Newspaper Blogs

February 02, 2004

IS KERRY UNTOUCHABLE?....Ron Brownstein has a question:

Has a frontrunner at the height of the race for a party's presidential nomination ever had an easier two weeks than John F. Kerry since the Iowa caucuses last month?

This has been vaguely in the back of my mind for the past few days too. Brownstein is referring to the other candidates here, who, with the exception of Howard Dean, have all treated Kerry with kid gloves. And as Brownstein notes, over-the-top accusations such as charging a senator with a lifetime ADA score of 93 of being a "Republican" hardly helps Dean's case.

What adds to the weirdness of this is that the press hasn't laid a glove on him either. Just as an example, compare Time's cover treatment of Dean a few weeks ago painting him as just short of a serial liar to this week's almost hagiographic portrait of Kerry. The difference could hardly be more stunning.

I'm not sure what's going on, but Brownstein is right. It's unprecedented for a clear frontrunner to be treated so gingerly by practically everyone. Does Kerry have secret files on all these guys, or what?

Posted by Kevin Drum at February 2, 2004 09:10 AM | TrackBack


A) Kerry is Washington Establishment, like McCain or Dole

B) The Press is of the judgement that Bush would beat him like a drum.

Posted by: bob mcmanus at February 2, 2004 09:13 AM | PERMALINK

Does his wife own any media conglomerates?!

Posted by: marky at February 2, 2004 09:13 AM | PERMALINK

Uh Kevin, ever heard the story of the guys who woke up one morning and found this large, free, wooden horse right outside the gate?

Posted by: jj at February 2, 2004 09:14 AM | PERMALINK

When you've been ignoring a candidate as long as the press ignored Kerry, essentially writing him off, and something happens in Iowa like, well, happened, all of a sudden there's a rush of reallocation of press resources to the "new guy".

Right now, only the Boston Globe has the dirt on Kerry, and even then, that requires a Lexis/Nexis search, which means work. The current media likes nothing more than to recycle: stories, bromides, commentary.

So I have a prediction, based on every other frontrunner I have ever seen: a couple "How did we miss it" articles to start, and then some basic fluff bios and tongue-baths. And then, as little bits and pieces of dirt get dug up about Kerry, they'll make their way from the back pages of the papers and newsmags to the front pages and jacket covers.

Suddenly, Kerry will be diagnosed as a deeply flawed, over-ambitious, self-entitled, snobbish, elitist Ted Kennedy-style liberal from Massachusetts, and we'll see the headline: "Too Flawed To Win?" On every page of every paper and mag come May.

Posted by: Kenneth G. Cavness at February 2, 2004 09:15 AM | PERMALINK

Kerry has consistantly voted with Bush, and, although I am not a Kerry supporter, but maybe this is paradoxically a strength? He seems familiar, we already know him, he seems like a guy who we'll know what he'll do, but he'll do it better than Bush. Similarly perhaps, but with that right little difference. That's my guess on the psychology of the difference. Dean was too much of an unknown. Some people didn't know what to expect with Dean in office.

Posted by: Michael at February 2, 2004 09:18 AM | PERMALINK

It's simple: publishers of major media conglomerates are holding back until Dean is dead.

They know that Kerry won't attack media consolidation.

Posted by: Matthew Saroff at February 2, 2004 09:19 AM | PERMALINK

I don't suppose it has occurred to anyone that the hagiographic treatment of Kerry began almost immediately after the appearance of a poll showing Kerry beating Bush straight up?

There are a lot of people in the WH press corps and around town who wouldn't be sorry to see this adminstration go; they're bad copy.

Posted by: Mark S. at February 2, 2004 09:19 AM | PERMALINK

Kerry is a safe establishment candidate. If he wins, the media knows the status quo won't change all that much.

As the song sez, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Dean&Clark represent the unknown, which scares the DLC not to mention the corporations which own our airwaves.

Posted by: Jennie at February 2, 2004 09:22 AM | PERMALINK

Kerry isn't Dukakis or Clinton or even Bush...he is more like McCain or Dole.

The Washington/NY press corps *presumes* after 30 years of this guy being around, there is no dirt buried out there to be dug up. No bureau chief will assign a reporter to go do research. There will be just the std bus crew.

And the press corps assumes they completely understand the dynamics of Kerry/Bush. We are back inside the beltway, and the press corps will feel no need to go to flyover country for a visit.

Posted by: bob mcmanus at February 2, 2004 09:26 AM | PERMALINK

I think the press's reluctance/oversight has been addressed pretty well above. As for the candidates...Edwards and Clark have been waiting confidently for the South assuming a New England liberal isn't going to go over very well. They also are relative newcomers and their campaign experiences aren't very deep so the heavy impact of negative campaigning in Iowa is burned into their brains and they don't want to get burned like Dean and Gebhardt.

Posted by: carsick at February 2, 2004 09:26 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: carsick at February 2, 2004 09:28 AM | PERMALINK

I think it's more sinister than that. With Howard Dean pretty much down and out the media wants to prop up Kerry. Why? Because if Kerry goes down too who would be the Democrats nominee? Someone by the name of Gen. Wesley Clark who could actually beat Bush handidly. Or perhaps Sen. John Edwards who would also have a chance.

Posted by: jwm22 at February 2, 2004 09:31 AM | PERMALINK

3 words: Skull and Bones

Posted by: MisterC at February 2, 2004 09:31 AM | PERMALINK

The smear will start the day after the nomination is a lock.

Talk about being naive.

Kerry has zero chance of winning since he has voted for practically everything Bush put before him. He is known in his own state for being a do nothing Senator.

The election is Bush's to lose. Not Kerry's to win. The Dems lost their chance when they decided to let the media and the Republicans manipulate them into dumping the only original thinker in the pack.

