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ABLE TO DO AND SAY ANYTHING! Zell and Dick made laughable statements. Reason? They know that they can: // link //

THE MILLER’S TALE: As we told you, he’s the biggest fake in American life (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/1/04). Last night, at the Garden, he set out to prove it. Uh-oh! His conscience wasn’t wearing those hob-nailed boots as he laughed in the face of the delegates:
ZELL MILLER (9/1/04): Motivated more by partisan politics than by national security, today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator.

And nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators!

Wow! But who has called American troops “occupiers?” Absent-mindedly, Miller forgot to say. And of course, President Bush has routinely described the situation in Iraq as an “occupation.” But so what? Delegates wouldn’t confront such trivia on this glorious, smut-slinging night. And they wouldn’t have to know how fake Miller’s sliming of Kerry really was:
MILLER: Together, Kennedy and Kerry have opposed the very weapons system that won the Cold War and that are now winning the war on terror.

Listing all the weapon systems that Senator Kerry tried his best to shut down sounds like an auctioneer selling off our national security.



Amazing! “But Americans need to know the facts,” he continued, treating the delegates like prime mountain rubes. How completely did Miller deceive them? Laughably, he scolded Kerry for “trying to shut down” the Apache helicopter—which Dick Cheney, then Secretary of Defense, tried to shut down in 1989! Here’s a bit of Senate testimony from August 13 of that year:
CHENEY (8/13/89): The Army, as I indicated in my earlier testimony, recommended to me that we keep a robust Apache helicopter program going forward, AH-64…I forced the Army to make choices. I said, “You can’t have all three. We don’t have the money for all three.” So I recommended that we cancel the AH-64 program two years out.
That’s our Zell! He ridiculed Kerry for opposing a system that Cheney himself tried to stamp out! But so what? Cheering delegates didn’t know that. They were being entertained by our biggest fake, and mere facts wouldn’t mar his performance.

For the record, “Senator Kerry” has not “tried his best to shut down” the weapon systems Miller listed. In most cases, Miller was going back to positions from Kerry’s 1984 campaign, before he ever became a senator. As a senator, Kerry has voted, again and again, for most of the systems Miller listed. In 16 of his 19 years in the Senate, Kerry voted for the year’s full Defense appropriation. Every dollar spent on those systems was spent with Kerry’s “yes” vote.

Of course, this type of clowning about defense votes began with Bush’s ads last spring. But as we noted at the time, the press corps” made little attempt to limn the fake facts the Bush ads were spreading (link below). Nor were pundits prepared last night to offer background to Miller’s remarks. Why did Miller clown so much? He did so because he knows your press corps. He did so because he knew that he could.

There was little that Miller wouldn’t say—and little the “press” was prepared to correct. At one point, laughably, he even said this:

MILLER: Senator Kerry has made it clear that he would use military force only if approved by the United Nations.
And we know that Kerry has “made that clear.” We know that from his speech in Boston. Here’s where he made that point clear:
KERRY (7/29/04): Let there be no mistake:...I will never give any nation or any institution a veto over our national security.
It could hardly be more clear. But did anyone challenge Miller’s comment last night? We haven’t had time to research that fully. But in the post-address coverage we saw, pundits were doing the thing they do best. They were staring off into space, offering extended pointless comments.

Miller gave a demagogic address—an address that simply begged for “context.” But just watch your “press” in the next few days to see how much context it gets.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: When the Bush campaign ran those misleading ads, the Washington press corps burbled and snored. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/14/04, with links to all parts of our four-part series. To this day, no one has ever laid out the facts about the claims those aggressive ads made. How can voters sort out such claims? That’s easy. Here’s your answer: They can’t.

ABLE TO DO AND SAY ANYTHING: Remember when Bush ran those ads about “higher taxes”—those ads which said that Kerry voted for higher taxes “more than 350 times?” That claim was bogus—baldly deceptive (links below). But so what? Last night, the Bush camp simply broke out a new line. In today’s Times, Adam Nagourney discusses Commerce Sec Donald Evans:

NAGOURNEY (9/2/04): Mr. Evans touted “the early stages of Bush prosperity,” and said that Mr. Kerry had voted to increase taxes 98 times...

