Patterico's Pontifications


Zombie Journalism: Rerunning the 2004 campaign

Filed under: 2004 Election,2012 Election,Media Bias — Karl @ 1:35 pm

[Posted by Karl]

Given the number of stories I expect to see making these errors, I almost hate to single out the WaPo’s Chris Cillizza. But here he is, predicting that Pres. Obama will go even more negative in his reelect campaign — almost advising that he do so — based on Pres. Bush’s 2004 reelect campaign:

Why? Because Bush whose popularity was sliding amid rising questions about the war in Iraq — among other things — knew that there was no path to victory against Kerry by spending any substantial time touting his accomplishments during his first four years in office.

Partisans on both sides were already lined up either for or against Bush and no amount of positive (or negative) advertising would move them off of how they intended to vote. Undecided voters didn’t like Bush so positive ads amounted to a waste of time. The only way to win was to make Kerry even less palatable.

Obama is in a somewhat similar — albeit it slightly stronger — position that Bush found himself at this time in 2004. The struggling economy has dragged down the current incumbent’s numbers and two of his main legislative achievements — health care and the economic stimulus — are not popular with the American public. (They are popular with the Democratic base, however, which is why Obama is touting some of those accomplishments in web ads — a means of communication that helps gin up energy in the base.)

Mind you, Jay Cost has looked in depth at the 2004 campaign and found essentially the opposite result:

The election that year was a referendum on Bush: people who disapproved of him voted overwhelmingly for Kerry; people who approved of him voted overwhelmingly for Bush. In fact, the Bush approvers/Kerry voters were more numerous than the Bush disapprovers/Bush voters.

As Jay noted: “If anything, Kerry did a better job at peeling away voters from the “other” side than Bush did.”

Cillizza’s sloppy thinking is most evident in his final paragraph quoted above.  I doubt he missed the day in writing class about paragraph structure and how topic sentences are supposed to be supported by and flow from the topic sentence.  Here, we are told Obama is in a slightly stronger position than Bush, but the rest of the paragraph actually suggests why Obama is in a weak position. [My theory is that Cillizza believes this because Bush’s approval was trending downward in May 2004, while Obama’s has generally trended upward since Autumn 2011.  However, I would note Bush’s downward trend broke over the summer of 2004 — and it’s entirely possible the converse could happen here, based on the natural rhythms of a presidential election year and the state of the economy. The main point here is that Cillizza could not be bothered to support his assertion with data or argument.]

Cillizza spells out his bedrock premise near the end of his piece:

Remember: Campaigns run negative ads because they work.

However, political scientists like John Sides will tell you that we haven’t remotely arrived at a place where research suggests that negative ads “work.”  This is not to say that negative ads never work; it is merely to say that at best, Cillizza can only claim that campaigns run negative ads because they believe negative ads work.  Sides calls the idea that negative ads work a “zombie,” because it refuses to die, despite the general lack of data supporting it.

Conservatives will be inclined to attribute the sloppy thinking of such stories entirely to political bias by journalists who would prefer Obama’s reelection.  However, without excluding bias as a factor, the problem runs deeper than that.

The 2012 election will be mostly a referendum on the incumbent and the economy, as such elections almost always are.  Yet coverage of the campaign to date has overwhelmingly focused on the horse race, tactics, strategy, money and advertising, absolutely dwarfing coverage of policy, the candidates’ public records and even their personal issues.  The same was true of the 2008 general election coverage, despite a financial panic and two war theaters.  Indeed, two of the world’s easiest predictions are: (1) after the 2012 elections, journalists will hold conferences where they decry the fact that they disserved the public with too much horse race coverage; (2) they will do it again in 2016.

The establishment media’s enormous bias toward horse race coverage is fundamentally self-serving.  If campaign strategists and pollsters are the puppet-masters who determine election outcomes, then the reporters who relay their plans to the unwashed masses have status.  But if people think that the event of the moment may not matter all that much, fewer people read the Washington Post.  And even zombies gotta eat.



