Republicans Impugning Kerry's Patriotism? - July 29, 2004 -

Times Watch for July 29, 2004

Republicans Impugning Kerry's Patriotism?

In "Convention Speakers Refine the Art of the Sly Slap," Todd Purdum gives room for the Republican "war room" in Boston to accuse the Democratic convention speakers of breaking the party's pledge to be positive.

After a long look at the backhanded attacks on Bush from the podium by Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton and John Edwards, Purdum turns the tables: "Of course, the Republicans have spent months seeking to impugn Mr. Kerry's character, patriotism and integrity. They have called him a flip-flopper and complained that he 'looks French.' There is a tincture of crocodile tears in their current protests and of fuzzy math in their calumny count."

It's a tired Democratic charge Purdum takes as fact-but when have the Republicans actually impugned Kerry's patriotism? The Times has circulated the charge on several occasions but has yet to back it up.

Purdum later insists: "The insinuation is also a two-way street. On Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Dean told a labor gathering that his most passionate supporters had made mistakes. 'You can't call the president a fascist,' Dr. Dean chuckled. After hearing of those comments, Mr. McConnell suggested Wednesday that Dr. Dean had referred to Mr. Bush as a fascist flat-out, but that was clearly a stretch."

But here's the full quote from Dean, in which it seems Dean wouldn't be too worked up if anyone did call Bush a fascist: "There were a few little slip-ups. You can't call the president a fascist. You're not supposed to do that this week, anyway."

For the rest of Purdum on Democrat negativity, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Howard Dean | Democratic Convention | Sen. John Kerry | Todd Purdum

Kerry Breaks Pledge to NYT's Keller - Will the Times Take Note?

Jim Rutenberg files a short profile of filmmaker James Moll, who is putting together the biographical film that will run before Kerry makes his acceptance speech tonight.

In "Spielberg Aids Film Version Of Kerry's Life," Rutenberg notes: ""the film about Mr. Kerry, which the campaign screened for a small group of reporters on Wednesday, certainly seems to have Mr. Spielberg's mark. Early in the film there is footage of soldiers rushing a hill in World War II as the narrator, the actor Morgan Freeman, recounts how Mr. Kerry was born when the nation was at war. As the film details Mr. Kerry's own war service, in Vietnam, it shows the grainy film that Mr. Kerry brought back, mixed with archival footage of the war. It combines into a montage of explosions in the jungle and the water as Mr. Kerry commands his Swift boat through it all."

But is Kerry breaking a pledge he made a couple of years ago to Bill Keller, the Times current executive editor, not to use his own Vietnam footage for campaign purposes?

Here's how then-Times columnist Keller opened his September 7, 2002, column (relevant bit at the end of this excerpt): "A couple of columns ago, while plowing through a crowd of Democrats who want to be president, I threw an elbow at Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. I suggested that his claim to be a global thinker leaned rather excessively on his 30-year-old heroism in Vietnam. And, relying on a report in the usually dependable Boston Globe, I mocked him for pulling out a movie camera after a shootout in the Mekong Delta and re-enacting the exploit, as if preening for campaign commercials to come. Cheap shot, the senator's people said of the notion that he belabors his war record. And just plain wrong about those movies. Which is how I came to be sitting in a wing chair in the senator's office the other day while he plugged in a videocassette and fumbled with a balky remote. 'It is so innocent,' he said by way of introducing his youthful cinematic effort, adding a little defensively, 'I have no intention of using it' for campaign purposes."


But will Keller and the Times notice, or care?

The Times has so far been very quiet on the entire issue of Kerry filming himself in Vietnam, a tactic opponents say smacks of exploitation and calculation. With Kerry and his footage in the spotlight tonight, Times Watch is curious how the paper will play the issue.

For the rest of Rutenberg on Kerry's Vietnam movies, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Democratic Convention | Bill Keller | Sen. John Kerry | Jim Rutenberg | Vietnam

Embracing Al Sharpton

Michael Slackman covers Al Sharpton's fiery speech in "Long an Outsider, Sharpton Wins Insiders' Favor." Slackman sees no worries in the Democratic party's embrace of an inflammatory presence like Sharpton. In fact, he doesn"t even bring up Sharpton's hateful past.

