Powered by Google
Editors' Picks
Arts + Books
Rec Room
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Adult Personals
Adult Classifieds
- - - - - - - - - - - -
FNX Radio
Band Guide
MassWeb Printing
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About Us
Contact Us
Advertise With Us
Work For Us
RSS Feeds
- - - - - - - - - - - -

sponsored links
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sex Toys - Adult  DVDs - Sexy  Lingerie

  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

Blood from stones (continued)

Related stories

The $50 million Dems: The real VIPS in the fight to oust George W. Bush won't be on the FleetCenter stage next week. They're the wealthy funders of progressive '527' groups. By David S. Bernstein.

A LITTLE MORE than four months ago, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry made the biggest mistake of his campaign. At an appearance in Charleston, West Virginia, on March 16, the senator criticized an ad released by George W. Bush’s re-election campaign that noted Kerry had voted against $87 billion the previous October 11 to equip American troops and for the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan. "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it," Kerry said — launching a thousand jibes, and helping to advance the Republicans’ image of him as a flip-flopper and a waffler.

Were those words ill-considered? Absolutely. But there’s no excuse for the media’s failure to place them in context. In fact, Kerry’s "no" vote was part of the normal legislative give-and-take — a process in which the president himself took part.

At a debate among the Democratic candidates last October 26, in Detroit, Kerry explained he voted against the money for two reasons: because the Bush administration had failed to build "a real coalition"; and because the Republicans refused to approve an amendment sponsored by him and Delaware senator Joe Biden to fund the $87 billion by rolling back a tax cut for the rich.

No doubt the issue would have continued to dog Kerry even without the Charleston faux pas. After all, Kerry had voted to authorize Bush to go to war against Iraq the previous fall. It was easy for the Republicans, and the media, to caricature his vote against the $87 billion as inconsistent with the earlier vote.

But consider that Bush himself had threatened to veto the entire $87 billion. According to a New York Times account from last October 30, the president warned lawmakers he would reject the bill if an $18.6 billion loan to Iraq were not changed to a no-strings-attached grant. Bush got his way.

And this past Sunday, on NBC’s Meet the Press, Biden explained another wrinkle to host Tim Russert. According to Biden, Kerry and a number of other senators had wanted to have two votes on the $87 billion — one on $67 billion for US troops, an expenditure that enjoyed widespread support, and one on $20 billion in reconstruction money. The Republicans rejected that approach, which led to a majority of the Senate (including Biden) voting to approve the money, and a minority (including Kerry and his running mate, North Carolina senator John Edwards) voting against. Among other things, Biden told Russert that Kerry "was more right about their [Bush-administration officials’] ineptitude in how to deal with it than I was."

Yet Kerry is still paying for that vote. Last winter, no sooner had Kerry emerged from the Democratic pack as the all-but-certain nominee than the Bush campaign whacked him for voting "against funding for our soldiers," including body armor, higher combat pay, and health benefits. But according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Web site FactCheck.org, part of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the Bush administration had already sent 40,000 troops to Iraq with less-than-ideal body armor — and that just $300 million of the $87 billion was for additional armor, about one-third of one percent.

FactCheck.org director Brooks Jackson notes that there was never a specific vote on the body armor, and thus it was unfair for the Republicans to charge that Kerry had voted against it. Jackson compares it to three votes Kerry has cast over the years against the Pentagon’s annual budget, saying, "They might as well have said, ‘He voted to fire the entire Army, Navy, and Air Force.’"

Jackson is less forgiving of Kerry’s attempts to rationalize his vote on the $87 billion, saying, "The fact is, he voted the way he voted, and he hasn’t done a very good job of explaining why he voted that way." But if it’s fair game for the media to keep hammering at Kerry for voting against the money, shouldn’t they also point out as a matter of course that Bush had threatened to veto it?

As it stands, the $87 billion has become part of the mythology of the 2004 presidential campaign: Bush the resolute, Kerry the flip-flopper. It’s like those reports that continually cite Kerry as the most liberal member of the Senate, based on ratings by the nonpartisan magazine National Journal. As Bob Somerby has noted on his DailyHowler.com site, those ratings are based on one year — 2003 — when Kerry missed a lot of votes because of the presidential campaign. (Of course, that’s another issue.)

In fact, Somerby — who’s also been all over the legend of the $87 billion — notes that 10 current senators have more-liberal lifetime voting records than Kerry. But never mind. Kerry the waffler and Kerry the ultraliberal are now established parts of the campaign narrative, even though one might think those two characterizations would be mutually exclusive.

LAST WEEK I inexplicably referred to the $87 billion as $85 million (see "The Kumbaya Party," News and Features, July 30). I’m blaming a massive failure of intelligence — mine.

Dan Kennedy can be reached at dkennedy[a]phx.com. Read his Media Log at BostonPhoenix.com.

page 1  page 2 

Issue Date: August 6 - 12, 2004
Click here for the Don't Quote Me archive
Back to the News & Features table of contents
  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

about the phoenix |  advertising info |  Webmaster |  work for us
Copyright © 2005 Phoenix Media/Communications Group