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THE SHAPE OF CAMPAIGN 04 (PART 4)! At Time, the Gore-ing of Kerry begins. Just gaze on the soul of the press corps:

FRIDAY, MAY 7, 2004

GABLER GETS IT RIGHT: Forget what we said last Tuesday—Neil Gabler got it right about those “liberal” newspapers (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/4/04). On last Saturday’s Fox News Watch, Jim Pinkerton correctly said that the Boston Globe and the New York Times had been beating on Kerry. “This isn’t Rush Limbaugh doing it,” he said. This amplified Cal Thomas’ earlier comment that Kerry was getting beaten up by “left-wing” publications. (“It really is amazing,” he said.) But Gabler did challenge the claim that the Times and the Globe are “liberal” papers, although the official transcript omits part of what he said:

PINKERTON: Let’s go back to people pounding on Kerry. It’s the Boston Globe. It’s the New York Times. These are—this isn’t Rush Limbaugh doing it.

GABLER: Let’s assume that the Boston Globe and the New York Times are liberal newspapers, which is a conservative—

THOMAS: Oh please.

PINKERTON: They did endorse Gore in 2000 and they will endorse Kerry in this race.

GABLER: The editorial page and the political reporting are two different things completely.

Gabler never got to finish his point. But in his first comment, we think he said it was “a conservative myth” to call the Globe and the Times liberal papers. The official transcript omits part of his remark (darn that crosstalk). But the gist of his point seems clear.

No, the Times are the Globe aren’t “liberal papers” to judge by the way they trashed Gore during Campaign 2000. This time, they’ve been bangin’ on Kerry but good, as all five News Watchers agreed.

The shape of Campaign 04 (part 4)

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Read each part of this week’s thrilling series about the coverage of Campaign 04:

PART 1: Even on Fox, five pundits agreed—the press has been hammering Kerry. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/4/04.

PART 2: Kerry’s accuser remembered it wrong. But so what? The Globe didn’t tell you. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/5/04.

PART 3: The Globe trashed Gore during Campaign 2K. Will Kerry be next? See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/6/04.

And now, for our thrilling conclusion:

PART 4—THE GORE-ING OF KERRY: At Time, the Gore-ing of Kerry has started. To understand how bad it gets in Karen Tumulty’s current report, let’s recall a pointless event from Kerry’s March vacation.

On March 18, the first day of his Idaho respite, Kerry hit the slopes of a local mountain. On the second snowboarding run, the schussing solon was knocked to the ground by a Secret Service agent. Writing wryly in ABC’s The Note, Ed O’Keefe said what happened next:

O’KEEFE: The slope-cade of two Ski Patrollers, several Secret Service agents, two journalists, one camera and one Kerry aide suddenly came to a halt. The Massachusetts Senator lay on the ground, removed his Smith sunglasses, and surveyed the damage.

Assured that the ABC News camera accompanying the entourage had not captured Kerry’s fall, the Senator glared at your sloping Noter and assured, “I don’t fall down. That son of a bitch ran into me.”

Later, the Kerry camp said Kerry was joking when he made this troubling remark. But corrupted elements in your society want you to focus on such total trivia. On March 21, the Boston Globe’s Patrick Healy explained what some “operatives” did:
HEALY: When John F. Kerry cursed about a Secret Service agent who had collided with him Thursday on a snowboarding run, Republican strategists rejoiced: The senator might be on vacation, but he was not taking a break from making gaffes they could use to embarrass him…

Bush campaign officials expressed confidence in recent days that they are successfully sullying Kerry’s image and defining him in voters’ minds as a flip-flopper who says whatever he thinks voters want to hear. Republican operatives even circulated to reporters and party members news of Kerry’s jab at his Secret Service escort—which Kerry aides say the senator made in jest. “It’s perfect material showing that Kerry will say anything, and can’t control what he says,” one Republican strategist said.

As with Gore, so with Kerry. To state the obvious, none of these “Republican operatives” were present to see what occurred. They didn’t have any way to judge the tone of Kerry’s comment. Nor did these strategists actually think that this incident schools us about Kerry’s character. But they do think the nation is full of rubes, and they hope to distract us all from thinking about things that matter.