How stupid is it for Dems to nominate someone soley because he is inoffensive. As though somehow this quality will translate into "electability". There aren't enough ABBs for the Kerry electability strategy to work. He represents nothing but a last-ditch effort get Bush out. Undecideds and independents may not think that is enough. People want to vote FOR someone.

If I weren't an ABB, I would be wondering why I should believe any of his campaign promises. After all, he has had a number of years to implement them and all he did was vote FOR some pretty horrendous Republican-initiated legislation. He hasn't been on the forefront of righting wrongs. Big deal. He came out against the Vietnam War (oops conflict) after he got home. But he went right along with getting us into the Iraq mess. Oh boo hoo. He was lied to by the CIA. Well there were plenty of us here and around the world who didn't fall for that hooey. The fact that he did doesn't say much for his political acumen.

Posted by: chris at February 2, 2004 09:34 AM | PERMALINK

The transition is most visible at the Boston Globe. About a year ago, Globe reporters spent days hammering on the revelation that Kerry didn't correct people's impression that he was Irish. (No, he never claimed to be Irish, but when some reporter referred to him as Irish in a throwaway line buried in the sixteenth paragraph of a news article five years ago, he didn't write in to correct the record. The scandal!) Now he's the candidate who can do no wrong.

Grasping at straws department: The press is now embarassed at how much mud they threw at Dean, and they're overcompensating by being nice Kerry. If Kerry wins the nomination, and they keep being nice to him until the day after the election, I'll forgive both mistakes.

Optimistic but slightly more realistic: When Dean's nomination was a foregone conclusion back in November of '03, reporters had to inject drama into the race by describing him as That Madman Who Must Be Stopped. With Kerry in the lead, the drama is provided by stories of the shakeup in Dean's campaign and suspense over how Clark and Edwards will fare on Tuesday. If this boils down to a two-man race before Super Tuesday, reporters may rediscover reasons not to like Kerry.

Posted by: Seth Gordon at February 2, 2004 09:38 AM | PERMALINK

Honestly, I think it's a good sign. Until the 2000 election, I'd never noticed how important it was to have the press corps on your side. Gore got a rep as a liar and was never able to shake it even though it wasn't true; Bush has gotten a free pass for four years and only now are we starting to see eye-rolling and grumblings from the mainstream press. (O'Neill plus Kay may have been the snowball in this avalance, even though it's a small one; at hovering-around-50%-approval, even a small avalanche can hurt you.) It's really hard to turn around the press's image of you. Even if Gore had given my personal dream-rebuttal in one of the debates ("I've been serving my country for twenty years longer than my opponent has been sober"), the press would have played to the emotion ('he's mean!'), not the logic ('he's right!'). The only way to change things might be to do exactly what Gore's done: change your look and reinvent your role. That takes time we haven't got.

Clinton was similarly telegenic and his untouchability is what drove the Reps bananas; ditto for Reagan, on the political obverse. This may oversimplify a bit, but surely voters oversimplify. And so if Kerry is getting a pass, this is good news. My own prediction--and it may be the Pollyannaism of desperation--is that the press's take on Bush will start to be, "He's likable, he did a good job in a crisis, but he's not the moderate he promised to be, the cracks are starting to show and we really need a guy who has a sane foreign policy, knows how to negotiate, who actually served in the military and won't try to cut veteran's benefits behind their back, won't bleed money like a hemophiliac...and Kerry's the best alternative we've got."

Kerry's the moderate in this race. I think that could wind up helping a lot.

Posted by: David Dickerson at February 2, 2004 09:50 AM | PERMALINK

One of the things Kerry will be constantly tarred with is being a Massachusetts liberal. And MA is a pretty liberal state.

But who will note that Republicans have won the last four gubernatorial elections in MA? That's 13 years already with 3 to go on the current term. We are not quite the leftist extreme consistently portrayed.

Stereotypes seem to last longer than diamonds.

Posted by: karog at February 2, 2004 09:53 AM | PERMALINK

Secret files!? Come on, Kevin, nobody has secret files any more. That comic book, blackmail stuff went out of style with J. Edgar. Tsk, Tsk to even joke that a politician or journalist might be blackmailed in this age of honesty.

Posted by: Yesh at February 2, 2004 09:54 AM | PERMALINK

Ok. People need to realize that Skull and Bones does not control the country. People get all acting like Howard Hughes and those people who see the Freemasons everywhere. I went to Yale (fairly recent grad), was not in Skull and Bones, but I do know a decent amount about it and the whole "secret society" thing. Granted, I had a roommate in another society who took it a little too seriously, but overall, these things are fairly harmless.

And, most importantly, it's not like the press is made up of "Bonesmen" anyway. As Bob Somerby pointed out, most of our most prominent newspeople went to colleges that are not considered "elite." If Kerry is getting a "pass," it ain't because of this.

Posted by: Dan in Chicago at February 2, 2004 09:54 AM | PERMALINK

Its not that there is nothing to dig up about kerry because he's been around for 30 years--there was nothing to dig up about dean either. The smear will begin, as someone said above, right after kerry locks up the nomination and the target audience will be all the people who voted for kerry because they thought he was "electable" based on polls about what other similiarly misinformed people thought. The press is mindless, but it is also directed by republican owners/editors. And they want bush to win.

Posted by: aimai at February 2, 2004 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

The other guys are aiming for the VP slot (excepting Dean).

Posted by: Symbiosa at February 2, 2004 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

The media is as much a part of the problem in this country as anything else these days. And there's already clear evidence that Kerry has a terrible credibility problem in terms of sketchy campaign finance and his voting record (or lack thereof). Yet, he continues his march forward because of the public and media herd mentality that the political primary system uses to generate momentum for a candidate.

We all know full well that the media is going to spring up and pull all kinds of skeletons out of Kerry's closet once its too late to change horses.