The “McCain Campaign in Disarray” Meme is Completely Wrong — And They Love Reading About It. — UPDATED

Posted by WLS:

The selection of Sarah Palin, and the information overload of the last 48 hours, has fed into the press meme that the McCain campaign is in disarray, and the “failure” to sufficient vet her is just the latest example.

Chief among the contentions of the Obama-edia is that by selecting Palin, McCain has undercut his primary argument against Obama — his lack of experience.

This, my friends, is emblematic of why Democrats lose national elections and Republicans win — always fighting the last war.

For about 60 days, and especially since the Berlin speech, the McCain campaign was relentless in pounding home the “too inexperienced” theme on Obama with paid advertising in battleground states and surrogate appearances in the press. Obama was mostly out raising money, and didn’t begin to respond effectively until McCain was scoring some points. Sound familiar John Kerry?

One effect of this was that Obama was pushed into a completely ordinary and uninspiring selection of Joe Blowhard Biden as his running mate. And the nation yawned.

McCain acts — Obama reacts.

So what about that “experience” issue now with Palin?

Well, that narrative is already established in the minds of swing voters — Obamamaniacs in the Dem party are never going to be swayed from their views on him. Pounding away with that issue alone for the next 9 weeks would be stupid.

So the topic of the fall had to be different from the topic of the summer. Just like Kerry was stood up straight with the Swift Boaters claims — getting him out of his comfort zone — and later taken down with his liberalism, that will be the same “Rovian” playbook that McCain’s camp will follow from now to election day.

The game now will shift to “conservatism” v. “liberalism.” It’ll be “genuine reform” v. “South Side machine politics.”

It’ll be “McCain/Palin and the NRA/Drill-Drill-Drill”, v. “Obama and Ayers w/$4 gas is just fine because it means we consume less.”

The battleground for the fall campaign is different than it was for the summer.

The Dems/Obama are in the process of fighting over ground – experience – that McCain has already won.

The GOP/McCain have moved on and will begin breaching the Dem lines on Wednesday and Thursday.

Mobility is lethality, both in war and politics.

UPDATED – The NYT Caucus Blog has a new McCain ad out today hitting Obama for his intention to add billions in new federal spending:

“Take away the crowds, the chants,” and “all that’s left are costly words,” according to the Republicans ad, which is to be broadcast in 14 battleground states beginning on Tuesday.

Images of Senator Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, as well as Democratic Congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, and Chris Dodd of Connecticut flash on the screen.

“Barack Obama and out-of-touch Congressional leaders have expensive plans,” an announcer says. “Billions in new government spending. Years of deficits. No balanced budgets.”


A Response to Glenn Greenwald

Filed under: 2004 Election,Politics — DRJ @ 11:57 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Glenn Greenwald claims conservatives are duplicitous with regard to Idaho Senator Larry Craig. My response:



Beldar makes John Kerry an Offer too good to refuse

Filed under: 2004 Election,General,Law,Politics — DRJ @ 10:10 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

From yesterday’s BeldarBlog:

“Sen. Kerry’s home state of Massachusetts has a very unusual, extremely generous and pro-plaintiff three-year limitations period for defamation claims. Massachusetts’ three-year statute of limitations for defamation claims made it the very last feasible venue in which Sen. Kerry conceivably could file suit and gain his public vindication, if the SwiftVets’ allegations about him were false. Those claims were certainly, indeed deliberately, injurious to his reputation; his damages arguably include the loss of the 2004 presidential election, however that might be valued in dollars and cents; and if John Kerry could hope to find a home-town advantage anywhere, surely it would be there. But now he’s let the incredibly generous Massachusetts statute of limitations run out, too.

Beldar’s offer? It’s generous:



What John Kerry Really Thinks Of Our Troops In Iraq

Filed under: 2004 Election,Buffoons,Current Events,General,Politics,War — Justin Levine @ 10:40 pm

[posted by Justin Levine]

Senator John Kerry made this eyebrow-raising statement while giving a speech to a group of students at Pasadena City College. [Listen to the actual MP3 audio and decide how to interpret it for yourself.]

