Republicans Furious Over Perceived Media Double Standard
The Washington Post, this morning, says Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman "said the media has tolerated 'blatant lies' by the Kerry campaign about the activities of Democratic lawyers." In fact, Republicans are seething over what they see as a mainstream media out of control. For months, Bush supporters have concluded the three major television networks and most of the major papers from the New York Times to the Washington Post to the LA Times have been Sen. John Kerry's most important political allies. Negative media coverage on the claims from swift boat vets critical of Kerry, and the new Ginsberg episode, has brought this issue to the boiling point. "It's so unfair," a Bush insider tells the US News Bulletin.
Larry Sabato, largely regarded as a neutral observer in his role as the Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, agrees, saying officials with close ties to Kerry, including his former chief of staff, are now running the 527s spending millions of dollars on anti-Bush ads. "And did you see a media stir about it? I didn't," says Sabato. National political reporters "put most of the emphasis on this one Republican 527 and all but saluted the Democratic ones," Sabato tells the US News Bulletin. Asked whether the anti-Kerry ads are more negative than the anti-Bush ads, therefore inviting more media criticism, Sabato responded, "I don't buy that. I saw plenty of vicious ads put out by MoveOn.org. . . . It wasn't negative to the press because they agreed with it." As for the coverage of those veterans opposing Kerry, Sabato commented, "I have read the investigations. I have found them heavily tilted to the trying to discount everything they are saying." Referring to the big media journalists, Sabato concluded, "They are so arrogant, particularly the ones at the networks. They just believe they have the power to do anything they want and they go out and do it. They don't give a damn whether they are being balanced could care less. . . . ABC is the worst. I mean George Stephanopoulos, Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel? Get real. . . . I recognize bias when I see it."
As an example of what some perceive as a tilt toward the Democratic side on ABC's part, its website includes a memo from its political director claiming Kerry "might be saved from some of the damage from scrutiny of his anti-war protest period because the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are too dirty to be effective messengers on that (or anything else) and they pollute the issue for anyone else to use, even the Bush campaign."
Despite their anger and a recent survey conducted by a political reporter for the New York Times which found national political journalists favored the election of Kerry over Bush by a better than 10-to-1 ratio, GOP advisers admit privately that attacking the media would make matters worse by creating the impression that Bush is desperate or is losing his cool.
Kerry Camp Says Controversy Starting To Hurt Bush, Analysts Disagree.
The Kerry camp yesterday tried to get the message across that the issue was starting to hurt the Bush campaign. Fox News' Special Report reported "Kerry aides now say they want this to be an issue and they're committed to an all-out counteroffensive," noting that through "four successful U.S. Senate campaigns, Mr. Kerry was able to turn similar criticism about his Vietnam service into a backlash against his GOP critics." However, political analysts disagreed with the Democrats' assessment. The Boston Herald says the "seemingly endless controversy. . .has forced" Kerry "to focus on damage control as attack ads continue to chip away at one of his main appeals: His status as a war hero." Nathan Gonzalez, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, said, "If it wasn't doing damage, I don't think you would have seen the response from the Kerry campaign that you've seen. Answering or rebutting ads gives credibility to the attack." Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports on its new poll, which "showed that the fierce attacks on the senator from a group of Vietnam veterans criticizing both his performance in combat and anti-war protests at home have left some marks: Kerry suffered small but consistent erosion compared to July on questions relating to his Vietnam experience, his honesty and his fitness to serve as commander in chief."