He writes: "The mere presence of Mr. Sharpton on the podium is a significant turn for someone once considered the quintessential outsider, one who led days of protests on the streets of New York and who served months in jail to protest the military's target bombing of Vieques, Puerto Rico."

Slackman glides over Sharpton's harsh speech rhetoric: "Once Mr. Sharpton, who almost never speaks from a written text, began to improvise, he seemed to find himself. He touched on almost every issue of his long-shot campaign for the nomination, including voting rights for District of Columbia residents, famine in Sudan and police brutality in America. 'I suggest to you tonight that if George Bush had selected the court in '54, Clarence Thomas would have never got to law school,' he said, launching the first unscripted zinger of the speech."

Slackman is the paper's go-to guy for favorable Sharpton pieces. Last December he wrote one on Sharpton's presidential campaign that ignored incendiary examples of Sharpton's hate-mongering.

For more of Slackman on Sharpton's speech, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Democratic Convention | Al Sharpton | Michael Slackman

You Can Trust Kerry, Says Baghdad Jim

David Johnston and Marc Santora's "War and Terrorism Dominate Convention Talk" couches criticism of Kerry's shifting war stance in partisan terms, as "Republican attacks" and "talking points," saying: "Mr. Kerry's position seems to open him to Republican attacks that he has not taken a firm stand on Iraq, voting for the war before voting against it, as the Republican talking point reads."

The short story concludes with testimony from an ally Kerry might not be so eager to have by his side: "Representative Jim McDermott, a Democrat from Seattle and critic of the war, said Mr. Kerry could easily defend himself on this charge. 'George Bush doesn't have any nuance,' Mr. McDermott said. 'We have had four years of a guy who has said, 'I am going to go in there and drag them out by the hair. Bring 'em on.' That was just stupid.' Now, he said, Mr. Kerry's more studied responses are what people are looking for."

The Times could have vetted Kerry's defenders a little better. Here's Rep. Jim (Nuance) McDermott from October 2002: "The President of the United States will lie to the American people in order to get us into this war." McDermott also went to pre-war Baghdad with fellow liberal Rep. David Bonior and accused Bush of misleading the American people in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

For more about the war debate in Boston, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Democratic Convention | Iraq War | David Johnston | Rep. Jim McDermott | Marc Santora

Democratic "Coherence and Harmony"

Leading political reporter Adam Nagourney greets John Kerry in "Obstacles Await On Road From Boston." But the headline seems to be just a ploy to coax someone into reading Nagourney's rather bland and typical story, which finds Kerry has (surprise) reason for optimism on the eve of his acceptance speech: "John Kerry was nominated here on Wednesday by a Democratic Party that is as united as any in years-awash in money, crackling with partisan energy and invigorated by polls that suggest that President Bush can be ousted."

Nagourney closes the story on the same optimistic note: "As the convention moved to its last two days, Democrats, and even a few Republicans, noted its unusual display of coherence and harmony and suggesting-should it last-that that could influence the campaign. 'I've been to a lot of these, and I think this is running as well as any I've seen in terms of program, lack of conflict, enthusiasm and quality of speeches,' David Axelrod, a Democratic consultant, said. 'What's not to like?'"

For the full Nagourney, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Democratic Convention | Sen. John Kerry | Adam Nagourney

More of John "Populist, Not Liberal" Edwards

Edwards the populist, not the liberal in Thursday's front-page story, "Edwards Gives Strong Tribute As Democrats Nominate Kerry."

Despite evidence showing otherwise, the Times still avoids using the term "liberal" when describing either Kerry or Edwards: "Senator John Edwards, summoning all his skills as a trial lawyer and a populist, made an impassioned case for Senator John Kerry on Wednesday, hailing him as a battle-tested veteran ready to be commander in chief and a man who could restore economic hope and opportunity" opens the story by Robin Toner and Katharine Seelye.

For the rest of the Times on Edward's moment, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Democratic Convention | Sen. John Edwards | Labeling Bias | Robin Toner | Katharine Seelye