Thursday, February 19, 2004

Rewind the tape

People calling the San Francisco County Clerk’s Office for marriage information these days are likely to be confused.

Even though the clerks have been busy issuing homosexual couples “marriage” licenses, their tape recording says that “Only an unmarried man and an unmarried woman may obtain a marriage license. Same-sex marriages are not recognized in California.”

Edwards vs. Kerry

With Sen. John Kerry’s slim win over Sen. John Edwards in Wisconsin, “we’re set for what could be two of the more interesting weeks in modern presidential primary history,” Chuck Todd writes at

“Democratic elites threatened to reject Kerry once for Dean, so who’s to say they won’t cheat on him now for Edwards?” asked Mr. Todd, editor in chief of the Hotline, National Journal’s daily briefing on politics.

“Some in the media (us included) have been warning of Edwards’ potential to stop the Kerry freight train. And now the rest of the Democratic world may get this gigantic introduction to the anti-Kerry.

“A one-on-one against Edwards is not good for Kerry; his weaknesses are Edwards’ strengths. Unfortunately for Kerry, Edwards’ Wisconsin showing guarantees extra media focus on Kerry’s weaknesses in the next few days, with fewer reminders of his strengths. And it will be just the opposite for Edwards: We’re going to see countless stories on his supposed strengths.

“The media tend to give front-runners an ebb-and-flow-like treatment. We’re now going to hear the phrase ‘buyer’s remorse’ over and over, and we’re going to see lots of back-seat driving on what Kerry’s been doing.”

Punish the heretics

Democratic operatives who resisted Howard Dean’s antiestablishment revolution “are enjoying full-fledged schadenfreude at the expense of their pro-Dean colleagues,” Franklin Foer writes in the New Republic.

“‘Is [Tom] Harkin still dancing around?’ asks one Senate aide, referring to his lively stump speeches on Dean’s behalf. The anti-Deaniacs particularly enjoy the irony that Carol Moseley-Braun endorsed Dean — and received a $20,000-per-month travel stipend from his campaign — just as it was forced to put its workers on a pay holiday. ‘Let’s hope she asked for the money up front,’ jokes one.

“Officially, the Kerry campaign pledges to bring the party together and move past such gloating. But some establishment Democrats both inside and outside the Kerry campaign still intend to punish the Dean heretics,” Mr. Foer said.

“And, while well-known politicians, such as [Al] Gore, Harkin, and Moseley-Braun, may endure the most public abuse, the people who may ultimately suffer explicit retribution for their Dean-boosting are cogs in the Democratic machine — people like [Brookings Institution foreign policy wonk Ivo] Daalder, who toil in think tanks or union leadership or groups like the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). As one former high-ranking Clinton administration official put it, ‘Will they work again in this town again? I hope not.’”

Bush backtracks

President Bush distanced himself yesterday from White House predictions that the economy will add 2.6 million jobs this year.

“Now they’re already walking backwards on their own predictions,” Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry said in Ohio, where unemployment has risen from 3.9 percent to 6 percent since Mr. Bush took office.

The forecast of 2.6 million new jobs was contained in the annual Economic Report of the President. The forecast came under special scrutiny after Treasury Secretary John W. Snow and Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans refused to repeat the optimistic prediction as they toured Washington and Oregon to promote the president’s economic programs.

Mr. Bush himself avoided embracing the 2.6 million number when asked about it yesterday, the Associated Press reports. “I think the economy is growing,” Mr. Bush said. “And I think it’s going to get stronger.” He said he was pleased that 366,000 jobs have been added since August.

McAuliffe’s disciples

“When a liberal Democrat faces a personal charge, the national media find ways to avoid discussing it in public,” the Media Research Center’s Rich Noyes writes.

“Is there proof of wrongdoing, or merely suspicion? Is it relevant to their public role? Does everybody do it? Do voters even care? When they want to, the media can usually find an excuse to spike an uncomfortable story before the feeding frenzy ever begins,” Mr. Noyes said at

“Reporters could not justify pursuing the Bush ‘AWOL’ story by citing any actual proof of wrongdoing, any relevance to Bush’s role as president, any sign that his conduct in 1972-73 was especially uncommon, or any clamoring from voters to get to the bottom of the story. The only impetus was [Democratic National Committee] boss Terry McAuliffe’s wish to contrast ‘John Kerry, a war hero with a chest full of medals,’ with ‘George Bush, a man who was AWOL in the Alabama National Guard.’

“The networks followed McAuliffe’s agenda. From Feb. 1-16, ABC, CBS and NBC aired 63 National Guard stories or interview segments on their morning and evening news programs. That’s far more coverage than Bill Clinton’s draft-dodging scandal received in 1992. Back then, the three evening newscasts offered 10 stories on Clinton’s complete evasion of service; this year, those same broadcasts pumped out 25 stories on whether Bush’s acknowledged service was fully documented.

“Despite the fact that no Democrat had substantiated their AWOL claims, the networks put the burden on Bush to prove his innocence. After the White House released documents on Feb. 10 showing Bush had satisfied the Guard’s requirements and received an honorable discharge, reporters wanted more evidence. The records showed Bush was never ‘AWOL,’ exposing the baselessness of the Democrats’ original charge, yet none of the networks framed their stories around questionable Democratic tactics. Instead, they kept the onus on Bush: ‘The issue is not going to go away,’ ABC’s Terry Moran promised.”

Bush haters

“Ask retired Brig. Gen. William Turnipseed whether the press has accurately reported what he said about George W. Bush, and you’ll get an earful,” Byron York writes in the March 3 issue of National Review.

“‘No, I don’t think they have,’ he begins. Turnipseed, the former head of the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group of the Alabama Air National Guard, was widely quoted as saying he never saw Bush in Alabama in 1972, and if the future president had been there, he would remember. In fact, Turnipseed says, he doesn’t recall whether Bush was there or not; the young flier, then a complete unknown in Alabama, was never part of the 900-man 187th, so Turnipseed wouldn’t have had much reason to notice him,” Mr. York said.

“But most reporters haven’t been interested in Turnipseed’s best recollection. ‘They don’t understand the Guard, they don’t want to understand the Guard, and they hate Bush,’ he says. ‘So when I say, “There’s a good possibility that Bush showed up,” why would they put that in their articles?’”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or

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