Wednesday, March 31, 2004

# Posted 1:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I DIDN'T DO NUTHIN'! A front page article in this morning's WaPo asserts uncritically that
Attacks on John F. Kerry by President Bush and Vice President Cheney, backed by millions of dollars in negative ads, have wiped out the narrow lead Kerry enjoyed at the beginning of the month and damaged his public image.
Unsurprisingly, correspondent Dan Balz fails to explore the possibility that there may actualy be substantive reasons for this change in public opinion. Now, the article does point out that most Americans don't know all that much about Kerry. Perhaps those who have begun to learn more don't like what they've found.

But how about the even more plausible hypothesis that the cause of Kerry's deceleration in the polls is not the Bush campaign but the nation media. The only one in Balz's article who comes close to suggesting that the media might have something to do with it is an administration spokesman:
"For six months, it was a one-way conversation, and then you had the final five or six weeks when Kerry was winning primaries that improved his image," said Bush senior strategist Matthew Dowd. "Right after March 3, a dialogue started about who is or who isn't John Kerry, and the president started advocating for himself. I think we're better positioned from that and Senator Kerry is worse positioned."
Leaving aside Dowd's partisan phrasing, it's hard to ignore the fact that the end of the primary season brought an end to daily coverage in which news stories recounted all of the Democratic candidates' attacks on President Bush. Then, once tapped for the nomination, Kerry became the subject of the sort of intense scrutiny that the media had only directed toward Howard Dean while the campaign was on.

Unsurprisinlgy, there emerged a raft of articles that examined with great seriousness whether or not John Kerry was an inveterate flip-flopper. While such articles didn't make Kerry look all that bad, they made his flaws into credible subjects of public debate. Thus, Dan Balz may want to consider that that it is the idiosyncrasies of his own profession and not the Bush war chest that are responsible for John Kerry's reversal in the polls. (And just imagine how bad things might have gotten for Kerry if the media hadn't done so much to build up Richard Clarke.)
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