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MAYBE WE’RE BEING TOO SENSITIVE! Cheney laughed in the voters’ faces. But the press—and Kerry’s camp—didn’t care:

MAYBE WE’RE BEING TOO SENSITIVE: Astonishing! Here is the start of Peter Wallsten’s report in today’s 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...

The most scathing critique came from Vice President Dick Cheney, who jumped on Kerry's recent assertion that he would lead a "sensitive" war on terrorism.

Later in the day, a Republican senator used a conference call with reporters to say Kerry looked and acted "French," and to claim that he supported socialism.

Astonishing! The enemy of democracy was Oregon’s Gordon Smith. Here is Wallsten’s fuller account of this pathetic man’s demagoguery:
WALLSTEN: Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) accused Kerry of advocating socialism within the United States and appeasement overseas.

“It's not John Kerry's fault that he looks French,” Smith told reporters on the conference call arranged by the Bush campaign.

"But it is his fault that he wants to pursue policies that have us act like the French. He advocates all kinds of additional socialism at home, appeasement abroad, and what that means is weakness for the future."

Some Republicans have referred jokingly to Kerry's ability to speak French and his physical appearance, but rarely has the reference found its way onto the campaign trail.

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 Cheney’s attack on sensitivity.

Clearly, the topic is serious. Here’s the headline that appears over Dan Balz’s story in today’s 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. Here’s 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 Bush’s 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.

“Those who threaten us and kill innocents around the world do not need to be treated more sensitively,” Mr. Cheney said. “They need to be destroyed.”

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, that’s what Cheney said. After quoting more of the stupid man’s 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 Kerry’s 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 Kerry’s comment as well. Indeed, it’s almost impossible, in today’s 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 Cheney’s attacks. But attacks against what? They don’t 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, there’s almost no way to help a candidate who says “proactive” instead of “aggressive.” But what was the context of Kerry’s comment? He was talking about “fighting the war on terror,” “strengthening the military” and “getting the terrorists wherever they may be”—and it’s obvious that he was talking about being more “sensitive” to our allies/potential allies, not to our terrorist enemies. Let’s say it—Cheney was lying to the rubes once again! And the press corps? They napped, snored and slumbered.

It’s become the way these people do business. Today, it’s impossible to learn what Kerry said—although you get to hear Cheney’s 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 don’t have a chance in the hands of their Stepford-like cohort.

WILGOREN’S FULL CONTEXT: Here is Wilgoren’s full attempt to place Cheney’s 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 aren’t shown Kerry’s 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?

WHERE’S THE REBUTTAL: For the record, Balz included several rebuttals from Kerry’s camp—statements that were basically pointless and irrelevant. For example, Wesley Clark tells Balz that Cheney’s remarks are “the lowest form of politics.” But why are Cheney’s remarks so low? To judge from what Balz includes, Clark didn’t tell him. Clark and General Merrill McPeake accuse Cheney of “gutter” politics. But why was Cheney’s attack in the gutter? The generals aren’t quoted saying. There is, of course, no way to know what comments are being omitted by scribes. And yes—reporters should have presented Kerry’s original statement, no matter what the campaign may have said. But we can’t help noting the worthless “rebuttals” that often seem to come from the Kerry campaign. You can’t do much for a White House hopeful who says “proactive” instead of “aggressive.” And you can’t 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 Kerry’s site. With regard to Cheney’s comments, the “Rapid Responses” do a lot of name-calling, but they make little attempt to say why Cheney’s 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 campaign’s message work is deeply inept. How about a “Relevant Response?” Yesterday, such responses were notably Missing In Action.

THE LIST GROWS: It’s hard to make this press corps mad. How silly has Bush-Cheney clowning become? A look at four recent “shticks:”

  1. Bush slimes Kerry for opposing a bill—a bill which he himself threatened to veto.
  2. Bush is deliberately stretching, Brit Hume notes on Fox. The “liberal” press corps agrees not to notice.
  3. Kerry wants to be sensitive to terrorists, Cheney says. The press doesn’t tell you that this is pure bullshit.
  4. Kerry can’t help it if he looks French, Smith says, laughing right in the corps’ faces.
Treated as fools, the press doesn’t care. Pardon our French, but what does it rouse these dormeurs from their slumbers?