The Democratic party is rife with decay and it's a shame that they're going to have to take one more on the chin, when it can least afford to, before they realize that the party is elitist and has a stupid, anachronistic system for choosing its candidate.

Posted by: Kevin at February 2, 2004 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

The smear will start the day after the nomination is a lock.

Yeah that's how I see it, Rove hasn't given the SCLM it's marching orders yet. They've already done the angry liberal thing with Dean, they have to come up with a new angle.

Posted by: salvage at February 2, 2004 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe the press is sinking back into a comfortable stupor now that the all-important narrative has returned to normal?

Posted by: Anarch at February 2, 2004 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

"Has a frontrunner at the height of the race for a party's presidential nomination ever had an easier two weeks than John F. Kerry since the Iowa caucuses last month?"

No, but I know of an occupant of the White House who is constantly fellated by the press corps, no matter how badly he treats them / how badly he lies....

Posted by: Al at February 2, 2004 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Geez, the schizophrenia about Kerry here is stunning. Which is it: is Kerry to the left of Ted Kennedy or has he voted with Bush all the time?

Both statements cannot be simultaneously true.

Posted by: apostropher at February 2, 2004 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Many in the establishment, including non-neocon conservatives are looking for a palitable substitute for Bush and Company and they see Kerry as safe.

Posted by: Ron in Portland at February 2, 2004 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

" Bush has gotten a free pass for four years and only now are we starting to see eye-rolling and grumblings from the mainstream press."

I will believe it when I see it. Example: Jim Hoagland (see Marshall and Atrios). If Andrea Mitchell were really to upset Karl Rove, she would *have* to quit her job. This White House is as press and access controlling as any in history.

The difference is spin, the daily, hourly WH press corps mainline reporting: "Some Republicans view this budget as out-of-control spending." This fits, the White House will then try to cut some social spending.

"Some Republicans say this budget is nothing but a package of lies." This reporter will be covering Kobe Bryant soon.

Posted by: bob mcmanus at February 2, 2004 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Actually I'm starting to think that this anachronistic process is doing a pretty good job of picking out the strongest candidates- Kerry, Edwards and Clark.

Kerry isn't Bush, as far as I can tell. He's an environmentalist (fought against drilling in ANWR) and he's pro-choice, just for starters. The "Kerry is no different from Bush" chorus brings back memories of Naderite slogans from 2000, and we all know how that turned out.

I just saw a poll showing Kerry with an 82% approval rating among Democrats. If he loses, it won't be because he isn't Democratic enough.

Anyway, if the media likes Kerry, that's good. Any Democrat getting favorable attention from the press is a positive thing.

Posted by: JakeV at February 2, 2004 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

I'm a Dean supporter but I don't really buy that the press is pushing him down and propping Kerry up in an effort to find a weaker general election candidate, or because Kerry is "establishment" and Dean is not. I do think Dean has gotten unfairly negative coverage and Kerry has gotten unfairly positive coverage, but I don't see much motive or concerted effort behind it--you can summarize most of what the press does with the phrase "everyone else is doing it", and this is no exception. Why "everyone" started it, who knows--the thing is, there doesn't even need to be a reason.

The positive coverage will not last if he's the nominee. No one kid yourself about that, please.

Posted by: Katherine at February 2, 2004 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

My partner at Seeing the Forest thinks that Kerry is the preferred Establishment candidate, partly because they think Bush could beat him (liberal, anti-war activity).

On the other hand, Kerry was declared dead at a certain point and is blander than Gephardt, Kucinich and Sharpton (all of whom have automatic big negatives). So most slime went to Dean and Clark. I don't think that Edwards or Lieberman got slimed much either, except Lieberman by Democrats.

Ann Coulter just now put a ludicrous, nasty hit on Kerry. (My response: ). We should expect the slime to be maximal in a week or two.

I really think that we have to realize that the media will be part of the Republican effort. We can't let our expectations from them be a deciding factor. What we do have to do is figure out how to win despite the media -- run over them or run around them.

Any of the four candidates is better than Bush, and any of them will be slimed.

Posted by: zizka / John Emerson at February 2, 2004 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

I don't believe in a liberal media bias, but anyone who thinks that the positive coverage of Kerry is a media plot to throw the election to Bush is truly paranoid.

Posted by: JakeV at February 2, 2004 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

I think you've overlooked this item from the 1/31 NYT, which points out that the Democratic candidates, Kerry in particular, have been major recipients of special-interest largesse. It counts as journalistic sniping, no?

I think we'll see more of this kind of stuff as the campaign goes on. The interesting thing is that similar points, when made by Ralph Nader in 2000 with respect to Al Gore, were treated as loopy, naive, and irrelevant.

(I personally DO consider them irrelevant, now that we know Bush's true colors. ABB, people!)

Posted by: ralphbon at February 2, 2004 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Agree with the fellow who said the others are angling for VP slot. At least partially explains their reticence to bang against Kerry. I think Edwards' strong showing in Iowa--and all the talk about how voters liked his positivity--may also explain some of the reduced infighting.

As for the media...I am afraid to say I do think it's a case of our wondrous SCLM doing their part to provide Bush with canon fodder. I think Clark or Edwards, and quite possibly Dean, would be better candidates than Kerry.

Then again, Kerry's surprised me at the last couple of debates--a good deal more personable and less wooden than I remembered. Still, I think it's ridiculous that he's been able to coast like this, and I really hope Edwards takes SCarolina, and maybe Missouri, while Clark grabs OK & AZ, and possibly MO too. Either way, I sure hope there's at least one alternative to Kerry after tomorrow.

I also really, really hope Joe finally wakes up to the fact that his Joe-mentum is taking him down faster than a derailed roller coaster...

