Sunday, October 31, 2004

In Purple Pennsylvania, Hijinks and Misinformation

Dateline: Hershey, Pa.

Wearing my home-made Kerry-Edwards shirt in a swing state two days before the election, I expected to hear my fair share of political debate.

The Marks traveled to Hershey, Pa., for the weekend, a family tradition (three years running) on Halloween weekend. Heading west on Interstate 78, we saw billboards for both presidential candidates, as well as a bounty of lawn signs, bumper stickers, buttons, and even a "W '04" sign hanging from a crane, conveniently parked to be viewed from the highway.

Kerry may win the state, but you wouldn't know it in this part of the state, 12 miles east of Harrisburg, well beyond the cities that anchor the east and west edges of the state -- Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In other words, this part of purple Pennsylvania should have an obvious red tinge.

The amusement park didn't open until 2 p.m. today, so we headed to the Hershey Outlets, just up the road, to kill a couple of hours. Waiting in the checkout line in a store selling kitchen items, an older woman asked to read the scripts on my shirt and my wife's. Nodding approvingly, she told us that she was a Bradley volunteer in 2000, and supported Kerry-Edwards this time around.

"You probably have seen all the Bush signs in the lawns," she said, and we told her we had. "My (Kerry-Edwards) sign has been stolen so many times. ... I finally learned to take it in at night."

She also told us about a letter that had been mass-mailed to homes in Palmyra, which neighbors Hershey. She'd received a copy of the letter, too, which apparently had a fake state office logo on its top, and a message from Gov. Ed Rendell that advised that because of the vast number of newly registered voters, polls would likely be crowded. As a result, the letter went, Republicans should vote on Tuesday, and Democrats on Wednesday.

I told her about a story I'd read in the Newark Star-Ledger yesterday, which said that in South Carolina, black voters had received a fake letter, supposedly from the NAACP, saying that any would-be voters with parking tickets or outstanding alimony payments would be arrested when they tried to vote on Tuesday.

***

Elsewhere at the outlets, and at the park itself, I was pleased with the number of young people -- and by that, I mean people who appear to be college age -- who asked to read the shirts or said things like "I like your shirt." I replied to them, "Bring 10 people with you on Tuesday!" More often than not, they accepted that advice positively.

One Hershey employee -- who just turned 18 -- asked to read the shirt, then said that she probably wouldn't vote. When I asked why, she said she was torn, because she was against the war in Iraq but she was also against abortion.

I said that I understood her feelings, but said that although the Democratic Party platform supports a woman's right to choose, that didn't mean they were pro-abortion. I cited a statistic I'd heard on Air America recently, that during the eight years of Clinton's presidency, abortions dropped by 50%. She said she appreciated hearing that, but even still, she didn't think she'd vote on Tuesday.

***

Later in the day, I bought a cookie from a Hershey employee, also college age, with a "W '04" button on. He saw my shirt and asked me why I supported Kerry. I said I had a bunch of reasons, but first and foremost, it was because I thought Kerry generally supported people, and Bush generally supported corporate interests, and that as a result, I usually disagreed with Bush.

I asked him why he supported Bush. He said, "I like what he's done, especially in Iraq."

I said, "But you know that the reasons Bush said we needed to go to Iraq have been proven false. There weren't any weapons of mass destruction, and Saddam had no real ties to Al Qaeda."

"Well, that's your opinion," he said.

"No, really," I replied. "Even Bush admits that he was surprised there was no weapons of mass destruction. There was a big report from our chief weapons inspector."

"That's your opinion," he said. "When we send in SWAT teams, we'll find out what's really there, and we'll find out how much they helped Al Qaeda."

"Iraq didn't have anything to do with 9/11," I said, amazed at what this guy was thinking. "Even the government admits that. Even Bush said so."

"I don't know," he said, in one of those voices that meant, I don't think you know what you're talking about. He continued: "Iraq even helped with the first bombing of the World Trade Center."

"That's not true," I said.

"I'm done talking," he said. "Have a nice day, sir." And then he walked away.

***

I rejoined my wife, and related the story. We agreed that either this guy was as dumb as a stump, or he'd heard a variation of this story along the way, possibly listening to talk radio or reading a conserative web site.

But, as I've written before here, there is a lot of misinformation among Bush supporters. In the last couple of weeks, MSNBC reported a poll finding that 42% of Bush supporters believe the U.S. found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. A similar percentage though Saddam helped Al Qaeda with 9/11.

A separate survey conducted in September found that among eight key campaign issues, Bush supporters agreed with Kerry on five. The problem: They didn't realize Kerry held those opinions, and more often than not attributed those beliefs to Bush. The survey found that, for example, the average Bush supporter thinks Bush supports federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, and that Kerry supports tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans.

***

Can one learn much from an isolated example of campaign hijinks, or from an isolated voter's ignorance? If they were truly isolated examples, then no.

But the news has been filled with examples of Republican foul play: indictments in South Dakota and New Hampshire, employees caught on tape throwing out registrations in Nevada and Oregon, the fake letter in South Carolina, etc. Have there been examples of Democratic wrongdoing? I've heard conservatives talk of widespread abuse, but have only heard one example cited, regarding a handful of fake names on new voter registration cards in Ohio. I'd love to hear more tangible examples, but when I ask my more vocal conservative friends, the most common response is, "Do you really think that the Republicans are the only ones playing dirty tricks?" My reply: Give me examples, not spin.

And as for voter ignorance, the aforementioned surveys do tell a story. A person can draw one of two conclusions: Kerry and the DNC have failed to make their positions clear, or the Republican misinformation campaign -- such as when President Bush says Kerry's Iraq plan is to "cut and run" -- have confused voters into not knowing the facts.

***

Driving home tonight, I picked up KDKA out of Pittsburgh. There was a call-in show, and the topic was the election. A caller said it best, "On Tuesday, you have a choice: Kerry or scary. Happy Halloween."

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Krugman Admits Times Censored Him During 2000 Campaign

On Air America's "Best of Al Franken Show" this morning, liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman admitted that the Times censored him during the 2000 presidential campaign.

Krugman told Franken that he was not allowed to say that then Governor George W. Bush was a liar, or lying, even when Krugman believed the facts justified that moniker.

Krugman thanked Franken for using the term in his best-selling 2003 book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them."

Moving on to discuss how the media didn't in general take a critical look at Bush's 2000 campaign promises, Krugman said that he realized, as early as September of 2000, that various Bush statements regarding economic issues -- such as his math regarding Social Security reform -- didn't add up, and couldn't. But, he said, the mainstream media "didn't see what was under its nose."

***

Bush, during a debate with then-Vice President Al Gore, used the term "fuzzy math" to question Gore's description of Bush's economic policies. Although many non-partisan sources later said that Gore accurately described Bush's policies, the mainstream media generally failed to critically examine the question, instead focusing on minor misstatements by Gore, such as whether he had met with FEMA Director James Lee Witt, or Witt's assistant, during a particular emergency in Texas.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Novak's Replacement Might Be Most Callous Man in America

It's painful to watch the maniacal shoutfests that pass for debate on CNN's Crossfire. And it's sad that the show helps legitimize liars like Robert Novak.

