by Jay Ambrose
Scripps Howard News Service
March 29, 2005
He's concerned, for instance, that large numbers of Americans voting for George W. Bush believed incorrectly that Saddam Hussein played a part in the 9/11 attacks and seems to think this is because they were paying too much attention to a "sub-media" that aimed to entertain, not inform, and that undercut the valid reporting of mainstream outlets.
The Massachusetts senator and former candidate for president is extensively quoted in The Weekly Standard as saying this much and more during a Boston session last month. Our excuse-making Democrat also worried aloud about the "corporatization" of the media and the demise of the Fairness Doctrine, which was a governmental policy restricting free speech on radio and TV. Put all these negatives together, and the honest, intelligent, right-thinking candidate is put at a serious disadvantage, he and a Boston columnist lamented.
The facts, of course, are that the vast majority of Americans of all political views get their news from mainstream media, which, in the past presidential campaign, mostly let Kerry off easy while giving Bush an especially hard time, and that it is through free speech that truth gets a chance to emerge. There's little doubt in my mind that Kerry did suffer because of free speech, which in the form of bloggers, radio talk-show hosts, cable-TV commentators and others offered up some opposition to his lies while at least some prestige media outlets circled the wagons around him.
Kerry perpetrated some ridiculous falsehoods during his campaign's last, withering days, such as his speculation that Bush planned to reconstitute the draft, sending thousands of our young into the path of bullets, and planned to cut Social Security benefits, sending thousands of our old to dog-food diets. This pathological demagoguery earned scarcely a penetrating question from reporters, much less outrage by many editorial writers, as far as I could determine.
There were other lies earlier that The New York Times, CBS and others tried their best to ignore, such as his decades-old assertion that he was miles deep in Cambodia on Christmas of 1968 and that he had made all his military records available to the press. It is beyond argument that Kerry fabricated big-time on the Cambodia adventure, and it is absolutely beyond contention, as sure as anything, a certifiable absolute, that he has kept certain of his military records hidden from public review.
I've got a hero on this subject. He is Tom Lipscomb, who has also received praise by another journalist I admire, the columnist Nat Hentoff. Tom, whom I know primarily through e-mail communications, a couple of phone calls and reading what he has written for the New York Sun, engaged in meticulous research before concluding that Kerry has never been wholly forthcoming about his military record - that he may even have been discharged other than honorably - and that his boastfully made claims about his service in Vietnam received precious little journalistic assessment.
Know this. The Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth were brave, honorable, intelligent men who were treated by at least some mainstream news outlets as if they were unworthy humans because of their arguments that Kerry's self-idolizing assertions of heroism were bunk. It happens that the evidence was on their side on at least some matters, such as the Cambodian lie, and that Kerry never allowed other evidence to see the light of day.
He now says we'll get a look at it. After a campaign in which only a few mainstream journalists did much probing on the subject, he finally agreed in an interview with Tim Russert of NBC that he would sign Standard Form 180, which would make all of his military records available to the public. Days have passed. Weeks have passed. Two months have passed. He hasn't done it. He will never do it, in my estimation, because he would then have to deal with ambition-snuffing revelations instead of blaming big, bad media-owning corporations, a so-called media subculture and too little governmental regulation of speech for his loss.
In the past campaign, the mainstream media gave Kerry break after break while CBS closed its partisan eyes to a hoax in order to slam Bush, and The New York Times - as one of a number of possible examples - came up with a phony-baloney, anti-administration story about stolen Iraqi explosives during the campaign's last week. To the extent that media outside the mainstream had an impact, it seems to me to have been mostly by way of energetic debate and providing information not so easily found on the major TV networks or prestige papers. Good for them.
He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.