MAYBE WERE BEING TOO SENSITIVE! Cheney laughed in the voters faces. But the press—and Kerrys camp—didnt care:
FRIDAY, AUGUST 13, 2004
MAYBE WERE BEING TOO SENSITIVE: Astonishing! Here is the start of Peter Wallstens report in todays Los Angeles Times. Is your White House campaign being made a Big Joke? Or are we just being too sensitive?
WALLSTEIN (8/13/04): Republicans on Thursday leveled some of their most aggressive attacks yet against Sen. John F. Kerry...Astonishing! The enemy of democracy was Oregons Gordon Smith. Here is Wallstens fuller account of this pathetic mans demagoguery:
WALLSTEN: Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) accused Kerry of advocating socialism within the United States and appeasement overseas.Astonishing—that empty, thigh-rubbing men like Smith would make such a joke of your democracy. Wallsten wanted voters to know how kooky and crackpot the campaign has become. But other scribes, at our greatest newspapers, slumber and snore as the clowning continues. Indeed, as thigh-rubbing men like Smith pimp and clown, they have our magnificent press corps to help them. At Fox, they tell you that Bush is stretching (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/12/04). At the Post and the Times, they keep still.
How deeply does your press corps doze? In mid-week, they typed a comical range of accounts of something Kerry supposedly said (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/12/04). Today, they slumber and snore their way through accounts of Cheneys attack on sensitivity.
Clearly, the topic is serious. Heres the headline that appears over Dan Balzs story in todays Post:
GOP Assails Kerry's Call for Sensitive War; Bush, Cheney Remarks Escalate Conflict With Democrats Over Combating Terrorism
Wow! And Wilgoren is on the case for the Times. Heres how her story gets started:
WILGOREN (8/13/04): In a day of dual attacks highlighting the twin fronts in the presidential campaign, Senator John Kerry likened President Bushs stewardship on the economy to Herbert Hoover's, while Vice President Dick Cheney poked fun at Mr. Kerry's promise to fight a ''more sensitive war on terror.Holy cow! Has Kerry promised to fight a more sensitive war on terror? More specifically, has he said that terrorists should be treated more sensitively? Plainly, thats what Cheney said. After quoting more of the stupid mans clowning, Wilgoren reported some rebuttal:
WILGOREN: Though Mr. Kerry shrugged off Mr. Cheney's criticism, his campaign called the comments disingenuous, saying Mr. Cheney had taken Mr. Kerry's remark out of context.According to Wilgoren, the Kerry campaign said that Cheney had taken Kerrys remark out of context. Sensible readers settled back, expecting to learn what that meant. But Wilgoren never explained what the Kerry camp meant—and she never quoted what Kerry originally said! What exactly did Kerry say about the need for a sensitive war? Today, the New York Times omits his disputed comment—the troubling comment which produced this big flap. But then, the Post omits Kerrys comment as well. Indeed, its almost impossible, in todays papers, to learn what Kerry actually said. What remark was Cheney savaging? What had Kerry actually said? Slumbering, bumbling, burbling and snoring, your national press corps forgot to tell you. They repeated all of Cheneys attacks. But attacks against what? They dont tell!
So let us supply that bit of context to which the Kerry spokesman referred. Kerry spoke last Thursday to a convention of journalists. His new campaign book has three parts, he said. Then, he made the troubling remark which Cheney flogged. To help thigh-rubbing clowns like Smith, we translate the remarks from the French:
KERRY (8/6/04): The first part [of the campaign book] focuses on security. I will fight this war on terror with the lessons I learned in war. I defended this country as a young man, and I will defend it as president of the United States. I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history. I lay out a strategy to strengthen our military, to build and lead strong alliances and reform our intelligence system. I set out a path to win the peace in Iraq and to get the terrorists wherever they may be before they get us.Granted, theres almost no way to help a candidate who says proactive instead of aggressive. But what was the context of Kerrys comment? He was talking about fighting the war on terror, strengthening the military and getting the terrorists wherever they may be—and its obvious that he was talking about being more sensitive to our allies/potential allies, not to our terrorist enemies. Lets say it—Cheney was lying to the rubes once again! And the press corps? They napped, snored and slumbered.