Result? These “operatives” passed the word to reporters, and the usual suspects rushed into action, pretending they were deeply concerned over Kerry’s deeply troubling conduct. How dumb do they want your lives to be? Here was Kathleen Parker in the Chicago Tribune (and a host of other papers). Just imagine—they publish this crap!

PARKER: When Sen. John F. Kerry fell—or was toppled by a Secret Service agent—from his perch on a snowboard recently, the would-be president clarified events with rare grace:

“I don’t fall down,” he said. “That son-of-a-bitch ran into me.” Or “knocked me over,” depending on which version you read.

Spoken like a true 7-year-old. Any parent will recognize the template: Little boy falls down, then jumps to his feet and declares for the benefit of anyone who will indulge his fractured ego: “I meant to do that.”

Sometimes the little tyke will run over to his mother if she’s nearby and hit her for good measure. Smart mommies understand that the lad can’t bear the humiliation and has to blame his one true love, the one who is supposed to protect him from both mortal and psychic pain.

Parker, of course, is a consummate idiot. The Washington Times’ Tony Blankley isn’t, but he was willing to play the role in service to what operatives sent him:
BLANKLEY: [W]hat may become the enduring exemplar of the Kerry style was his spontaneous expletive on the ski slopes when his Secret Service guard bumped into him by accident (while guarding him): “I don’t fall down. The S.O.B. knocked me over.” To instinctively say that about the man who is sworn to put himself between Mr. Kerry and a bullet, paints a lasting and contemptible character portrait. Contrast that with what Ronald Reagan said shortly after he was shot: “Honey, I forgot to duck.”
Human life just can’t get dumber. But this is what those “Republican operatives” want your lives to be about. For two years during Campaign 2000, they generated mindless complaints about Gore. Now they’re out “sullying” Kerry.

And the Gore-ing of Kerry has started at Time, thanks to Karen Tumulty. In a stunningly disingenuous report, Tumulty pretends to be amazed at the way these incidents have started to plague the Dem hopeful. Of course, reporters always pretend they don’t know how these spin campaigns happen. Karen plays dumb with the best:

TUMULTY (pgh 1): Never had John Kerry encountered a more target-rich environment than the week that saw the Bush White House hauled in to explain itself to both the Supreme Court and the 9/11 commission, not to mention the first anniversary of the aircraft-carrier landing that turned “mission accomplished” into a punch line. But what did the challenger find himself talking about for three days? The question of what, precisely, he tossed over a fence in front of the Capitol during an antiwar protest 33 years ago. The point of contention was whether the much decorated Vietnam veteran who still carries shrapnel in his thigh threw away medals, as he told a local Washington television station in 1971, or ribbons, which is how he subsequently described them to nearly everyone else. Political hands of both parties expressed wonderment over how it was that any politician could find himself on the defensive about his own medals for valor and sacrifice.
But of course, Tumulty understands full well how Kerry “could find himself on the defensive”—how he “found himself talking about” that trivial, 33-year-old comment. Kerry “found himself on the defensive” because Republican operatives had passed these topics to scribes, and those scribes had agreed to flog them. As the press corps showed in its War Against Gore, any pol can “find himself on the defensive” if the press corps, as a group, is willing to run with invented, foolish tales. But the press corps always feigns total ignorance, pretending they don’t know how this works. How do pols like Gore or Kerry “find themselves talking about” these topics? Reporters like Tumulty know full well. And they know that they mustn’t explain it.

Why did Gore, during Campaign 2000, “find himself talking” about inane topics? Because the RNC kept “circulating” the topics, and the press corps kept bringing them up. So too with Kerry in the past few months, as Healy’s dispatch nicely explains. And so with Tumulty’s phony report—which brings that pointless snowboard spill back in the view of the voters.

