I quickly grow tired of the dissection of major media. They repeat the same mistakes over and over again, and every close observer knows this. Of course, Rove/Atwater strategists know these faults as well as anyone, and consciously exploit them.
The latest Ron Fournier/AP piece on Kerry's speech commits most of the major sins.
Sin #1: reporting exchanges by politicians without context or comment:
"Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in hell," [Kerry] added. "But that was not, in itself, a reason to go to war. The satisfaction we take in his downfall does not hide this fact: We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure."Perhaps Mr. Fournier simply assumed that the ridiculousness of Bush's response was apparent on its face. It is, but it still shouldn't just be assumed. Where is the "democracy" in Iraq? Where is the "security?" Bush's argument is dangerously out of touch with reality - and that was the whole point of Kerry's speech. What's more, Bush apparently is unable to distinguish between a Senator voting to let Bush make the decision, and Bush actually making a bad decision. It's disconcerting that our President isn't aware of the meaning of legislation his Party ushered through Congress.
Bush hit back from a campaign rally in New Hampshire, interpreting Kerry's comment to mean the Democrat believes U.S. security would be better with Saddam still in power. "He's saying he prefers the stability of a dictatorship to the hope and security of democracy," the Republican incumbent said.
"Today, my opponent continued his pattern of twisting in the wind," Bush said. "He apparently woke up this morning and has now decided, No, we should not have invaded Iraq, after just last month saying he would have voted for force even knowing everything we know today."
Kerry's vote for war was like a husband letting his wife pick out the new family car. When she brings home a lemon, he has the right to be critical. When she brings home a pile of magic beans, he has an obligation to be critical.
Sin 2: treating all comments from candidates as being equally credible:
Kerry called on Bush to do a much better job rallying allies, training Iraqi security forces, hastening reconstruction plans and ensuring that elections are conducted on time. But his speech was thin on details, with Kerry saying Bush's miscalculations had made solutions harder to come by.Again, Bush is out of touch. He doesn't realize that the elections are probably not going to happen in Iraq, and that current US policy is decreasing the probability of their occurrence. We spent $1 billion on reconstruction in the first year of the occupation, around 5% of the allocated amount, according to Republican Sen. Lugar. Iraqi security forces are working with the insurgents as often as us. Even Britain is reducing its troop commitment to Iraq, and around $1 billion out of $13 billion pledged by our allies has been given. Bush is unconcerned about these facts, denying them for the sake of his electoral prospects.
Bush cited Kerry's four-point plan and dismissed it as proposing "exactly what we're currently doing."
Sin 3: Reverting to horse race analysis rather than dealing with issues.
With more than 1,000 U.S. troops killed in Iraq, including nearly 900 since Bush declared an end to major combat, with free elections in doubt, reconstruction efforts stalled and violence and kidnappings on the rise, Iraq could be Bush's biggest political liability. Even some Republican senators have begun to publicly second-guess the president's policies.This is almost completely irrelevant. Focusing on the political implications of a policy speech is a crutch for lazy or overworked reporters - political strategists are much more willing to offer quotes than actual analysts. Giving spinsters their say reduces the overall informative value of a piece of reporting.
But Kerry has failed to capitalize thus far, struggling for months to find a clear, consistent way to differentiate his views from those of his Democratic rivals during the primary season and, since the spring, his general election foe in the White House.
Facts are stubborn things, but they aren't partisan. Bush should bother to acquaint himself with some. The AP should bother to report some.