Monday, November 15, 2004

David Brooks Apologized for Repeating GOP Falsehoods About Kerry. Will Tim Russert Follow Suit?

At the end of his New York Times column Saturday, conservative columnist David Brooks wrote this:

Not that it will do him much good at this point, but I owe John Kerry an apology. I recently mischaracterized some comments he made to Larry King in December 2001. I said he had embraced the decision to use Afghans to hunt down Al Qaeda at Tora Bora. He did not. I regret the error.

Brooks was referring to an Oct. 30 column, in which he used the GOP spin point as the basis for an attack on Kerry as a flip-flopper on U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Brooks wrote then:

[P]olitics has shaped Kerry's approach to this whole issue. Back in December 2001, when bin Laden was apparently hiding in Tora Bora, Kerry supported the strategy of using Afghans to hunt him down. He told Larry King that our strategy “is having its impact, and it is the best way to protect our troops and sort of minimalize the proximity, if you will. I think we have been doing this pretty effectively, and we should continue to do it that way.”

But then the political wind shifted, and Kerry recalculated.

Brooks never bothered to watch the CNN interview, for if he had, he would have realized that the interview was on Dec. 14, 2001. (Or maybe he did, but chose to ignore the facts and repeat partisan spin).

On Dec. 14, 2001, Kerry was supportive of the U.S.-led effort to capture Osama bin Laden, which from news reports that day, appeared to be making great progress. It wasn't until three days later that it became clear that in spite of "U.S.-led efforts," bin Laden had likely fleed the caves of Tora Bora. And it wasn't until well later that Kerry or anyone else realized it was Afghani troops, rather than Americans, who went into the caves of Tora Bora that week, and failed to hunt Bin Laden down.

Brooks, lazily repeating GOP spin, used bait-and-switch to make his point about Kerry the flip-flopper. But at least he apologized, albeit too late to make a difference in the presidential election.


A lot of "journalists" liked the story of Kerry the flip-flopper. The Tora Bora flip-flop made the rounds around Halloween, not just within the conservative press, but via mainstream journalists, like Meet the Press host Tim Russert.

As first addressed on on Nov. 3, it was on the Oct. 31 edition of Meet the Press that Russert, grilling former Senator Bob Kerrey, brought up the Tora Bora flip-flop:

RUSSERT: In December of '01, Senator, John Kerry was on CNN after Tora Bora. He was being asked about this [bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora]. He said, “I think our guys are doing a superb job. I think they've been smart. I think the administration leadership has done it well. We're on the right track.” Why the change? Politics?

Unsatisfied with Kerrey's defense of Kerry, Russert repeated the incorrect charge:

RUSSERT: But it was after Tora Bora and he seemed to be praising them back then and now he’s ...

Now I ask you: How did Russert know to make this charge -- two days before the presidential election -- referring to an interview three years earlier in which Kerry doesn't actually use the words "Tora Bora"? Yes, Kerry had mentioned the U.S. "outsourcing" of the Tora Bora mission on the campaign trail, but what are the odds that multiple seasoned journalists simultaneously misinterpreted the same CNN transcript?

In hindsight, I can only draw three possibilities for Russert:

1) He and Brooks, independent of one another, each misinterpreted a three-year-old CNN interview.
2) He read Brooks' column, and failed to fact check it.
3) He and Brooks each received the same GOP talking point, and neither fact-checked it.

The odds of #1 being true are infintessimal, so I'm banking on #2, or more likely, #3. And while one might expect a partisan like Brooks to massage the truth to benefit the Republican candidate for president, the same should not be said of a supposed non-partisan like Russert.

Any way you slice it, in this example Russert comes off as a lazy, bloated journalist, easily twisted and turned by GOP spin.

As Bob Somersby of likes to point out, Russert, in his testimonial Big Russ & Me, highlights how he is always prepared for work:

RUSSERT (page 147): [T]he key to success is preparation. In journalism, it’s absolutely critical. Like everyone else, I have days when things go well, and days when they don’t. But one mistake I have never made is to show up unprepared for an interview.

And yes, Russert was prepared on Oct. 31 -- to repeat GOP spin! How sad that Russert, with a huge contract, a long history of interview skills and fabulous research at his disposal, chose instead to not do his homework, and as a result, to not tell the truth about Kerry -- the Sunday before the presidential election.

David Brooks, for all his flaws, apologized on the record. Will Tim Russert do the same?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe Karl Rove was able to telepathically invade Russert's mind and make him say what he did?

If you take the spin out of both sides of that pathetic election, there would have been a shutdown of all news in the US and probably on earth. Maybe that would be a good thing. Spin was everywhere.

