One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

For members of the mainstream press arriving at work in a Monday morning fog, a virtual “to-do” list awaits you in the blogosphere this morning.

Atrios lists the following as among the “Things the Media Needs to Explain”: “Why are the Swift Boat Liars and Move On ‘two sides of the same coin?’” Because, as Atrios sees it, “on one hand we have proven liars contradicting existing Navy records and 35 years of public comment, and on the other hand we have legitimate questions, raised by many prominent news organizations, about whether George Bush bothered to show up for National Guard service as he was required.” After schooling reporters on how different the two groups actually are, Atrios concludes, “And one more thing. If they’re ‘the same,’ why are the swift boat liars on every news show and Move On people are not?”

Taking stinging sarcasm to the next level, Suburban Guerrilla pens a “letter to the media” in which she wonders, among other things, “How on earth do you manage to do so little actual enterprise reporting for so much money … As a group, I’m sorry to say, you’re incredibly lazy and susceptible to flattery. (I used to be an editor. I know.)” And like Atrios, the Guerrilla feels the need to explain to reporters why, to her mind, “you can’t really compare the Swift Boat Veterans ads with those ads” — the former are “what we call lies,” the latter are “factual.” In conclusion, the Guerrilla assigns the press corps to brush up on “this principled-and-hardworking-journalist thing.”

Like Campaign Desk, Josh Marshall is disgusted by examples of he-said/she-said journalism. Marshall points to a Sunday Washington Post article by Michael Dobbs (headline: “Swift Boat Accounts Incomplete” and subhead: “Critics Fail to Disprove Kerry’s Version of Vietnam War Episode”) as “an example … of the poverty of what passes as journalistic objectivity — the effort to find a point of balance when the facts themselves provide no basis for it.” The article shows that “Kerry says one thing, his critics say another,” Marshall notes and then asks, “But are Kerry and [John] O’Neill really equal in this?” (O’Neill being the man who took over command of Kerry’s boat after Kerry returned to the States, who has co-authored a book attacking Kerry’s Vietnam service.) Marshall concludes: “If this were a civil suit, and this was accusers’ evidence, it wouldn’t even pass the laugh test. And yet The Post portrays the two ‘sides’ as if they have equal standing.”

Marshall also caught Bob Dole’s stint on CNN yesterday weighing in on the Swift Boat situation, and what Marshall wants to know is “who gave [Dole] his talking points?” As Marshall sees it, “the White House sent him out.” This is not, he notes, “a question that occurred to [CNN’s Wolf] Blitzer to ask. But someone should. One of the biggs should ring him up.”

Captain Ed, too, watched Dole’s performance and opines that camp Kerry “made the mistake of stirring a retired giant with a reputation for political infighting,” and “whose reputation for political unpleasantness undid more than one bid for the presidency.” The way Ed sees it, the Kerry campaign “enlisted the hometown Boston Globe to write an editorial [here] denouncing the Swiftvets” (and “not[ing] that WWII war hero and former senator Robert Dole was once given the Purple Heart for a ‘leg scratch.’”) Dole, Ed writes, “came out swinging” over the weekend — “although not with the arm that was rendered useless in his wartime service to his country, a nuance that The Globe and the Kerry campaign were apparently too stupid to consider.”

Wait, the way the mainstream press tells it, Kerry’s a little too keen on nuance.

Liz Cox Barrett

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.