Reporters: Asset, or Achilles’ Heel?

Campaign Desk has commented more than once on the increasingly stale media debate: Teresa Heinz Kerry, asset or Achilles’ heel? Over the weekend Knight Ridder’s William Douglas kept the discussion alive (from Miami to Seattle) with this newsflash: Bush backers have weighed in. Their startling verdict? Heinz Kerry’s a liability.

Making the case are Floyd Brown, “the executive director of Young America’s Foundation and a board member of Citizens United, two conservative groups,” (Brown actually uses the term “Achilles’ heel” to describe Heinz Kerry) and Gary Bauer, “a former Republican presidential candidate and head of American Values, a conservative research center in Washington’s Virginia suburbs.” Begging to differ are, not surprisingly, two “longtime friends” of Heinz Kerry (one of who calls Heinz Kerry an “asset” to her husband’s campaign), Sen. John Kerry, and a Kerry spokesperson.

What’s the point, you ask? Douglas tells readers that “several political analysts” believe that the Bush campaign wants to “draw a sharp contrast” between Heinz Kerry and Laura Bush, “to portray Heinz Kerry as everything Laura Bush is not: an abrasive, rich, opinionated, foreign-born, environmental radical who would wield power in a Kerry presidency through the hundreds of millions of dollars her philanthropic trust gives to programs and causes.”

Campaign Desk isn’t as sure as Douglas that the Bush campaign really wants to portray Laura Bush as mild-mannered, poor, passive, and powerless. But with reporters eager to play up any bit of controversy, the Bush camp should have no shortage of chances to paint their own portrait of Heinz Kerry.

Liz Cox Barrett

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.