In a highly publicized photo-op, Cleland traveled to President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, to deliver a letter from nine senators calling on the president to repudiate the activities of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which has been running ads questioning Kerry's Vietnam War record.
Cleland was met at the ranch by Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, a Republican elected official and Vietnam veteran, who tried to give the former senator a letter addressed to Kerry, accusing him of using his military service for political gain.
"You can't have it both ways," said the letter, signed by Patterson and six other veterans including two Medal of Honor recipients and a former North Vietnamese prisoner of war. "You can't build your convention and much of your campaign around your service in Vietnam, and then try to say that only those veterans who agree with you have a right to speak up. There is no double standard for our right to free speech. We all earned it."
Cleland was not able to deliver his letter nor would he accept the letter Patterson tried to give him.
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, an independent 527 organization, has run ads questioning Kerry's version of events during his four-month service on the Mekong Delta and critical of his activities as an anti-war protester after he left the service.