That count of 98, which was invoked repeatedly by speakers during the night, is inflated by procedural and duplicative votes, and does not reflect tax cuts that Mr. Kerry has supported.

In other words, even that new count—98—is fake and misleading. But many Times readers won’t have to know that. This passage appears in our early edition of the Times. But it has been dropped in the article on the Times web site. And it doesn’t appear in the Nexis version of Nagourney’s report.

Yes, life is good if you get to work with this press corps! In particular, life is good for Dick Cheney. Try to believe that he said it!

CHENEY: Even in this post-9/11 period, Senator Kerry doesn't appear to understand how the world has changed. He talks about leading a “more sensitive war on terror”—


—as though Al Qaeda will be impressed with our softer side.



Try to believe that he said it! Just two weeks ago, Cheney detailed the need for “sensitivity” in our ongoing fight in Iraq. And it’s clear that Kerry didn’t mean that we had to be sensitive to al Qaeda (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/19/04). Cheney was faking, just like ol’ Zell. But so what? He knew he could make his fake statement again. He knew that the press would permit it.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: “More than 350 times?” The Bush camp pushed a fake claim—and the press stood and stared! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/12/04. Scroll down to the bottom for links to our full, four-part series.

Our current series: Profiles in cowardice (part 3)

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Enjoy each part of our current report:

PART 1: Three Swift vets defended Kerry. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/30/04.

PART 2: William Raspberry has no thoughts about those rough Swift Boat men. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/31/04.

And now, our report continues:

THEY’RE AFRAID—THEY’RE VERY AFRAID (PART 3): So let’s see! According to Rudy Giuliani’s speech, Kerry voted for the $87 billion, then “voted against exactly the same thing.” (Except, of course, that he didn’t.) And according to Rudy, Kerry criticized Israel’s security barrier, then “took exactly the opposite position.” (Except that isn’t true either.) And Rudy said Kerry has flipped on the war. “Now he says he's a pro-war candidate,” Rudy confided—except, of course, Kerry doesn’t say that! On and on went the mayor’s misstatements—invented flip-flops to feed a fake story. And what did the Washington press corps do? Of course! They hid beneath desks, where they sat on their hands, afraid to tell you that Rudy was faking! Did you see a single cable pundit fact-check Rudy’s Big Pleasing Speech? Of course not! On cable, Rudy’s an icon—“America’s Mayor!” So store-bought cowards stared into air and mouthed pleasing bromides about the great speech. Timid talkers killed time for hours. No one bothered to say that the things the great man had told you were bogus.

But this is the world in which you now live—a world of misstatements and slumbering watch-dogs. In fact, the Bush camp has invented fake flip-flops since March, feeding their campaign’s preferred narration, and the Washington press corps has stared into air, too frightened to challenge the process. So is it really any surprise when pundits defer to those rough Swift Boat Vets? William Raspberry took the prize on Monday. “I don't know what to make of the controversy,” the timid fellow cautiously said. The Vets signed fake affidavits; told blatant falsehoods; self-contradicted; and employed crackpot logic. But Raspberry’s knees were turning to jelly. I don't know what to think, the scribe said.

Yes, your “press corps” is good at averting its gaze—and the corps is afraid of accusers. Consider another “Profile in Cowardice,” this one by Hardball’s Chris Matthews. On Friday night, he spoke with U.S. News ace Roger Simon. The pundits lamented the silly direction the White House campaign was now taking:

MATTHEWS (8/27/04): What it is, is a pretty confusing campaign. Until a week ago, or two weeks ago, the question was, do you want a change or don't you want a change? Now it is, how did Kerry get that first Purple Heart?

SIMON: Yes. Well, we're in danger of becoming 1988 again, when the election was essentially about nothing of importance to the American people. It was about Willie Horton and trips to flag factories and whether you believed the Pledge of Allegiance should be mandatory in the schools.

