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THE PRESS CORPS STILL LOVES THOSE ACCUSERS (PART 2)! John O’Neill lied in George’s face. He knew George was weak and unprepared: // link //

MUST-READ WP: Did Kerry try to “gut intelligence” in 1995? Bush said so back in March, and today we get another look at how cosmically phony that claim really was. In today’s Post, Dana Milbank reports that Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL) also proposed a cut in intelligence services that year—a cut that was massively larger than Kerry’s. But is Bush disturbed by Goss’s bad judgment? Hardly! Goss is now the president’s choice to head the CIA!

Did Kerry try to “gut” intelligence? Was his proposal “deeply irresponsible?” Bush’s claims were patently phony—but few “reporters” or pundits dared to say so when he made his phony claims and began running TV ads on this topic. Indeed, when pious pundits go on TV and say that ads from independent groups must come down, don’t forget a basic fact—Bush’s ads have been the most misleading of the campaign season, by far. Kerry tried to gut intelligence! Kerry voted against every weapon system! Kerry voted for higher taxes 350 times! All these claims made clowning assaults on America’s public discourse, and $100 million was put into play to spread the claims throughout the land. But pundits ran and hid behind desks, too frightened to take these claims on. These claims have run on TV, again and again. Few pundits have dared to critique them.

By the way, how permissive is the press corps when it comes to phony, stretched claims? In today’s report, Milbank continues to say that Kerry “proposed a five-year, $1.5 billion cut in the intelligence budget [in 1995], about 1 percent of the overall intelligence budget.” The Post first reported this dollar figure in March; the New York Times used this figure too (links below). But over the course of the past few months, the Bush campaign has used a much larger number (a number which is commonly given without any context). This morning, Milbank cites a claim from their ads:

MILBANK: The Bush reelection campaign has been blasting Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry as deeply irresponsible for proposing intelligence cuts [in 1995]. A Bush campaign ad released on Aug. 13 carried a headline: "John Kerry...proposed slashing Intelligence Budget 6 Billion Dollars.”
The Post seems to believe that the “6 billion dollars” figure is wrong—but even today, in Milbank’s piece, the two dollar figures co-exist without comment. The Post seems to think that this Bush claim is wrong—but Milbank doesn’t try to explain why the Bush ad says one thing and the Post says another. And needless to say, we have seen no other news org make any effort to address this topic. Daring pundits are good at scolding “independents.” When it comes to Bush and Cheney, they’re suddenly too scared to speak.

By the way, Milbank hears America dissembling. Well, actually, he hears Bush and Cheney dissembling. In another important piece today, he records the gross hyperbole they employ when they tell the public what Kerry has said. Question: Why is this buried in a “White House Notebook” feature? Why isn’t this presented as a news story? Are editors at the Post too scared to let Dana Milbank be himself?

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Did John Kerry try to “gut intelligence?” Pincus and Milbank discussed this clowning claim back in March. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/22/04. Scroll down to the segment called “Trained Seelye.” To see Richard Stevenson discuss this same claim by Bush, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/19/04. Scroll to “The Real McCoy.”

Our current series: The press corps still loves those accusers (part 2)!

NOT ROOD TO ACCUSERS: What a great “get” for George Stephanopoulos! He was going to interview John O’Neill in the Swift Boat Vet’s only Sunday appearance. And holy cow! As he started the show with what he called the day’s “headlines,” George described a major story in that day’s Chicago Tribune:

STEPHANOPOULOS (8/22/04): Last night Senator Kerry called on President Bush to have the courage to stand up and stop the attacks on his Vietnam record. And he got some help from an editor at the Chicago Tribune. William Rood was commanding the swift boat next to John Kerry on the day Kerry earned his Silver Star. In a front page essay in today's Tribune he breaks a 35-year silence on the incident. “It’s gotten harder and harder for those of us who were there to listen to accounts we know to be untrue,” he writes “especially when they come from people who were not there.”
Especially from people who were not there! On the front page of one of our biggest newspapers, Rood aimed a missile straight at O’Neill! Indeed, Rood specifically said that O’Neill’s account of the Silver Star incident has been full of prime Grade A bunk. What happened when Kerry charged ashore and killed a man with a rocket-launcher, saving the lives of the rest of his crew? Here’s part of Rood’s first-person account—one of the day’s major “headlines,” George said:
ROOD (8/22/04): John O'Neill, author of a highly critical account of Kerry's Vietnam service, describes the man Kerry chased [and killed] as a “teenager” in a “loincloth.” I have no idea how old the gunner Kerry chased that day was, but both [petty officer Jerry] Leeds and I recall that he was a grown man, dressed in the kind of garb the VC usually wore.

The man Kerry chased was not the “lone” attacker at that site, as O'Neill suggests. There were others who fled. There was also firing from the tree line well behind the spider holes and at one point, from the opposite riverbank as well. It was not the work of just one attacker.