Enough on this already. Accept the fact that Kerry never sent a clear message and he had the stage to do so IN SPITE OF your perceived (even if true) unfair coverage. Even many of his ardent supported will admit that. He was a poor candidate, too far left, the party is in the worst position it has been in for decades, the VP pick was a poor choice as well (lightweight in politics, a trial lawyer, didnt carry a state and lost a state in the senate)...the party needs a new face and new ideas. and a communicator. Basically then need someone like Bill Clinton. Hopefully there is someone on the horizon other than Hillary Clinton. Her only hope is that Bush is actually twice as bad as he was in the first term so the public will be fed up with everything republican.

6:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing. David writes about lazy journalism on the eve of the election -- lazy repeating of a falsehood.

And the above poster is so blind that he/she reverts to more GOP spin -- that Kerry didn't deserve to have the truth told about his record.


10:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For Blogger response no. 1: Give me a break! This comment about Kerry's "flip flop" went far beyond spin. It was an outright falsehood and inaccuracy designed to damage Kerry's credibility on the eve of the election.
I have yet to hear of an equally outright falsehood, as opposed to spin, derived out of all the pre-election hype from an equally influential Democratic commentator.
For Blogger response no. 1 and no. 2. It's important to hold these media commentators accountable for their damaging libelous and slanderous statements. Audiences must be able to gauge the truthfulness and accuracy of their news sources and opinion-setters.
That's why this discussion has merit.
Next time we hear these guys spewing garbage against a Democratic candidate for whatever office, we'll know it may be appropriate to turn the page or turn the channel.

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did David Brooks or Tim Russert cause John Kerry the election? No. But as this site and others have made clear, the campaign season featured a host of lies about Kerry that were lazily repeated by the mainstream media (the Swift Boat $@%@%, the "Who among us doesn't like NASCAR?" fake quote from Maureen Dowd, the 350 tax hikes by Kerry spin, the spin about Kerry supporting a 50-cent gas tax, etc.)

What effect did all of these lies have on the election? What effect did the GOP-sponsored literature that went to voters in Arkansas and West Virginia -- two swing states -- saying that the Kerry liberals wanted to ban the Bible?

As was said during the campaign, the GOP couldn't run on Bush's record, so it just lied about Kerry (and itself), and some of those lies stuck.

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well put.
The final sentence in the above comment nicely summarized the overriding truth about this last election.
It was not a matter of the Republicans applying better spin or running a better campaign. It was a matter of the Republicans running a campaign rooted in lies and baseless fears that had successfully duped a small enough majority of voters.
I think about yet another instance where in Southern Florida on the day before the election ominous postcards were widely mailed simulating a Kerry win with a nuclear attack on the U.S.
The issue of the media's role won't go away, nor it should.

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Libs are tiresome.

Brooks made a mistake, and admitted same. I had never heard this one before, but apparently you have determined that it was an order of magnitude greater than any of the lies promulagated by Freidman, Rich, Krugman, Rather, Matthews, et al. about a sitting President.

The fact is that if Brooks made a mistake, he apologized for it. If Russert made a mistake, he should do the same. However, that will not make you happy, you will simply use the apology to vilify that person every time he says something you do not approve of, or is not sufficiently brutal to a guest.

This did not cost Kerry the election - his inherently flexible positions across a broad spectrum of ideas did not resonate with over 60,000,000 people.

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kerry's ideas resonated with 56 million people.

You claim that various liberals have lied about a sitting president. Cite the lies. Certainly even this blog would be willing to look at evidence of DNC falsehoods, regurgitated across the spectrum of journalists.

See, the problem is not that Brooks wrote this, or Russert said this, two days before the election. The problem is the GOP spinmeisters pushed this falsehood and hoped it would spread. Brooks, Russert and others took the bait -- repeating the lie without double-checking with the easily obtainable CNN interview. Is that something that conservatives should be proud of? Is that a reason to stand up for democracy -- your guys lie better than our guys?

I don't understand why conservatives need a "but" -- as in, "Brooks lied, but who cares because Kerry was a bad candidate." How about just saying, "Brooks lied, and that's wrong. And maybe Brooks should do a better job in the future researching his facts." Or: "Russert blindly repeated spin without double-checking the facts. That's lazy, and he should do better next time." How about just simply agreeing that lying about a candidate -- innocently, lazily, whatever -- is wrong.