[Hat-tip: The John Ziegler Show on KFI.

Disclosure – I am a KFI employee on a different show.]

[posted by Justin Levine]

UPDATE BY PATTERICO: The ever-cautious Allah has more here.

I’ll play Devil’s Advocate: Kerry is talking about Bush and not the troops.

At least that’s what his spokesman will say tomorrow.

UPDATE x2 BY PATTERICO: But then, how will Kerry’s spokesman keep a straight face while making that explanation, in light of the fact that Bush got better grades than Kerry?

UPDATE x3 BY PATTERICO: Tony Snow has called on Kerry to apologize to the troops, as well as the families of those killed in Iraq.

This is going to hurt him.


Nothing to See Here, Folks . . . Again

Filed under: 2004 Election,Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 6:39 pm

Pressing work demands caused me to miss the fact that the L.A. Times on Wednesday wrote a story claiming that John Kerry has now released all his military records. Not only did L.A. Times reporter and Kerry sycophant Stephen Braun fail even to mention the fact that Kerry’s grades were lower than Bush’s (a fact emphasized by the nation’s other major papers), he’s once again making it sound like the complete file has been released.

Don’t trust him.

The article is titled Kerry Makes His Military, Medical File Available. The sub-head reads: “The former presidential candidate’s Vietnam records, including a missing document, offer no surprises. Critics say papers are incomplete.” And the beginning of the article wastes no time in telling us that the critics are liars, because (the article claims) the file is indeed complete:

All through last year’s presidential race, Vietnam-era critics of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) charged that he was trying to hide something by refusing to authorize the public release of his entire military and medical file.

On Tuesday, Kerry provided access to his complete records. The long-awaited documents contained no bombshells, and his enemies still were not satisfied.

Note that the article doesn’t say: “Kerry provided access to what he claimed were his complete records.” It says simply that the records are complete.

But wait, Stephen Braun! Didn’t you tell us during the election that Kerry had already made his military records available? Why, yes — you did! In an article published on August 17, 2004, you wrote:

[Kerry’s] staff has directed critics to the Massachusetts senator’s military records, which have been posted on his website.

You didn’t say “some of” his records were posted on his web site, Mr. Braun. You said the records were posted on his web site — which any voter naive enough to trust your reporting would have taken to mean that Kerry had released all of his military records.

You were wrong then. Why should we believe you now?

Critically, the sheaf of documents reviewed by Braun was not provided to him directly by the government, but by Kerry’s office:

The 180-page sheaf of medal commendations, officer’s fitness reports and medical entries released under federal guidelines by Kerry’s Senate office provided a few new nuggets of information about his 1968 to 1969 stint as a Swift boat commander during the Vietnam War.

So how in the world does Stephen Braun claim to know that the documents he reviewed are “complete”? He doesn’t say. And what the “critics” say — buried far, far down in the story — sounds pretty convincing:

[A] former Swift boat officer who led the Navy veterans’ bitter public campaign against Kerry demanded more Tuesday, saying that the file was incomplete.

“We asked him to universally release his entire file, and what we’ve seen instead is a parceling out of incomplete records,” said John O’Neill, a Houston lawyer who was a founder of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The group last year mounted a well-bankrolled advertising campaign to undermine Kerry’s wartime pedigree.

O’Neill expressed doubt that Kerry’s latest document release included material from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. But David Wade, a Kerry spokesman, said that the request to Navy Personnel Command to release documents extended to all government record repositories.

That’s good enough for me! If a Kerry spokesman said it, it must be true!

In a phone interview from Houston, O’Neill said the Swift boat group was pressing for information about three unresolved controversies from the 2004 race: Kerry’s disputed contention that his Swift boat had entered Cambodian waters about December 1968; wording discrepancies among several versions of Kerry’s medal commendations; and a perceived lag between Kerry’s discharge from the Navy in 1970 and a later departure date in 1978.

