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WATCHING SPIN GROW! NewsHour viewers are grossly misled. And Cheney entertains on the trail:

WATCHING SPIN GROW: Spin makes our White House elections a joke—but major news orgs refuse to confront it. Consider the citizen discussion about John Kerry’s speech which appeared on Friday’s NewsHour.

Eight voters in California watched the Thursday speech. Then they discussed it with a NewsHour correspondent. One of the eight was a Republican woman named Lu Ryden. Here was her first comment:

RYDEN: I think he gave the speech that they wanted to hear, and that was no negativity and say all these nice things. But when you say all these nice things, you have to follow them up. I keep thinking of him as the number one liberal in Congress and I think of him as being on the Intelligence Committee and he knew all the information Bush knew and he did nothing about it.
For the record, Kerry isn’t on the Intelligence Committee, although he was in the past. But why does Ryden “keep thinking of Kerry as the number one liberal in Congress?” She keeps thinking that because her party—playing her for a fool—keeps repeating the bogus point to her (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/29/04). And make no mistake—Ryden really does think of Kerry this way. Minutes later, as a matter of fact, there she went again:
RYDEN: That’s what gets me, that he’s taking the center of the road—for the convention. But before that, as you know, he’s number one liberal and so is Edwards, number four liberal. They’re saying, Let’s rap this convention up and look centrist.
“As you know,” Ryden said, Edwards is the number four liberal. But Edwards isn’t the fourth most liberal senator—that statement by Ryden was bogus too—although no one in the eight-member group ever challenged or corrected her statements.

Ryden has been misled by her party. She’s only reciting the things she’s been told. But here’s the problem for our democracy. It isn’t just Ryden was has been misled—so have all the NewsHour’s viewers, who saw her make her bogus statements twice, without correction or comment. And this is a perfect microcosm of the way the press corps has responded to endless Bush campaign spin. Helpless, frightened, pitiful giants, news orgs like the mighty NewsHour have sat on their hands as the spins have gone forward. No one corrected Ryden last night. And few news orgs have ever attempted to address this ubiquitous but bogus RNC claim—that Kerry and Edwards are the first and fourth most liberal members of the Senate.

American voters are being misled when they hear Lu Ryden rattle her spin-point. But very few news orgs have ever bothered presenting voters with the full information on this subject. Last night, Jim Lehrer—high-minded as always—asked Mark Shields a high-minded question. “Does it look to you, Mark, as if this has the prospect of being a serious election, in other words, about things that truly matter?” The answer to that question, of course; is “no;” almost surely, this election will be driven by silly, misleading spin-points. And that will occur because men like Lehrer are lazy, indifferent. They’re too lazy, unconcerned, too insouciant to force things to be any different.

SMILE-A-WHILE—FUNDING THE TROOPS: Yesterday, Dick Cheney was out on the trail treating the voters like consummate rubes. In today’s Times, David Kirkpatrick reports some of the fun from a stop in Yakima, Washington:

KIRKPATRICK: Mr. Cheney also criticized Mr. Edwards, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, with the Republicans' favorite attack on Mr. Kerry, for first voting for the war in Iraq and later voting against one of the bills to finance it. He said only four senators voted for the war and against that financing bill, and both members of the Democratic ticket were among them. ''Funding American troops in combat should never be a complicated matter,'' Mr. Cheney said.
Think how much fun the VP provided in that comical quote to the voters! “Funding American troops in combat should never be a complicated matter?” We chuckled softly as we recalled that lead from the great New York Times (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/30/04):
FIRESTONE (10/22/03): The White House threatened Tuesday to veto its own spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan if Congress made reconstruction aid a loan, taking its most forceful stand on the issue even as more lawmakers supported a reimbursement by Iraq.
Somehow, funding the troops was complicated enough so that Bush threatened to veto his very own bill—the very same bill to which Cheney referred. But the rubes in Yakima don’t know that, and lazy men—lazy men like Jim Lehrer—are far too high-minded to tell them.