Vol. 12, No. 2,856W - The American Reporter - March 18, 2006

On Media

by Robert Gelfand
American Reporter Correspondent
San Pedro, Calif

SAN PEDRO, Calif. -- A few years ago, people who couldn't identify South Dakota on a map, much less name its capitol city, were penning angry letters to their newspapers attacking its senior U.S. Senator, Tom Daschle. Typically, the content of these letters suggested that they had been written in pencil on blue-lined copy book paper.

At the time, Daschle had been getting good press as Senate Majority Leader, which in turn led to him being talked up as a potential presidential candidate to oppose President George W. Bush. It was not surprising that conservatives in talk radio would respond to the challenge and try to bloody the Senator as early as possible.

Teresa Heinz Kerry and her husband, Democratic presidential frontrunner U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry, can expect vicious attacks from the Bush team, media critic Robert Gelfand warns. Shown here at a recent New Hampshire rally, the two are effective campaigners.
Photo: Joe Shea

The result was a collection of attacks that would be charitably described as scurrilous. Daschle's patriotism was questioned, his character was impugned and his intelligence was challenged by people who presumably had never heard of him until they tuned into EIB network or visited the local Rush Room. (For those who are unacquainted with the term, a "Rush Room" refers to the practice some people had of listening to Rush Limbaugh's show in a group setting.)

Limbaugh and all his imitators did their best to carry out a character assassination on a man who simply showed the potential to be a presidential candidate, and they went to town on him. This was something that it would have been politically inexpedient for the President or even the Vice President to do. After all, they had promised to restore dignity to the office.

The Bush White House had the political equivalent of eating its cake and saving it too. Their opponents were attacked in a classical episode of dirty politics, even as they pretended to stay above the fray. Plausible deniability is what this is sometimes called.

Dignity, honor and integrity was not what it was about, even as the same radio shills and op ed writers claimed that these were the character attributes of the President.

How can a party whose flacks and shills have been going into the gutter against Daschle and Gephart and McCain and Cleland and so forth pretend to have dignity and honor?

Perhaps they think that voters will distinguish between the gutter media and the GOP. "That's them, and this is us," they might have us believe. Should anyone accept this?

Were the attacks on Daschle the spontaneous outrage of the grass roots, even if brought to public attention by Limbaugh? Al Franken in his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them says no: "One GOP official told the Washington Post that orders to crush Daschle had come directly from the West Wing. Rush Limbaugh, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party, began referring to Daschle as 'El Diablo." Franken continues:

In the fall of 2001, ads began to appear comparing the somewhat liberal El Diablo to more radical political figures, such as Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and American Taliban John Walker Lindh.

"What do Saddam Hussein and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle have in common?" asked a newspaper ad that juxtaposed the two men. "Neither man wants America to drill for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."

Perhaps it is not a carefully organized right wing conspiracy. After all, who needs a conspiracy when party discipline and intellectual solidarity already exist? The point is that the White House could have called for an end to the belligerent tone of its media allies. It could have called on its supporters to extend the hand of friendship, or at least call for an armistice as it were, between the left and the right.

This is particularly important in this post-September 11, 2001 period when national unity ought to be of major concern. The fact is that the conservative war on liberalism and its political representatives has, if anything, escalated during these past 29 months.

The intensity of the attacks has risen and fallen in proportion to the likelihood that any person could become the next Democratic Party presidential nominee. Dick Gephart had a turn on the firing range, Howard Dean took considerable flack, and now it's John Kerry's time.

What will the assault look like? Perhaps I may offer a little hint. It has been my experience that people and organizations often like to accuse their opponents of having the flaws that they themselves are most guilty of.

Thieves accuse others of embezzling. Liars accuse their opponents of being disingenuous. Political mudslingers accuse their opponents of dirty politics.

Which leads us to a speech made by Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie the other day in Reno Nevada and reported on the Republican Party Website www.gop.com. Not all of it is offensive. Take what follows as quoted from a longer statement, but understand that it is not so out of context as to be deceptive:

One of Senator Kerry's campaign consultants was recently quoted in the New York Times saying, "Everything is on the table. Everything." We now know that "everything" means making slanderous charges against the President of the United States, funneling money to shadow organizations, engaging in voter suppression tactics, and spreading lies on the Internet.

This sounds like a pretty good summary of the sorts of tactics used against John McCain and Max Cleland their last times around. Only the names have been changed.

It's only February and they have made clear they intend to run the dirtiest campaign in modern presidential politics. This is because they don't want a debate on the issues, and they don't want to run on Sen. Kerry's record. I guess I can't blame them for that. We as a party cannot sink to their level. We must stick to the truth in this race.

At the risk of perhaps being a little too obvious in my choice of Freudian projection as political metaphor, I read this as a warning that the incumbent ticket is going to run one of the dirtiest campaigns in the history of American presidential elections.

Much of it will be carried by their allies on the radio and the internet.

This leads us to the Drudge attack against Kerry, already described on American Reporter earlier in the week. Whatever the source, Drudge took a remark allegedly made by a losing candidate and tried to elevate it to The Big Scoop. Perhaps Drudge was trying to relive his moment of greatest glory where he broke the Monica Lewinsky story back in an earlier millennium.

In spite of Drudge's attempt to build that mountain, it has, so far, failed to inspire much of a media presence, much less the sort of fire storm that forces a candidate to go on television holding his wife's hand. The score so far: mass media 1, Drudge 0.

In spite of the lack of credible evidence to dignify the charge, our old reliable Front Page Magazine went with the story, floating a banner headline on its internet site saying "Kerry Campaign Rocked by Infidelity Accusations." The banner does not lead to a FrontPageMag.com story but simply links to the Drudge Report, which promises "Campaign Drama Rocks Democrats: Kerry Fights Off Media Probe of Recent Alleged Infidelity, Rivals Predict Ruin."

In spite of the exciting promises, we have yet to see either Kerry's campaign ruined or the Democrats being rocked by this particular challenge.

On the other hand, Front Page Magazine does have a story of its own, titled "Teresa Heinz Kerry: Bag Lady for the Radical Left." Mrs. Kerry is portrayed as a rich revolutionary whose captive foundation supports all the ills of the modern world, including opposition to the President's judicial appointments, support of MoveOn.org and donations to the League of Conservation Voters.

There is a trend that is becoming discernible here. Allegations of marital infidelity combined with personal attacks on the candidate's wife - isn't this reminiscent of the way the right wing went after Clinton throughout the 1990s?

Ben Johnson, the author of this piece, doesn't want to leave us in doubt. After listing every leftist organization he can plausibly connect to Mrs. Kerry via any foundation grant her family fortune has been connected with directly or indirectly, he finishes:

Teresa Heinz Kerry will play a potent role in saving her second husband's presidential campaign now as Hillary Clinton did in 1992, and again during her husband's impeachment. Like Hillary, in return for her service, Heinz may demand a place at the table for her pet causes. Caveat Emptor.

Look for attacks on Mrs. Kerry to ramp up as this campaign progresses.

Along with this dismal forecast is one ray of comedy. The Republican Party Website accuses John Kerry of being tainted by special interest pleading. I wonder if there are enough electrons in the cosmos to provide for web coverage of President Bush favors to corporate America. Still, expect this issue also to be brought up as a defensive measure by the President's supporters.

Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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