Wednesday, April 21, 2004
The Associated Press, spun.
Records of John Kerry's Vietnam War service released Wednesday show a highly praised naval officer with an Ivy League education who spoke fluent French and had raced sailboats — the fruits of a privileged upbringing that set him apart from the typical seaman.
Where in Kerry's military record does it explain how Kerry had an Ivy League education, raced sailboats, and had a privileged upbringing that set him apart from the typical seaman? Because, you know, I didn't think they kept track of things like that. Just imagine it: "Ensign Kerry's Brahmin accent is often unintelligable to his shipmates, and he keeps mentioning how the Gulf of Tonkin reminds him of the seas off Cape Cod."
Good question! Why, it's almost as if a GOP talking point found its way right into the lede of a nationally syndicated news story. Thank goodness the president isn't from a cushy privileged background.
Update 4.22.04: Brian Montopoli at the Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk follows up on the Associated Press's distorted coverage:
Kerry's privileged upbringing isn't off limits, of course, but it seems bizarre to make it the focal point of an examination of the candidate's military records. We don't remember any pieces on President Bush's Air National Guard service that paused to point out that he was head cheerleader at Andover. [AP writer Nedra] Pickler's take is the kind of thing we're used to seeing in the Socialist Worker, not in what's supposed to be a straightforward wire service account.
Apparently, her editors agree — belatedly. By the time this morning's revised version of the story was posted, the Kerry-as-blueblood angle was gone — no sailboats at all — and the story focused on "[military] documents showing high praise from [Kerry's] supervisors." But that was not before The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Kansas City Star (registration required), and other papers had already picked up the earlier version of the story and ran with it.
The question to ask is this: Where did Nedra Pickler come across the idea that Kerry's glowing evaluations had something to do with his speaking French and racing sailboats? One must be willfully (or perhaps even authentically) naive to think that this connection just popped into her head as the obvious thing to say about Kerry's military service. Sure, maybe she too loved speaking French and racing sailboats in preparation for her illustrious Navy career, and so nothing could be simpler than finding the glories of aristocracy in Kerry's service.
Or maybe, just maybe, Nedra Pickler is one of the political reporters who receives countless e-mails, faxes, and phone messages every day from the political operatives — spin doctors — who try to stamp the candidates' own interpretation of events on the news. And if this is so, then it seems only fair to ask: Which of the candidates wants to portray Kerry as a French-speaking, sailboat-racing son of privilege? Perhaps the one featured in this Washington Post story from 2002:
Bush at one point forgot a reporter's question and said, "That's what happens when you're over 55." Turning to the 69-year-old Chirac, he added, "You know what I mean." After referring to the French leader as "Jacques," Bush paused and said, "I guess I should call you President Chirac." Moments later, Bush again referred to him as "Jacques."
Bush, who was out until midnight Saturday on a caviar-and-foie-gras boat cruise in St. Petersburg, had trouble understanding some questions and said at one point, "Whew, lot of questions here." When Chirac called on a U.S. reporter, Bush remarked sharply that "that's generally not the way it's done," adding later to Chirac: "I'll call on the Americans." And when a U.S. reporter addressed a question to Chirac in French, Bush teased the reporter, saying, "The guy memorizes four words, and he plays like he's intercontinental," adding, "Quebueno — now I'm literate in two languages."
Why, it's almost like you'd never think that both candidates in this race went to Yale. I wonder why that is.
Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 21 April 2004 at 11:24 PM