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CHENEY CONQUERS THE RUBES! Cheney lied in the voters’ faces. Your “press corps” knows not to tell you:

SEQUEL ONE—$87 BILLION REDUX: “All of this should have been done a year ago,” this morning’s Times editorial says. The editorial is called “The Iraq Reconstruction Fiasco,” and it discusses that $18.4 billion in reconstruction money which Congress voted last October. The money was part of the famous $87 billion to “fund the troops”—the bill which Kerry voted against, a vote for which he is now routinely trashed. The editorial notes that Bush Admin has failed to put that $18 billion to work:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL: Of the $18.4 billion Congress approved last fall, only about $600 million has actually been paid out. Billions more have been designated for giant projects still in the planning stage. Part of the blame rests with the Pentagon's planning failures and the occupation authority's reluctance to consult qualified Iraqis. Instead, the administration brought in American defense contractors who had little clue about what was most urgently needed or how to handle the unfamiliar and highly insecure climate.
Gee! Any chance that Kerry (and others) may have been right when they said they wanted a more detailed plan before giving Bush this “blank check?” The editorial fails to raise this point, but that’s the way your press corps works. Kerry should have voted like Biden—it has become a Hard-and-Fast Press Script, typed wherever press typing is sold. Any chance that Kerry and others were correct in their doubts about this bill in the first place? But even in an editorial that calls the Admin’s performance a “fiasco,” this obvious question goes unasked. “Things have gone so obviously wrong with America's approach to rebuilding Iraq that even the Bush administration is now willing to listen to some informed advice,” the Times says. But the editorial omits a salient fact—informed advice was offered last fall. Wouldn’t it help if major news orgs occasionally help voters remember?

SEQUEL TWO—CHENEY CONQUERS THE RUBES: American voters just don’t have a chance, given the way their “press corps” functions. As a sequel to last week’s discussion, consider Dick Cheney’s Friday appearance in East Grand Forks, Minnesota. Cheney—vice president of the United States—took questions from voters in this crucial swing state. Here’s one question, from a voter who’s about to be played for a fool:

QUESTION (8/6/04): Hi. I live here in East Grand Forks. I serve a Lutheran church on the north side, River Heights Lutheran. I have 12 children, seven of whom are 18 and older, and they'll all vote for you.


So you ought to take Minnesota, anyway.


I have a question specifically about these young folks. I have lots of college kids. And for some strange reason, college students tend to veer toward the left. And I've always thought the Republican Party had a real vision for the future because they believe in freedom and opportunity. Can you tell me if you could talk to every college student in America and tell him or her how the Bush-Cheney ticket differs from the Kerry-Edwards ticket, what single thing would you point to encourage our young people to vote for you and the Republican Party this fall?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! But oh yeah—what would Cheney say to young people? The answer to that turned out to be easy! If we assume that he’s reasonably competent, Cheney would lie in their faces:
CHENEY (conclusion of answer): You talked about freedom and opportunity, and that I think goes to the heart of it. And I think if I look at the views of George Bush, the way he operated as governor of Texas, the way he's operated since he became president, I contrast that with John Kerry, I just think there are basic, fundamental differences of opinion about how this society ought to operate. I'm trying to think how to be a statesman in terms of my comments here. I think there are just an awful lot more—I'm much more comfortable with the values and the ideas and the concepts that I find in the middle of the country than I am in what I find in Massachusetts, if I can put in those terms.


John Kerry is, by National Journal ratings, the most liberal member of the United States Senate. Ted Kennedy is the more conservative of the two senators from Massachusetts.


It's true. All you got to do is go look at the ratings systems. And that captures a lot, I think, in terms of somebody's philosophy. And it's not based on one vote, or one year, it's based on 20 years of service in the United States Senate. Perfectly legitimate view of the world, if that's the way he wants to view it. It's just that if I were to lay down my voting record, the ten years I was in the House, versus his, there’s not a lot of overlap.


But let me thank you all again for being here today.


That was the end of Cheney’s appearance. All the voters applauded the veep. Cheney had praised the president’s values. And then he had lied in their faces.

What had Cheney told these voters? He told them that Kerry is the most liberal member of the Senate. That’s based on National Journal ratings, he said. And it isn’t based on just one year—it’s based on twenty years of service! But Kerry isn’t the most liberal senator, as the Journal made expressly clear in March, when other people—people like Cheney—began using their data to mislead the voters. As we noted last week, Journal rankings show that ten current senators have more liberal lifetime records than Kerry. And yes, Ted Kennedy is one of the ten. Every claim that Cheney made was blatantly, baldly untrue.