Ouch! According to Rood, O’Neill was little more than a loud old crank telling false tales at the end of the bar. Meanwhile, Rood’s essay didn’t just dominate the Tribune’s front page. It was reprinted on page one of the Los Angeles Times and on page one of the Boston Globe too. It was the subject of a major New York Times front-page story, and the Associated Press had sent out a report. To all appearances, Stephanopoulos had gotten quite lucky. He had an exclusive with John O’Neill—on the very day O’Neill was being attacked in four of the nation’s biggest newspapers!

So what did O’Neill have to say about Rood? How did he defend his familiar claims against Rood’s contradictory first-person account? Incredibly, we can’t answer that for you. (Nor can we link you to a transcript; incredibly, ABC doesn’t make them available.) Incredibly, Stephanopoulos didn’t ask a single question about Rood’s story when he sat with O’Neill! He asked O’Neill to discuss Kerry’s Purple Hearts. He asked him about Kerry’s Bronze Star award. But he never asked a single question about the biting take-down by Rood! O’Neill’s account of the Silver Star had been directly attacked that day—and politely, George avoided the topic! But then, your Washington “press corps” loves those accusers, as George helped us see on this day.

Elsewhere, on another show, one Swift Vet did get a grilling. On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace seemed to have an old-fashioned view; he seemed to think that accusers should be challenged about their statements—that accusers should be challenged, just like the accused! He hosted Swift Boat Vet Van Odell, who insists that Kerry didn’t deserve his Bronze Star award (for the incident in which he saved Jim Rassmann’s life). “Mr. Odell, I want to start by asking you about contradictions in what some leaders of your group have been saying,” Wallace began. And then, he actively challenged things the Swift Vets have said, asking Odell to explain their contradictions. Odell is a capable witness, and he insists that Kerry wasn’t under enemy fire when he pulled Rassmann out of the drink. But Wallace forced Odell to admit that he has no documentary evidence supporting this claim. Incredibly, he seemed to think it was his job to challenge accusers too.

With Stephanopoulos, things were quite different. Where Wallace seemed to say “Prove what you’ve said,” Stephanopoulos was the perfect host. “Tell us again—how bad was John Kerry?” he seemed to say to O’Neill. And O’Neill was very much up to the task. He began reciting his standard tales to his weak, passive, uninformed host. What follows is just one gruesome example as O’Neill recites his standard fake tale about Kerry’s rescue of Rassmann:

O’NEILL (8/22/04): Now let’s move to the question of was there enemy fire when he finally returned? Here’s what we have. We have ten different people, every other officer on the scene that day, all of whom, four of them, who say there was no enemy fire after the original mine. We have six enlisted men—

JOHN PODESTA: [pointless, ineffective interruption]

O'NEILL: Just a second, just a second. I can understand why you don't want to talk about it. This is a creek that is 75 yards wide. There, they were there for an hour and a half trying to save this boat—not John Kerry, but the other guys who were there, an hour a half. There's not a bullet hole anywhere. No one was wounded by any bullets. What they claim is they take the Bronze Star citations from that day, and...they make a reference to fire, so they rely on that.

Go ahead and enjoy a good laugh as O’Neill complains that Kerry’s defenders “rely on” official Navy records! But what is factually wrong with his short account? First, the Swift Boat Vets do not have “every other officer on the scene that day, four of them.” There were five boats on the river that day—Kerry’s boat and four others. But one of the four other skippers, Dan Droz, died in Vietnam in 1969. (Everyone knows this—except Stephanopoulos.) His boat was right behind Kerry’s that day; over the weekend, two crewmen from that boat came forward to say that there was hostile fire when Kerry pulled Rassmann from the drink. And O’Neill was lying again, as he seems to like doing, when he said “there’s not a bullet hole anywhere.” Everyone knows to praise the Washington Post’s reporting of this event—and everyone knows to ignore what it says. Here’s part of Michael Dobbs’ report about that day’s events:
DOBBS (8/22/04): A report on “battle damage” to Thurlow’s boat mentions “three 30 cal bullet holes about super structure.” According to Thurlow, at least one of the bullet holes was the result of action the previous day, when he ran into another Vietcong ambush.
Last Friday, we mentioned this problem with O’Neill’s account. His dissembling about this point has been clear for some time. But so what! On Sunday morning, O’Neill seemed to know he could keep on peddling this pap. He must have sensed what turned out to be true—that Stephanopoulos was weak and afraid, and that he was grossly unprepared.

But then, life is good if you’re an accuser. Did Bill Rood say that O’Neill was all wet? So what? Stephanopoulos ignored what Rood said, and O’Neill kept lying, right in his face. Yes, life is good if you’re an accuser, as O’Neill has made clear now for weeks.

TOMORROW: Part 3! O’Neill’s accounts are full of big holes. But your “press corps” has no plan to tell you.

