Friday, March 12, 2004

Wonkette pegs old Kurtzie

In his ad analysis of the much talked about Bush 9/11 ad and a similar "Media Notes" column, Kurtz does a fine job of journalistically blurring the line between pandering and issues. Or, as Wonkette puts it: "See, criticizing a policy is actually the same thing as brandishing cheap symbolism while making (as Kurtz observed) empty claims. And vice-versa. Sort of like how filling copy inches with conflicting minutiae makes Kurtz an authoritative media critic."

Now, I expect this type of crap from Kurtz. He's basically the definition of a media tool. Or, to put it more fairly, the chief cheerleader for "he said, she said" reporting predicated on the equivalence of what is said simply because it is said. And here, we have substantively different issues. The Bush record and policies combating terrorism and the use of images of tragedy. And Kurtz does a fine job of fuzzing the difference in the pursuit of objectivity. But that's his role.

Far more disappointing is the Dean, David Broder. Relying on a pseudo-analysis of the closest historical parallel he could find (the first election after Pearl Harbor in 1944) Broder asserts FDR would have done more. In response to the question, "But is it, as supporters of John Kerry and other critics suggest, wrong for Republicans to convert the emotions of that national tragedy into grist for a political campaign?" Broder determines "Bush is a piker compared with FDR when it comes to wrapping himself in the mantle of commander in chief." Which is a nice conclusion but totally inoperative to the question he asked. Wrapping oneself in the mantle of commander in chief and touting the success of your policies, that's one thing. Wrapping yourself in the emotions of tragedy for political gain, well that's something else. Roosevelt's conduct, as chronicled by Broder, is a little cheeky (sending a message to the convention stating he will accept if nominated but is too busy conducting the war to devote much time to the convention) but hardly exploiting the tragedy (exploiting incumbency as a "war president"? yes, the tragedy of Pearl Harbor? no). Roosevelt's communique was not of the "Do you remember Pearl Harbor? Well so do I. Tough times, but I'm helping us work through them." nature- which would be the historical antecedent to Bush's ads. While Roosevelt did accept the nomination via radio broadcast from the San Diego Naval Yard, that's a far cry from accepting it on the deck of the Arizona. Which would be the historical antecedent to the consideration of Bush accepting the nomination at Ground Zero. But Broder misses all these terribly important distinctions by pulling a Kurtz and treating campaigning on issues and the record as indistinguishable from campaigning on exploiting tragedy. 9/11 is certainly on the table this election- it would have to be. The images, the losses, those are hallowed ground and do not deserve the desecration that comes with partisan advantage.


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