But the worst thing about Crossfire is that it helped create a generation of copycat shoutfests, where the spinner who helps loudest and most often wins, facts be damned. As Jon Stewart argued, Crossfire is to debate what pro wrestling is to professional sports.

Because any bozo with a Crossfire microphone can influence a small segment of the electorate, I introduce to you Tony Fabrizio, Republican consultant and pollster. Fabrizio, along with Philadelphia talk show host Joe Watkins, helped fill in for Novak on Friday's show.

Fabrizio knew his marching orders. He was to fill Novak's shoes, support the president, and offer red-meat for Crossfire's audience. And Fabrizio showed he had the chops to be as callous and devoid of facts as Novak and the Republican leadership they so desperately want to keep in office.

The discussion Friday regarded a powerful ad that can be seen at http://www.winbackrespect.org/ads/

Here's a partial transcript of that debate:

BEGALA: There is a new ad from MoveOn PAC that is going to start on Monday that CNN was able to obtain today from MoveOn. It is really quite stunning and stark. And it takes on the president for making light of the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Here's the ad from MoveOn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: Nope, no weapons over there.

BROOKE CAMPBELL, SISTER OF KILLED U.S. SOLDIER: My brother died in Baghdad on April 29. I watched President Bush make a joke looking around for weapons of mass destruction. My brother died looking for weapons of mass destruction.

NARRATOR: Over 1,000 troops like Ryan have died in Iraq. Yet there never were any weapons. George Bush, he just doesn't get it

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: Devastating ad, isn't that, Tony?

(APPLAUSE)

FABRIZIO: I would agree that it is a very emotional ad. But the ad makes the wrong point. The ad draws the wrong conclusion. When the ad says that her brother lost his life looking for weapons of mass destruction, no. Her brother lost his life protecting America by removing a man from power who was a sworn enemy of the United States.

BEGALA: From weapons of mass destruction that weren't there.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Tony, you do have to admit that it is spectacularly callous for our president to send troops into harm's way for a stated purpose of finding weapons that were not there and then to make jokes about it, when men have died....

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

FABRIZIO: No, I'll tell you what is spectacularly callous. What is spectacularly callous is that the Clinton administration had eight years to do something about these guys and didn't.

BEGALA: We had them in a box. He was no threat to anybody. What are you drinking?

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I want to get a case of it.

(CROSSTALK)

FABRIZIO: We had him a box? Oh, really?

BEGALA: Yes. He was no threat to anybody. He had no weapons.

(CROSSTALK)

FABRIZIO: I'm drinking the same Kool-Aid that a majority of Americans are, who believe that this president is doing the right thing when it comes to fighting the war on terror. That is the Kool- Aid I'm drinking.

(APPLAUSE)

***

I ask you, when did debate devolve into smack-and-run tactics? When did "coward conservatism" -- the need to insult your opponent's liberalism, rather than defend your own conservatism -- become the preferred method of debate?

In a way, I don't blame Fabrizio. He's taking his marching orders from some higher-up, following the lead of Bush and Cheney, Rove and Hughes. He's following the lead of Novak, too. No news item is too large or sad to divert them from twisting the history and statements of John Kerry in order to make him look like an unpatriotic sloth -- much as they did in 2000 with John McCain.

I have to assume Fabrizio had never seen the advertisement before Friday's Crossfire. And yet, he was able to summon a lethal, politically charged attack that got the crowd cheering.

And what of Brooke Campbell, still mourning her brother? Fabrizio, the true conservative patriot that he is, knew how to respond. He doesn't care about the Campbells, and he damn well wants to make sure you don't either.

Monday, October 25, 2004

A Blue Stater Travels Through Red States ... The Story Continues

Dateline: Atlanta, Ga.

I know that Georgia is safely a Red State in the upcoming presidential election. But judging from the staff at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and at our downtown Atlanta hotel, one might have guessed we were in Kerry country.

Now, that might have been because this particular population was disproportionately African-American, and Kerry, if nothing else, scores well with "hyphenated Americans." Or it might have been because this particular population is paid an hourly wage, and may have realized Bushonomics hasn't helped them, or that millions recently lost their chance to earn overtime, possibly including them. Whatever the reason, Kerry-Edwards buttons were plainly in sight.

***

On the drive to suburban Roswell for a family barbeque, Bush-Cheney posters were prevalent, and it seemed there were as many "W" bumper stickers as there were 4X4s on Route 75. The local radio, as I've previously noted*, was well stocked with Rush Limbaugh and local wannabes.

***

The BBQ attendees were all in town for my cousin's wedding the next day, so this was hardly a local crowd. In fact, after a few hours of conversations and how-do-you-dos, it became clear that our group was slightly more Christian than Jewish, slightly more Southern than Northern, slightly more male than female, and surprisingly, slightly more Democrat than Republican.

It was actually kind of funny. You had a bunch of folks from Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland and Florida, who were clearly Democrats. You could hear it in the conversations. And, as the World Series was to start that night, it also appeared that the Democrats among us were universally rooting for the Red Sox.

Meanwhile, you had a cluster of apolitical partiers discussing college football, coming into the great room and asking to have the channel flipped to the Alabama-Tennessee or Florida State-Wake Forest games (I think the Georgia game had already finished by the time we'd all arrived). This group was decidedly more male, Southern and Christian ... and apparently uninterested in politics.

Now, I don't want you to get the wrong idea. I wasn't taking copious notes. I can't account for everyone in attendance. No polls were taken that night. Just observations and mental notes as I made my way about the party, stumbling upon the middle of one conversation or another. I didn't talk politics myself (possibly jet lag, or because my wife and I were busy watching our three-year-old), but over a four-hour period, it seemed as if the majority of attendees had on some level made their intentions clear.

And so, yes, maybe I'm stereotyping, and maybe no reasonable conclusions can be drawn from a single party in suburban Atlanta. But it sure did seem as if the Democrats among us were a lot more motivated by the news of the day than the (assumed) Republicans, who just wanted to watch football.

***

Earlier today, the morning after the wedding, I saw the first true-blue Bush fan in the crowd: my aunt's 16-year-old great nephew (no relation to my side of the family). He didn't really have much of a reason for supporting the president ... apparently he thinks Bush is cool.

He's from Florida. Sigh.


* To read the other eight parts of this series, go to the August and September archives.

Friday, October 22, 2004

So Much for Metaphors

I was among the many hoping for a Boston-Houston World Series.

I had envisioned the Sox knocking off Houston in game seven at Fenway -- beating Roger Clemens no less -- with John Kerry in the stands, cheering his team on national television.

A Boston victory, just days before the election, might have led to a groundswell of support for Boston's favorite son this presidential season. (A seven-game series would mean a Boston victory parade on Election Day). All those who love an underdog (or who hate the establishment, big-money Yankees) would take those good feelings about the Red Sox into their voting booths on Election Day.

Oh well ...

***

I'm making a new t-shirt, which will read "(Red Sox Logo) in October, (Kerry-Edwards logo) in November, (Happy face logo) in December, and a Happy New Year."

