ABLE TO DO AND SAY ANYTHING! Zell and Dick made laughable statements. Reason? They know that they can:
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2004
THE MILLERS TALE: As we told you, hes 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 wasnt 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.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 wouldnt confront such trivia on this glorious, smut-slinging night. And they wouldnt have to know how fake Millers 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.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! Heres 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 cant have all three. We dont have the money for all three. So I recommended that we cancel the AH-64 program two years out.Thats our Zell! He ridiculed Kerry for opposing a system that Cheney himself tried to stamp out! But so what? Cheering delegates didnt know that. They were being entertained by our biggest fake, and mere facts wouldnt 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 Kerrys 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 years full Defense appropriation. Every dollar spent on those systems was spent with Kerrys yes vote.
Of course, this type of clowning about defense votes began with Bushs 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 Millers 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 wouldnt 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. Heres 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 Millers comment last night? We havent 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? Thats easy. Heres your answer: They cant.
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 todays 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...In other words, even that new count—98—is fake and misleading. But many Times readers wont 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 doesnt appear in the Nexis version of Nagourneys 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—Try to believe that he said it! Just two weeks ago, Cheney detailed the need for sensitivity in our ongoing fight in Iraq. And its clear that Kerry didnt 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.
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.And now, our report continues:
THEYRE AFRAID—THEYRE VERY AFRAID (PART 3): So lets see! According to Rudy Giulianis speech, Kerry voted for the $87 billion, then voted against exactly the same thing. (Except, of course, that he didnt.) And according to Rudy, Kerry criticized Israels security barrier, then took exactly the opposite position. (Except that isnt 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 doesnt say that! On and on went the mayors 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 Rudys Big Pleasing Speech? Of course not! On cable, Rudys an icon—Americas 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 campaigns 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 Raspberrys 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 Hardballs 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?Poor Simon! Neither pundit could understand how the campaign had gotten so silly! But when Matthews sought Ron Reagans view, Ron didnt 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?Weve 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 Kerrys accusers. Raspberry would hide beneath his desk, saying he just couldnt 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, well explain how we got to this point—to the place that has Simon wringing his hands. And well even explain what Dems must do to keep this from happening again.
TOMORROW: Weve seen this sort of thing before, Reagan said. So why is the press still inept?
KESSLERS CRITIQUE: Some readers have defended Glenn Kesslers 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 doesnt 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. Theres no way to do real press critique if we say we cant 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. Were especially concerned by the new format, in which the Post attempt to give context. What ever happened to the old fact check format? Were 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 Giulianis 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 Giulianis 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. Weve often praised Kesslers 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 Giulianis fake statements.
TOMORROW: Giuliani embellished his pleasing, fake tale about God and September 11.