Yes, there it is in Tumulty’s piece—that stupid event which “Republican operatives” began to “circulate to reporters,” hoping to “sully Kerry’s image.” How does Tumulty use the event? Her report includes three “Reality Checks”—illustrated items, reviewing instances in which Kerry has allegedly misspoken. Try to believe—just try to believe—that this is one of the troubling examples Tumulty highlights for readers. Try to believe that you live in a world where you’re asked to be troubled by this:


Kerry complained that a Secret Service agent caused his spill while snowboarding in Idaho in March, griping, “I don’t fall. That son of a bitch ran into me.”
Reality Check

Kerry went on to fall several more times that day, without any help from his bodyguards.

Amazing, isn’t it? Tumulty adapts this pointless event, turning it into a troubling example of Kerry’s failure to tell the truth! Kerry said, “I don’t fall down”—but he fell several more times! Try to believe that you live in a world where something so completely inane is now part of your White House campaign. This reads like a “Goofus and Gallant tale”—from Highlights magazine for children. (Of course, Tumulty makes this event a twofer, since she includes the salty language “Republican operatives” originally loved.)

Why does Kerry “find himself talking” about all manner of pointless arcana? Easy! “Republican operatives” circulate pure, total crap—and people like Tumulty run fast to type it. We know Karen a bit—she’s a charming person—and we also know that she’s perfectly bright. So why would Tumulty and Time even dream of putting such consummate garbage in print? We don’t know, but we do know this: At Time, the Gore-ing of Kerry now seems to have started. That made a joke out of Campaign 2000. It seems that’s their plan once again.

NO, REALLY: Out of a lengthy public career, Time picked three Kerry comments to highlight. And one was a comment—likely a joke—he made when he fell down on the slopes. Could you ever have dreamed—could you ever have dreamed—that you would live in a world so inane? Osama wants to kill your children. And this is what Tumulty hands you.

TUMULTY TAILORS: According to Healy, “Republican operatives” want to “defin[e] Kerry in voters’ minds as a flip-flopper who says whatever he thinks voters want to hear.” And it’s really a funny coincidence; Tumulty happens to see the same problem in Kerry, claiming that he “gives plenty of ammunition to those who…charge that he tailors the cut of what he says to meet the tastes of the audience and the moment.” But who is actually tailoring facts? Tumulty is, throughout her piece! “Kerry has something of a gift for the toxic sound bite,” she says. But get out of the tailor shears, people! Incredibly, here’s one of her examples:

TUMULTY: [A]sked yet again recently on Meet the Press just whom he meant when he said he has heard from world leaders that Bush has to go, Kerry lamely offered, “You can go to New York City, and you can be in a restaurant, and you can meet a foreign leader.”
Boy, was that answer lame! But that isn’t the question Kerry addressed when he made the quoted statement. Here is the exchange which includes the quoted statement by Kerry. In fact, when he made the quoted statement, Kerry was correcting a claim about where he had met those foreign leaders:
RUSSERT: The Washington Times [wrote] this: “Although Mr. Kerry indicated that he had met in person with foreign leaders who privately endorsed him, he has made no official trips abroad in the past two years. Within the United States, he has had the chance to meet with only one foreign leader since the beginning of last year, according to a review of his travel schedule.”

Specifically, which foreign leaders have you met with who told you that you should beat George Bush?

KERRY: Tim, first of all, that is an inaccurate assessment of how I might or where I might be able to meet or talk to a foreign leader, number one.

RUSSERT: But you have talked to foreign leaders who told you—

KERRY: Tim, what I said is true. I mean, you can go to New York City and you can be in a restaurant and you can meet a foreign leader. There are plenty of places to meet people without traveling abroad. Number two, I’m under no obligation—I would be stupid if I were to sit here and start saying, “Well, so-and-so told me this,” because they have dealings with this administration. This administration doesn’t talk about its private conversations, and nor will I.

Both parts of Kerry’s statement made perfect sense. The part of the statement which Tumulty quoted was neither “lame” nor evasive. But Republican operatives have a script, and Tumulty “tailored the cut of what she said” to show us Kerry’s supposed gift for “toxic sound bites.” In her next sentence, she called this statement by Kerry a “gaffe.” As anyone except a Republican operative can see, his statement was perfectly sensible.