***

I'm heading back to Red State America this weekend, for my cousin's wedding in Atlanta.

Some of you may recall JABBS' eight-part whimsical look at the South -- "A Blue Stater Travels Through Red States" -- and the t-shirts that the Marks donned along the way. If you haven't read the series, feel free to check out the August and September archives.

I'll post my follow-up to the "Blue Stater" series on Monday.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

We're Safer? Leading Terrorism Experts Disagree with Bush-Cheney Slogan

(Note: The following in a letter being circulated to the media.* Risk Management Solutions is considered a nonpartisan source of information, and its risk modeling is used by government agencies, asset securitization specialists, bond and credit rating agents, insurers and others.)

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Prindle

Sent: Thursday, October 21, 2004

Subject: briefing request: RMS sees terrorist attack risk increasing in the U.S. and globally [bcc]

Hello,

Hope you are well.

I was wondering if you might be interested in speaking with a terrorism expert from catastrophe risk modeling firm Risk Management Solutions (RMS) to discuss the company's just-completed 2005 overview of U.S. and global terrorism risk. Developed over the course of several months by RMS and its network of world-renowned terrorism experts, the overview represents the most accurate and up-to-date insight into terrorism risk available anywhere. In the past, this information has been shared with RMS's clients, but not generally released to the media.

U.S. Terrorism Risk: Increased Risk of Attack RMS sees an increased risk of a terrorist macro attack in the U.S. over the next year, with "macro attack" defined as a major terrorist attack requiring considerable resources and intended to provoke a political reaction. While the overall chances of an attack have increased, the expected severity of an attack has decreased; evidence suggests that a successful attack in the U.S. is now more likely to involve the intelligent deployment of smaller conventional weapons such as vehicle bombs, rather than a chemical, biological or nuclear weapon. The increased risk is due to the proliferation of Islamic militants that are motivated and threatening the U.S., and the preparation time that groups have had to plan attacks that could come to maturity in 2005. In addition, 2004 saw a record number of attacks worldwide, a substantial increase in the number of disrupted suspected attack preparations within the U.S., and increased activity in Islamic militant recruitment.

Global Terrorism Risk: Iraq War Generates New Threats RMS warns of a considerable increase in international terrorism threat generated by the Iraq war. Its advisory group cites repeated examples of European operatives visiting Iraq, becoming involved in attacks on US forces and learning guerilla tactics on the front lines before returning to Europe as now-radicalized and experienced terrorist operatives, ready to advance Jihadist causes in France, Germany, the UK and elsewhere. In addition, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is busily creating a new network of terrorist cells throughout Europe, independent of those created by Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda itself continues to recruit new members, including a cell recently arrested in the UK that was comprised of highly educated UK-born Pakistani men who had not been through the Afghanistan training camps but were inspired by the rhetoric and ideology to plan their own attacks -- truly 'second generation' Islamic militant terrorists.

RMS's Global Terrorism Risk Model: Supporting Development of Overseas Terrorism Coverage The information gleaned for this overview also played a significant role in RMS's development of the first-ever Global Terrorism Risk Model. Released in late September, the model is already being used to facilitate a Montpelier Re/OPIC facility that provides terrorism coverage to U.S. businesses investing in developing countries and transition economies.

RMS's Advisory Group
The company's advisory group of world-leading authorities on terrorism includes Jane's Information Group; Dr. Rohan Gunaratna, Head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, Singapore; Dr. Bruce Hoffman, Director, RAND, Washington, D.C.; Dr. Magnus Ranstorp, Director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, University of St. Andrews; and Dr. K. Jack Riley, Co-Director, RAND Center for Terrorism Risk Management Policy.

Thank you so much for your time,
Mark Prindle
TorranceCo

* I have removed Mr. Prindle's e-mail address and telephone number.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Dick Cheney's Alternate Universe, Part III

(Third in an occasional series)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney says he is angry at Sen. John Kerry for invoking their lesbian daughter during the final presidential debate. Kerry, the Democratic nominee, says he was just trying to say something nice about how the Cheneys have dealt with the issue and meant no offense.

"We're all God's children," Kerry said. "And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was. She's being who she was born as. I think if you talk to anybody, it's not a choice."

But the vice president went after Kerry with strong words.

"You saw a man who will do and say anything to get elected," Cheney told a rally in Fort Myers, Fla. "And I am not just speaking as a father here, although I am a pretty angry father." He later told a local TV station: "I thought it was totally inappropriate."

***

And now, we take a closer look at:

DICK CHENEY'S ALTERNATE UNIVERSE
Unidentified Ohio Home
Oct. 17, 2004


Lynne: What are you watching, honey?

Dick: Oh, just the news. They're talking about those awful things John Kerry said about Vice President Cheney's daughter.

Lynne: About her being ... a lesbian?

Dick: Yeah. It's just like the Democrats to try to score points over someone's gayishness.

Lynne: Yeah, if the Cheney girl wants to be a ... lesbian, that's her business. She should keep that to herself. The rest of us shouldn't know about it.

Dick: It's not like Vice President Cheney has tried to score points over her gayfullness.

TV (shows clip of Cheney): "Lynne and I have a gay daughter, so it's an issue our family is very familiar with."

Lynne: Well, he was probably answering a question. After all, he's proud of his daughter, even if she is a ... lesbian.

Dick: Yeah. Nothing wrong with that. He was being honest. Just like he was being honest when he said how mad he was at Kerry.

TV (showing clip of former Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer): Social conservatives like Gary Bauer, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination four years ago, complain that Mr. Cheney's public support for his daughter "demoralizes some sections of the base that they need in an election where we could all be counting chads again."

Lynne: Huh. I wonder if Vice President Cheney got mad at Gary Bauer?

Dick: Maybe he didn't hear Bauer say it.

TV (showing clip of Republican Illinois Senate Candidate Alan Keyes): "The essence of family life remains procreation. If we embrace homosexuality as a proper basis for marriage, we are saying that it's possible to have a marriage state that in principal excludes procreation and is based simply on the premise of selfish hedonism. ... (That means) Mary Cheney is a selfish hedonist. That goes by definition. Of course she is."

Lynne: Wow. That was pretty strong.

Dick: Well ... the vice president has more important things to do than listen to Alan Keyes. I mean, John Kerry said what he said on national television.

Lynne: You're right, honey. I can't wait to re-elect Bush and Cheney!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Fox News' Cameron Creates New Fiction Serving as Fact Checker

Many observers suggested that Carl Cameron, Fox News' chief political correspondent, should have been suspended after he wrote a fake and derisive news story about John Kerry for Fox News' web site.

Officially, Cameron was reprimanded. In truth, it's business as usual for Fox. No suspension. No removal from covering the campaign. A slap on the wrist and carry on, my conservative son.

Not only was Cameron a key part of last night's debate coverage for Fox -- he served the role of fact checker! What's worse, he misrepresented the facts -- surprise, surprise -- with regard to the very same John Kerry.