BOB DOLE, DRAFT-EVADER: On Sunday, we got another taste of The Things The Press Corps Agrees To Ignore. Two weeks ago, America’s pundits looked away when Dick Cheney engaged in the world’s greatest faking (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/19/04—and see Milbank’s “White House Notebook” today). But on Sunday, there was Bob Dole, on CNN’s Late Edition. As he slimed his good friend Kerry, Dole faked big-time too:

DOLE (8/22/04): He’s, you know, a good guy, good friend. I respect his record. But three Purple Hearts and never bled that I know of. I mean, they're all superficial wounds. Three Purple Hearts and you're out.
Readers, if you want to see a pol slime a guy he keeps calling his “friend,” read this spectacular effort by Dole. But one thing’s certain—plainly, Dole was deeply disturbed by Kerry’s undeserved Purple Hearts. Even though Kerry’s a very good friend, Dole returned to the topic moments later:
DOLE (8/22/04): What I will always quarrel about are the Purple Hearts. I mean, the first one, whether he ought to have a Purple Heart—he got two in one day, I think. [Totally wrong—and uncontradicted. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/23/04.] And he was out of there in less than four months, because three Purple Hearts and you're out. And as far as I know, he's never spent one day in the hospital. I don't think he draws any disability pay. He doesn't have any disability.
Clearly, Dole was upset by Kerry’s superficial wounds. Dole “will always quarrel about Kerry’s Purple Hearts,” he said. Why, he doesn’t even draw disability!

Readers, how fake was Dole this day? With thanks to Josh Marshall, here’s how Dole described his own Purple Heart, from World War II, in his 1988 autobiography:

DOLE (1988): As we approached the enemy, there was a brief exchange of gunfire. I took a grenade in hand, pulled the pin, and tossed it in the direction of the farmhouse. It wasn't a very good pitch (remember, I was used to catching passes, not throwing them). In the darkness, the grenade must have struck a tree and bounced off. It exploded nearby, sending a sliver of metal into my leg—the sort of injury the Army patched up with Mercurochrome and a Purple Heart.
Laughable, isn’t it? As Dole explained when he was being more honest, his own Purple Heart was the result of a superficial wound—a superficial wound that was self-inflicted! It takes a special kind of man to say what Dole said to Blitzer on Sunday—and it takes a non-existent press corps to look the other way when he does. (Chris Matthews discussed Dole’s Purple Heart on Hardball last night. Everyone else knew to duck it.)

By the way, how many people know that Dole evaded the draft during World War II? It’s not that the press corps will ever discuss it. But in his widely-acclaimed 1992 book, What It Takes, Richard Ben Cramer described the way Dole chose the good life at college over the army—even after Pearl Harbor:

CRAMER (page 97): Bob Dole didn’t want to go to war. He was doing what he wanted, at KU, in the Kappa Sig house, doing what he never had time to do before: fooling around.
That’s the start of Cramer’s chapter 5. It was the fall of 1941, and Dole was a fresh-faced freshman at Kansas. Cramer picks up a bit later:
CRAMER (pages 97-98): Before he left in December, Dole was elected vice president of Kappa Sigma. In his first term! But with all the new things he was trying that year, something had to slip: his grade point slid below the gentleman’s C, and he couldn’t make initiation. He was still a pledge in December, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and Bob Dole’s bright new world started to change.
But that “bright new world” didn’t change very fast. Despite the start of World War II, Dole tried to hang on in Lawrence:
CRAMER (page 98): He hung on at KU as long as he could. Heck, people said the war might be over before they got to him. He ran track that year, finished the school year and started another. He played another season of football, then basketball, and more than a year after Pearl Harbor, Bob Dole was still at school. But it got to be obvious that every man was going. Pretty soon his draft board would turn up his number—they were already coming for [his brother] Kenny, back in Russell—so Bob looked to his chances, and signed up for the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps. That way, he’d at least get to finish the term.
So there you see it, A Tale of Two Veterans. Dole, of course, is a famous war hero—for trying to stay out of World War II! By contrast, Kerry is a big sleazy goat—although he volunteered for Nam! And don’t worry. None of the pundits will ever tell you that Dole tried to sit out the famous “good” war. And no one will tell you how fake he was when he sat there making a fool out of Blitzer. Blitzer is paid to be played for a fool, and the rest of them know that certain things can’t be said. Last week, they let Cheney get away with the world’s biggest faking. This week, the pass goes to Dole.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: In the 1996 New Hampshire primary, Dole ran the most dishonest TV ad campaign in political history. And how did Time’s Joe Klein react? He ran a lengthy piece—“Saxophone vs. Sacrifice”—designed to help Time readers see how honest Dole was compared to Bill Clinton! That was a basic script for Campaign 96, and pundits like Klein were sworn to type it. Trust us—you won’t believe how cheap this one was, or what the “saxophone” had to do with it; it’s truly a Clinton-era classic. But as we’ve told you, you no longer have a press corps; what you have is a gang of script-typers. Saxophone vs. Sacrifice? To watch Joe Klein as he sticks to the script, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/10/00.

READ ABOUT THE BIG HERO YOURSELF: You can read about the big hero yourself. First, click here; then search on “Dole draft;” then proceed to page 97.