Media Shows Signs Of Doing Its Job This Time
Don’t look now, but it appears that if you show the willingness to fight back, and fight back hard, the media will do its job, after all. Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank, in a Page Four story in the Washington Post today, actually pointed out that Bush was wrong and exaggerated in his claims that John Kerry wanted to gut the intelligence budget in the 1990’s.
In terms of accuracy, the parry by the president is about half right. Bush is correct that Kerry on Sept. 29, 1995, proposed a five-year, $1.5 billion cut to the intelligence budget. But Bush appears to be wrong when he said the proposed Kerry cut -- about 1 percent of the overall intelligence budget for those years -- would have "gutted" intelligence. In fact, the Republican-led Congress that year approved legislation that resulted in $3.8 billion being cut over five years from the budget of the National Reconnaissance Office -- the same program Kerry said he was targeting.
Bush's charge that Kerry's broader defense spending reduction bill had no co-sponsors is true, but not because it was seen as irresponsible, as the president suggested. Although Kerry's measure was never taken up, Specter's plan to reduce the NRO's funds, which Kerry co-sponsored with Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), did become law as part of a House-Senate package endorsed by the GOP leadership.
Five days before Kerry introduced his legislation, The Washington Post reported that the NRO had hoarded $1 billion to $1.7 billion of unspent funds without informing the CIA or the Pentagon. Months earlier, the CIA had launched an inquiry into the NRO's funding after complaints by lawmakers that the agency had used more than $300 million of unspent classified funds to build a Virginia headquarters for the organization a year earlier.
Four days before Kerry's legislation was introduced, the chairmen of the House and Senate defense appropriations subcommittees, Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) announced they had "agreed upon additional reductions to NRO funding in order to ensure that only such amounts as are necessary."
On the issue of the White House’s call for Kerry to apologize for his remarks about them being liars and crooks, even the New York Times (not Lis Bumiller of course) ran Kerry’s rejoinders and apology rejection as the lead in its story today.
Senator John Kerry on Thursday fought off Republican attacks over his harsh off-the-cuff comments about his critics and refused to apologize for describing Republicans as "crooked" and "lying."
"I haven't said anything that's incorrect about them, and they've said lots of things that are incorrect," Mr. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, told reporters, citing Republicans' attacks on his voting record, President Bush's new advertisements against him and tactics used in earlier campaigns.
"There is a Republican attack squad that specializes in trying to destroy people and be negative," he said.
James Rosen of the McClatchy Newspapers had one of the best write-ups on this flap today. He ran Kerry’s response at length, and used a nice inflammatory headline to boot.
"I have no intention whatsoever of apologizing for my remarks," he told reporters at the Capitol. "I think the Republicans need to start talking about the real issues before the country."
In responding to the Bush attack ads from yesterday, Rosen ran Kerry’s rejoinder in its entirety.
Kerry responded quickly to the ads.
"They have nothing to do with health care for Americans, nothing to do with jobs for Americans, nothing to do with education for our kids, nothing to do with cleaner air or cleaner water, nothing to do with making America safer in this world," Kerry said. "They can't talk about these things because George Bush doesn't have a record to run on, he has a record to run away from, and that's what they're trying to do."
The Los Angeles Times, in its story on the ads and Kerry’s comments, not only ran Kerry’s response, but also ran a negative comment on Bush’s ad.
Kerry, in reply to the attack, told reporters that Bush was ignoring issues such as education, healthcare and jobs.
"They can't talk about those things, because George Bush doesn't have a record to run on; he has a record to run away from," Kerry said in a news conference at the Capitol.
The ad drew immediate criticism. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, called on Bush to withdraw the ad because it illustrated the section on terrorism with a picture of an olive-skinned man with bushy eyebrows.
"If they wanted to put Osama bin Laden up there that's fine, but using just a face stereotypes," Zogby told Associated Press.
There’s hope after all for the media.