Hugh Hewitt - Principal Contributor
Hewitt is senior member of the CaliforniaRepublic.org editorial
board. [go to Hewitt index]
Week Of Foolish Choices
Whitewashing John Kerry...
[Hugh Hewitt] 2/19/04
"John Kerry began his political career as an anti-war radical
and moved left." That's how I began the discussion of Kerry
on Saturday night's "Heartland" program on the Fox
News Channel, hosted by John Kasich.
Opposite me was a
fellow named Mike Malloy, who promptly went a little crazy – and then crazier still when I pointed
out that his website referred to the "Bush crime family," a
characterization that offended not just me but Kasich as well.
Rather than defend his idiocies, Malloy stomped off the set.
Welcome to Campaign 2004, where Democrats are free to make any
wild charge they want, but will refuse to defend their candidate
against his own well-known record.
John Kerry is an extraordinarily
weak candidate because his politics are very far to the left
of the center in the U.S. Senate
and the United States at large. Added to this difficulty is the
fact that Kerry began his career as a radical, and radicals have
to confront their own past and either embrace it or deny it – and,
if the latter, with clarity as to when and why their thinking
This will be a very
difficult process for Kerry as there is no evidence that his
thinking about Vietnam, or the larger issues
the debate over the war contained, has changed much. Friendly
voices in the media – and there is none more friendly to
Kerry than the Los Angeles Times – seem to sense that any
serious look at Kerry's radicalism will undermine his candidacy,
so expect a chorus of "that was 30 years ago" to rise
in defense of Kerry's attempt to whiteout his political opinions
from the '70s.
That was a possible
strategy until Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry
McAullffe branded President Bush as "AWOL" (Absent
WithOut Leave) and the press went on its one-week frenzy. But
that absurd exercise – note how it was over this last weekend
with the release of a Guard record showing Bush to have been
a skilled pilot and the arrival of first-person testimonies as
to Bush's service in the areas disputed by the nuts and paranoids – opened
the door to the '70s.
Now the press wants
to move on. How transparent. The most risible example of the "move on" chorus is Ronald Brownstein's "Political
Battle Over Vietnam-Era Credentials Has No Winners" from
Monday's Los Angeles Times. This is a deeply dishonest column
that has the feel of having been ordered up by Kerry campaign
central. Brownstein has long been a Democratic coach, and that's
fine. Al Hunt, Mark Shields, Margaret Carlson, etc. need company.
What's dishonest is
Brownstein's characterization of the debate over Kerry's radical
past: "But it's reasonable to ask whether
Republicans want to encourage a debate about whether Kerry honorably
served his country during the Vietnam era." No one has asked
whether Kerry served honorable in combat. Of course he did. But
his political career was launched in radicalism, and it is fair
to ask which parts of that agenda remain part of Kerry's political
make-up, and which parts have been shed.
Brownstein adopts the Democratic talking point that such a look
involves questioning Kerry's war service. That is Orwellian and
transparently so. Propagandists for Kerry like Brownstein can
argue all day long that Kerry's post-war politics don't matter,
but they might. And raising those politics won't question the
heroism he displayed in the war at all.
his dishonest framing of the debate with a demand to move on,
and does so by quoting a couple of big names
from the Vietnam era: John McCain and anti-war activist Sam Brown. "But
it's a safe bet that most Americans, of all ideologies," Brownstein
writes, "will agree with McCain and Brown when they say
it is long past time to end the war over the war in Vietnam." How
convenient, this declaration, coming as it does after the attack-Bush-over-Vietnam-week
In case you don't
get Brownstein's point, he repeats it one more time: "If Kerry and Bush face each other this fall,
most voters are likely to care far more about the choices they
offer today than the choices they made 30 years ago." While
true, this is high-school debate quality writing. So what? In
a close election, what will matter are the opinions of the millions
of swing voters, and the swing voters may very well care about
John Kerry's political roots, and whether Kerry has outgrown
Kerry's radical days are on the table, and the collective whining
of all his pals in the print media won't take them off, any more
than President Bush could get his Air National Guard service
off the table until a thorough vetting was had. McAuliffe's rashness
guaranteed that Brownstein's ruse won't work.
Nor will the Times' attempt to whitewash Kerry's record as a senator hold up. In
fact, this second attempt to help Kerry by
the paper of no weight in the West is even more transparent than
Brownstein's. Front page on Monday: "Kerry's Got Kennedy's
Nod, if Not His Politics." Get it? The Los Angeles Times
wants you to know that Kerry isn't Teddy.
The story works overtime
to dig up a couple of instances when Kerry and Teddy didn't
vote alike, and can find a total of three,
one of which – the war resolution of Iraq – Kerry
is now saying he wished he'd voted against. Most laughably and
dishonestly is the paper's graphic citing the rankings of the
Americans for Democratic Action showing that, in 2002, Kennedy
voted with the ADA – which the paper correctly calls a "liberal
advocacy group" – 100 percent of the time, while Kerry
did so only 85 percent of the time.
Of course, the paper
doesn't present Sen. John Edwards' 70 percent rating for context,
but even more glaring is the missing data
on lifetime ADA rating: Kerry voted the right way, according
to the ADA, 92 percent of the time throughout his long Senate
career, while Teddy got it right only 90 percent of the time!
And Kerry's lead in liberal votes was even larger over Kennedy
until the votes of 2002 were added into the mix. Thus the Los
Angeles Times hides the central point of Kerry's political life – that
he is to the left of Teddy Kennedy – in a story about how
Kerry is to the right of Teddy Kennedy. Good journalism that,
Manipulation of data
to fit a partisan storyline benefiting Democrats is commonplace
in the Los Angeles Times – so
much so that the paper is no longer credible in California or
national politics, and its circulation has dropped accordingly.
The paper's disastrous, attempted manipulation of the 2003 recall
campaign won't be forgotten by the California electorate for
a long time, and its reputation will remain in tatters until
wholesale replacement of its political staff occurs.
But the paper is still
useful for the early warning signals it send to the GOP. The
Los Angeles Times, like the over-eager
servant it is – always oversteps the message and telegraphs
it for all to read. Monday's paper was hilariously open about
the coming Democratic themes: It is wrong to probe Kerry's anti-war
activism, and it is wrong to call him a Teddy Kennedy Massachusetts
Of course, it is right to both probe and brand. Having lackeys
in the press ain't what it used to be. Kerry's wrapped up the
nomination, and now his political past needs an exploring it
didn't receive due to the odd run-up to the primaries when Dean
sucked up all the air. The Dems have made a foolish choice, and
the complaints of their pals in the print business won't keep
it from becoming obviously so.
Principal Contributor Hugh Hewitt is an author, television
and syndicated talk-show host of the Salem Radio Network's Hugh
Hewitt Show, heard in over 40 markets around the country.
He blogs regularly at HughHewitt.com and he frequently contributes opinion pieces to the Weekly
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