The topic was the back-and-forth during the debate about how many pieces of legislation John Kerry had written and had passed by Congress.

Bush said: "He introduced some 300 bills, and he's passed five."

Kerry said: I've actually passed 56 individual bills that I've personal written. And in addition to that, they're not always under my name, there is amendments on certain bills."

So there's the debate: Did Kerry pass five bills, or 56? Seems like something that would be easy to fact-check, right?

The Washington Post, in July, 2003, citing an Associated Press examination, said Kerry was the lead sponsor on eight bills that became law. But "Kerry sponsored 56 bills and resolutions that passed the Senate, but did not necessarily become law."

In other words, Kerry was right. Bush was wrong.

But how did fiction writer Cameron see things?

From the Fox News transcript:

CAMERON: And the Kerry camp does not dispute that, five that made it to a president's desk and were signed; whereas Senator Kerry argues that that 56 was legislation that he wrote or cosponsored or was involved in over the course of his career --

HUME: Well, he said "personally wrote."

CAMERON: -- but did not --

HUME: He said "personally wrote."

CAMERON: Well, that -- he co-sponsored. He did indeed. That's not entirely accurate. Some of them were bills that he cosponsored or worked with, and by putting his name on it -- in legislative parlance, being a cosponsor does not necessarily mean that one is a principal in the writing of the legislation, but one who has joined on it.

***

So Cameron creates more fiction. By substituting "wrote" for "wrote or co-sponsored or was involved in," Cameron turns Bush into a truth-teller, and Kerry into a shady, do-nothing Senator.

So again, ask yourselves, what is Carl Cameron doing covering the presidential campaign for Fox News? Shouldn't it be clear that either his bias toward the President has clouded his objectivity, or that he's an incompetent reporter?

Frankly, anyone this incompetent -- conservative or liberal, correspondent or anchor -- deserves to be suspended, demoted or perhaps dumped. My boss wouldn't tolerate such reckless behavior from me -- because to do so would be to allow our newsletters' credibility to be questioned.

Why should the American people tolerate anything less?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Voter Registration Fraud Alleged in Nevada

(Note: The following is the transcript of a report yesterday by George Knapp, of CBS affiliate KLAS-TV in Las Vegas.)

Employees of a private voter registration company allege that hundreds, perhaps thousands of voters who may think they are registered will be rudely surprised on election day. The company claims hundreds of registration forms were thrown in the trash.

Anyone who has recently registered or re-registered to vote outside a mall or grocery store or even government building may be affected.

The I-Team has obtained information about an alleged widespread pattern of potential registration fraud aimed at Democrats. The focus of the story is a private registration company called Voters Outreach of America, AKA America Votes.

The out-of-state firm has been in Las Vegas for the past few months, registering voters. It employed up to 300 part-time workers and collected hundreds of registrations per day, but former employees of the company say that Voters Outreach of America only wanted Republican registrations.

Two former workers say they personally witnessed company supervisors rip up and trash registration forms signed by Democrats.

"We caught her taking Democrats out of my pile, handed them to her assistant and he ripped them up right in front of us. I grabbed some of them out of the garbage and she tells her assisatnt to get those from me," said Eric Russell, former Voters Outreach employee.

Russell managed to retrieve a pile of shredded paperwork including signed voter registration forms, all from Democrats. We took them to the Clark County Election Department and confirmed that they had not, in fact, been filed with the county as required by law.

So the people on those forms who think they will be able to vote on Election Day are sadly mistaken. We attempted to speak to Voters Outreach but found that its office has been rented out to someone else.

The landlord says Voters Outreach was evicted for non-payment of rent. Another source said the company has now moved on to Oregon where it is once again registering voters. It's unknown how many registrations may have been tossed out, but another ex-employee told Eyewitness News she had the same suspicions when she worked there.

It's going to take a while to sort all of this out, but the immediate concern for voters is to make sure you really are registered.

***

Josh Marshall, of talkingpointsmemo.com, points out that the same group has advertised on careerbuilder.com looking for door-to-door canvassers. The ad is paid for by the GOP. Marshall also reports the same group did work for Nader in Arizona.

For Tonight's Debate, Kerry Should Discuss How Bush Policies Harm Children

Tonight's Bush-Kerry debate will focus on domestic policy. Observers, citing poll results, suggest this should benefit Kerry.

Poll results are great, but I think in this case, it's almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. Radio and television talking heads have told us so many times that Americans believe Bush is stronger on Iraq and terrorism, and Kerry is stronger on the economy and social issues -- we're almost conditioned to believe it. Facts? Who needs facts?

A recent Annenberg study found that Americans are more likely to agree with Kerry on five of eight key campaign issues. The problem? The same Americans were unclear whether Bush or Kerry supported a particular issue, and more often than not, they guessed wrong.

So hopefully tonight's debate will be an eye-opener.

I'm hoping Kerry will focus on issues related to children, not merely to gain sympathy points, but to just reveal how decisions by the Bush administration affect millions of children. Simply put, if Kerry offers facts and lets voters decide, I think he'll win on Nov. 2.

POINT ONE: Federal funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

Congress failed to act before the Sept. 30 deadline to extend $1.1 billion of federal funds for SCHIP, the program that insures children of the working poor. The unused funds were essentially taken from the states and returned to the U.S. Treasury. This goes against the original 1997 legislation, which says that unused funds are supposed to be reallocated from states with surplus funds to states in need of funds.

The deadline elapsed without any protest from the White House. Not once did the Bush administration request Congress to extend the time states had to use the funds. That decision came over objections from the National Governors Association, and after the administration opposed legislation sponsored in the Senate by Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and in the House by Joe Barton (R-TX) and John Dingell (D-MI).

What has Bush said on the campaign trail? The exact opposite of what he's done:
“America’s children must also have a healthy start in life. In a new term, we will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of poor children who are eligible but not signed up for the government’s health insurance programs. We will not allow a lack of attention, or information, to stand between these children and the health care they need. Anyone who wants more details on my agenda can find them online.”

It's a nice statement, but meaningless given recent administration policy.

How far does $1.1 billion go? According to watchdog group Families USA, $1.1 billion would insure 750,000 children.

POINT TWO: More children have become impoverished during Bush's watch.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 800,000 more children became impoverished in 2003, bringing the total to 12.9 million. That's 17.6% of all children.

The increase in impoverished children from 2002 to 2003 followed an increase of 400,000 children from 2001 to 2002.

POINT THREE: States are struggling to maintain Medicaid benefits.

As of July of this year, 52 million people receive Medicaid. Nearly half of those people are children. Rising medicaid costs, combined with reduced state budgets, has led to many states restricting eligibility or reducing benefits.

To the Bush administration's credit, providing $20 billion of temporary fiscal relief last year. But the relief expired on June 30, and the administration made no effort to renew it.

A Kaiser Family Foundation study reports: "When Medicaid directors were asked whether pressures on their Medicaid programs were growing, remaining constant, or subsiding, 39 states responded that pressures were growing and 12 felt the pressure would remain constant, but, in many cases, intense. The federal government supplied fiscal relief in FY2004 and that one-time jump in the federal share of Medicaid funding helped maintain eligibility levels (funds were promised only if states did not cut back eligibility in FY2004), but the fiscal relief expired on June 30th of this year. States are now faced with not only budgeting funds for a growing program, but also making up for the drop in the federal matching funds."