During Campaign 2000, we saw how it works. They focused on trivia, rearranged facts, and spun the public until we were blue. And oh yes—they recited the scripts of “Republican operatives.” This week, Tumulty starts it again. We hope that Time pays extra-good.

AND NOW FOR HER GRANDE FINALE: How fake, how repulsive are the people who make such a joke of your discourse? In the following passage, Tumulty plays it very dumb about the past Gore-ing of Gore:

TUMULTY: [A]ppearances have a way of taking root as reality in the voter’s mind. Just ask Al Gore, who was never able to live down his hair-splitting “no controlling legal authority” performance during the Clinton Administration campaign-finance scandals, or his boast that the novel Love Story had been based on him. Gore even took heat for claiming to have invented the Internet, although what he was actually talking about was having pushed the Defense Department to create the precursor to it. Small miscues that other politicians might have laughed off stuck to Gore like chewing gum on his shoe.
Once again, Tumulty plays it dumb. She fails to explain what she plainly knows: That “small miscues” (often totally fake) “stuck to Gore like chewing gum” because her colleagues flogged them for two solid years. But how fake is this passage on Gore? Forget Tumulty’s silly account of invented the Internet. Let’s focus on Love Story—on Gore’s apparently troubling “boast” that the novel “had been based on him.”

Tumulty’s construction brilliantly shows the soul of our modern press corps. Back in 1997, only two reporters were present to hear Gore’s fleeting remark about Love Story. And Karen Tumulty was one of the two; indeed, it was an innocuous sentence from her seven-page profile of Gore in 12/97 which led to the iconic Love Story flap. Today, she talks about Gore’s troubling “boast.” But back in September 2000, Tumulty said what she really thought about the endless Love Story clowning. She spoke in a public forum at American University. Her remarks were broadcast on C-SPAN:

TUMULTY (9/7/00): I am the reporter to whom Al Gore claimed that Love Story was based on him and Tipper…I was sort of appalled to see the way it played in the media. I mean, it was an offhand comment made during a two-and-a-half hour conversation that was mostly about other things and it was a comment that was, you know, true in most respects. I mean, he was a model, Erich Segal said, for the preppy character in Love Story, and it had been reported in Tennessee newspapers that it was modeled on both of them. But all of that got lost in, again, this kind of snowball—I think that there was probably something there worth gigging him about, but the degree to which it became a symbol of the man’s integrity I thought was very unfair. And I say that as the person to whom he made the comment and who wrote it.
“True in most respects” was a bit unfair; in fact, neither Tumulty for anyone else ever identified any inaccuracy in Gore’s “offhand comment.” Tumulty did say, in this statement, that “there was probably something worth gigging [Gore] about,” although she didn’t try to explain what that was. But back in September 2000, Tumulty said the Love Story flap had been “very unfair”—that she was “sort of appalled” by the press corps’ conduct. On this occasion, she stated the obvious. The flap was largely a press corps invention—and the press had been “very unfair.”

But that was then, and this is now. This week, she’s back to playing it dumb. This week, Tumulty fails to explain why this foolish flap “stuck to Gore like gum”—just as she fails to explain why Kerry now “finds himself talking” about 33-year-old trivia. The Gore-ing of Kerry is now underway—and Time doesn’t plan to explain it.

But remember the point, and emit those dark chuckles. In this article, Karen Tumulty tells the world that something is troubling about John Kerry’s character! You have to watch what Kerry says, she types—even as she offers trivia and rearranges the things Kerry said. Haven’t we seen this play once before? Tumulty mangles the things Kerry says—then tells you that Kerry’s dishonest!

Your children’s futures are turned into jokes when people like this take control of your discourse. They did this to Candidate Gore for two years. This week, Time starts Gore-ing Kerry.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: For an overview of the Love Story nonsense, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/25/00. Don’t you think Karen T was right when she said she was “sort of appalled?”

NEXT WEEK: A look at the New York Times’ coverage