Posted by: TolucaJim at February 2, 2004 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Here's my response to the Coulter slime:

Posted by: zizka / John Emerson at February 2, 2004 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

I think you're all dead wrong. First it was claimed that Dean was getting savaged by the press. Everyone seems to forget that Dean had two simultaneous and mostly flattering cover stories in TIME and Newsweek a few months ago. Everything was about how Dean was revolutionizing the modern campaign. Glowing descriptions were written on how he motivated the youth and started a grassrooots movement. Yes there were some "anger"comments, but Bob Dole was also accused of having a temperament problem. I'm thoroughly convinced that Dean got where he did partly through the immense amount of coverage he received.

Kerry in those weeks, by contrast, was characterized as the worst campaigner in recent memory. However, I don't see where he's getting a pass from the media today by any means. I've read a number of articles on how dull he is, how his post-Vietnam actions may hurt him, how he's too liberal, how he won't motivate the voters, how he talks too much, etc...

For the record I prefer Dean greatly over Kerry, but in my view the current frontrunner is getting the most criticism. Except perhaps for Clark, who no one seems to like anymore. And if anyone is getting postive coverage, it seems to be Edwards.

Posted by: Chris K at February 2, 2004 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Ixnay on the ecretsay ilesfay.

Posted by: Matt Davis at February 2, 2004 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

"I don't believe in a liberal media bias, but anyone who thinks that the positive coverage of Kerry is a media plot to throw the election to Bush is truly paranoid."

This was really aimed at me, wasn't it, I mean, you don't actually mention me by name, but this is an attack on me personally.

And I can tell by the writing style, you are the one attacking me over on Atrios

Posted by: bob mcmanus at February 2, 2004 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe there just isn't that much "dirt" to expose.

Kerry's a lifelong politician, has been a Presidential hopeful for at least a decade, and has ran for the Dem nomination before. If there were any major scandals or special interest conflicts, they would've surfaced by now.

His voting record over the last decade confirms his support of liberal and progressive issues, in addition to representing interests of moderates and pragmatists. Yes, he has been absent from time to time, just like most long-term politicians. And like many of his other colleagues, he is absent when he is running for President or dealing with personal issues.

I'm not saying that Kerry is perfect, but I haven't seen any real dirt come up yet. And if Dean had something serious, it would've come out yesterday in the Sunday editions in an attempt to halt Kerry's momentum this week before he sweeps another four, five, or six states.

Dean had to make a stand last week, and he didn't. His rants about Kerry's campaign money were ineffective, because Kerry has fought special interests and government malfeasance since the Reagan Administration. It's hard to say that Kerry stole Dean's message, because Kerry has supported and spoken about education, health care, national security, etc. for two decades.

The media hasn't been that kind to Kerry, either. They declared his campaign DOA, and consistently refer to him as "boring" or as a congressional version of Lurch from the Addam's Family. If the media really controlled this primary, then Dean would be the default winner. Dean, like Gore, is losing his campaign fair-and-square. It's a problem with the candidate, not just the campaign.

Posted by: Tuna at February 2, 2004 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, just look at how well Mickey Kaus treats Kerry. Oh wait... But at least he doesn't represnt CW! Oh wait...

How many more French looking Kerry asidea at NRO are neccesary? I think the news media is upset no one has won yet but still just really aren't interested in fully covering the campaign. There is a new season of Survivior after all!

Posted by: Rob at February 2, 2004 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Hmm... maybe "I think you're all dead wrong" isn't the best way to open. No insult intended, I just found the premise way off.

Posted by: Chris K at February 2, 2004 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

The press will ultimately end up trashing Kerry as they did Gore and Dean. But this time, it may not work. It's hard to trash a war hero because in these times, his Vietnam experience is worth gold politically. He is telegenic (the Abe Lincoln look), and seasoned. And he has a shot at beating Bush largely because of Bush's long list of screwups in the past month or so. Let's hope that list continues to grow.

I'm excited about the race this year because I think Kerry could do it.

Posted by: kimster at February 2, 2004 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Bob M.-- No, not meant as an attack on you personally-- by that time in the thread I didn't even remember that you'd expressed that sentiment.

And I'm not the guy attacking you on Atrios. For what it's worth I think you're a very intelligent and interesting poster and I enjoy reading your stuff here and on other blogs.

But on this issue, you're being paranoid. :) The press isn't trying to throw the election.

Posted by: JakeV at February 2, 2004 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

- Some of the commenters above are dreaming for sure...that the media like Kerry and that means he won't get the rought ride that Dean did. He will - but after he is nominated and the Dems have all their eggs in one basket. He is boring and an uninspired speaker. He projects tired, mainstream platitudes. Dems are desperate and will vote for him but he will probably NOT be vigorous against Bush - his fellow Skull and Crossboner. My disappointment in the Democrats and how easily they have been manipulated is great but I will vote for whoever ends up being nominated...if for no reason to prevent Dean's people from getting tagged with being "spoilers" after Kerry's defeat. You Kerry dreamers need to get real. Better figure out how someone can inject Kerry with a little more fight and a fresh idea or two. Otherwise, we are all going to be singing the blues in November. That is not something that I want no matter how much I can't stand Kerry...

Posted by: Elie at February 2, 2004 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

"But on this issue, you're being paranoid. :) "

I was trying to be funny.

Posted by: bob mcmanus at February 2, 2004 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

There's no perfect candidate out there. Fiery attacks on the incumbent are good for lighting up the blogs but I don't know if they'll play well in the national election. Early results from Iowa and New Hampshire suggest that they may not.

Kerry is a boring speaker? Well Bush, it should be remembered, is a terrible speaker. And Bush is not a particularly popular president. The winning strategy may be to give him enough rope to hang himself with, to stay moderate enough to attract the voters.

I think fervent Democrats will go out and vote for whoever the party nominates. The way to win is to siphon off the votes of as many moderates as possible.

Posted by: JakeV at February 2, 2004 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

When did Kerry run for President before? Is this true? or are people confusing him with Bob Kerrey?