BLITZER, NONE TOO SWIFT: Do John O’Neill’s 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 didn’t deserve the medals he received in Vietnam? Confusing claims are being made about a series of decades-old incidents. As this discussion continues, let’s hope these claims don’t get sorted out in the manner of Wednesday’s Wolf Blitzer.

Blitzer spoke with O’Neill and with Admiral William Crowe, a Kerry supporter. But consider what happened when Crowe objected to one of O’Neill’s basic charges. Did Kerry behave heroically in pulling Jim Rassmann from the Mekong Delta—the incident for which he received the Bronze Star? O’Neill made his standard presentation. He said that Kerry didn’t deserve the award—that he fled from the scene in his Swift Boat:

O’NEILL (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 O’Neill’s standard account. Here is a somewhat more detailed presentation, from Tuesday’s Hannity & Colmes:
O’NEILL (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.

On that day, PCF No. 3 was blown out of the water. It couldn't move. There was only one boat that fled. That was John Kerry's boat. We never had anybody that would flee, Alan, never. Except John Kerry.

The other guy stood to save PCF3. Kerry finally came back when it was apparent there was no fire, and then he picked up Rassmann as other boats were within 10 yards of him.

This is O’Neill’s standard account of the Bronze Star incident. Kerry fled, then “finally” returned when the gunfire ended. He didn’t deserve the Bronze Star. In fact, he behaved like a coward.

But does this story really make sense? It’s 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 hadn’t somebody else picked him up? For the record, Rassmann and all of Kerry’s crew deny O’Neill’s account of this incident. O’Neill, of course, wasn’t present that day. He’s relying on the statements of others.
Why was Rassmann still in the water? This seems like an obvious question. But when Blitzer asked Admiral Crowe to comment, he had a different reaction. Here was the problem he saw:

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 O’Neill’s complaint] were not on the scene.

If one of the boats fled under fire, and the other boats didn't bring him into account with a senior officer, that makes no sense whatsoever. That defies reason. Fleeing under fire, of course, is a general court martial offense. The Navy has ways to do that. What were these other skippers doing?

I have gone through all the records of the action reports, fitness reports, medal citations, comments, also spot-action reports—no mention of that whatsoever.

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...

I want you to respond, John O'Neill, to what the Admiral Crowe just said before the break, but also in the context of what Senator John McCain, who himself served some six years in a Vietnam prison, a Vietnamese prison—he says that what you and your colleagues are saying is dishonest and dishonorable. But go ahead and respond.

Hopeless! McCain doesn’t know about this event. Blitzer’s interjection was totally pointless (and quite prejudicial). But O’Neill went ahead and responded, all right! In effect, he responded to Blitzer’s new, pointless question, by citing other men who weren’t 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.

And Admiral Crowe, by the way, has talked to none of them, to the best of my knowledge, and wasn't there—and wasn't there within four years of the time of these incidents. I've talked to many of them.

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.

O’NEILL HOLDS HS FIRE: Whatever the accuracy of O’Neill’s accounts, he provides occasional comic relief. Go ahead and enjoy a good laugh at this moment from Hannity & Colmes:

COLMES (8/10/04): Here’s 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 don’t understand the bond of those who serve in combat.”

Kerry got a Bronze Star for that, and you want to diminish that? He saved this man’s life. Is Jim Rassmann lying about John Kerry?

O'NEILL: No. First of all, no one’s attacked Jim Rassmann. Jim 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.

“No one's attacked Jim Rassmann,” O’Neill 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 O’Neill, Rassmann wasn’t under fire back then—and even when called a “bold-faced liar,” he’s not under fire today.