Tempted by the Kool-Aid

Today The Boston Globe’s Glen Johnson reports on how recent developments — a decline in jobless numbers, Bush’s recent overtures to foreign leaders on Iraq, lower gas prices — “are allowing President Bush to chip away at some of John F. Kerry’s campaign criticisms.” Hoping to enlist reporters in their “chipping away” strategy, yesterday the Bush-Cheney camp — as Johnson writes — sent “an email to political reporters” making its case.

And today, Johnson lays out that case, describing how recent economic and diplomatic developments are blunting several of Kerry’s criticisms of the Bush administration. Having thus dispensed with the big-ticket Kerry criticisms, Johnson comes to this: “And while Democrats criticize Bush for failing to be the compassionate consensus builder that he said he would be when he first campaigned for the White House in 2000, Bush yesterday even lauded Bill Clinton, back at the White House for the unveiling of the Democrat’s official portrait…”

This is evidence? Whether the Bush-Cheney camp included that flimsy point in its e-mail to reporters or whether Johnson came up with it on his own, it cries out for some context. One sentence would do, like: “It is a formality of the job to utter some kind words about your predecessor at the presentation of his official portrait, something done by presidents since time immemorial.”

To political reporters we say: By all means, taste-test the Kool-Aid served up by the campaigns, and report back to us, the reading public. But don’t drink the damned stuff.

Liz Cox Barrett

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.