Posted by: Bailey at February 2, 2004 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

The facts show that we Nadarites were and are right about the Democratic candidates:

"Presidential Support" in 2002

* John Edwards..... 76%

* John Kerry..... 72%

* Joe Lieberman..... 77%

* Dennis Kucinich..... 26%

* Dick Gephardt..... 33%

Gee, I guess being liberal means your three-quarters Republican. [sarcasm]But not one hundred percent and that makes all the difference, right?[/sarcasm]

Anybody want to comment about how fucking far to the right the politics of this country have been moved because I have to vomit?

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus at February 2, 2004 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Bob M.
"This was really aimed at me, wasn't it, I mean, you don't actually mention me by name, but this is an attack on me personally.

And I can tell by the writing style, you are the one attacking me over on Atrios."

That was the funniest post I'd read in a long time. I am assuming (possibly mistakenly) that you are making fun of conspiratorialists by writing a truly off-the-wall paranoid post. Hilarious. Hope it was intentional.

Posted by: carsick at February 2, 2004 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

"Hard to trash a war hero..."

No offense, but remember what happened to Max Cleland in Georgia? The triple amputee Vietnam Veteran Democratic congressman whose patriotism was repeatedly slimed, leading to his defeat?

No, unfortunately I don't believe that Kerry's "war hero" status gives him an advantage.

Posted by: Silencia at February 2, 2004 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Accusing Kerry of supporting Bush's agenda, or anything like that, is ridiculous. Kerry's votes have gotten him 95 and 94 percent ratings from the US Public Interest Research Group during the past three years. In 2003, only two senators (Sarbanes and Reed) got higher scores from PIRG than Kerry.

As for the eventual dirt on Kerry, I imagine it'll probably center on past votes - I've read some discussion of Kerry arguing in the past to reduce intelligence funding, which might prove troublesome. That kind of thing will definitely be an issue, but I do think that having "war hero" as part of his public profile will help Kerry somewhat - here's a quote from Ed Gillespie last week:

"John Kerry's record of service in our military is honorable. But his long record in the Senate is one of advocating policies that would weaken our national security."

The fact that the RNC chairman feels that he has to throw in that disclaimer commending Kerry's military service is a positive sign.

Posted by: N V at February 2, 2004 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

Heh, in retrospect the humor of Bob M's post is obvious. I should have known better, given that I've often attempted to be sarcastic on the internet, only to be taken literally, and then had to post a lame disclaimer a la Homer Simpson ("In case you didn't realize, I was being sarcastic").

Curse you, internet!

As far as Max Cleland goes, Georgia is not a good proxy for the nation as a whole. For example, in most states it's okay to use the "evolution" in school textbooks.

Posted by: JakeV at February 2, 2004 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Time magazine is a whorehouse. The Dean and Kerry covers are another crystal-clear exhibit of their propaganda "tones" and "shaping" of CW. Just wait. They're just sharpening their knives in preparation...

Kerry doesn't do much for me, although my Dad has admired him for years. Clark and Edwards have impressed me more.

To my surprise, I'm seriously considering Sharpton for the primary now, just so he has delegates for Boston. His town meeting (in Aiken) on C-SPAN yesterday was some of the best political communicating I've ever seen.

Posted by: Tim B. at February 2, 2004 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

I think the fact that Kerry has gotten an easy ride to this point has 2 basic causes.

1. The media spent 2 months turning their entire apparatus on trashing the current Front-runner, Dr. Dean. They dug up everything from quotes about Iowa to scandals about documents and so forth, and it made for a pretty good story. They got lots of play out of it, and even after Iowa and N.H., Dean was still being the story. His quotes were the most firery and easiest to print, like the one where he accused Kerry of being a Republican. They all haven't gotten onto the Trash kerry movement yet, but when Mr. Bush's $200 million jumps into the fray, I think we can expect a pretty rapid shift.

and 2. John edwards has gotten a ton of good press on his "We stay positive" campaign. Supposedly it worked in Iowa. It's no coincidence that after the attack dogs (Dean and Gephardt) finished third and 4th in Iowa, the next debate everyone acted like they had kid gloves on; no one attacked anyone but Bush there. Kerry's main competitors, Clark and Edwards, are trying to stay positive, and the Media is too busy making Dean look silly to pay much attention to Kerry.

Put those 2 together and Kerry gets a few weeks of a free-ride. Give them a month over at Fox News, when Dean isn't the story any more, and you'll hear the name Dukakis more times than you can count.

Visit my web page, please

Posted by: Balta at February 2, 2004 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

I don't believe in a liberal media bias, but anyone who thinks that the positive coverage of Kerry is a media plot to throw the election to Bush is truly paranoid.

Agreed. It's not a media plot -- at least not mainstream media. The media just transmits what the far right whispers, several weeks later.

Kerry's abrupt rise has taken the rightwing shadow media (e.g. Limbaugh, Drudge, Coulter, Fox) off guard. They only now have just begun to whisper about Kerry, and they'll need some time before they learn which particular gobs of slime stick.

But the transmission will happen -- count on it. Coulter just started. They'll keep piling on lies and slime, and the press corps will start having to report on it because, well, everyone else is.

Posted by: eyelessgame at February 2, 2004 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

I'm willing to give Kerry the benefit of the doubt on the "woodenness" thing. He's been a lot more impressive in the appearances I've seen since he returned to front-runner status than in the appearances last year when he was considered a front-runner (i.e. before Dean took over the mantle). I wonder how much of it had to do with his prostate cancer surgery and treatment back in February. I mean, the guy is 60 years old, and it must have been exhausting doing a full campaign schedule and trying to recover at the same time. Small wonder if he seemed wooden or tired.