Take that first step, please. Because there's nothing inherently conservative (or liberal) about lying -- or spreading lies in the hopes that journalists will repeat them.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So tell us, precisely what were the lies of Freidman, Rich, Krugman, Rather, Matthews, etc. and how were they not on the magnitude of the lies against Kerry.
As far as I can tell Rather was accused of being the worst of them, among reputable journalists anyway, when he raised questions of Bush's service in the national guard. But there was elements of truth in Rather's argument, and more supporting evidences existed than the manufactured memos.
And Rather did not depict his evidences as hard fact. He only said the evidences raised questions.
Russert and Brooks on the other hand, portrayed their info against Kerry as hard fact.
Unlike the case with Rather's beef, Russert and Brooks had no evidence in their favor, even quantifiable evidence to support their position.
Nevertheless, again, unlike the case with Rather, they did have at their immediate disposal taped evidence that would have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that their statements against Kerry were wrong, inaccurate and had no business being communicated as fact.
There's a big difference.

So let's hear about the "lies" of the rest of the Democratic commentators cited above to see if they raise to the level of the Republican/conservative spinmeisters. I sense as the case with Rather, the claims were supported by evidence, could not be readilly discredited through hard evidence, and had elements of substanable truth in them.

6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You seriously are going to stick with the Rather had evidence to back up his partisan bullshit theory and then suggest that people on this blog argue about what is or is not true? You are preaching to the converted with this ridiculous garbage. This site does far too much of that. If you cannot see that the spin/lies/misrepresentations went both ways, then there is no point in debating the subject. It is a waste of time. This is both a far left and far right problem--the refusal to see the "truth". In much the same manner that one can argue that Kerry could have cut the margin of his loss if there were no "lies", others can argue that Bush would have won by a larger margin if "lies" had not been told about his administration.

If you truly want to waste your time, simply go to to see the lies on both sides here. Between the two extremes lies the truth. I know someone said that. Believe it.

10:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The original item isn't about Rather, Krugman or Friedman -- that was just one of the conservative responses. Make a broad and vague charge, and see what sticks.

The original point still stands. Russert was a lazy journalist who repeated GOP spin that was easy to fact-check. He should apologize for his failure to do his job.

But he should also expose who tipped him off on this line of questioning. Which of the neocons decided that it was ok to lie about Kerry to help their man get elected? That would be a great story for Russert to tell. He won't do it, though, for his own survival in Washington.

11:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didnt read anyone here to say it was okay that Kerry's record was distorted by Brooks. The point made above simply was that neither side was immune to the partisan spinning machines. The views espoused here, with a small minority, cleary are of the opinion that there has been virtually no falsehoods told by Kerry, his campaign, the media etc. while many by his counterpart. While there is no doubt the Bushies are spinmasters, it is difficult to discount concepts such as:

--there will be a draft that is planned as a surprise after the election
--kerry continuously giving false numbers on job losses until he looked stupid doing it after everyone spoke of the discrepancy
--bush was going to completely privatize social security
--bushs tax policy allowed the outsourcing of jobs due to tax breaks, even though those laws have been in place since the early 60s
--rather and the entire attack on bush national guard service, even if it backfired on the dems
--need an entire day to discuss michael moore

it goes on and on. and there are even more going the other way. noone is immune and the media plays into it.

time to reflect, adjust and plan for the future forboth parties. right now, america is a centrist to right country, like it or not. the dems need to grab that center next go round or they will be resigned to minority status. shouldnt be too hard if they get the right candidate. and the far left liberals who are blinded by the "evil bush" disease need to quiet down. then people will remember that liberal is not a bad word.

11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a liberal site. There are plenty of conservative sites out there ready to bash liberals.

The original post said that Tim Russert should apologize. The response doesn't have to be that liberals lie, too. The response should be, yes, Russert should apologize. It was lazy and stupid for Russert, Brooks or anyone else to blindly repeat something that was easy to fact check. It was especially wrong to be so sloppy two days before the election, when undecided voters may be paying extra close attention.

And the person on the Bush team who supplied that lie should be out on his ass -- instead of probably getting a promotion. If the conservatives posting here want to either celebrate this lie, or ignore it, so be it. But that doesn't make it right.

And to answer two other points above:

1) Was Kerry a saint? No. He made factual errors. I don't know if he ever said that Bush would have a draft. Other Democrats (and even some Republicans, like Chuck Hegel) suggested that was a possibility. Kerry said there was the equivalent of a draft, with stop-losses and extended stays in Iraq for reservists, and so on.

Privatizing Social Security? Hardly a lie. Bush himself has said it's something he wants to do in his second term.

And regarding the job-loss numbers: Kerry was wrong to make it sound like the total, rather than the private sector job losses. And he was wrong to say $200 billion in Iraq -- which included money to be spent in 2005 -- rather than give the exact number spent to date.

