cycles trying to get Bush to cop to something he won't (come to think of it, he has yet to accept responsibility for, I don't know, anything), why not say, "with friends like these, do YOU really want to support the president?"
If the Swift Boat group's message is working - and some polls imply it's slowly chipping away Veterans' support for Kerry - then just linking their work directly to the President won't affect the desired result: disproving the allegations and reestablishing Kerry's war record as a positive attribute for office.
It's the same tactic used with fundraising. If "Kiddie Pornographers for Candidate X" sends a $1000 check, Candidate X should send it back because that's not what Candidate X supports. If he doesn't, Candidate Y should beat voters about the head with X's refusal to disavow his connection to the bad guys. Right now, Bush says, "hey, we didn't do it," but he's not really begging for them to stop.
So Dems need to switch lines and say, "look who supports Bush? Men who once served with honor but have been driven by Bush's divisive Republican politics and age-old hurt over a tumultuous period in our nation's history to disparage the service of another Veteran who's only real crime was coming home to exercise the freedoms he helped them to defend."
The new Kerry ad calling for Bush to denounce the ads comes close - but all the talking points should focus more on that and less on arguing Bush's direct connection.