- The Washington Times - Friday, September 17, 2004

Rather and Kerry

“Bizarrely, John Kerry is now clutching onto the document-challenged Dan Rather like a drowning man grabbing onto a sinking ship,” the New York Post’s Deborah Orin writes.

“Ask outside Democratic strategists, and they all say it makes zero sense for Kerry allies to piggyback on the Rather attacks against Bush’s National Guard service now that the anchor’s credibility is melting like the Wicked Witch of the West,” Miss Orin said.

“Worried Dems say it shows lack of discipline, lack of strategy, lack of message and free-lancing — just what a slipping campaign can’t afford. ‘It’s stupid, it’s stupid, it’s stupid. Get off the National Guard and all that bull. Every day we talk about the National Guard and Vietnam is another day that George Bush wins. No one cares about 30 years ago,’ a top Dem says.

“Another tells of a focus group of swing voters this week where no one even mentioned Rather’s Guard flap but an unnerving number ‘parroted back’ attacks on Kerry as a flip-flopper who lied about his Vietnam service. ‘The Kerry people think they didn’t attack Bush hard enough. They’re dead wrong. More attacks on Bush aren’t a reason to vote for Kerry,’ this strategist says.”

A new day

“However the flap over CBS and those National Guard ‘memos’ turns out, the past few weeks mark a milestone in U.S. media and politics,” the Wall Street Journal says.

“Along with the Swift Boat Veterans’ ads, the widespread challenge to Dan Rather’s reporting — to his credibility — means that the liberal media establishment has ceased to set the U.S. political agenda,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

“This is potentially a big cultural moment. For decades liberal media elites were able to define current debates by all kicking in the same direction, like the Rockettes. Now and then they can still pull this off, as when they all repeated the same Pentagon-promoted-torture line during the Abu Ghraib uproar. But the last month has widened cracks in that media monopoly that have been developing for some time. …

“Mr. Rather and his CBS bosses are sticking to their story, despite the growing evidence on the other side, leaving unanswered the biggest question of all: Who perpetrated this apparent fraud on CBS and the American voters? As journalists who sometimes go out on a limb ourselves, we’d have thought Mr. Rather’s first recourse would not be to get mad but instead to double- and triple-check his sources.

“That Mr. Rather isn’t disclosing those sources, despite the damage to his reputation, raises the possibility that they are connected to the Democratic Party or the Kerry campaign. If that is true, then Mr. Rather would be revealed not just as a dupe, but also as the willing vehicle for a political dirty trick. In any case, there’s no question that CBS is feeling the heat — and that it felt it far more quickly and intensely than it would have 20 years ago.”

A Kerry rebound?

“Back in early June, I penned a column predicting a Bush Surge, even though I noted there was no evidence that one was building,” political analyst Stuart Rothenberg writes in Roll Call.

“Well, it took longer than I expected, but that surge finally started to develop shortly after the Democratic convention. Recent poll data confirm that the president has benefited from a full-fledged surge,” Mr. Rothenberg said.

“President Bush has gone from embattled incumbent underdog to surprising front-runner as Americans have started to evaluate the presidential candidates in terms of their ability to lead the fight against terrorism. Republicans are energized, while Democrats are criticizing the campaign of Sen. John Kerry.

“Seems like a perfect time for me to predict a Kerry Surge.

“As was the case with the Bush Surge, I have no data to warrant such a prediction, nor has any evidence emerged that a Kerry Surge (or Comeback or Rebound, if you prefer) is underway. But I think we’ll see some sort of tightening of the race before Election Day.

“Mind you, I’m not saying Kerry will (or will not) overtake Bush and win the White House — just as in June, when I predicted the Bush Surge but didn’t assert that it would carry him to victory. For now, all I’m certain about is that there will be a flurry of media excitement — and probably even some polling — about a Kerry Comeback.”

Ready to dismiss

The House ethics committee is poised to dismiss a complaint against Rep. Tom DeLay, Texas Republican and majority leader, the Hill newspaper reports, citing “a source familiar with the panel’s internal discussions.”

“The panel’s chairman and ranking member [Wednesday] denied that any decision had been made, but the well-placed source said the outcome is no longer in doubt; what remains is for at least some of the panel’s Democrats to agree formally,” reporter Jonathan E. Kaplan said.

However, the panel, whose chairman is Rep. Joel Hefley, Colorado Republican, and whose ranking member is Rep. Alan B. Mollohan, West Virginia Democrat, “is not yet ready to make an announcement,” the reporter said.

The complaint was filed in June by Rep. Chris Bell, a Texas Democrat who lost his party’s primary after Mr. DeLay’s middecade redistricting plan changed the demographics of his Houston congressional district. He accused Mr. DeLay of trading legislative favors for campaign cash, laundering money through a Texas fund-raising committee and pressuring the Department of Homeland Security and the Texas Public Safety Office to become involved in a political dispute.

Swinging Hispanics

The New Democrat Network has spent more than $3 million to buy airtime for campaign ads in battleground states and expects to spend more than $1 million more before Election Day on ads emphasizing Democratic positions on issues such as health care, education and the minimum wage.

Simon Rosenberg, head of the group, said that Democrats especially needed to commit money to Hispanic advertising to protect the Democratic tradition among Hispanics, the Associated Press reports.

“Hispanics are swinging all over the place,” said Mr. Rosenberg. “We saw what Republicans were doing … and we decided to run this ad campaign.”

Actor aids Kerry

President Bush’s administration has missed opportunities with stem-cell research and a Kerry presidency would get the country back on track, actor Michael J. Fox said Wednesday.

“There’s great possibility here and really there’s only been token effort,” Mr. Fox said in a conference call with reporters organized by the Kerry campaign, the Associated Press reports. Mr. Fox, who has Parkinson’s disease and runs a foundation for the degenerative nerve condition, spoke about health care in advance of Mr. Bush’s visit to Minnesota yesterday.

Mr. Bush has allowed only minimal stem-cell research with little funding, Mr. Fox said.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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