Back from a lovely time in Ann Arbor, I’m “reporting for duty” concerning the Boston Globe.
Over the weekend there was quite a bit of crowing in Lucianne.com and some blogs about this article in Sunday’s Globe which covered part of the Kerry campaign fairly chronologically. It is not much news, IMHO.
What I did find interesting in the story is its coverage of the Swift Boat Veterans campaign in August. In early August the Boston Globe, the NY Times, and the Washington Post effectively kept “radio silence” concerning the Swifties. From August 4 to Aug 21 (at least that is what it looks like to me from my blog entries at the time). Why? “Not newsworthy”, Oliphant haughtily responded later, but in a Globe OpEd column, not a story. Based on the account below, one could conclude that these papers were treating the story exactly the way that the Kerry campaign organization asked; giving it no ink. To do this must have gone against all journalistic impulses. That’s what happens when reporters forsake journalistic responsibilities in service of some higher cause.
In retrospect, their candidate might have been better served had these liberal papers kept their proper distance from the campaign and had the cojones to ask some discomforting questions right away about the Swifties, rather than denigrating their papers to service as house print organs of the Kerry campaign. Doubtless the credibility of their publications would not have suffered, either. What will future historians think when they put together the history of this campaign and find absolutely NOTHING in these papers covering the critical days of a critical story? The “paper of record” left no record at all. Howell Raines lives, in spirit at least. Here is the Sunday Globe’s retrospective:
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“By August 14, Kerry was mad — and aides could feel it. Ten days earlier, an inflammatory book by his Nixon-era foe, O’Neill, had topped a national best-seller list. ‘Unfit for Command’ used mostly unsupported allegations to label Kerry a liar who didn’t deserve some or all of his combat medals. At the same time, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth began airing ads, mostly in swing states, quoting men who said Kerry ‘has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam,’ ‘lied’ to get his medals, ‘is no war hero,’ and ‘betrayed all his shipmates.’
Kerry wanted to fight back right away, but Shrum and other media advisers cautioned against it, concerned about fanning the flames. ‘We watched as the story jumped from the Internet, to Fox News, to the other cable networks,’ said Cahill. ‘Our concern was we didn’t want to help it along by our reaction.’ The campaign hoped that the episode would blow over with minimal damage, as it had the previous spring. But this time, there was no prison scandal, or anything else, to swallow the swift boat veterans’ crusade. ‘The August echo chamber was a difficult environment because nothing else was going on,’ said Thorne.
‘The campaign collectively underestimated the effect of the swift boats. It was a collective mistake,’ recalled Michael Whouley, a longtime Kerry operative. ‘I think the candidate was probably the most concerned about it. It pissed him off, people attacking his Vietnam service.’
Kerry wanted to know what impact the ads were having. Shrum recalled that for days the polls indicated nothing. Then the damage began to show. ‘As soon as we saw it, we moved,’ Shrum said. By then, the damage had been done. “