I notice with interest the latest Quinnipiac University poll that shows Kerry beating Bush
51-43. I guess the Doofus-in-Chief's teflon coating is beginning to come off.

Posted by: Ted at February 2, 2004 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

The media just transmits what the far right whispers, several weeks later.

Well said. That's how it works. They repeat the slanders of partisans and call it news.

Posted by: Tim B. at February 2, 2004 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

"Dean, like Gore, is losing his campaign fair-and-square. It's a problem with the candidate, not just the campaign."

Anyone who blames Gore should read Franken's book: "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them."

Posted by: Al at February 2, 2004 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

What happened to the comments quality on this site? Howard Roy Neel-loving- 40-million dollar blowing Dean will "change" things and be fiscally prudent?

And Kerry is a Bush bootlicking root of all "establishment" evil do-nothing? (I guess he secretly loved Reagan and BCCI) And the DNC/DLC controls the moon tides? The Washington Press corps also has the power to "destroy" world-saving candidates like Dean because he's bad copy and they secretly love Bush?

Is there some new kind of LSD available that I'm missing out on or what?

Posted by: SarGasm at February 2, 2004 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

When did Kerry run for President before? Is this true? or are people confusing him with Bob Kerrey?

Kerry was ready to enter the 2000 primary race, but the DNC indicated that they would not support anybody but Gore. In exchange for not running, I believe he was put on the "short list" for VP. (Here is a Kerry 2000 button, and here is a 2000 CNN poll where Kerry is the favorite choice for Gore's VP.)

I was mistaken. I thought that he entered the 2000 primary and quickly dropped out because of DNC pressure (and his father's health). I see now that he didn't enter, but it has certainly been on the Kerry road map since he won his 1996 election. (Here is a 1997 Yale article where he does not rule out the possibility of a Pres run.)

Posted by: Tuna at February 2, 2004 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Being a war hero will help Kerry, but he won't be immune to sliming. Just yesterday I heard a rightwing radio pundit call Wesley Clark 'insane.' Now that is crazy.

Posted by: Tripp at February 2, 2004 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone who thinks Gore deserves anything less than a majority of the blame (constant message shifts, poor press handling, horrible debate performances) is a paranoid conspiracist.

Nobody told Dean to make pitiful strategic decisions, annoy (many) voters with his petulant behavior, count on a mythical grassroots revolution and blow all his cash.

Posted by: Deep Background at February 2, 2004 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone who blames Gore should read Franken's book: "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them."

I've read it. Yes, there were extenuating circumstances. But Gore's campaign failed to rise about the noise to deliver his message. Same problem with Dean.

Let's take a look back at Bush in 2000. Despite his rhetoric, he was a miserable governor in Texas. He was AWOL from the national guard. He was a remarkably weak debater. This should've been a slam dunk for Gore, but he just couldn't attack Bush's positions successfully. Gore should've received 60% of the popular vote, not 51%.

Dean is the person responsible for his campaign's shortcomings. His anti-war message isn't resonating like it used to, and he doesn't have much else to rely on to make him the default Dem nominee.

If he wasn't outspoken against the war, he wouldn't be a headline today. If his anger carried over to every aspect of his platform, he wouldn't be a serious contender because rage isn't exactly a presidential quality.

That's a problem with the candidate, not the campaign, not the media.

Posted by: Tuna at February 2, 2004 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

"Anyone who thinks Gore deserves anything less than a majority of the blame (constant message shifts, poor press handling, horrible debate performances) is a paranoid conspiracist."

Well, considering Gore won the damn election, how much blame can you pile on him really?

OK, fine, he ran a awful campaign and let Bush get close enough to makea recount possible, then mismanaged the recount campaign. But he still WON the election proper.

Posted by: Erik at February 2, 2004 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

I've seen this stuff so far:
1. He's a hypocrit on special interest money.
2. He uses Botox and lies about it.
3. He's aloof and too rich to identify with us.
4. His wife is weird and would make a bad first lady.
5. He voted against the first Gulf War and for the second... showing he's an opportunist on foreign policy.
6. He doesn't love the troops because he voted against 87billion for reconstruction.
7. His haircuts cost a lot of money.
8. He's unelectable because he's from North of the Mason-Dixon (despite a 7 pt lead in recent polls over Bush).

I'm tired of typing... but you get the point. If you're into personal attacks... maybe this is too wonkish for you, but the machine is in operation. Soon enough they'll find something with traction. Don't worry, Ed Giillespie, Drudge, Wolf Blitzer, Fox news and the whole gang will go after for blood... and you'll see your little show.

Posted by: Dionysus at February 2, 2004 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

- I think everyone is a little besides the point...its going to be an ugly battle. All the Dems have strengths and weaknesses. I am a Dean supporter but think that his biggest contribution has been to make the debate stronger and a little more focused against Bush. He has definitely made strategic and tactical mistakes and he is paying for them. One of these was hinting that he wanted to change the Dem party which got all of the Dems after him too (even though that needs doing - see Robert Reich's column in the NYT - "Dead Center") Kerry was organized, experienced and ready for the opening that he got from the Dean campaign. His organizational strength and insider experience and knowledge gives him certain advantages against Bush but makes him weaker than Dean in others - there isnt a sense of voting real change with Kerry - no sense of passionate committment to a revitalized vision of America that Dean hinted at but got chopped off before he could finish it. The "vision" thing is important. It was what sunk Bush I and continues to perplex Bush 2. Vision is the music of our oppositiion and whoever the Democratic nominee is - I hope he can sing that tune. Without it, the danger is that we will be quibbling "he said, she said" and disputing each side's command of x facts -, dragging this columinist and that article against this article and that columinist. This has the danger of leaving our not too engaged and totally gullible electorate scratching their heads about who is right and ultimately deciding "who cares? - their both crazy so lets keep the one we have"...We need the music of the vision thing, you see. The Dems need it more than Bush. Without it, we are in tremendous danger of losing this thing....just my opinion...Can Kerry sing? Not from what I've seen so far but maybe he'll need to go up to the mountain of adversity and real self discovery first...

