I found the threads of this story on TPM Muckraker and started doing a little digging of my own--some of what I found is on the comment thread over there. Those very smart people deserve credit for digging this stuff up ahead of me, and I am obliged to share what I found and to give them credit. I have linked to that thread, so if something comes up that needs correction, I'll try to correct it as quickly as possible.
There is a possible link between the distributor of the flier you see and Joe Lieberman--and bear with me as I go through all of the assorted wingnuttery to get you there so you can decide for yourself.
The clickable image you see is the flyer being mailed in South Carolina, according to the McCain campaign. Written in the cartoon are some very nasty things about McCain, and it's your typical smear campaign. But is it?
There is a concerted effort out there by a group of Vietnam-era veterans to now turn their efforts towards sinking McCain's campaign. These are the very same individuals who worked in concert with the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth campaign in 2004 to attack John Kerry.
The main attack comes from the people who put their name on the flyer--an organization called "Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain."
McCain Responds--and uses noted Vietnam Veteran Orson Swindle (who used to work for Ross Perot):
“Today, a shadowy political organization calling itself ‘Vietnam Veterans Against McCain’ launched a vicious attack on John McCain in an attempt to impugn his character in the closing days of the South Carolina Republican Primary,” Orson Swindle, who was a fellow prisoner of war in Vietnam with Mr. McCain, said in a statement put out by the campaign. “The group claims that John McCain turned his back on his fellow POWs in order to save his own skin.”
There is nothing shadowy about them. This organization is organized and managed by Gerard 'Jerry' Kiley, who was the founder and organizer of this organization. Check closely--he worked with two individuals, Ted Sampley and Mike Benge.
Sampley is well known as the individual who helped identify the Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War. and Sampley, at least, wrote this article about McCain in 1992:
By Ted Sampley
U.S. Veteran Dispatch
December 1992 Issue
Those following the proceedings during the past year of the Senate Select Committee on POW and MIA Affairs have been mystified by the rabid actions of the one man on the committee who should be grateful that for the nearly three decades there have been activists in America who have refused to let die the issue of the fate of Americans lost and missing in Southeast Asia from the Vietnam War.
I am speaking of course of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). None of the Senators on the Select Committee have been as vicious in their attacks on POW/MIA family members and activists than the man behind the mask of war hero, former POW, and patriotic United States Senator . . .
Not even Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who went into his job as chairman of the Select Committee with a predisposition that no one was left alive in Southeast Asia, that it was therefore "time to put the war behind us" and normalize relations with Hanoi, has shown such a bias against those who have fought and kept alive the POW/MIA cause.
Not even Sen. Kerry, with his own record as an anti-war protester during the early 1970s after serving in Vietnam--has turned a totally deaf ear to the numerous individuals and groups who are, correctly or not, convinced that Americans were and are alive in captivity in Southeast Asia.
What, therefore, motivates a John McCain to attack as a pit bull everyone and anyone who has the opinion that men are still alive in the very same captivity that he himself once experienced? Mr. McCain disguises his attacks on the POW/MIA by claiming he is on the committee to ask "the tough questions" to grill and berate in order to get to the truth. What motivates the man, who at the same time has shown a sensitive, almost patronizing approach to U.S. government officials who have lied to the committee? . . .
Borrowing from the title of a popular movie of some years ago, many activists who have felt the fangs of this pit bull call him the "Manchurian Candidate." Is that a fair accusation to level at Senator McCain, the war hero and the former POW?
In the movie, "The Manchurian Candidate," actor Lawrence Harvey portrayed the character of a former POW and war hero of the Korean War, whose brainwashing by his communist captors resulted in his enemies being able to manipulate his actions. To trigger him to do their bidding all they had to do was have him play solitaire with the Queen of Diamonds being the trigger that made him theirs, body and soul .
So Sampley thinks McCain is WORSE than John Kerry? Hilarious. And what's more--Kiley LINKS to that very same article here as he describes himself on the Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain website!
I must admit--Kiley's website is hilarious reading and serves as a virtual compendium of anti-McCain information. Someone has more lovingly and competently set up the anti-McCain site BETTER than the previous anti-Kerry site.
Here's the kicker--Kiley may be a donor to Joe Lieberman!
Total for this search: $1,000
THE ALLIANCE GROUP/R.E.
UPDATE: I'm adding this info on Swindle, since he seems to be the most vocal defender of McCain, going all the way back to the 2000 campaign, when he tangled with Sampley and Paul Weyrich and several other "prominent" Vietnam-era veterans.