POINT FOUR: Leading pediatricians have condemned Bush Administration policy.

On Sept. 29, thirty-six of the nation's top pediatricians, including six past presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics, released a joint statement harshly criticizing Bush policy.

The statement in part read: "The Bush Administration's policies are moving us away from effective and longstanding federal commitments that improved the health of children, commitments proudly initiated and supported by previous Republican and Democratic presidents. If not reversed, these ill-advised tax and budget policies will erode decades of hard-won health gains for children, while still leaving unaddressed such critical problems as child abuse, mental health, and alcohol and other drug abuse ... We embrace Senator Kerry's straightforward goal: every child, indeed every American, should have the same affordable health care that is available to every member of Congress and senior government official. Our children and our families deserve no less a commitment from their next President."

Author Dr. T. Berry Brazelton said: "We know that SCHIP, AFDC for underprivileged families, child care, Early Head Start and Head Start work for children, but these programs aren't being adequately funded. We need to ask ourselves: What are we doing to the next generation if we don't back them up now? A recent report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation showed that children in the middle don't get preventative health -- and one out of seven of them has a preventable disease. We can't afford that economically as a nation and the families certainly can't afford it. We've got to think about children and families in this country first."

Monday, October 11, 2004

Leaked ABC Memo Shows Someone's Keeping Score

ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin has apparently had enough.

An internal memo, dated Oct. 8, has been leaked. Assuming the memo is authentic, it shows a rare instance of someone in the media having the cahones to keep score of who's lying about what in this year's presidential campaign.

The memo reads:

It goes without saying that the stakes are getting very high for the country and the campaigns - and our responsibilities become quite grave.

I do not want to set off (sp?) and endless colloquy that none of us have time for today - nor do I want to stifle one. Please respond if you feel you can advance the discussion.

The New York Times (Nagourney/Stevenson) and Howard Fineman on the web both make the same point today: the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done.

Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win.

We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides "equally" accountable when the facts don't warrant that.

I'm sure many of you have this week felt the stepped up Bush efforts to complain about our coverage. This is all part of their efforts to get away with as much as possible with the stepped up, renewed efforts to win the election by destroying Senator Kerry at least partly through distortions.

It's up to Kerry to defend himself, of course. But as one of the few news organizations with the skill and strength to help voters evaluate what the candidates are saying to serve the public interest. Now is the time for all of us to step up and do that right.

***

The immediate reaction from the left: about time.
The immediate reaction from the right: Kerry is a liar!!!

***

I agree with Kevin Drum of Washington Monthly: "It's fake 'objectivity' to pretend that ten big lies are the same thing as a couple of minor distortions. The media should be reporting what's really going on, not inventing a false balance that doesn't exist."

To be clear, Halperin isn't saying the media shouldn't point out mis-statements or half-truths from the Kerry camp. Instead, it's just asking that the media play fair, instead of trying to equate minor factual errors from Kerry with massive whoppers from Bush/Cheney.

Bush supporters will likely disagree with the premise of Halperin's memo. But Kerry advocates -- who have been keeping score of all the false statements, half-truths, exaggerations and disingenuous comments from Bush-Cheney '04 -- think the Halperin memo is a much-needed breath of fresh air.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

On MSNBC's Debate Panels, Do Viewers Really Need Multiple Conservative Spinners?

This blog is among the many that have weighed in on the rightward tilt Chris Matthews and company have taken in their post-debate coverage at MSNBC.

After the Vice Presidential debate, MSNBC vociferously declared Cheney the winner -- highlighting how Cheney had "slammed" Edwards by claiming he had not met the North Carolina Senator prior to that evening. MSNBC's praise came even though Tim Russert apparently knew Cheney and Edwards had met on Meet the Press in 2001. The next morning, on Imus in the Morning, Matthews admitted his panel may have been snookered, by not recognizing various misleading half-truths from the vice president.

Heading into the second presidential debate, would Matthews overcompensate? We've seen how the blustering "Hardball" host -- who conservatives like to point out once worked for Tip O'Neill -- tends to overcompensate to appear friendly to conservatives. After receiving criticism for swinging too far right, would Chris do the same to appease the left?

Apparently not.

Friday's debate coverage featured various combinations of conservatives Joe Scarborough, Pat Buchanan and Ben Ginsberg -- often with two men appearing at the same time.

Ben Ginsberg? Who picks MSNBC's panels? On Fox News, you know Brit Hume's "All-Stars" swing far to the right. But on MSNBC, shouldn't viewers expect more?

For those unfamiliar with the name, Ginsberg in August resigned as chief outside counsel to the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign after he acknowledged providing legal advice to the discredited anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Back in 2000, Ginsberg was a key figure in the Florida recount debacle -- another bone of contention among Democrats.

Could Ginsberg provide reasoned analysis? Even Matthews realized the answer to this question is no. Consider this exchange before Friday's debate:

MATTHEWS: Ben, you help me get the story straight right now. Was Iraq involved with 9-11?

GINSBERG: As far as we know, there were certainly insinuations in the 9-11 Commission report that there were. As for the absolute truth of the matter ...

MATTHEWS: No, there weren't. No, there weren't. No, there were not. I'm sorry, Ben. I have got to correct you here.

As mediamatters.org points out, the 9/11 Commission report agrees with Matthews:

"We have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States."

***


In various interviews, including one a few weeks ago with Jon Stewart, Matthews has suggested he was concerned about being blackballed by conservatives, citing Tom DeLay as an example of a conservative who would no longer play "Hardball" with him.

My question is, why is Matthews afraid to blackball a conservative who lies to his face? Ginsberg already has credibility problems. If he says something obviously untrue to Matthews, shouldn't that raise a red flag?

Beyond that, consider the broader queston: do we really need conservative (or liberal) spinners on these panels? Viewers know what conservatives like Ginsberg, Scaborough and Buchanan will say -- Buchanan, for example, said Bush won debate two in a slam dunk; Scarborough made a similar claim on Cheney's behalf after the veep debate. So what's the point?

I heard a rumor last week that Matthews may be taking "Hardball" to Fox News. I had to laugh, because it makes perfect sense. What is Matthews, if not a Fox News Liberal?

Friday, October 08, 2004

Freedom of Press -- Texas Style?

When the Lone Star Iconoclast -- the newspaper in George Bush's hometown of Crawford, Texas -- surprisingly endorsed John Kerry for president, the publication had 920 subscribers.

It now has less than 500.

According to Publisher Leon Smith, you can't buy the newspaper at a stand in Crawford -- the result of a shopkeeper boycott. Advertisers have pulled out. Angry callers have made their feeling known non-stop. Iconoclast reporters have been turned away from events other media is allowed to cover.

The Iconoclast endorsed Bush in 2000. But it also has endorsed Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter over the years. Those endorsements were met with letters to the editor, but no widespread boycott.