But of one thing you can be quite certain; your snoring, somnolent, well-perfumed press corps won’t say a word about Cheney’s misstatements. After all, Cheney was voiced the RNC’s number-one current spin, and your “press corps” would rather eat live worms in hell than go on the air and report the fact that this spin-point is fake, phony, bogus. Cheney lied in the voters’ faces, not even trying to be technically accurate. But will you ever see his statement corrected? Will you ever see this ubiquitous spin-point clarified? Yes, you will. You’ll see the press do this on the same day the Detroit Lions change their name to the Lambs.

Cheney knows a simple fact—the “press corps” allows him to lie to the voters. In Minnesota, laughing voters applauded the values of the great man who had lied in their faces. Of course, they didn’t know that he had lied, and they didn’t know for a very good reason. They didn’t know it because cowering fops like Jim Lehrer and Ted Koppel have no current plan to tell them. Neither does that old bulldog, Tim Russert. The breezes are fragrant on Nantucket in August. Why should Tim stir up a fuss?

CONVINCING THE RUBES: The day after Cheney’s appearance, Stephen Lee of the Grand Forks Herald told local voters what he had said:

LEE (8/7/04): He said he likes President Bush's values. "I'm much more comfortable with the values, the ideas and the concepts I find in the middle of the country than in Massachusetts," he said, spurring applause.

Pausing for the second time to choose his words carefully to "remain statesmanlike," he pointed out Kerry's image as a liberal, citing the National Journal's ranking him as the most liberal Senator.

"Ted Kennedy is the more conservative of the two senators from Massachusetts," Cheney said with faux wonder, eliciting more cheers along with jeers for Democrats.

Thanks to Lee, voters didn’t have to be physically present to get misinformed by the veep.

WHAT WOULD A JOURNALIST DO: Let’s state the obvious. If there were even one journalist in your TV press corps, you’d have this seen this broadcast by now:

IMAGINARY TV JOURNALIST: On Friday, Dick Cheney repeated a familiar set of charges against John Kerry. The vice president was speaking to voters in Minnesota, an important swing state. But the vice president’s statements, however familiar, were also plainly inaccurate...
Tape of Cheney’s statement would follow, along with the bone-simple facts we presented last week. A Republican spokesman would be asked to comment. If your country had even one real news org, you would have seen this broadcast by now. But your “press corps” has long since walked off its posts. Today, when you turn on your cable TV, you’re subjected to outings like this one:

CHENEY’S WILLING SURROGATE: When Cheney can’t be physically present to misstate the facts, major “journalists” repeat his claims for him. We showed you examples all last week. But for another grisly case, here’s Judy Woodruff, chatting with George McGovern during the Democratic convention:

WOODRUFF (7/28/04): Senator, when you ran for president, you mentioned 32 years ago, the Republicans were criticizing you and the party of being too liberal. They’re still accusing the Democratic Party of being too liberal. Are they going to be able to get away with that argument this year?

MCGOVERN: I don't think so. John Kerry is a moderate liberal. He's not way out in either right field or left field.

WOODRUFF: Well, they say he's got the most liberal record in the U.S. Senate.

MCGOVERN: That's not too bad. I think if I were in this present Senate I would want to be the most liberal member of the Senate. I happen to think that liberalism is the tradition that has been responsible for most of the forward gains in this country.

Like all Democratic spokesmen, McGovern didn’t seem to have the facts. But let’s state the obvious—Woodruff does understand the facts, which have been perfectly clear since mid-March. She knows that Kerry doesn’t have “the most liberal record in the U.S. Senate.” But so what? Instead of airing a report in which she told viewers that, she repeated Cheney’s talking-point for him. Readers, it’s good to be Judy Woodruff. Why should Woodruff spoil the fun by telling the voters some facts?

IN DEFENSE OF DEM SPOKESMEN: Last week, we criticized DNC spokesmen for failing to refute the bogus charge that Kerry is the “number one liberal in the Senate.” An e-mailer made a good point:

E-MAIL: This is to respond to your August 6 column regarding Kerry's liberal ranking among his peers.

In hearing Democratic pundits on the tube, it is clear to me that Democratic strategists do not want in any way to associate the word “liberal” with Kerry. If a person like Tucker Carlson claims that Kerry is the number one liberal in the Senate and if a pundit states that the National Journal shows him ranked 40th (as an example), the first words out of Carlson would be, “SO YOU ADMIT KERRY IS A LIBERAL.” Now the Republican machine would not have to squirt out the ranking, only that Kerry admits he’s a Massachusetts liberal. Personally, I have never heard Kerry mention the word “liberal” to describe himself. I have heard him say that he is a conservative.