Swindle wrote THIS E-Mail during the 2000 race and talked about "the likes of Ted Sampley":
"This is the latest smear on McCain. We cannot tolerate this. Paul Weyrich is almost totalitarian in his approach to politics. He is hard right and irrational, from the tone of this article, ruthless and a liar. Please flood his office with major--repeat--major bitching about this smear. We alone are the best qualified to smash this bastard. Weyrich quotes the likes of Ted Sampley, Earl Hopper - he invokes Leo, Sam and Jerry Denton to give his smearing some credibility through reverse logic, and then he brings in John's former wife, Carol, who I love dearly - Carol is VERY supportive of John's bid for the Presidency. Gents - PLEASE hammer this bastard. This is one scumbag who needs to hear from us. I am travelling, just got this and will be taking on Weyrich personally when I get back to D.C. but we want to weigh in now. Please commence firing - Leo, Sam and Jerry please let PW hear from you immediately. The arrogance of this prick is unbelievable. He lives in the world of soft money and ultra right wing politics. His advocacy would make you all puke. His number is at the bottom of the page. Call him, please. There is also a website of his organization - check it out and fire an e-mail to it. Share your e-mails with all of us by BCC all of us on the NamPOW list serve. (Make sure you BCC that!!) Do this guys, do this! Semper fi and GBU, Orson."
Here's what Moral Majority co-founder, and sworn enemy of John McCain, Paul Weyrich had to say about Swindle's defense of McCain all the way back in 2000:
My point was simply this.The other POWs ran for office and no one challenged their credentials regarding their service to their country, no matter how much they may have disagreed with them politically. By contrast, there is a dedicated group of people, who have legitimate credentials, who are challenging McCain's war record.
Swindle and other McCain supporters froth at the mouth when this point is mentioned. I have no way of knowing who is correct. But because of the controversy, it seems to me that voters ought to look into the matter and make up their own minds. That is my view, and I really don't care how much heat Swindle's e-mail generates, I am sticking to it.
Did you get all that? There's a concerted effort on the part of two warring factions within the conservative movement, of individuals who have been involved in post-Vietnam issues since the end of the war, to screw each other and smear each other in the most vicious ways possible.
You gotta love the new circular firing squad that is the wingnut wing of the Republican Party in 2008.
UPDATE #2: McCain vs Sampley in 2004--
By Ted Sampley
U.S. Veteran Dispatch
February 29, 2004
When Republican Senator John McCain, on February 13, 2004, distributed a press release personally attacking me and Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry (V.V.A.J.K), it was no surprise. The New York Times printed McCain's attack the following day.
McCain's smear is predicated on lies, innuendo and misinformation printed in Prisoners of Hope: Exploiting the POW/MIA Myth in America, a book written and published in 1994. McCain and his fellow senator John Kerry, a liberal Democrat, teamed up with the author and secretly helped ghost write the book as part of their post Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs campaign to discredit and shutdown the leading POW/MIA activists.
In the February 13, release, McCain instructed reporters to be "cautious" of Ted Sampley or any organization to which he belongs and to thoroughly investigate "Sampley's background and history of spreading outrageous slander and other disreputable behavior before inadvertently lending him or his allegations any credibility."
"I am well familiar with Mr. Sampley, and I know him to be one of the most despicable people I have ever had the misfortune to encounter," McCain (of Charles F. Keating fame) warned the media. "I consider him a fraud who preys on the hopes of family members of missing servicemen for his own profit. He is dishonorable, an enemy of the truth, and despite his claims, he does not speak for or represent the views of all but a few veterans. The many veterans I know would think it a disgrace to be considered a comrade or supporter of Ted Sampley."
UPDATE #3: Ross Perot Slams McCain
From Jonathan Alter:
The Texas billionaire, now 77, still has some scores to settle from the Vietnam era, and his timing is exquisite. Just days before the South Carolina GOP primary, he wants me to know that McCain "is the classic opportunist--he's always reaching for attention and glory. Other POWs won't even sit at the same table with him."
The Perot-McCain relationship goes back to McCain's five and a half years of captivity in Hanoi. When McCain's then-wife Carol was in a serious car accident, McCain's mother called Perot for help. "She asked me to send my people to Philadelphia to take care of the family," Perot says. Afterwards, McCain was grateful. "We loved him [Perot] for it," McCain told me in 2000.
Perot doesn't remember it that way. "After he came home, he walked with a limp, she [Carol McCain] walked with a limp. So he threw her over for a poster girl with big money from Arizona [Cindy McCain, his current wife] and the rest is history."
Perot's real problem with McCain is that he believes the senator hushed up evidence that live POWs were left behind in Vietnam and even transferred to the Soviet Union for human experimentation, a charge Perot says he heard from a senior Vietnamese official in the 1980s. "There's evidence, evidence, evidence," Perot claims. "McCain was adamant about shutting down anything to do with recovering POWs."