Its become the way these people do business. Today, its impossible to learn what Kerry said—although you get to hear Cheneys inventive attacks. Your Washington press corps is empty, inert—and the Bush campaign laughs in their faces. How much contempt can the Bush campaign show before the press corps shows self-respect? Wallsten bristled when Gordon Smith mocked them. But Balz and Wilgoren are deeply asleep. American voters dont have a chance in the hands of their Stepford-like cohort.
WILGORENS FULL CONTEXT: Here is Wilgorens full attempt to place Cheneys attacks in some sort of context:
WILGOREN: Though Mr. Kerry shrugged off Mr. Cheney's criticism, his campaign called the comments disingenuous, saying Mr. Cheney had taken Mr. Kerry's remark out of context. Kerry aides also pointed out that Mr. Bush used similar words to discuss the war in March when he said, ''We must be sensitive about expressing our power and influence.'' Later, at a rally in Republican-leaning southwest Oregon, Mr. Kerry offered a dig at Mr. Cheney, who had draft deferments, and Mr. Bush, who was in the National Guard. After his standard line, ''I defended our country as a young man,'' Mr. Kerry added, ''when others chose not to.Readers arent shown Kerrys original remark—the remark this whole report is about. Instead, they get a pointless jab about draft deferments. This is the way your press corps thinks. Where on earth—where?—do they find them?
WHERES THE REBUTTAL: For the record, Balz included several rebuttals from Kerrys camp—statements that were basically pointless and irrelevant. For example, Wesley Clark tells Balz that Cheneys remarks are the lowest form of politics. But why are Cheneys remarks so low? To judge from what Balz includes, Clark didnt tell him. Clark and General Merrill McPeake accuse Cheney of gutter politics. But why was Cheneys attack in the gutter? The generals arent quoted saying. There is, of course, no way to know what comments are being omitted by scribes. And yes—reporters should have presented Kerrys original statement, no matter what the campaign may have said. But we cant help noting the worthless rebuttals that often seem to come from the Kerry campaign. You cant do much for a White House hopeful who says proactive instead of aggressive. And you cant do much when a campaign name-calls without providing substance, as Wesley Clark may well have done.
INDEED: If you want to see the shape of the problem, go to the Rapid Response section of Kerrys site. With regard to Cheneys comments, the Rapid Responses do a lot of name-calling, but they make little attempt to say why Cheneys attack was misleading. In particular, look at the letter from Clark and McPeake; the generals accuse Cheney of gutter politics, but never say what was actually wrong with his misleading presentation. This is truly awful campaigning—deeply awful, to the point of embarrassment. Yes, reporters should have shown what Kerry actually said. But this campaigns message work is deeply inept. How about a Relevant Response? Yesterday, such responses were notably Missing In Action.
THE LIST GROWS: Its hard to make this press corps mad. How silly has Bush-Cheney clowning become? A look at four recent shticks:
BLITZER, NONE TOO SWIFT: Do John ONeills charges against Kerry make sense? One of his claims has been borne out—Kerry was wrong when he said, in the past, that he spent Christmas Eve 1968 inside Cambodia. But how about the more basic charges—the claim that Kerry didnt deserve the medals he received in Vietnam? Confusing claims are being made about a series of decades-old incidents. As this discussion continues, lets hope these claims dont get sorted out in the manner of Wednesdays Wolf Blitzer.