Smith has said that the newspaper will stay in business, for now, although it is likely to rely more heavily on the benevolence of liberals and civil liberties advocates from outside the Crawford area.

Is this freedom of the press, Texas-style?



Thursday, October 07, 2004

A Day After the Veep Debate, Chris Matthews Still Finds Cheney Lie "Powerful"

A whopping 44 million people watched the debate between Vice President Cheney and Senator Edwards. The smidgen that watched MSNBC -- about 1.5 million -- saw Hardball's Chris Matthews and his cohorts laud Cheney for his strength and serenity. And unlike their contemporaries at CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN, the Matthews crew scored it as a decisive victory for the vice president.

Cheney's factual miscues, at least in the initial discussion, were overlooked.

A day later, to be fair, Hardball did take a closer look at misleading statements from each debater. And although Matthews wouldn't say it, an impartial observer would conclude that Cheney offered more half-truths and mis-statements than Edwards.

But amazingly, Matthews was willing to buy the GOP spin for the mis-statement that got the most press in the news cycle after the debate -- Cheney's incorrect claim that he'd never met Edwards before the debate.

Speaking with Democratic strategist Steve McMahon early on in the show, Matthews blustered: "I thought Edwards looked slammed on that issue, 'I‘ve never met this young man before.'"

***

Just to be clear, Hardball officially noted the wrong claim made to 44 million viewers. David Shuster reported:

SHUSTER: The vice president‘s most powerful (claim) came when (he) slammed John Edwards‘ Senate attendance record.

CHENEY: Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of the Senate, and the presiding officer. I‘m up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they‘re in session. The first time I ever met you was when walked on the stage tonight.

SHUSTER: The problem is that Cheney and Edwards met at the very least, at a prayer breakfast three years ago. Not to mention at the swearing in of North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole.

But Matthews was apparently looking for the nuance of Cheney's claim, a trick that conservatives blast John Kerry for, even as they commit the act themselves.

Here's the exchange Matthews had with conservative Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund:

MATTHEWS: What did you make of his assertion that he had never met him before? That was a powerful moment in the debate as we watched it.

FUND: It was clever.

MATTHEWS: It seemed like a thunderous blow against a new arrival on the scene, someone who hadn‘t really earned his papers yet, more or less. Do you think it worked?

FUND: Here‘s the significance of that. Obviously, it‘s not quite true, because they appeared together at a prayer breakfast in early 2001. But for purposes of business on the Senate floor, Cheney was correct. The real interesting thing is, regardless of what the technical accuracy is, Edwards did not respond to it. He left it on the table. He sounded like someone who realized it wasn‘t in his talking points, but he couldn‘t react properly.

MATTHEWS: In other words ... it was close enough to the truth.

***

I don't know if Matthews has kids, but if he does, I hope they learn their lesson. It's okay to lie, if it's close to the truth. It's okay to lie, if you do so powerfully.

If that isn't the definition of being an apologist for Cheney, I don't know what is.

***

For what it's worth, the Democrats may have gotten a bounce out of the veep debate. Rasmussen, which offers a daily tracking poll of likely voters, has Bush leading Kerry by an average of 1% -- roughly 48-47 -- in the three days after the debate. The lead was roughly 3.5% -- about 48.5-45, in the three days prior to the debate.

So whether Cheney had met Edwards on the Senate floor, at a prayer breakfast, or anywhere else might not ultimately matter in the presidential campaign. As has been said many times, very little in a veep debate affects the final tally -- not even Lloyd Bentsen's devastating "you're no Jack Kennedy" line at Dan Quayle's expense in 1988, or Geraldine Ferraro's scolding of a patronizing George H.W. Bush in 1984.

I have to assume that the people Rasmussen is polling know better than to watch Chris Matthews.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

MSNBC's Post-Debate Coverage Measures Strength, Not Facts

Most of the major networks -- NBC, CNN, ABC -- seemed to suggest last night's vice-presidential debate was a draw.

But not the folks at MSNBC.

"It was an extraordinarily strong performance by Dick Cheney," said Joe Scarborough, MSNBC host and former Republican congressman.

"Will the liberal press admit that Cheney won? That's a very good question. I think that the vice president did very, very well. He turned in a strong and serene performance, compared to Edwards," said Jon Meacham, Newsweek Managing Editor.

"I don't think the well-rehearsed and well-briefed senator from North Carolina was ready for the assault," said Hardball's Chris Matthews.

***

The other networks also had fact checkers at their disposal. MSNBC used correspondent David Schuster to count "buzzwords" from the candidates, like "Iraq" and "Kerry."

Matthews was particularly impressed with Cheney suggesting he'd never met Edwards -- a statement that Edwards (after the debate) said was wrong, and other observers said was untrue, citing several meetings of the two, including a prayer breakfast and the swearing-in of Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC).

"It was all the points about attendance record— that's tremendous amount of homework the Republican candidate for V.P. did here.," Matthews said last night. Remember, Matthews is paid to make blustery snap judgments. Facts be damned, it sounded good, he essentially told his audience.

Matthews' cohort, Andrea Mitchell, made a similar statement, when she offered: "I think Dick Cheney did awfully well at, first of all, putting John Edwards in his place, saying that I have been presiding over the Senate and I didn't meet you until tonight."

***

Maybe it would be tough to know immediately whether Cheney's statement on Edwards' attendance record was true. That might take some researcher a few minutes to look up (although responsible journalists might have waited to comment until they knew the accuracy of the claim).

But are the folks at MSNBC really paid to tell an audience that Cheney looked strong and serene? Isn't their job to fact-check, to fill in the gaps when either candidate utters a half-truth? Isn't that the very basis of analysis?

The New York Times this morning tallied up more than a dozen half-truths or misrepresentations from Cheney. Edwards, who on several occasions during the debate suggested Cheney was being misleading, was only cited a couple of times by the Times.

And yet, Matthews and company didn't see fit to discuss factual errors -- from either candidate -- in the initial thrust of their post-debate coverage.

Had Cheney never beofre suggested a connection between Iraq and 9/11? That seems easy enough to fact-check. The Times knew the statement was at best a half-truth, but Matthews and company were too busy complementing Cheney's strength and serenity.

Will 900,000 businesses be negatively affected by the Kerry tax proposals? Again, it would be easy to find an expert to say this is untrue. The Times cited the Tax Policy Center, for example.

Was Edwards wrong to cite Halliburton being under investigation. Does Edwards -- as Cheney suggested -- "know the charges are false"? The Times knew that Edwards was correct in his assessment. MSNBC didn't care.

Was Cheney correct to say -- as he and Bush have said numerous times on the campaign trail -- that Kerry voted for 98 tax increases? Certainly, the MSNBC crowd should have seen this one coming, and if they'd done their homework, they would have concluded, as the Times did, that this is a misleading claim -- including multiple votes within the same legislation. Edwards said that Kerry had voted or supported 600 measures to cut taxes. I don't know if that's true or not, but MSNBC wasn't interested in covering that either.