And when it was all over, people said, what was that about? And you're right. We're creeping into this period of the election when we're talking about events that happened 35 years ago which seem to have no relevance to anybody's life...

Poor Simon! Neither pundit could understand how the campaign had gotten so silly! But when Matthews sought Ron Reagan’s view, Ron didn’t bother wringing his hands. Ron gave his host a sharp answer:
MATTHEWS: Ron Reagan, your thoughts. Why have we focused away from the issues that most people say they are going to vote on, the economy, the war in Iraq, health care issues that you've raised?

REAGAN: Well, we've seen this sort of thing before, coming from the Republican side in particular. They want to distract us from issues like the economy and the war in Iraq, which isn't doing so well right now.

And so let's be plain about this. This group of men, they call themselves the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth—excuse me—by the evidence seem to be a pack of liars. And I think us, we in the media, generally ought to be unafraid to say so.

“We’ve seen this sort of thing before,” Reagan said, saying it typically came from Republicans. And uh-oh! The Swift Boat Vets were “liars,” he said—and journalists “ought to be unafraid to say so!” Hay-yo! Reagan is very new to this game when you catch him making statements like that! Journalists ought to unafraid? To whom did he think he was speaking?

In fact, mainstream scribes are very afraid to discuss the odd conduct of Kerry’s accusers. Raspberry would hide beneath his desk, saying he just couldn’t figure it out. And how did Matthews respond to Reagan? Of course—he instantly changed the subject! To see the way a cowardly pundit refuses to tackle a gang of accusers, read the whole transcript of this exchange. Tomorrow, we’ll explain how we got to this point—to the place that has Simon wringing his hands. And we’ll even explain what Dems must do to keep this from happening again.

TOMORROW: We’ve seen this sort of thing before, Reagan said. So why is the press still inept?

KESSLER’S CRITIQUE: Some readers have defended Glenn Kessler’s critique of the Giuliani speech. Here is one example:

E-MAIL: Hey, your attack on Kessler is at least partly mistaken. You make good points, but you slam Kessler when clearly the problems you cite (esp. how he doesn’t follow through in explaining Giuliani's out-of-context remarks) are copy-editing flaws. Someone ripped stuff out and messed up the piece—a common occurrence. Those copy-editing imbalances are fair game, of course, yet I bet you that Kessler is as upset as you are about having his story trashed. If the Post really cared about Kessler's piece, they would have given it more space. That's the problem.
We agree with part of what the e-mailer says. Scribes are always at the mercy of (unnamed) editors. We never know how much of a piece has been rewritten by an ed. But we adopted a practice long ago—we work with the name that appears on the piece. There’s no way to do real press critique if we say we can’t name names because it might be the fault of the eds.

By the way, Kessler is an excellent analyst, one whose work we have praised in the past. But we think this was a very weak piece, no matter which of its forms we examine. We’re especially concerned by the new format, in which the Post attempt to “give context.” What ever happened to the old “fact check” format? We’re afraid that this is a weakened framework—a framework that cowardly editors will use to tone down the work of their scribes.

Alas! Giuliani made baldly false statements in his speech—statements that Kessler simply ignored as he provided that “context.” Regarding the $87 billion, for example, the excellent “context” that Kessler provided should have been offered in the Post long ago. After all, there was nothing new about the “context” he provided—about the fact that Bush himself said he would veto the bill he mocks Kerry for opposing. But what was new in Giuliani’s speech? Giuliani made a bald misstatement, saying Kerry voted against “exactly the same thing” he had first voted for. That statement was blatantly false, and readers should know it—and for some reason, Kessler just skipped it. Why do the Giulianis make such false statements? Simple! They know that they can.

Or did Kessler cite Giuliani’s misstatement? Maybe he included that point in his text, and an editor took it out. But that is always a possibility, in every report we ever write. We’ve often praised Kessler’s work in the past, but we think this report was weak. And alas! You know how press corps works! As far as we know, this was the press corps’ only attempt to challenge Giuliani’s fake statements.

TOMORROW: Giuliani embellished his pleasing, fake tale about God and September 11.