Patterico's Pontifications


Mainstream Media Hid Full Extent of Kerry’s Indecisiveness

Filed under: 2004 Election,Media Bias — Patterico @ 12:18 pm

During the campaign, Hugh Hewitt argued that John Kerry was running a terrible campaign, which should cause Americans concern about the type of president he would be.

I was initially skeptical of this argument. After all, most people agree that Karl Rove, not George Bush, was the mastermind behind the Bush campaign. If Karl Rove can run a better campaign than Kerry, does that necessarily mean that Bush would be a better president than Kerry?

But it turns out that Hugh’s observation was dead right, as a recent appearance by Newsweek‘s Evan Thomas on the Today Show confirms. (Transcript available on NEXIS.) Thomas revealed a Kerry campaign in chaos — headed by a John Kerry so paralyzed with indecision that campaign staffers took his cell phone away from him so he would stop calling people for advice:

Mr. THOMAS: The Kerry campaign was even worse run than you think. Kerry was a bad manager. He could never make up his mind. He would dither and he’d second-guess every decision. They had to take away his cell phone twice, because every time they made a decision he’d get on his cell phone and start calling a hundred of his closest friends.

Now, we heard a little something about Kerry’s penchant for calling friends for advice when he was picking his vice-presidential nominee. But even Thomas agrees that the full extent of the chaos in the Kerry campaign was not revealed to the American people during the campaign:

LAUER: What would be the biggest surprise? You had great access. The average American, what would they be most surprised about that goes on inside campaigns at this level of politics?

Mr. THOMAS: I think the kind of level of chaos and that they don’t–it’s not that–well, the Bush campaign was pretty organized, but I think the disorganization of the Kerry campaign is going to be shocking.

If a presidential candidate is running a shockingly disorganized campaign, paralyzed by the candidate’s indecision, the American people have a right to know.

So why weren’t we told the full truth until now — when it’s too late??

Yes, it’s a rhetorical question — because Evan Thomas himself has already told us the answer: the media wanted Kerry to win.

UPDATE: Commenter Steve M. says that the Newsweek people were given inside access to the Kerry campaign in return for a promise not to reveal details until after the campaign. Turns out Steve is correct: the introduction to the Newsweek feature (which I had read only excerpts of) says:

The reporters were granted unusual access to the staffs and families of both candidates on the understanding that the information they learned would not be made public until this Election Issue�after the votes were cast on Nov. 2.

Thanks to Steve for clarifying this.

I find this access-for-silence arrangement disturbing. It reminds me of Eason Jordan’s decision to withhold disturbing facts about Saddam so that CNN could remain in Baghdad. For example, how was Newsweek to report accurately on the central issue of Kerry’s indecisiveness, while withholding the clear evidence of that character trait learned by the reporters who observed Kerry close up?

So, while the existence of the agreement does make the issue of non-disclosure more complex and subtle, I am still disturbed by the end result: voters learned the true facts too late.

I think it’s time that reporters renounced access-for-silence agreements like this. If candidates can’t handle the truth being reported in time for voters to use it, then they shouldn’t grant close access, period. Arrangements like this are unsavory, and justifably lead the public to wonder whether they are being told the whole truth.

UPDATE 5-16-05: Thanks to Michelle Malkin for the link. I have reopened comments.

18 Responses to “Mainstream Media Hid Full Extent of Kerry’s Indecisiveness”

  1. The excerpts I have read from the Newsweek article reveal a scary picture of a man who was crippled by indecision and petulant about missing hairbrushes. I haven’t read the full article yet but these are terrible qualities for a president in war time. The media effectively concealed these eyewitness stories until after the election. Maybe on a visceral level Americans understood his true character. I wonder how many disgruntled democrats will reconsider their assesment of Kerry if they read the article.

    Roberta (1425b8)

  2. Well, yes, they did want that… but isn’t this guy part of the “inside the campaign” team that broke off from the rest of Newsweek’s reporting team and promised the Kerry campaign that nothing they observed would be revealed until after the election? That’s how they got the up-close access they got.

    steve M. (926481)

  3. There you go again, picking on Mr. Kerry. I saw a copy of his plan to organize things after the election and a key element was to have hundreds of hairbrushes scattered about the White House just to be certain there would be one within easy reach. I also saw a Secret Service bulletin that cautioned agents guarding Mr. Kerry to never allow the candidate to stand between his running mate and one of those brushes.

    The Old Coot (48c30c)

  4. Patterico wrote:

    >I find this access-for-silence arrangement disturbing.

    I don’t, particularly. It’s hard for me to see how taking a couple of Newsweek reporters “off the case” until after the election affected anything much. It’s not as if there are reams of “secret” information about Kerry’s shortcomings. More like reams of information in the public domain that most media outlets played down or ignored. I very much doubt that these “unprecedented-access” Newsweekers were the only ones who were fully aware of the situation, and fully committed to not reporting it prior to the election.

    AMac (41760a)

  5. I can’t really fault Newsweek for making this agreement. A lot of what they report is subjective, and may be harsher because they know they’re reporting about a loser. If they were covering up satanic rituals with human sacrifice and such, you might have a point.
    I have a feeling that political decision making is a little like law and sausage; the process is bound to be a lot less attractive than the product, and if it’s really not working, the product will make it apparent. I think the deficiencies of Kerry’s decision-making were apparent to anyone following the campaign. All this stuff is fun to know, but really comes more under the heading of gossip than vital information.
    My favorite reply to people who claim that Bush is (and Reagan was) a puppet is “If it’s true, so what? I like the job the puppet master is doing.

    Rick (01a4d5)

  6. He’s not indecisive, he’s nuanced.

    You knuckle-dragging fascist jerk.

    The Angry Clam (c96486)

  7. Question: Are there any examples of Newsweek honoring their access-for-silence bargain with Kerry but violating it with Bush?

    Molon Labe (0637e9)

  8. If Newsweek saw this, other media saw it as well. Perhaps not as often or as clearly as those who had inside access because of the promise not to tell during the campaign, but this kind of disorganization and indecisiveness would permeate everything in the campaign.

    The proper question is why didn’t the media who didn’t promise not to tell give us the info?

    stan (8e6f34)

  9. Kerry’s indecisive, hand-wringing, decision-making style was nothing new. I seem to recall reading an article about this earlier in the year. Certainly though, this particular trait was not covered by the MSM for precisely the reasons you pointed out: they wanted Kerry to win.

    On a side note concerning the Newsweek article, I was somewhat disturbed by the treatment in the article of the Swift Boat Vets accusations and the supposed Kerry “reluctance” to play up his Vietnam service record. That part of the article had a pretty strong odor of partisanship, IMHO.

    Bucky Katt (94a870)

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    Reader M.E. points out: Just for the sake of argument let’s say the Newsweek article was true. No one’s pointing out that Newsweek is the same publication that had a non-disclosure agreement with the Kerry campaign last fall. The editors…

    Michelle Malkin (3ca10e)

    Reader M.E. points out: Just for the sake of argument let’s say the Newsweek article was true. No one’s pointing out that Newsweek is the same publication that had a non-disclosure agreement with the Kerry campaign last fall. The editors…

    Michelle Malkin (3ca10e)

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  16. Some of us are still waiting to see if Kerry received an honorable discharge. If he will only release his form 180, we will totally have his number. What are those Mass. people thinking when they continue to re-elect this guy?

    John Swan (1776b6)

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