Finally, Edwards reeled off a list of votes from Cheney's term in the House. He didn't support Head Start, Meals on Wheels, the release of Nelson Mandela, etc. Pretty scathing stuff. The sort of red meat that could have been discussed by Matthews and company. Or Matthews could have found a GOP spinner to defend those votes.

But Matthews and Scarborough, et al, were too concerned with Cheney's strength and serenity to notice.

And they wonder why voters are uninformed and uninterested in the process ...

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Cameron-Gate, Part II (And Why This Story of Incompetence Shouldn't Go Away)

Countdown with Keith Olbermann last night offered, I believe, the first major television report on the incompetence of Fox News' Carl Cameron -- who allowed a parody poking fun at John Kerry to appear on Fox News' web site.

Yes, the story made the rounds among bloggers over the weekend. Yes, Howard Kurtz had a brief item in the Washington Post, and the New York Times and USA Today also had inside stories.

But television -- even on low-rated MSNBC -- potentially has a far greater impact. For the life of me, I don't know why every one of Fox News' competitors isn't highlighting this latest example of conservative bias. After all, doesn't Cameron's action call into question his bias on all other stories related to the presidential campaign?

More on that later ...

***

Is what Cameron did on the same level as Dan Rather's incompetence at CBS? No. This is a website story; Rather reported for 60 Minutes. But given that Fox is trumpeting how their channel's ratings are through the roof during the fall campaign -- they claimed 10 million viewers for the first debate, crushing CNN and MSNBC -- isn't it important that the station's chief political correspondent at least pretend to be neutral?

Here are the highlights from Olbermann's interview with Robert Thompson of Syracuse University, where he founded and directs the Center for the Study of Popular Television:

OLBERMANN: The gag reporting by its chief political correspondent, Carl Cameron, including made-up quotes attributed to John Kerry, was not supposed to be put on its Web site last Friday as actual news, entitled “The Metrosexual and the Cowboy.”

Fox says it was drawn from what somebody did not know was a farcical script written by Cameron, placed in the wrong part of its news computer, and simply rewritten by somebody else. This, even though the mock script quoted the senator as saying, “Didn‘t my nails and cuticles look great? What a good debate.” And “I‘m a metrosexual. He‘s a cowboy.”

The network issued an apology, calling it a poor attempt at humor and a lapse in judgment, and said Cameron had been, quote, reprimanded.

Fox was just getting back on its feet when another political correspondent, Jane Roh, filed a report about a parody group called Communists for Kerry. One problem—she forgot to mention it was a parody, and she forgot to mention the group was actually pro-Bush. Fox‘s response to that—Roh was duped. She actually believed the folks were serious.

The faux news stories got some media attention, but not a fraction of the CBS Killian memos saga. Is that appropriate? Or is there a political bias there, or what?

Joining me now, Professor Robert Thompson of Syracuse University, where he founded and directs the Center for the Study of Popular Television. Professor Thompson, good evening.

THOMPSON: Good evening.

OLBERMANN: Well, let‘s try to get some perspective. Are these Fox gaffs even in the same league as what we think we know happened at CBS?

THOMPSON: Well, they‘re not, insofar as they‘re not claiming that Kerry did something that he could be court-martialed for. It‘s on a Web site, as opposed to “60 Minutes.” And they apologized for it, really, really quickly, as opposed to CBS, which kept saying, you know, the sources were false, but the spirit was true. Fox never said the quotes were made up, but the spirit was true. Which I suppose they could of. John Kerry‘s cuticles did look pretty good on Thursday night.

OLBERMANN: There is an irony to this thing, in particular, because of all the people on the air at Fox News, Carl Cameron probably gets the least amount of grief about purportedly having a political agenda. But let‘s say somebody, whose neutrality was equally respected at CNN or at MSNBC, made up quotes about George Bush and they wound up on those Web sites for a similar period of time. Would we not already be living in the middle of a second maelstrom of, these people are trying to influence the election, get Congress to investigate?

THOMPSON: The first debate would be history. Could you imagine if Jennings or Brokaw or, heaven forbid, Rather had put this on one of their respective Web sites? And, you know, there should be a hue and cry about this. Even though it was a silly story, even though it was relatively easy to find out—or to realize that it was fake—let‘s remember that Rather, in fact, put something on from a source that due diligence was not done upon.

Here you‘ve got a guy who made up the quotes, put them in there. And I don‘t care how it got on the air, that stuff shouldn‘t be happening. Those kinds of things shouldn‘t be being written in the newsroom and put in places where they can get on to the Web site. I think the people at CBS were responsible for that. Heads ought to roll. I think the same thing ought to happen over at Fox News.

OLBERMANN: Is there any chance, any hope, that two gaffs by the troops from fair-and-balanced-land might make any measurable percentage of the news consumers and the politically active people of this country on all sides step back from the brink of politicizing literally everything in news, and say, you know what? This has just gotten too heated. We need to go back to the days when fair and balanced was not just some meaningless brand name.

THOMPSON: Well, you would have thought that this may have really made a splash. But it‘s—when that Dan Rather story broke, my phone rang all day long. Today I could hear the crickets in the background and see the sagebrush blowing across my telephone. This has really been, I think, under-reported.

The second story, the Communists for Kerry thing, you have a hard time locating that story on the Internet when you‘re looking for it. So, I think in the end, probably, we‘re not going to hear much about this at all after tonight.

OLBERMANN: To Fox‘s credit, though, as you said, they did—they apologized for it and they damage controlled brilliantly, as opposed to CBS, which did neither brilliantly. So, that may be a factor in addition to anything else.

***

Over at dailyhowler.com, Bob Somerby took it a step further, suggesting that yes, Cameron was incompetent making up Kerry quotes, but why not chastise the New York Times' Maureen Dowd, who screwed up a Kerry quote?

Dowd, on March 18, wrote that Kerry said: “Who among us doesn't like Nascar?” She added that when Kerry makes such statements, he "can come across like Mr. Collins, Elizabeth Bennet’s pretentious cousin in “Pride and Prejudice.”

One problem: Kerry didn't make that statement.

The actual comment, which appeared on tape on CNN's Inside Politics on February 16, was: "George Bush went down to Daytona yesterday to do a photo opportunity at NASCAR. Now, I happen to like NASCAR, and I'm particularly pleased that Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the race, for a lot of reasons that many of you who follow it will understand."

But Dowd made her misquote, which since made its way into other Times articles, as well as Newsweek and Time, according to dailyhowler.com

But the question that can't be answered about Dowd, like Rather, is whether this was an intentional effort to distort information and hurt a particular presidential candidate.

With Cameron, it's clear what the intent was.

That doesn't clear Dowd, a darling among television talking heads. No one has asked for an apology or correction, and she has not offered one. But when that faux NASCAR quote gets used -- and if any voter actually changes their vote because of it -- blame Dowd.

***

Following up on my earlier post, the reason this is newsworthy is twofold -- it strengthens the argument that there is conservative bias at Fox News (not that this should be surprising). But second, the lack of coverage of Cameron's incompetence by rivals would seem to strengthen the argument that there isn't the oft-quoted "liberal media bias."

