TUESDAY, MAY 11, 2004
ANNALS OF THE UPLIFTING: On Friday, well offer a full report on the following uplifting item. But HOWLER readers deserve to know that this is a special day indeed; its the day when In America goes on sale in the nations video stores. Ann Hornaday announced the event in Sundays Post, trying to make amends for the way she omitted the film from last years Ten Best list. She also went out on a critical limb, praising Emma Bolgers amazing performance over that of her sister, Sarah Bolger.
Last Saturday, we enjoyed an Evening with Jim Sheridan as part of the Maryland Film Festival (incomparably, we walked to the transplendent session, held just three blocks from our own sprawling campus). On Friday, well review this film once again. In our view, In America put certain things on the screen that will never be put there again. We dont know how it will play on TV. But today, you can start to find out.
THEY SURF DURING ADS (PART 1): On May 2, the lead editorial in the New York Times took dead aim at a TV ad. President Bushs newest commercial seem[s] particularly cynical, the Times said. It shows weapons disappearing from Iraq while actors in uniform watch in dismay, and an announcer accuses Mr. Kerry of trying to kill these very programs. We dont even live in a battleground state, but we have seen this commercial repeatedly. Its part of the biggest ad buy in political historyan ad campaign which the slumbering press corps has made little effort to assess.
Why did the Times think this ad was so cynical? Early on in their piece, the editors offered an overview:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL: [T]he Republicans have accused Mr. Kerry of trying to kill the very weapons that are essential to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. At best, these charges are rather sloppy interpretations of complicated votes on military budgets. At worst, they are flat wrong. All are sad examples of the sort of election-year gimmickry that makes it hard for members of Congress to vote responsibly on military spending, lest they be denounced as opponents of a strong national defense.As the editorial continued, the claims about this election-year gimmickry got more specific. The most glaring flaw in the Bush-Cheney assault is that the bulk of the votes for which Mr. Kerry is being castigated were cast in the early and mid-1990s, when there was a bipartisan consensus in Washington for slashing the huge Reagan-era military budgets to reflect the post-Soviet world, the Times said. [Vice President] Cheney actually got the ball rolling by pushing through the biggest military spending cuts in a generation as defense secretary for the first President Bush. Indeed, how cynical is that Bush-Cheney ad? According to the Times, some of the weapon systems which disappear from the screen are systems which Cheney opposed, just like Kerry! In 1990, Mr. Cheneys first budget canceled, among other things, production of the M-1 tank and the Bradley fighting vehicle, and made big cuts in the F-18 fighter, the Times said. But these are some of the very same systems which disappear in that Bush-Cheney ad! The commercial calls Kerrys defense record troubling because he opposed these weapons systems. But according to the Times editorial, Vice President CheneyBushs right-hand manopposed these systems too!
Holy cow! Its not hard to see why the Times would call such a TV ad cynical. If this editorial gives a fair account of the facts, the Bush-Cheney team is trashing Kerry for doing what Cheney did too! Surely, the nations newspapers have leaped into action, examining the contents of this commercial. After all, never before has so much dough been spent on ads in a White House race. Surely, the nations scribes have also set records in the space they devote to these ads.
But alas! We cant quite say if this editorial is fair, because the nations press is asleep at the switch as the TV ad wars unfold. On the news side, the New York Times has made little attempt to assess the ad which the editors slammed. Indeed, when Times reporters have attempted to discuss the ads which now fill our screens, they have produced such hopeless work that we almost wished they would go back to their deathless reports about Botox, peanut butter and ski trips.
Yes, the national press is snoring again as these ads drive the national discourse. At the Times, they talk about who makes Kerrys sandwiches. Theyre quite intrigued by his snowboarding comments. But clearly, your press corps surfs during ads. All week, well review the lazy way theyve pretended to check out these ads.
TOMORROW: How fair is that ad?
SPINNING, THE GLOBE: How kooky will the Boston Globe be in its ongoing coverage of Kerry? Last Thursday, Michael Kranish topped even himself with a report about Kerrys 33-year-old (alleged) conduct. On Wednesday, the FBI had released thousands of pages of documents detailing how the agency monitored the activities of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and occasionally took note of the speeches of one of its leaders, John F. Kerry, Kranish explained. Then he revealed what hed found in the files. First, though, the scribe noted this:
KRANISH (pgh 2): Much of the information in the documents is secondhand hearsay, such as a report on a comment Kerry reportedly made June 14, 1971.Uh-oh! Much of the information was secondhand hearsayincluding the part Kranish rushed into print. Given the way the FBI worked in the period under review, this is a way of stating the obviousKranish doesnt have any idea if the information involved here is actually accurate. But so what! This is the Boston Globe, where more prejudicial than probative is a watchword, not a warning. Having said that the information was basically worthless, Kranish quickly typed a tidbit about how Kerry just luuvved Ho Chi Minh:
KRANISH (3): The report quotes a source as saying Kerry told an audience at a Philadelphia YMCA that Ho Chi Minh, the North Vietnamese communist leader, was the George Washington of Vietnam. Ho studied the United States Constitution and wants to install the same provisions into the Government of Vietnam.According to a campaign spokesman, Kerry actually said that the Vietnamese people believed that Ho was their George Washington. But could the Globe get any more clueless? The issue involved here is 33 years old, and is, therefore, grindingly irrelevant. Meanwhile, the paper doesnt have the slightest idea if its second-hand hearsay is actually true. So what did the Boston Globe do? Easy! They found the weirdest item they couldand they rushed it straight into print. In Boston, the paper is known as the Globe. But it works likes its run by flat-earthers.
But then, its almost impossible to comprehend how bad this newspapers judgment really is. Over the weekend, we purchased the Globes new biography of Kerry, and we could barely believe the comical preface penned by the papers editor, Martin Baron. Trust usits truly worth the price of the book just to read these ten oddball pages. Tim Noah discussed the preface a few weeks ago, but failed to do it full justice (understandably). Well wait a few days before we try. We do want to get this one right.