Posted by: Eliana at February 2, 2004 01:27 PM | PERMALINK

Dionysus is right! Rev'rent!

Posted by: dequincey at February 2, 2004 03:27 PM | PERMALINK

Kerry Took Cash From Chinese Military Intelligence.

The free ride is over.

Posted by: MJ at February 2, 2004 03:35 PM | PERMALINK

There was an edition of The Note from last week - possibly after Kerry's NH win (sorry, too lazy to dig it up) - in which the writers had taken an informal poll of the press people covering the various campaings, and found that the reaction among the liberal-leaning subsection was one of relief. These people seemed to believe that Kerry is an excellent GE candidate, wheres Dean is 'unelectable', and welcomed the change in the dynamics of the race, even if it meant relative boredom from now on :) Regardless of the merits of this view, it is entirely possible that this bias has seeped through in their coverage of the race - not necessarily in an intentional, concerted manner, but simply because personal bias is ultimately impossible to reign in. And of course, this is only one possible factor interacting with the many already mentioned above (Dean's long period of prominence, his (campaign and supporters') severe lack of expertise in handling the press, etc.) I do believe that the media has a disturbing amount of influence in shaping the public perception of issues and candidates, though I have no clue as to what, if anything, can be done about this. Ideally, I would have liked for everyone to receive the same degree of scrutiny - Bush, Dean, Kerry, or whoever - and for that scrutiny to be high on intelligence and low on hysterics and innuendo. Unfortunately, that's impossible. Again, I have no idea if there is any solution short of simply tuning out.

Posted by: mara at February 2, 2004 03:56 PM | PERMALINK

I think Kerry is doing some singing. What I hear from him sounds mature and strong, positions articulated with conviction. I certainly sense that he is outraged like many of us at the reprehensible irresponsibility, deceit, and hightailing it from accountability that so characterizes Bush and his administration. The blogs are not yet the populace, and millions in the red zone may be experiencing a more than slight discomfort with the profligate Bushie zealots. They're looking for a moderate. War hero, establishment Kerry fits the bill. Eye on the prize. A Kucinich, a Clark, even a Dean will be far more likely to find a voice and have influence in a Kerry administration. Would they, do they, in the current government? I would encourage my fellow partisans to be pragmatic this time around, think long term. Clinton was not perfect, you could even say he was a corporate dog, but he opened up national discussion on many issues that Repugs have no time for, and he even reestablished fiscal prudence as a governing principle to take seriously. To get the house in order the first order of business is to throw the liars and the thieves out.

Posted by: citizen at February 2, 2004 03:57 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure there's much red meat in that NewsMax article.

First, this is an attempt to tie Kerry into the larger scandal connecting the larger Loral Corp. controversy, Johnny Cheung, and Bill Clinton.

Kerry's involvement is minimal. At worst, he arranged a meeting between Liu, Cheung, and an SEC official in order to get Liu's China Aerospace Corporation listed on the NYSE. They got their meeting, but I don't think that CAC was ever listed on the exchange. (The CAC is now under the umbrella of the CASC, and it isn't listed on the NYSE, either.)

I'm not sure how Newsmax is tying Kerry to Loral Corp., though. That's one helluva stretch, and I can't imagine that this will have any lasting impact on this election season. IIRC, the Cox report tied some of the intelligence leaks to the Department of Energy, and members of the previous Bush and Reagan administrations. This isn't a subject that conservatives really want to bring to the forefront anytime soon.

Furthermore, I thought that the Cox report indicated that China's increased ICBM capability was attritubed more to the fall of the Soviet Union than leaked US secrets. (I could be wrong, though. That was a while back.)

Posted by: Tuna at February 2, 2004 04:10 PM | PERMALINK

It's worth noting that a generic democrat has been doing better than specific Democratic candidates in most recent polls.

If Kerry is the closest thing to a generic democrat in the race, he may well be the most palatable GE candidate.

Posted by: JakeV at February 2, 2004 04:26 PM | PERMALINK

Just ask yourselves why the press, the proven lapdogs of the current administration, are being nice to Kerry and nasty to Dean. Whose interest do you think this serves?


Posted by: Mary Kay at February 2, 2004 04:41 PM | PERMALINK

The press have been nice to Kerry and nasty to Dean?

That might be accurate statement for the month of January, but not for the two months prior. Kerry's obituary had been written, Clark was the clear anti-Dean candidate, and Dean was definitely receiving positive press. That has obviously changed, the Kerry is just enjoying a brief media honeymoon like Dean already has. And like Dean, Kerry will get hammered by the press in the next couple weeks.

But I could play Devil's Advocate, and say that the media is just an extension of the public's short attention span. Face it, the public pushback against Dean was inevitable. That's public life. But the media backlash was compounded by an even deeper problem with the campaign, that Dean's core support seemed to be much weaker outside of the internet echo chamber than reported.

Compounded with a misguided national campaign, and you have a recipe for disaster. I believe it was Donna Brazille who said "Joe Trippi leaves huge messes behind for other people to fix." Dean has a very porous infrastructure, and I'm sure that we'll get the details about the inner workings of his campaign shakeup. The media may not be the only people to blame here.

Posted by: Tuna at February 2, 2004 05:20 PM | PERMALINK

the machine is in operation. Soon enough they'll find something with traction. Don't worry, Ed Giillespie, Drudge, Wolf Blitzer, Fox news and the whole gang will go after for blood... and you'll see your little show.

Well you're right, and as much as I'd really just love to stay above the fray. I think that we should put on our own "little show". In fact, that's already starting to happen. Deserter George is already starting to get a little traction. Let's not forget Plame, the defecit or the current WMD whitewash either. The guy has been in office for over 3 years now, and he has a record. Democrats are aided by the fact that it's not a very good one.

