Richard Berke's Turkey of an Anecdote - July 6, 2004 -

Times Watch for July 6, 2004

Richard Berke's Turkey of an Anecdote

Richard Berke, Times Washington Editor, ponders the strategy of picking a running mane in his Sunday Week in Review piece, "Why Political Surprises Rarely Surprise," and includes a real turkey of an anecdote.

Berke's article, which ran before Kerry picked Sen. John Edwards as his running mate Tuesday morning, includes alongside other long-shots like Hillary Clinton and Al Gore, a line pining for the media's favorite Republican: "What if Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, becomes so exasperated about the turmoil in Iraq that he turns on his archrival, President Bush, and joins the Democratic ticket after all?"

Then Berke warns the Kerry campaign must be wary of Bush "surprises"-and cites a left-wing myth to back up his assertion: "There are also the manufactured surprises, like Mr. Bush's cloak-and-dagger Thanksgiving trip to Baghdad, which drew praise even from Democrats. (The public relations bonanza fizzled after the press reported that Mr. Bush had posed with a mouth-watering-but fake-turkey.)"

Berke apparently hasn't stood on too many buffet lines (or else he's been reading too many left-wing blogs). Otherwise he would have known the turkey was not a "fake turkey" but a display turkey, never intended for carving but to adorn the buffet line.

As MRC's Brent Baker noted at the time: ""later when Bush helped distribute food, he did so from behind a counter with steam trays, so it"s not as if he somehow tried to pretend he was serving turkey from that tray to soldiers."

For the rest of Berke on Kerry's VP picking (and his fake turkey talk), click here.

" Richard Berke | George W. Bush | Gaffes | Iraq War | Turkey

Embracing "Weak" Employment Report

Eduardo Porter has the lead story in Saturday's paper, "U.S. Job Growth For June Shows Steep Slowdown-Recent Pace Cut In Half." Although every major daily leads with the new figures, as Slate's "Today's Papers" columnist Josh Levin points out, the Times offers the "harshest assessment" of the figures, which comes as no surprise to Times watchers, who are used to the paper talking down good economic news and playing up the negative.

Porter opens: "Job growth slowed sharply in June, the government reported yesterday, pulling back from a recent period of strong employment gains and casting doubt on the vigor of the nation's economic expansion. The Labor Department reported that employers added only 112,000 jobs in June, less than half the average monthly increase of the first five months of the year."

Porter reminds us this could be bad news for Bush: "The renewed weakness in employment provided unwelcome news to President Bush's re-election campaign, which has been counting on drawing attention to an improving job market to make the case for its economic policies. And it offered fresh ammunition for Senator John Kerry, the Democratic challenger, whose criticism of Mr. Bush's economic track record has been undermined since hiring began setting a fast pace earlier this year. Several economists, however, suggested that the sluggish June data may have been a fluke, noting that the payroll report can be highly volatile from month to month, and they predicted that it would rebound in July."

Later Porter argues: "Still, until new evidence emerges, the June employment report left a broad impression of weakness. Wages of private nonsupervisory workers-which account for some 80 percent of total employment-barely inched up to $15.65 an hour. That represents a mere 2 percent increase from last year, not enough to maintain workers' purchasing power against an inflation rate now running around 3 percent."

The story ends on a quote from Alan Blinder, a former Federal Reserve economist now advising the Kerry campaign, and includes a helpful AP photo from inside an auto plant, graced with this caption: "The Labor Department reported that only 112,000 jobs were added to the economy last month, which was below forecasts made by economists. The closing of a Ford plant in Dearborn, Mich., didn't help matters."

For more of Porter on the latest job figures, click here.

" George W. Bush | Campaign 2004 | Economy | Eduardo Porter | Unemployment

The Times Gets Another Military Matter All Wrong

Tuesday's masthead editorial, "Ill-Serving Those Who Serve," opens with this sentence: "The Pentagon's decision to press 5,600 honorably discharged soldiers back into service, mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the latest example of President Bush's refusal to face the true costs of pre-emptive war."

One problem: A blogger with actual military experience notes the Times has its facts wrong: "The military is not calling back discharged and retired individual soldiers. They are dipping into the Individual Ready Reserve. There is a big difference between calling up IRR soldiers and recalling retired or discharged soldiers."

Not until the second paragraph does the editorial let on what it's talking about: "Last week's mobilization decision involved the Army's Individual Ready Reserve, a pool of 117,000 former officers and soldiers who have completed their active or reserve duty, but still have time left on the eight-year contracts they signed when they enlisted. Given the urgency of the need for more troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can see why tapping that ready reserve was so tempting. But that urgency is of the administration's own making."

Cori Dauber thinks this editorial is just begging for a factual correction.

For the full editorial, click here.

" Editorial | Gaffes | Iraq War

Good News for Repubs: Dao Thinks They're Doomed

James Dao reports on undecided Ohio voters on Sunday's front page, and also files a sidebar article titled "Governor's Split With Conservatives Might Harm Bush," featuring this dire detail: "But Governor [Bob] Taft, 62, now finds himself at odds with conservatives, unpopular with voters and sitting atop a party organization that is driven by feuds and tarnished by scandal. The disarray is so great, Democrats contend, that it could hurt President Bush's ability to win Ohio, a pivotal state for the Republicans."

Given Dao's track record on Democratic prospects, perhaps its safe to chalk Ohio up for the Republicans after all.

For the rest of Dao in Ohio, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | James Dao | Democrats | Gaffes | Ohio