Don't Blame Kerry. Blame E.J.!
A self-deluding media failed the Democrats.
Don't Blame Kerry. Blame E.J.! E.J Dionne argues that Democratic Kerry-bashing is "dangerous because dissing Kerry is an easy way for Democrats to evade discussion of what the party needs to do to right itself." True. But Dionne then claims another sort of "cheap grace" by blaming the
Bush machine ...so skillful at turning little things into big things — always with help from Rush and Fox and the rest of the party-line conservative media eager to read scripts generated by the White House.
Yes, that's the problem--the mighty Bush machine and Roger Ailes, in combination so powerful that Bush's approval numbers are now soaring into the mid-60s. ...
More important--because Dionne does acknowledge some deeper Dem problems--even if Kerry is history, a Quayle-like dead man walking, the conditions that led Democrats to delude themselves into thinking he was a plausible candidate are still in place and still a problem.
I'm talking about a) The dutiful, clueless susceptibility of liberalism's main organ, the New York Times, to the elite appeal of a manifest phony like Kerry; b) The cocooning echo chamber of wishful-thinking self-reinforcement that led so many Democratic opinion-shapers to actually believe everything Paul Krugman was writing about the economy, to believe in the primacy of the "wrong track" numbers--in short, that led even highly sophisticated MSM politicos (like those at the Note) to believe the spin that the underlying dynamics of the election were hostile to Bush, hence the race was "Kerry's contest to lose."c) The semi-conscious Emperor's-Clothes-like suspension of normal powers of judgment, lest you write or say something in public that might be seen as aiding Bush. ...
Without these blinders, the Liberal Media might have noticed the bad joke aspects of Kerry's candidacy and saved their party from a nominee who everyone now recognizes as fatally flawed. Is there any guarantee they won't make the same mistake again in 2008?
For example--specifically, examples of (b) and (c)--here are excerpts from E.J. Dionne's own writing in the run-up to the 2004 election:
Early boosting: "The potential presidential candidates can hit larger themes, and some of them--Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts comes to mind--are using this period to lay out some serious ideas and expand their reach." -- April 5, 2002
Pre-primary blindness: "Yet for the moment, it's Kerry--with his standing as a Vietnam veteran and by combining support and criticism of Bush on Iraq--who comes closest to the foreign policy balance a Democrat needs to strike to satisfy both his party and those outside it." -- Feb 25, 2003
Post-Iowa--Falling-in-line euphoria: "In the newly presidential Kerry, they found patriotism and a candidate who could go head-to-head with Bush on national security. 'Bring it on!' Kerry would shout about doing battle with the Bush who showed up on that aircraft carrier." -- Jan 21, 2004
"But a liberal with a uniform, a war record and a regiment of veterans marching with him is not what the GOP ordered up from central casting. The momentum is now with Kerry because Democrats have begun to consider the advantages of being led into battle this fall by a lieutenant who knows what battle is." -- Jan. 27, 2004
"Face it, Democrats: You have never gotten your message across the way you have in this presidential primary campaign. ... Howard Dean toughened you up--you all owe him a debt. Then the voters of Iowa decided the party needed a candidate, not a trainer, so they lifted up John Kerry and John Edwards. ... The prospect that the Democrats might nominate Kerry, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, reopened the issues surrounding the incumbent's Air National Guard service back in the 1970s."-- Feb. 17, 2004
Mid-Campaign--Wishful Thinking: "Here is the biggest surprise of the 2004 election so far: It is John Kerry who is eager to talk about terrorism and national security, and President Bush's campaign that is trying to quash a far-reaching debate on these issues." -- April 20, 2004
"The conventional wisdom on this presidential election is wrong. It's frequently said that John Kerry is the man in trouble. Yes, Kerry does have a gift for getting in his own way. But President Bush is the candidate with big problems. ... [O]n the current numbers, Kerry will win if he's simply good enough. Bush's task is harder: to seem a whole lot better than he does now to voters who already know him well."-- May 14, 2004
"First Ripple of a Political Tidal Wave?
Rep. Jay Inslee knows about political tidal waves, because one of them almost sank his political career.
Inslee, who now represents a suburban Seattle district, was tossed out of Congress from another district in the 1994 Republican sweep. ...But he came back to the House in 1998, and now what he's seeing 'is the same tidal wave moving in the opposite direction. . . . There's a passion out there.' And the passion, Inslee says, is running against George W. Bush. ...
Even if the plural of anecdote is not data, the anecdotes are about citizens who avoided politics for years but are now devoting time to John Kerry's campaign out of hostility to Bush. Individuals who never before made a campaign contribution are opening their checkbooks to Kerry and the Democrats. ... And, perhaps most significant, moderate and moderately conservative Republicans are showing little enthusiasm for Bush, reflecting their worries about his Iraq policy and their qualms over large deficits." -- June 29, 2004
October--Looking for Friendly Faces in the Crowd: "In the torrent of polling information released over the weekend, the most significant finding was this one: John Kerry's supporters are more likely than George W. Bush's to believe that this year's election is the most important of their lifetimes." -- Oct. 26, 2004
[Couldn't someone do the same sort of embarrasing cherry-picking with what you've written?--ed Embarrassing in a different way! Excessive Kerry-appreciation was not my problem. It was the East Coast MSM's problem.] 3:17 P.M. link
Today, the New York Sun is backing John Kerry up against at least one charge--that because Kerry's Form 180 was sent to the Naval Personnel Command, as opposed to a central storage location in St. Louis, it failed to trigger a complete release of records. Not so, says the Sun [third item]. ... But RCP's Tom Bevan produces a succinct description of why Kerry critics are suspicious:
Without maligning [Globe reporter] Michael Kranish's motives or his ability as a reporter, it's fair to point out that privately funneling documents through a single source from your hometown paper and then declaring the story "dead" and "over" is hardly the epitome of full public disclosure. John Kerry would never accept this type of standard from his political opponents or this administration. Why he thinks the public should accept it now from him is beyond me.
Photograph of John Kerry by Brian Snyder/Reuters.