Veterans Attack Kerry On Vietnam

It's a favorite tactic of the Kerry campaign. So in Albuquerque on Tuesday, John Kerry, war hero, was greeted by Vietnam veterans, his band of brothers.

But 1,800 miles away in Washington, a different band played a different tune about the John Kerry they served with in Vietnam, reports CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts.

"The John Kerry that I know is not the John Kerry that everyone else is portraying," said veteran Steve Gardner.

"He was aggressive, but vain and prone to impulsive judgment. He was a loose cannon," said retired U.S. Navy Adm. Roy Hoffman.

For nearly an hour, this group, called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, unleashed decades of bitterness, attacking Kerry's service record and his anti-war testimony before Congress, which they say painted them all as war criminals.

"I'm here today to express the anger I've harbored for over 33 years about being accused with my fellow shipmates of war atrocities," said one man.

But if you think this just a group of concerned veterans, think again. Some of the organizers have a track record of going after Democrats and Republican opponents of President Bush.

"We believe, based on our experience with him, that he is totally unfit to be the commander in chief," said veteran John O'Neill.

That's the same John O'Neill who debated Kerry about Vietnam on "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1971. Back then he was handpicked by the Nixon administration to discredit Kerry.

The press conference was set up by the same people who tried to discredit John McCain when McCain faced George W. Bush for the Republican nomination in 2000.

It's the same strategy used to go after Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam.

"That sticks in my craw, and it ought to stick in yours, because if you don't go to war, don't throw rocks at those who did," said Cleland.

The Bush-Cheney campaign quickly denied any part in today's news conference. The Kerry campaign was just as quick to say they were behind it.

"It smells like another dirty trick from the Bush-Cheney machine," said Vietnam veteran Wade Sanders.

Vietnam: politicized then, politicized now.