What I have noted above is the only explanation I can think of why the likes of Brazile and McMahon refuse to question the liberal ranking issue.

As a general matter, this e-mailer makes a very good point. For strategic reasons, campaigns often decide it’s better politics to avoid responding to certain charges. They’ll take the hit on a certain point, then respond with a counter-attack. Consider Campaign 2000, for example. Over the years, many readers have asked why Gore never explained that he didn’t say he invented the Internet. But the Bush campaign would have jumped for joy if Gore had spent his time on that matter. Such a response would only have extended the discussion—a discussion Gore could never have gained from. After all, such discussions always end up in the hands of the press, who can present them any way that they please. (Note: The DNC should have commissioned surrogates to shoot down the endless Gore Slanders.)

The e-mailer makes a good general point. But his point plainly doesn’t explain Janeane Garofalo’s performance with Sean Hannity; Garofalo tried to refute Hannity’s charge, but said she couldn’t remember the facts about Kerry’s record. And Brazile and McMahon hardly tried to deny that Kerry is a liberal (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/6/04). Meanwhile, the DNC should be hammering networks like CNN, whose anchors and reporters keep repeating (and failing to clarify) this utterly bogus RNC claim. Have they done so? We’d be amazed. The org performed woefully during Campaign 2000. We’d guess that they sleep soundly still.

WHY RASPBERRY SLEPT: Who is the Washington press corps? This morning, William Raspberry helps us see in a barely coherent Post column. Was the Bush Admin “playing with us again” in their recent terror warnings? Raspberry explains why he prefers not to imagine such things:

RASPBERRY: My normal tendency is to avoid such second-guessing, on the assumption that my government (1) is well-intentioned and (2) knows more than I do. That predisposition has been harder to maintain since it has become clear that my government exaggerated the evidence on which it justified America's unilateral attack on Iraq. Sometimes, it now seems obvious, the government knows less than it tells you it knows. And sometimes its intentions are less than saintly.
It now seems obvious? Put aside the limited question of last weekend’s terror warning. In this passage, Raspberry says he “tends to assume” that “my government is well-intentioned.” And he suggests that he only began to realize that “sometimes...the government knows less than it tells you it knows” as a result of events last year.

So let’s review the way the press corps was acting in the run-up to war in Iraq. Over at the New York Times, Elisabeth Bumiller was simply too “frightened” to ask the president any tough questions (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/25/04). Meanwhile, at the Washington Post, Raspberry still assumed that “his government” was generally well-intentioned.

It’s odd that your pundits think this way, and it’s even odder that they’re willing to say so out loud. Of course, Raspberry was a perfect mark in the run-up to war in Iraq. When Colin Powell spoke to the UN on February 3, 2003, the scribe told his readers that, if Colin says it, it must be so. “It was a spectacular performance,” Raspberry wrote on 2/11/03, “and by the time Colin Powell was finished, I was a complete convert.” And yes, the gentleman even said this: “I had my doubts as to how much active production of weapons of mass destruction was happening in Iraq. Powell's display removed those doubts.” And this: “Our ability to know what is going on in Iraq’s secretive society is nothing short of stunning.” Yes, this is the way it worked at the top of America’s “press corps.”

But now we know why Raspberry slept. Even last year, he still didn’t know that his government sometimes has mixed or ignoble intentions. Go ahead and chortle darkly as you read his latest admission.

POST SCRIPT: Two weeks after that woeful performance, Raspberry was reporting a change of heart. Here’s the start of his 2/24/03 column:

RASPBERRY (2/24/03): This is hard. So soon after very nearly swooning over Colin Powell's report to the United Nations Security Council, I find myself thinking the once unthinkable: I don't believe him.

It's not that I think the secretary of state—the one member of the president's inner circle I thought we could count on to be straight with us on Iraq—is lying. But I'm starting to think that his interpretation of facts and circumstances assumes so many things and ignores so many others that it comes to the same thing.

Whence my change of heart? For one thing, I’ve had time to digest that tour de force performance of earlier this month...

“This is hard,” Raspberry confessed, continuing to gush over Powell.

Of course, The Razz was hardly alone. At the Post, a wide range of major pundits rushed to judgment about Powell’s tour de force performance. At the time, we said the Post should be embarrassed by the way its pundits were behaving. The embarrassment ought to be spreading today. Don’t worry, though—ain’t gonna happen.