Posted by: Another Bruce at February 2, 2004 06:55 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, deserter George, 500Billion$ deficit, and potentially explosive "independent" commission reports postponed till after the election etc. etc. When does this stuff start to matter? When does credibility start to matter?

Posted by: citizen at February 2, 2004 08:21 PM | PERMALINK

I think it is interesting that John Kerry is a member of the Bilderberg Group (This is a group of 115-120 of the most powerful men and women on Earth. Eight are supposedly from Western Europe and the remainder from North America. One third are from government and politics, and the remaining two thirds from industry, finance, education, and communications. They are chosen based on their knowledge, standing, and experience. They meet in secret four days every year). Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are also members.

Posted by: kaytay at February 2, 2004 09:10 PM | PERMALINK

If the election is decided by media spin the Democrats will lose. The media is on the other side. We have to run over the media or around them, but we can't try to give them what they want, because what they want is Bush.

In realworld terms, all remaining candidates are better than Bush, and Bush has many weak spots. We can't run defensively. Letting the press and the RNC pick our candidate for us would be a mistake, even if we DO succeed in guessing what they're really thinking.

If it were possible, I'd be campaigning for Generic Democrat starting today. I really don't care that much which of the four is chosen. All this squabbling energy is taken from the general election, and the longer it goes on and the more damage the candidates do each other the less we'll have to throw against Bush. Bush's campaign is already going full speed ahead right now.

Posted by: zizka / John Emerson at February 2, 2004 09:22 PM | PERMALINK

Media treating a presidential candidate with kid gloves????? Where were you in 2000?? When did the media EVER give W any degree of scrutiny at all?

Posted by: RRF at February 3, 2004 08:47 AM | PERMALINK

Mara (see above) is right, but she doesn't go far enough. It's a script, you see. As in: "Tall, handsome veteran Senator John Kerry has the national security background and mainstream electability credentials to pull together the various wings of the Democratic party and give President Bush a good run in an election year where national security is paramount" It's a script.

These people not only report the news:THEY WANT TO SHAPE IT. They certainly did it with Al Gore. As Mara says, Kerry is much more acceptable in their eyes than Dean, who not only was prickly with the press, but had thousands of angry supporters who filled their email boxes with angry screeds every time they tried to do a number on Dean. Well, they certainly showed Dean and his people who was boss, now didn't they?

They might give Kerry a pass all the way against Bush. Hell, Bush has treated the press with the same tactics that he does protesters at his speeches: herded into harmless free-speech zones where no one sees or hears them. Type A personalities with egos as big as an ocean don't take kindly to being humilated and marginalized. Bush and his crowd treat them with (well-deserved, I must say) contempt.

To me, it's no mystery. Kerry is their guy. He'll get some slapping around later, if he fades or needs to taken down, but for now, they are setting up the contest they want to see...

Posted by: The Observer at February 3, 2004 09:30 AM | PERMALINK

Today's results might well stun the Kerry campaign, and probably result in an anyone-but-Kerry twist starting tomorrow. Johnny Weasel Words Kerry can only stall so long: the questions on his pretzel principles will increase, and answers will have to be given. Comparisons between his vagueness and the bluntness of Dean and Edwards will become commonplace, and slowly whittle away his teflons.

Posted by: Glenn at February 3, 2004 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Dear Kevin: You're so hip! As I noted on my own BOPnews site: It's about TIME... and Newsweek. Picking up the TIME celebration of the presidential Kerry, the first thing you notice is that the proud old mag is a flimsy wraith. It delivers very little advertising and not much copy, either. But the presumption and skill in sending a signal from corporate America are still astonishing. The wise Richard Reeves, in our "Blogging of the President" broadcast on January 25, noted that John F. Kennedy, famously the TV candidate, believed that the kingmaker among all the media powers in 1960 was TIME's Henry Luce, the inventor and publicist of the "American Century" notion. I remember also my own obsessive argument (in The Atlantic Monthly in 1977--look it up) that TIME was a main player in the Rockefeller Republican alliance that launched Jimmy Carter (and his mostly Trilateral Commission staff) on the Democrats in 1976. TIME had actually featured the folksy countenance and views of Jimmy Carter in the magazine's own house ads through 1975. And then in 1992, TIME and Newsweek openly conspired in the promotion of the moderate, already-triangulated Bill Clinton for the Democratic nomination. In the Columbia Journalism Review in 1992, I quoted Howell Raines, then of the New York Times Washington Bureau, on the journalistic "midwifery," especially at the news magazines, that brought Bill Clinton into national politics.

So there is nothing remotely new in the machinations of the mags. Henry Luce would be proud that his heirs had so master the modern art of the "meme," a word that Luce never knew but would have been happy to invent.

But what is it the mags are signalling? And what do they love about Kerry? Ever and always, I observe, they are committed to (1) anti-populism: distracting people from the dollars-and-cents of politics and the venerable definition of the game as "who gets what." And (2) neo-imperialism, in the corporate American style, with as much military muscle as is needed to enforce it. The most attractive thing about Senator Kerry, from that standpoint, must be that he hasn't retreated from his vote authorizing the bombardment of Iraq. We all know by now that it was in every way a botched war, but it was the sort of mistake, from the TIME perspective, that we might have to make again, and again, and again. In any event, as Henry Kissinger insisted about Vietnam, let us have no "remination." The other important signal of the same mentality was Tom Friedman's abandonment last Sunday of all the "faith-based" rationales for a hopeless cause in Iraq. He, too, is declining to withdraw any of his old endorsements of the war; he just doesn't want to talk about them anymore. And he's thrilled to have "budgets of mass destruction" to rail against, instead of those missing WMDs. Caveat lector!

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