But Bush was wrong to say that Kerry's plan was to cut and run in Iraq. And Bush lied when he said Kerry "exaggerated" about Bush saying he wasn't worried or concerned about Osama bin Laden. Bush lied when he suggested over and over that Kerry had supported 350 tax hikes, or a 50-cent tax hike. Bush lied when he said that Kerry's health care plan would lead to rationing. Bush lied when he mis-cited the National Journal survey of Kerry's voting record.

Those are some serious lies. If we're going to get into a pissing match about which candidate was more dishonest, Bush wins in a landslide.

But how about not going to that fall-back position, my conservative friends. How about simply admitting that the Bushie who spread the Tora Bora flip-flop to the media is scum, and that Brooks, Russert and all others who failed to do their jobs should apologize. Why not just keep it simple, rather than diminishing the obvious with more and more spin?

11:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the one telling statement in the above response is that this is a liberal site. i did not know that meant telling only the liberal side of every story. Seems to me that it is a convenient ploy to only play to your arguments when they fit the bill and then fall back on "this is a liberal site" to suggest it isnt important to put things into perspective. As usual, the far left, which often makes solid points, loses its credibility by refusing to address things with perspective. Once credibility is lost, you lose the ability to persuade and you then have crossfire--a shouting match of nonsense on both sides. You want to discuss media. That is what media has become and any blog that just trips over itself to take all rational thought out of the debate by only telling one position....well, it is the same story.

I agree with the premise of this particular posting. Noone is suggesting Russert was right...he should apologize. Larger point is that this was happening both directions all the time.....perspective. So dont tell me that isnt 'on point'. and dont tell me suggesting so is conservative methodology or something like that. I am not a conservative. But I also am not going to sit here with a straight face and remotely suggest that the majority of postings here dont stink of far left partisanship with almost complete ignorance to the larger picture. Unless of course, the larger picture works to make your point. Then it is ok.

As far as the person you have already decided came from Bush's administration that fed this purposeful lie to Russert etc..... he or she was wrong as well. But, again, I pose the following:

If you took the scum out of Washington, there would be a ton of prime real estate available, not to mention jobs. And they wouldnt just be republican jobs.

and to your point on which campaign was worse on spin or falsities---yes i agree Bush was. ( i am not counting the 527 stuff or michael moore in that assessment). But the venom shown here is not useful. Scum? Let's be real. Was Bush dumb or evil when he said falsities or exagerations? No, he played the game to the hilt. Was he scum for doing so? Is the president of the US scum or the many worse things i have heard him called? Was Kerry scum for intentionally misquoting the numbers on jobs on national tv? (BTW, I heard him say a draft was coming in more than one stump speech and he said Bush was going to fully privatize SS more than once even after asked questions about that-basically that bush had already explained what he was planning)

Neither of these guys are scum or evil or crap like that. They played the game to win---something that in Washington happens all the time. They are both patriots in my eyes--different views, sure, but both love this country. You can choose to believe otherwise and that is your choice.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one is suggesting that liberals are faultless. This site doesn't, either (I know there's a post about Air America, for example, and frequent criticisms of Maureen Dowd).

But it's tiresome when conservatives couch an obvious Republican lie by saying "well, everybody does it." It should just be, "this is wrong, let's move on."

But the point of this site, as I see it, is to point out conservative spin, especially as it makes its way into the mainstream media. (A second point of this site appears to be pointing out times when the Bush administration says one thing, like "we're safer," but does something else. Actions speak louder than words, and that sort of thing).

There are other sites that talk exclusively about "liberal media bias." Do you go on those sites and tell them to be more fair and balanced? I doubt it.

So accept this site for what it brings to the table. It's not trying to be objective, and says so on the home page. That's not necessarily a bad thing. You may not agree with everything written here, but I know I've learned a bit along the way.

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are, for the most part, correct. I would have similar problems with the conservate right site that only discusses liberal bias in the media. However, I guess I enjoyed this site because there seemed to be intellect behind the basic discussion points.

That said, it bothers me that the intellect, which could be a springboard for rational and reasonable discussion, instead often turns into a rah rah liberal, anti-everything Bush/republican speech. The rhetoric completely overwhelms what otherwise would be an interesting discussion. And, in much the same way that others here like to spend their time pointing out one extreme viewpoint, i thus far have decided to point out that is what they are doing and that it serves little purpose other than to preach to those who believe the same way.

Without taking life too seriously, I would have thought the more interesting way to go would be to educate based on fact, mix in opinion with perspective, and possibly change some minds along the way. That may not be the point of this site. I personally wish it were. I also wish the democratic party saw things that way as well....since then we may be discussing a new democratic president instead of 4 more years.

6:14 PM  

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