Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Zero Credibility on This Topic

Sunday’s Boston Globe carried a negative story about the John Edwards presidential campaign. The story by Globe reporter Rick Klein dredged up the Swift Boat Veterans from the 2004 Kerry-Edwards campaign. The gist of Klein’s story is the claim that Edwards refused orders in 2004 to press negative attacks on George Bush during the Swift Boat crisis and after. In the story he notes:

Indeed, Edwards responded to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth political advertisements only after Kerry delivered the first blow…On Aug. 19, at the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center in Boston, Kerry delivered a blistering attack, calling the Swift Boat group "a front for the Bush campaign" and issuing a blunt challenge to the president. "If he wants to have a debate about our service in Vietnam, here is my answer: Bring it on!" Kerry said.

Edwards didn't weigh in until Aug. 21, with a more measured response demanding that Bush call for the ads to be taken off the air, deeming it "a moment of truth for George W. Bush."

Klein’s story notes that the Kerry campaign initially decided not to respond to the charges. But he accuses Edwards of backing away from this fight when Kerry joined it. But Klein is being very disingenuous. The Swift Boat charges were personal and pertained only to Kerry, not Edwards.

On August 5, 2004 the vets charged that Kerry had told 2 different stories about his 1968 Christmas. They also charged that Kerry received one of his 3 Purple Hearts for a paper-cut sized wound that required only a band-aid. Clearly these claims were Kerry’s to refute, and Edwards was hardly in a position to discuss them authoritatively.

The fundamental problem faced by the Kerry campaign was that Kerry’s 4 months is Vietnam had been chosen as the theme of his campaign. There were in fact 2 different and incompatible stories concerning Kerry’s 1968 “Christmas in Cambodia” and both were on the record. One story was that he was resting in Vietnam (as told in one of his biographies) and the other was that he was being shot at in Cambodia (as told on the Senate floor, where he reported on the record that this event was ‘seared” in his memory). There was no way that Kerry’s campaign could claim that both of stories were true or even accurate. Instead, they decided (I believe) to maintain silence and hope that the story would simply pass away.

Actually, Kerry’s campaign undoubtedly did more than just hope the story would go away. They tried to manage it away as well. The Boston Globe, the New York Times and many other mainstream media organs chose not to report the swift boat stories during the 2 weeks following August 5. Like the Kerry campaign, these newspapers also kept silent. Was their neglect just a happy coincidence? Not likely. It was more likely a case of editorial politics or liberal bias taking precedence over journalism.

With help from Newsbank, (see the results below) I have queried to find the Boston Globe content that contained the terms “Kerry” and “swift boat” from Aug 5 through August 18, 2004. There were 7 items. They are:

1) August 6, a story alleging that one Swift Boat vet disavowed his statements to the group.
2) August 9, letter to the editor saying Bush should disavow the ads.
3) August 15, letter to the editor in support of Kerry.
4) August 15, letter to the editor in support of Kerry.
5) August 15, letter to the editor in support of Kerry.
6) August 17, an Op Ed column by Joan Vennochi advocating Kerry address the charges.
7) August 18, a story buried on page A10 that discussed a days-old Kerry campaign press release on the Cambodia charges.

You can review the posts to this blog during August, 2004 to see my own growing incredulity about this mainstream media silence.

On August 19, Kerry and his campaign counterattacked, and from that point on, the Boston Globe began extensive coverage of the Swift Boat charges. Yet another fortunate media coincidence for the Kerry campaign! The 2-week-old Swift Boat charges were suddenly newsworthy!

The non-coverage of the Swift Boat Veterans by the Boston Globe was the Globe’s most incredible demonstration of liberal bias during the entire 2004 campaign. If this organization possessed measurable journalistic integrity, they would have apologized, explained the reasons for their lack of coverage, and taken steps to avoid a repetition. They didn’t bother.

Today they needn’t bother guessing why so many doubt their credibility.

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