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THE SHAPE OF CAMPAIGN 04 (PART 3)! The Globe trashed Gore during Campaign 2K. Will Kerry be next?


THE O’FRANKEN ADVENTURE: Our entire staff guest-stars today on Air America’s inspiring show, The O’Franken Factor. Our segment starts at 12:30 Eastern. With Al’s enthusiastic permission, we plan to discuss Wittgenstein’s “private language argument,” although our presentation is fairly tight and may not take the entire segment. Punch line: “If they told us that when we were sophomores, we wouldn’t have had to take Descartes or Kant!” Of course, if you try to do this on conservative radio, they give you this look like you’re nuts.

Excitement builds in the radio world. We certainly hope you’ll be listening.

THE EMPEROR’S SAME OLD INEPTITUDE: In this morning’s Times, a letter writer manages to say what the pundit corps quite plainly cannot. The letter concerns “The Torture Photos,” a May 5 editorial

To the Editor:

I was a Republican yesterday, I am a Republican today, and I will probably be a Republican tomorrow. I am not a Democrat because I still hold to the philosophy that the Democrats are the tax-and-spend party.

But I must say that in November, I will stay home. George W. Bush and his crew are pathetic and, worse, inept. How can it be that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was not briefed on Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba’s Army report? Perhaps a little more gravitas from Mr. Rumsfeld would be in order.

Each new disclosure proves that the Iraq adventure is the biggest mistake since Vietnam. Will the United States ever learn?

P— C—
Tucson, May 5, 2004

We’ve been amazed by the pundit corps’ complete inability to say what this writer does. Has the Bush Admin done anything in Iraq which wasn’t grossly misstated or hopelessly bungled? This week, we were told that neither Rumsfeld nor General Myers nor Bush himself had managed to read the Taguba report. Once again, we’re asked to believe what defies belief. And the press keeps pretending it’s possible.

Yes, it is the Administration’s screaming ineptitude that the pundit corps refuses to see. From the start, they said that Bush had surrounded himself with a highly capable group of advisers. But this hopeless group got played for rubes by Ahmed Chalabi and his gang of cronies, and their current refuge, as always, is ignorance. We were told that Condi Rice had never heard of airplanes as missiles. This ludicrous statement defied belief, but the press refused to challenge her on it. And oh yeah: Why hadn’t she known about objections to the WMD intelligence? She hadn’t read the whole NIE, we were told. Your pundits pretended this made sense. Now, once again, we’re asked to believe that no one had read this report.

For our pundits, it’s hard to acknowledge the obvious truth—a truth that has nothing to do with ideology. If we take them at their word, the Bush Administration is inept beyond belief, incompetent on a world-class scale. A letter writer from Tucson can see it. But Washington’s pundits still hide beneath desks. They’re timidly tip-toeing toward this truth, wondering if they dare to see what is right there before their very eyes.

The shape of Campaign 04 (part 3)

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Read each part of this week’s thrilling series about the emerging coverage of Campaign 04:

PART 1: Even on Fox, five pundits agreed—the press has been hammering Kerry.

PART 2: Kerry’s accuser remembered it wrong. But so what? The Globe didn’t tell you.

And now, our third installment:

PART 3—RELIABLY BOGUS: Like several members of that Fox News Watch crew, Brit Hume was suitably amazed when the Boston Globe went after Kerry. On April 14, Michael Kranish penned a report in which Kerry’s former commander, memory expert Grant Hibbard, mocked the little piddlin’ wound which produced Kerry’s first Purple Heart. That evening, on Special Report, Hume told viewers about the report. He feigned amazement about the fact that the story appeared in the Globe:

HUME: And now the most engrossing two minutes in television, the latest from the “Political Grapevine.”

John Kerry’s hometown newspaper, the reliably liberal Boston Globe, reports that his commanding officer in Vietnam questioned whether Kerry deserved one of the three Purple Hearts that got Kerry an early ticket home from there. Lieutenant Commander Grant Hibbard remembers, quote, “Kerry had a little scratch on his forearm and he was holding a piece of shrapnel.” What’s more, according to Hibbard, Kerry’s fellow soldiers said at the time they didn’t think they had received any enemy fire that time. Hibbard says he questioned Kerry about the incident, but that Kerry was so insistent on getting the Purple Heart that he, Hibbard, reluctantly dropped the matter. The paper did report that its investigation revealed Kerry had acted heroically in other instances in Vietnam.

Hume embellished the piece just a tad; in fact, the Globe had quoted a Kerry crewmate, William Zaladonis, saying, “I assume they fired back.” As far as we can tell, no crew member has ever said different. Did Hibbard really quote Kerry’s “fellow soldiers?” In fact, according to his hazy narrative, “People in the office were saying, ‘I don’t think we got any fire.’” Kranish didn’t seem to have asked what this meant. But Hume expressed surprise at the fact that the Globe would print such a story. After all, the Globe is Kerry’s “hometown paper,” he said—and it’s “reliably liberal,” of course. Hume sent a predictable message to his Fox viewers. He made them think the report was especially striking because of the Globe’s “liberal” profile.

In fact, the Globe has published weird attacks on Kerry for years. And during Campaign 2000, the “liberal” paper trashed Candidate Gore in astonishing ways, engaging in egregious journalistic misconduct—some of the worst seen in that entire election. In fact, the “liberal” paper had been up to old tricks on the morning of April 14; Kranish knew that Hibbard’s 36-year-old memory was faulty, but he forgot to tell the Globe’s readers (see THE DAILY HOWLER 5/5/04). But this sort of thing has been par for the course as the Globe has trashed, first Kerry, then Gore. Washington’s pundits still love to pretend that the Globe just loves those Big Major Democrats. But the actual record is quite different, as all HOWLER readers must know.

