Indignant Democrats can pretend otherwise, but they have been making President Bush's character an unceasing issue for the past four years. Indeed, his allegedly poor character is the main hook the Democrats are hanging their hats on in this campaign.
Despite the hype, the Democrats really don't have much else to go on this year, which is why they don't dare dissociate themselves from Michael Moore, the principal purveyor of the abominable "Bush lied" lie. So the Democrats don't have much standing to complain about "negative" campaigning.
Nor does Senator Kerry -- at least with respect to this issue. He is the one who "opened the door" by making his Vietnam service the centerpiece of his campaign. If his honorable service is relevant, so is the possibility of his dishonorable service.
This shouldn't be about "fairness" anyway, but about informing the public. If the stunning allegations in "Unfit for Command" are true, they paint a picture of a man who simply cannot be trusted to be president, much less a wartime president. So what we ought to be focused on is whether they are true.
Concerning the veracity of the charges, consider that the "Swiftees" are not GOP mouthpieces -- some are Democrats. They approached Regnery Publishing with their book proposal, not the other way around. Their account is based on their firsthand knowledge -- not hearsay -- and would be admissible in any court proceeding involving these issues.
The Swiftees didn't wait until the last minute in the campaign to raise these charges, as did those who attempted to impugn George W. Bush in 2000 the very weekend before election day. They have allowed Kerry ample time to attempt to rebut their indictment. Just release your medical records, Senator Kerry.
The Swiftees' brief against John Kerry, if true, is the opposite of dirty campaigning, because we cannot overstate its relevance to his fitness for commander in chief.
Conversely, if you want to witness a seminar in dirty campaigning, just watch as the DNC goes into action trying to suppress the story and smear those who repeat it -- anything but an airing of the merits of the charges. It's going to be ugly.