“From Bush, Unprecedented Negativity,” was how the Post headline summed up the President’s advertising campaign for re-election. In a May 31 page-one story, Post reporters Dana Milbank and Jim VandeHei said the President had engaged in an “extraordinary” assault on John Kerry with charges that are “wrong, or at least highly misleading.” But it’s the Post that often gets things wrong.
The Post complains that the Bush campaign accuses Kerry of supporting a 50-cent gas tax when he only did so 10 years ago. The Bush campaign says Kerry wants to eliminate provisions of the Patriot Act when the Post says he only wants to strengthen judicial oversight of their use. Clearly, the Post wants to give the benefit of any possible doubt to Kerry. But that doesn’t mean the Bush charges are false.
Another complaint is that Bush campaign officials accused Kerry of suggesting that U.S. troops in Iraq are “universally responsible” for the misdeeds of a few at Abu Ghraib prison. The Post says Kerry never said that. While Kerry never directly accused U.S. troops as a whole of promoting abuse, he did say that, “What has happened is not just something that a few privates or corporals or sergeants engaged in.” So the Kerry statement lends itself to the interpretation that greater numbers of troops or commanders condoned or engaged in the abuse. Remember that this statement comes from a candidate who accused his own commanders in Vietnam of condoning his war crimes.
The Post also complains that the Bush campaign has raised questions about Kerry’s “involvement in the peace movement” after he returned from Vietnam. The “peace movement” meant communist re-education camps, boat people, and genocide in neighboring Cambodia after the communist victory in Vietnam. This is the same paper that we caught concealing the nature of a meeting Kerry attended that featured a discussion of killing members of the U.S. Senate who supported the war. Tom Lipscomb of the New York Sun calls it the “Kill for Peace” meeting. If the Bush campaign were truly negative, it would have already highlighted this damaging aspect of Kerry’s past.
One Bush campaign ad accuses Kerry of wanting to raise taxes by $900 billion. The Post counters that “Kerry has said no such thing,” and that the number “was developed by the Bush campaign’s calculations of Kerry’s proposal.” So what? The Bush campaign simply added up the numbers. The Post also claims that a charge that Kerry voted some 350 times for higher taxes is “misleading” because some of the votes were to “leave taxes unchanged?” That’s how the Post avoids saying Kerry voted against tax reductions. Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform says the 350 vote figure was obtained by analyzing Kerry’s votes that resulted in higher taxes.
Norquist writes in the magazine of the American Enterprise Institute that, “Kerry’s unpleasant personality and his fellow senators’ dislike of him are widely known by reporters in Washington?but so far not written about.” That’s right?and we don’t expect the Post to write about it, either. This paper clearly wants to try to get Kerry off the hook for his Senate record.