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 Issueďż˝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.