After all, if there was widespread "liberal media bias," as conservatives claim, wouldn't the Cameron story get overplayed, and the Rather story get swept under the carpet?

Monday, October 04, 2004

We had Rather-gate. But Did the "Liberal Media" Pass on Cameron-Gate?

Compare the following:

-- Dan Rather, who conservatives perceive as having a liberal bias while working for a liberal news organization, showed incompetence in reporting a story related to the 2004 presidential campaign. Conservatives loudly protested, and like wildfire, the talk on radio and television was that Rather had shown his true colors. CBS and Rather later apologized.

-- Carl Cameron, who liberals perceive as having a conservative bias while working for a conservative news organization, showed incompetence in fabricating a story related to the 2004 presidential campaign. Liberals loudly protested, but the greater media generally ignored the story. Fox News apologized and said it had "reprimanded" Cameron.

Liberal media bias? Feh.

I learned about the latest Fox News $#*!$ moment on Friday reading Josh Marshall's website, talkingpointsmemo.com. He posted a story Cameron wrote for Fox News' website (the story has since been removed).

Rallying supporters in Tampa Friday, Kerry played up his performance in Thursday night's debate, in which many observers agreed the Massachusetts senator outperformed the president.

"Didn't my nails and cuticles look great? What a good debate!" Kerry said Friday.

With the foreign-policy debate in the history books, Kerry hopes to keep the pressure on and the sense of traction going.

Aides say he will step up attacks on the president in the next few days, and pivot somewhat to the domestic agenda, with a focus on women and abortion rights.

"It's about the Supreme Court. Women should like me! I do manicures," Kerry said.

Kerry still trails in actual horse-race polls, but aides say his performance was strong enough to rally his base and further appeal to voters ready for a change.

"I'm metrosexual — he's a cowboy," the Democratic candidate said of himself and his opponent.

A "metrosexual" is defined as an urbane male with a strong aesthetic sense who spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle.

***

Marshall later wrote that he called Fox News for an explanation. Spokesman Paul Schur replied: "Carl made a stupid mistake which he regrets. And he has been reprimanded for his lapse in judgment. It was a poor attempt at humor."

Marshall's response: So the Fox reporter covering the Kerry campaign puts together this Kerry-bashing parody right out of the RNC playbook with phony quotes intended to peg him as girlish fool and somehow it found its way on the Fox website as a news item.

***

USA Today ran a small story, as did The New York Times and The Washington Post, and the news made the rounds among bloggers. But a quick scan of the Sunday talk shows -- Tim Russert, Chris Matthews, etc. -- found nothing. I'm waiting to read this week's issue of Newsweek, to see if there's a story about "another black eye for Fox" -- similar to the story they ran about CBS News.

It's not like this should come as any surprise. From the nightly talk show line-up to the Fox News "all-stars," the list of instances of conservative bias at Fox is long. David Brock's website, mediamatters.org, exhaustively covers all the omissions, half-truths, lopsided panels and other examples of bias on the network. And Robert Greenwald's recent documentary, Outfoxed, paints a similar portrait.

And maybe as a result, stories like the one that broke Friday don't make that much of a dent. Maybe the general media is so numb trying to follow the "fair and balanced" charade that is Fox News, it just doesn't pay that much attention when they commit another example of bias.

During the RNC convention, USA Today has a shameless story, in which it interviewed Fox News reporters about their fair-mindedness -- giving several of them a chance to say how "fair and balanced" they were. The story failed to mention Brock's website, although it did mention Outfoxed. I tried to reach someone at USA Today to explain, but my calls were not returned.

***

So what does Fox News do now? Will Cameron continue to serve as a leading political reporter? Will Fox overcompensate in its coverage of Kerry, to try to quell its critics?

Or, more likely, will the issue drift into the ether, like other lame conservative attempts at "humor." I fear it will have as much impact as Education Secretary Rod Paige "humorously" calling the National Education Association a "terrorist organization." Or Rush Limbaugh "humorously" suggesting that President Clinton wanted a quadruple bypass instead of a triple bypass to evoke more sympathy.

Those conservatives can be so funny sometimes ...


Friday, October 01, 2004

The Initial Debate Spin is Pro-Kerry. Will that Hold? Wait and See.

Flipping through the cable networks immediately after last night's Bush-Kerry debate, the buzz was that Kerry won the battle, but probably failed to deliver a knockout punch.

Ironically, among the punditry of MSNBC, CNN and Fox News, it was MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell who seemed the most pessimistic, only willing to agree that Kerry had re-established himself as credible among independents and soft-Kerry supporters. Others, such as Fox News contributor and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, were more positive in their assessment.

CNN pulled together a group of independent voters in Columbus, Ohio, and the brief segment I saw showed most of those voters found Kerry to be a viable alternative to Bush. That doesn't mean he won their votes -- but the impression I got was that they are going to pay more attention to Kerry in the remaining weeks of the campaign.

Ohio is a crucial swing state, with 20 electoral votes. Polls have gone back and forth, with Bush up by 2% in the latest Gallup survey.

CNN's Aaron Brown later talked with some independent women voters, and the reaction was the same -- Kerry scored some points, but not enough to win the voters over just yet.

***

The initial spin is important, because although an estimated 50 million viewers watched the debate, some will want to hear the pundits' views before deciding to believe what they've just heard. And other voters didn't watch the debate, but will rely on the television talking heads and their local newspapers to catch up.

After the first Bush-Gore debate in 2000, voters were asked for their instant impression of who won the debate, and those surveyed on average gave Gore a 10-point edge. But in the days that followed, the conventional wisdom shifted -- in large part because the pundits focused on Gore's sighs and minor errors during the debate.

Suddenly, the message coming from the debate was that Gore was an exaggerator, who mistakenly had said he met with the FEMA Director James Lee Watt when he'd actually met with his assistant. The pundits were all over that error -- so much so that Gore felt the need to apologize for his mis-statement. Meanwhile, mis-statements from Bush -- such as using the term "fuzzy math" to describe accurate assessments by Gore -- was overlooked.

So it will be interesting to watch how the pundits react over the next few days, as they themselves hear the GOP spin of the Bush-Kerry debate. Last night, I heard Karl Rove spinning how Kerry contradicted himself on the war last night and how he first "supported the war and then was against it." Karen Hughes was doing the same, and she also echoed a disingenous comment made by Bush during the debate -- that Kerry was somehow "denigrating" Poland and others in our coalition, when it was clear Kerry was denigrating Bush for allowing the U.S. to take on 90% of the burden, rather than building a better, broader coalition.

The worst bit of journalism last night came from CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who turned a Kerry diss at the president -- that he moved troops from Afghanistan to Iraq and undermined Gen. Tommy Franks -- into a diss against Franks. I don't know if someone in the GOP had Blitzer's ear before he offered that comment. The alternative is that he just wasn't paying attention during that portion of the debate.

By the Sunday talk shows, we'll know how effective the GOP spinners were in converting the television talking heads. I'm worried that we're going to hear a lot of misrepresentation of Kerry on Poland, and his "global test" remark.

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