Thursday, May 13, 2004

It's just about impossible to watch TV nowadays without having to endure another misleading Bush/Cheney commercial. Fortunately we have the Howler to translate the press accounts of these ads for us:
Last Saturday, Wilgoren reviewed the Bush campaign’s use of a now-famous statement by Kerry. According to Wilgoren, Bush’s campaign “scour[ed] Senator John Kerry’s three decades in public life in search of material to use against him. But they turned up nothing as potent as 13 words that spilled from Mr. Kerry’s mouth shortly after he effectively secured the Democratic presidential nomination.” Wow! That must have been some statement by Kerry! Wilgoren quoted the potent remark which spilled from the Democrat’s mouth:
WILGOREN (pgh 2): “I actually did vote for the $87 billion—before I voted against it,” Mr. Kerry said on a March afternoon in Huntington, W.Va.
According to Wilgoren, this potent remark is the greatest find of Bush’s opposition research. Early on, she let us know how comical Kerry’s statement really was:
WILGOREN (5): Ken Goldstein, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin, said the quotation “just sounds ridiculous.”

“Say it to yourself, it’s funny,” said Mr. Goldstein, an expert on political advertising and communication. “It’s like something Comedy Central would do.”
Indeed, within 36 hours, the Bush campaign had turned Mr. Kerry’s inartful explanation of his stance on financing Iraq’s reconstruction into a devastating punch line for an advertisement claiming he is indecisive and weak on defense. Mr. Bush’s aides also seized on the statement to coin a new term, “foragainst,” which they use to ridicule Mr. Kerry in news releases.

Say it to yourself—it’s funny! According to Wilgoren’s expert, Kerry’s statement “just sounds ridiculous”—like something you’d hear on Comedy Central! And Wilgoren continued the imagery herself, saying the Bush camp had turned the statement into a “devastating punch line.” They were using to “ridicule” Kerry.

Yep! Wilgoren pulled no punches—no pun intended— as she told us how foolish the comment had been. But after engaging in so much fun, you’d think that she would be very careful to examine the merits of Bush’s ad. After all, Kerry’s statement shows that “he is indecisive and weak on defense,” the Bush camp has said. Just in case we missed these points, Wilgoren states them again:
WILGOREN (8): Mr. Bush’s team contends it is emblematic of the larger case they are making against Mr. Kerry: that he is a flip-flopping Washington insider unqualified to lead the nation in wartime.
Kerry’s statement shows that he’s a flip-flopper. And it shows that he’s weak on defense! These are surely serious charges. Sadly, Wilgoren isn’t up to critiquing them. Maybe we’re all better off when they just surf during ads.

Does Kerry’s statement show he’s a flipper? Rather plainly, no, it does not. After all, the solon voted on two different $87 billion bills—one of which was “paid for” through a tax increase, and one of which was not. Indeed, how transparently fake is the Bush camp’s charge that these two different votes make Kerry a flipper? As Kerry himself has often noted, Bush said, during debate on the bills, that he would veto the first of these bills—the one for which Kerry voted. In other words, Bush supported one bill and opposed the other—just exactly like Kerry did. Not only is Kerry not a flipper, Bush’s campaign is slamming him for supporting one bill and not the other—exactly the thing their guy did!
Thanks for clearing that up, Bob.