Blitzer spoke with ONeill and with Admiral William Crowe, a Kerry supporter. But consider what happened when Crowe objected to one of ONeills basic charges. Did Kerry behave heroically in pulling Jim Rassmann from the Mekong Delta—the incident for which he received the Bronze Star? ONeill made his standard presentation. He said that Kerry didnt deserve the award—that he fled from the scene in his Swift Boat:
ONEILL (8/11/04): In the scene you just showed, for example, Kerry's ad showed all of the boats fleeing and then Kerry coming back. But all of the boats didn't flee, Wolf—they couldn't. The 3 boat had been blown up, it had no screws left. Everybody went to save the 3 boat and Kerry fled.This is ONeills standard account. Here is a somewhat more detailed presentation, from Tuesdays Hannity & Colmes:
ONEILL (8/10/04): Rassmann and Kerry have taken the position that Kerry came under fire. All the boats came under fire. They all left, and then Kerry came back and saved Rassmann. That is a bold-faced lie.This is ONeills standard account of the Bronze Star incident. Kerry fled, then finally returned when the gunfire ended. He didnt deserve the Bronze Star. In fact, he behaved like a coward.
But does this story really make sense? Its a bit hard to see how Rassmann could have stayed in the water long enough for this story to work. If Kerry actually fled the scene, why was Rassmann still in the water when the frightened skipper finally came back? Why hadnt somebody else picked him up? For the record, Rassmann and all of Kerrys crew deny ONeills account of this incident. ONeill, of course, wasnt present that day. Hes relying on the statements of others.
CROWE (8/11/04): Because of the limits of time, I'd like to speak to the fleeing business. There were other boats there. Mr. O'Neill, who I do not know—we enjoy one thing together. Neither one of us ever saw any of these incidents, neither one of us had ever met Kerry, and the bulk of these 257 people [who have signed ONeills complaint] were not on the scene.Huh! If Kerry fled the scene, why did no one report him? CNN viewers leaned forward, expectant. But Blitzer, their host, broke their hearts:
BLITZER: All right. I'm going to let John O'Neill respond. But I want to take a quick commercial break, because we have much more to discuss. A very sensitive subject indeed. We'll hear more from John O'Neill and retired Admiral William Crowe in just a moment!Dag! Blitzer had to take a quick break! But guess what happened after that? When he returned, in a hapless manner, Blitzer tossed in a distraction:
BLITZER: Welcome back. Let's continue our debate on John Kerry's record as a decorated Vietnam War veteran...Hopeless! McCain doesnt know about this event. Blitzers interjection was totally pointless (and quite prejudicial). But ONeill went ahead and responded, all right! In effect, he responded to Blitzers new, pointless question, by citing other men who werent there:
O'NEILL (continuing directly): More than 22 POWs have backed our efforts. More than 60 people who won the Purple Heart in Vietnam signed our letter. And 254 people in our unit, including 17 of the 23 officers that served with Kerry have signed the letter. There's only one that backs Kerry out of 23.Pathetic—and yes, that is what he said. To state the obvious, none of this has a thing to do with the question Crowe originally asked. And as you will see if you read the transcript, Blitzer never returned to that question. For screaming incompetence of this type, men like Blitzer are paid seven figures. Your public discourse is a sad joke. Wolf Blitzer—none too swift—was eager to prove it again.
ONEILL HOLDS HS FIRE: Whatever the accuracy of ONeills accounts, he provides occasional comic relief. Go ahead and enjoy a good laugh at this moment from Hannity & Colmes:
COLMES (8/10/04): Heres what [Jim Rassmann] says today in The Wall Street Journal. He says your attacks are more vicious, your lies cut deep, directed not just at John Kerry, but at me and each of his crewmates as well. This hate-filled ad—the ad your group put out—asserts that I was not under fire; it questions my words and Navy records. This smear campaign has been launched by people without decency, people who dont understand the bond of those who serve in combat.No one's attacked Jim Rassmann, ONeill says. But then, a mere two sentences later, he says Rassmann is telling a bold-faced lie. We emitted dark chuckles at that riposte—but in a way, it made good sense. According to ONeill, Rassmann wasnt under fire back then—and even when called a bold-faced liar, hes not under fire today.