“If he made a true universal release of his records and not through selective journalists, maybe we could get to the records that would answer some of these questions,” O’Neill said. “If there were orders, for example, that sent him to Cambodia, they should be in his file.”

Navy archives are sometimes incomplete, and Kerry’s latest document release contained no new information on any of those controversies.

That sounds like some decent evidence that the records are incomplete. I’m missing the part that substantiates the unequivocal assertion made in the second sentence of the article: “On Tuesday, Kerry provided access to his complete records.”

Once again, we are seeing a potentially selective release of records by John Kerry, and once again Stephen Braun is falling for it . . . or trying to get you to fall for it.


And you wonder why I want to file my own FOIA request.

UPDATE: Braun should sit down and have a talk with Thomas H. Lipscomb, who has a recent piece in the Chicago Sun-Times. He also has some real questions about whether Kerry has really released all his records.

UPDATE x2: I remembered that Braun did a pretty good story about Kerry’s sometimes awkward ad-libbing, described here. So, while he is overly credulous on the issue of the records, he is capable of writing a good story.

UPDATE x3: The post originally used the erroneous phrase “Thomas H. Lipscomb of the Chicago Sun-Times.” Mr. Lipscomb’s piece was an op-ed. The post has been corrected.

UPDATE x4 [9-14-06]: Apparently all of the Form 180s called for the documents to be sent to the journalists themselves; you can see them here. Braun simply worded the story poorly, leaving the impression that they had been released though Kerry’s office.


Mara Robinson Thanks all of You Who Voted Against Proposition 69

Filed under: 2004 Election,Crime,Scum — Angry Clam @ 9:35 pm

She understands and applauds your paranoid fears about your privacy. Although you failed, you worked hard to protect these fears, which, after all, are more important than catching her murderer after she had been declared a cold case. The criminal also has been linked to several rapes in New Orleans.

Proposition 69 scores its first victory. I hope it will be only the first of many. Just think, this man would still be free to rape and murder without it.

Michael Kranish and “Trust-Me Journalism”

Filed under: 2004 Election,Politics — Patterico @ 6:26 pm

Michael Kranish had his chance to do trust-me journalism about John Kerry and his military career. He failed, miserably — apparently slandering a good man in the process.

Now he is reporting on John Kerry’s military documents, and he wants us to trust him again.

No way.

Publish the documents.

John Kerry – Intellectual

Filed under: 2004 Election,Morons — Angry Clam @ 7:14 am

Remember how smart Kerry was supposed to be, in comparison to that retard Bush? Well, Kerry’s college transcript was released today.

Bush only got one “D” grade in his four years at Yale (a 69 in astronomy, the highest “D” grade available)- Kerry got at least four, including a 61 in geology (two points away from failing) and a 63 in a history course.

The highest grade that Kerry earned was an 89, one point above Bush’s highest grade of 88 (Yale’s grades at the time were on a scale of 0-100), but Bush received 88s in at least three classes.

Some of you might remember my curiosity on why Kerry chose to attend Boston College rather than, say, Harvard or Yale for law school. It couldn’t have been financial- Kerry was loaded. It couldn’t have been sheer competition, since Kerry came from a very well-connected family, and those universities relied on such things even more heavily then than they do today. It couldn’t have been reputation- Kerry had already returned from a combat tour in Vietnam and given highly publicized testimony to Congress. He had also mounted a serious campaign for the House of Representatives.

All of these features would make him a highly attractive candidate for admission to Harvard or Yale law. Both universities took a pass. I speculated that it was because he was so dumb as dirt that they didn’t want him. It looks like I was correct.


to clear things up

Filed under: 2004 Election — Charlie (Colorado) @ 3:43 pm

Before I go, I’d like to respond to the charges that, to quote one commenter, “Mr. Sturm now desperately hopes against hope that Bush loses, so Sturm won’t look the fool”

Au contraire…

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