How bizarre has the Boston Globe been in its attacks, first on Kerry, then on Gore? The episodes exist in our archives, laid out for all eyes to see.

Regarding Kerry, we suggest that you review the Globe’s amazing 1996 report—the piece where Kerry was accused of a “war crime” as he sought re-election to the Senate (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/10/03). One week before Election Day 1996 (Kerry won a tight race against Massachusetts governor Bill Weld), the Globe’s David Warsh published a startling 2100-word piece. In it, he suggested that Kerry committed a war crime in Vietnam, in the action for which he received the Silver Star. (And yes, he used the term “war crime.”) Almost instantly, Warsh’s factual presentation was shown to be bogus, and the columnist later said that he shouldn’t have used the term “war crime.” The paper’s ombudsman, Mark Jurkowitz, said the story should never have run. “[T]he issue is whether the column belonged in the Globe. The answer is no,” he wrote. But then, the Globe had been messin’ with Kerry all fall. Three weeks before Warsh’s report, the paper published a separate, 4000-word profile—another profile with bogus information, one which misled the New York Times’ Bill Keller some six years later (again, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/10/03). As Kerry fought for re-election, the Globe was printing silly profiles with bogus info—and the nastiest imaginable pre-election attack. How “reliably liberal” is the Globe? So reliably liberal that, one week before a major election, they published a report they later renounced accusing the Dem of committing a war crime! It’s hard to imagine a stranger case of journalistic misconduct than that.

It’s hard to imagine stranger conduct—but the Globe tried in Campaign 2000 to go beyond what it had already done. Is the paper “reliably liberal?” Should we be shocked when it targets Big Dems? During that election, the paper’s trashing of Candidate Gore included some of the most egregious “journalism” of the entire campaign. In a string of remarkably bogus profiles, the paper’s “investigative” reporter, Walter Robinson, published attacks on Gore’s troubling character, attacks which fit the corps’ preferred line about the disturbing Dem hopeful. How bizarre were Robinson’s endless charges? We thought of his work only yesterday. The New York Times reported the fact that Gore had just purchased a cable channel. Ken Belson provided some background:

BELSON (5/5/04): “This is not going to be a liberal network, a Democratic network, or a political network,” said Mr. Gore, who worked seven years as a journalist before entering politics.
Yes, that’s right, and everyone knows it—as a young man, Gore “worked seven years as a journalist.” But in one of his strangest attacks against Gore, Robinson even told Globe readers that Gore had been lying about that! (You have to see this one to believe it—links below.) There was nothing the scribe wouldn’t do and say as the Globe ran its puzzling War Against Gore. We can’t tell you why the paper engaged in such conduct. But Hume’s predictable remarks to the side, no one should be a bit surprised when the Globe goes after Big Dems. And no one should be surprised if they invent, rearrange, or hide simple facts, as Kranish did on April 14.

We said it only two days ago: The press corps’ treatment of Candidate Kerry doesn’t rival its two-year War Against Gore. But as we’ll see, the coverage at some major papers may be moving in that direction. And here’s the key—no one should be a bit surprised if the Globe and the New York Times lead the way. In Campaign 2000, they both savaged Gore, engaging in endless journalistic misconduct. When it comes to the coverage of White House campaign, these papers are not “reliably liberal.” They savaged Gore—and may do so to Kerry. Citizens should tell them to stop.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: First in January 2000, then again in April, Robinson wrote page-one piece trashing Gore’s troubling character problems. Yes, he even tried to pretend that Gore was lying about those “seven years.” See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/9/00, 5/10/00, 5/11/00, and 5/12/00. In September 2000, another Robinson report turned around the election; it was he who penned the troubling tale about Gore and the price of pills for arthritic dogs. We’ve never published the complete story of this inane-but-crucial episode. To see the elements which we have posted, let your cheeks rouge with embarrassment as you enter “Robinson AND doggy” into one of our whirring search engines. This doggy-pill tale was completely inane—and it may have put George Bush in the White House. Gore was pulling away when the story was filed. Soon, he was back in the stew.

TOMORROW: The Times covers Bush

From the annals of Dick-and-Jane stories

BUT DADDY! WHAT HAPPENED NEXT? An e-mailer sent an excellent question about Woodward’s puzzling Plan of Attack. As we’ve noted, Woodward presents an heroic scene on December 21, 2002. Bush is briefed on WMD, but finds the presentation wanting. “Nice try,” he tells CIA titan Tenet; then he tells Rice and Card that the presentation “needs a lot more work.” But the president is wise, as always. “Make sure no one stretches to make our case,” he tells Tenet “several times.” Of course, as Woodward has already made quite clear, Bush has been stretching the intel himself for four months when this briefing occurs. These facts are all quite plain in the book. But all pundits know not to notice (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/3/04).

At any rate, an e-mailer sent the following question. No, we don’t know how to answer:

E-MAIL: I’d like to know why, if Bush found the presentation on WMD so weak, he didn’t demand Tenet come back with something more convincing than his word.

Thanks for your work on this subject.

We were curious about that too. What was Bush told about WMD after this unsatisfactory presentation? Sadly but typically, Woodward makes no effort to say. He tells us about the president’s State of the Union Address in January 2003, which includes a famous 16-word goof (more next week). And we later see Powell struggle and strain as he assembles his UN presentation. But we’re never told about Bush-and-WMD after that uplifting scene in December. Did Bush ever ask to be briefed again? Did Tenet come up with some better material? Woodward doesn’t seem to have asked. But then, this is quite typical of this odd book. When it comes to this major story-line, it’s as fake a book as we have seen.

Next week, we’ll explore a few more scenes from this book. But Woodward’s treatment of WMD is puzzling from its start to its end. Woodward’s narrative makes almost no sense. And all pundits know not to notice.