August 21, 2004

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Has Susan Stranahan Taken a Dive Department)

Susan Q. Stranahan of CJR Campaign Desk appears to want reporters to misrepresent the Swift Boat Veterans:

CJR Campaign Desk: Archives: ...John Kerry's decision to come out swinging against attacks on his war record dominates campaign coverage today -- and in their rush to report the juicy controversy, many in the press glossed over a critical fact about the Bush campaign's relationship to an independent groups running the ads.... The Times and the Post,along with the Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, and USA Today all duly reported Kerry's charge linking the group to the Bush White House.

That's John Kerry's take on the Swift Boat Veterans, and the campaign press should be careful that they report it as such.... [T]he media also is obligated to note that... Swift Boat Veterans is an organization independent of the Bush campaign and Republican National Committee. It may be funded and advised by several people with ties to the Republican Party... but it is officially unaffiliated with candidate or party....

"Officially" unaffiliated. But is that reality? Every time a Bush runs--against John Anderson in Connecticut in 1980, against Mike Dukakis in 1988, against Clinton, against John McCain in 2000--this kind of thing happens. It was:

John McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, called an ad criticizing John Kerry’s military service "dishonest and dishonorable" and urged the White House on Thursday to condemn it as well. ‘It was the same kind of deal that was pulled on me,’ McCain said in an interview with The Associated Press, referring to his bitter Republican primary fight with President Bush’.” [AP, 8/5/04]

Albert Hunt of the Wall Street Journal had this to say about the Swift Boat Veterans:

[John O'Neill] has been a Republican functionary for over 30 years... He’s a liar. He started with—he started with Chuck Colson. He was a pawn of Chuck Colson. I think this is some of the sleaziest lies I've ever seen in politics.”-- Albert R. Hunt, Executive editor, The Wall Street Journal, on CNN's The Capital Gang, 8/7/04

Does Susan Stranahan really believe that this kind of dishonest and dishonorable slime happens *without* coordination from the Bush family? That sleazy liars with a thirty-year history of subservience to Republican politicians starting in the most despicable parts of the Nixon team decide--all on their own, with no prompting--that this is the kind of support George W. Bush needs?

Why shouldn't reporters call a spade a spade?

Posted by DeLong at August 21, 2004 12:03 AM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post

"Why shouldn't reporters call a spade a spade?"

Because they need an easy-to-cover horserace that will keep their tax cuts intact, and keep the administration in big business' pocket.

Posted by: MattB on August 21, 2004 06:34 AM


Don't you guys have any sympathy? Every time a Bush runs for office, they're forced to endure these vile attacks on their opponents. There's just no relief for them, no way they can prevent these awful campaigns.

My heart goes out to them, and yours should too.

Posted by: Lewis Carroll on August 21, 2004 06:47 AM


The bitterness of the attacks on John Kerry are typical of the bitterness that has driven this Administration's domestic and foreign policy.

Posted by: Ari on August 21, 2004 07:31 AM


Scott Simon talked with Michael Kinsley on NPR Weekend Edition and listening to him talk about it I nearly lost my mind. When asked about the FEC complaint that Kerry filed he said they probably "wouldn't go there." Now just because we know the FEC is toothless does that mean we give them a pass for not doing their job? Jeebus!

When asked about coordination between the campaigns and the 527s he falls on the "what is coordination" line and declares that campaign finance is hopeless, although he does at least put in a plug for full monetary disclosure. Well here's a hint of what coordination might look like. Also to equate policy ads from MoveOn with the Swifties is just insane. It's not the same ballpark, it's not even the same sport! The MoveOn ad, which Kerry condemned, about Bush's National Guard service is a lot closer. Although even that is at least based on the papers the President has released.

Shrill? You're damn right I'm shrill...

Posted by: Pat on August 21, 2004 08:39 AM


whoops, forgot inline links got stripped.


Posted by: Pat on August 21, 2004 08:54 AM


All of this bending over backward to be fair to both sides makes me want to go back and check out an oral history (and the press) in Germany in the late thirties. You know, I mean gosh, all the guy wants to do is clean up this country, right? What's all this conspiracy theory stuff about labor camps, mysterious freight trains?

Posted by: Bean on August 21, 2004 08:55 AM


The nerve of them! Actually quoting Kerry's own words in their latest ad! Talk about slime!

Seems like the dudgeon quotient has been transferred to the comments in this post. Or maybe it's just the shrillness quotient. Or maybe they're falsely symmetric?

Posted by: Tom O'Bedlam on August 21, 2004 08:58 AM



I'm now withholding contributions to NPR via local affiliate because of the rightward/know-nothing turn in their coverage and am, instead, splitting my yearly membership among the producers of particular discussion programs on NPR and PRI which maintain a genuine, thoughtful balance -- and have so notified them.

Posted by: Bean on August 21, 2004 09:01 AM


Professor DeLong, Susan Stranahan would say that your children are not officially related to you and your wife, since there is no contract stating that they agree that you are their parents.

Digby has found one member of the Bush campaign who is also in the Swift Boat organization. Two state Bush campaigns have been found distributing flyers of the SBVfT. This is coordination.

As for Kinsley, as mentioned by Pat above, I might agree. Why go to the FEC when you have a slam dunk case for actual malice? We can now count at least three SBVfTs who have plainly lied:

Thurlow over whether there was small arms fire (his citation and that of Lt. Lambert say there was).

Louis Letson about being the medical personnel treating Kerry's injury for the first Purple heart.

(Now)-Admiral Schachte over whether the shrapnel Kerry received was from his own grenade (two witnesses, Pat Runyon and Willam Zalonidis, say Schachte was not present).

In addition to these serious and substantive lies, they have surrounded themselves in a smog of lesser lies. For example, John O'Neill claimed that he was giving CNN an exclusive when in fact he had given an interview to C-Span.

But the blackest lie of all is their present claim, that John Kerry accused any individual veteran of war crimes. Their deceptive advertisement fails to mention that he reported to the US Senate the testimony of other veterans at Winter Soldier. Furthermore, he made plain that it was the senior commanders-- the men who devised free fire zones, which are indeed plainly contrary to the Geneva Convention-- as those responsible for war crimes.

Posted by: Charles on August 21, 2004 09:29 AM


Tom O'Bedlam, context means something. For example, referring to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, you said. "Them... slime! Kerry's own words... like!

The Swift Boaters removed from the context the fact that Kerry was accurately quoting testimony of others at the Winter Soldier Investigation. That's lying.

Posted by: Charles on August 21, 2004 09:43 AM


Tom, how "swift" of you. Have you read the transcripts of "Kerry's words" and the small chunk of words they choose to use in the ad? When you have, come join the ranks of the shrill. We have jackets.

Posted by: Pat on August 21, 2004 10:20 AM


People who think that war crimes are acceptable in the service of what they regard as this country's interests are unlikely to get upset about a fusilade of gratuitous lies in the service of those same interests. They suffer from an inherent lack of any capacity to self-police, even if they had the inclination to do so.

To me, one interesting aspect of the Swift Boat controversy is that it has the right wingers frothing at the mouth to a signifcantly greater degree than usual, as recent trolling on this blog has amply demonstrated. I can't help but think that Rove et al are considerbly more circumspect.

IOW, wingnuts, you're being played like a fiddle, and you ought to have enough self respect to resent it.

Posted by: Tom Marney on August 21, 2004 10:21 AM


Charles: your "out of context" argument might have some validity if Kerry had wrapped up his litany of atrocities by saying something like, "But these were merely isolated exceptions to a war which, on the whole, is being run in accordance with the rules of warfare." But he didn't. His whole point was that these examples were were representative and characteristic of an enterprise that was corrupted in its entirety by these sorts of American misdeeds. So your claim that the ad misrepresents Kerry is, to put it mildly, unpersuasive.

To all: read your own posts, people. There's not a fact cited (except historical facts related to past campaigns) to back up your claims of coordination. It's all a variant of, "Well, it has to be! It just has to be!"

No, it doesn't -- for a couple of reasons. First, it should have been clear to all since late winter, when the fact that Kerry would be the nominee started to crystallize, that this issue was coming. Nobody reading reports last winter about the press scrutiny of GWB's National Guard Records could fail to realize that Vietnam-era military service was going to be an issue if Kerry were the nominee. It became even more relevant when Kerry pulled his "reporting for duty" schtick, but that was a recent, and from a Republican point of view, serendipitous development.

Second, although I realize that for many -- perhaps most -- of you, Republicans are trogdolytic simpletons, too stupid to plan for next Sunday's dinner, be advised that you are underestimating your opponents. Many of them are not stupid. They can read campaign finance laws as well as Democrats can. Given that these ads have been in the works at least since last spring, almost certainly there has been no coordination because the people who created the ads read the law and took care that there was no coordination. The fact that the people who funded them are people who agree with them -- i.e. they are Republicans -- should be unsurprising and completely expected.

Now, the Democratic Party can try to prove coordination by sort of "six degrees of Kevin Bacon" dot-connecting used by Michael Moore to prove that George Bush planned 9-11 in cahoots with the Bin Laden family (Bush has a father who has an associate who owns stock in a corporation whose board of directors has a member who sits on a commission whose other members belong to...). But that sort of "proof" doesn't work well in real life, outside the movies. Hell, it didn't work real well in the movie.

Posted by: Tom O'Bedlam on August 21, 2004 10:37 AM


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