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Kennedy Made The Cover of the Rolling Stone, and Flopped

by RonChusid

I eagerly anticipated Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Rolling Stone article examining questions of election fraud in Ohio. While such stories have been common in the blogosphere ever since the election, they have been virtually ignored by the mainstream media. I noted that “assuming that Kennedy presents convincing evidence to support this article, this could have a major impact on how the 2004 election is perceived beyond the blogosphere.”

The reaction to Kennedy’s article was justifiably under whelming. Those bloggers who have been immersed in this story saw this as justification for their theories, but for most readers the article was an embarrassment which will likely do far more harm than good to the cause of election reform. The Left Coaster found it “troubling that a half hour after this story is online, not one of the A-list center-left blogs is even posting on it.” There is good reason many liberal bloggers chose to ignore this article. We cannot claim to be the “reality based community” while supporting arguments which are far weaker than those made to claim the existence of WMD in Iraq.

Rather than coming up with anything new, Kennedy rehashed arguments which have been thoroughly refuted by those of all political persuasions. Rather than lending any credence to these arguments, Kennedy’s sloppy research and misstatements of the facts have seriously harmed his own credibility, placing him more in the category of questionably reliable writers such as Mark Crispin Miller. While there were clearly problems in Ohio which should be addressed, careful analysis of these factors by many parties have showed that these did not affect anywhere near as many votes as Kennedy claims. As the Democratic Party’s report found, “Despite the problems on Election Day, there is no evidence from our survey that John Kerry won the state of Ohio.”

There are far to many errors in Kennedy’s article to review in a blog post. Those who have examined the election with an open mind, as opposed to based upon hopes for the Kerry victory we wish had occurred, are already familiar with this information. For others, fortunately Salon has already performed an excellent act of fact checking on Kennedy’s article.

By presenting such a weak and easily disputable case Kennedy sets back the cause of achieving more transparent and fair elections. It is a shame that Kennedy didn’t take the approach that John Kerry wisely has. It is time to face the fact that the 2004 election is history and George W. Bush was the winner. By all means continue to investigate, but claims of a stolen election carry an extremely high burden of proof and claims of fraud should not be made until such proof is well established.

As long as any efforts at election reform are based upon changing the results of the 2004 election half of the country will be immediately suspicious and discount any arguments for reform. However, if problems such as those which did occur in Ohio and elsewhere (including areas which voted Democratic) are criticized based upon the principle of fair and transparent elections we have hopes of receiving the support of a solid majority. In a democracy it is urgent that all accept the legitimacy of election results. Unfortunately, while it can not be definitely proven that the election was stolen from John Kerry, it also cannot be proven to everyone’s satisfaction that George Bush legitimately won. This in itself is good reason to search for ways to conduct elections better.

Update: The Salon article is also mentioned at Hulabaloo with a suggestion that “either a substantive counter-response or an admission of error on Kennedy’s part really is appropriate.” This would be interesting but this also should not be confused as a disagreement between Kennedy and one Salon writer. Similar criticism of the arguments Kennedy made have been made by others in the liberal media since the election, including the Washington Monthly, Mother Jones, The Nation, and NPR. Democratic pollster Mark Blumenthal (aka The Mystery Pollster) has also debunked the exit poll arguments. However as the Salon article most directly relates to Kennedy’s article a response from Kennedy to these arguments would be a good place to start. If Kennedy cannot refute these arguments it would be helpful to the cause of election reform if Kennedy limited his charges to the problems which really can be demonstrated to exist. We should demand election reform not only because of Democratic questions as to whether Ohio was stolen by Republicans but also due to Republican beliefs that Wisconsin was stolen by Democrats, and the very real possibility that another Kennedy benefited from a stolen election in Illinois in 1960. The problem remains one of a poorly run election system which leaves far too much room to question the results.

Update 2: There’s another good analysis of the article at a non-partisan site, Election Law.

Update 3: The Carpetbagger Report is “suspicious of the argument because I’m not sure it holds up to close scrutiny.” He writes:

I’ve read the article, and the accompanying 74 footnotes, and I remain a skeptic. Some of Kennedy’s sources are a little shaky, and his over-reliance on voter exit polls brings his conclusions into question. Kennedy makes an excellent and persuasive case that Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell (R) played fast and loose with the rules, and arbitrarily pushed voting standards that contributed to statewide irregularities, but one dubious state official does not a stolen election make.

67 Responses to “Kennedy Made The Cover of the Rolling Stone, and Flopped”

  1. No, there is no point in Kerry saying anything he can’t prove. Nor is there any need to base arguments for election reform on things which cannot be proven.

    The simple facts that many Democrats believe the election was stolen, and many Republicans also believe Democrats are stealing their votes, shows that we need a change. It should be possible to prove to everyone’s satisfaction that an election was fair.

    We can push for paper ballots, along with mechanisms to make sure that the ballots are accurately counted, without having to maitain anything which cannot be proven. I wish I kept the link, but just recently I read a blog post somewhere on Canadian elections with paper ballots where anyone can help watch to make sure they were counted accurately. It sounded so simple, making me wonder why getting a fair and undisputable result has to be so difficult.

  2. While we may have disagreements, this thread does show The Democratic Daily differs from Daily Kos. There was a diary there supporting Kennedy’s article. Armando responded and his ever articulate self, shows once again why, even when we agree, I don’t particularly welcome him on my side. Here’s Armando’s reply to a post agreeing with Kennedy:

    The Rolling Stone article is complete horseshit.

    This is a rehash of all of the worst theories.

    Robert Kennedy, Jr. should be ashamed of himself.

    He has destroyed the issue of voting reform forever with this.

    I will not engage you in reliving November and December 2004.

    Suffice it to say that this thread is the worst indictment of the fraudsters and reconfirms that Markos was right to ban the fraudsters.

    I imagine he will have to do it again.

    Hooray for Booman Tribune, a big influx is coming your way.


    Another curious point here. Is Kos really banning people for arguing that election fraud occured? I certainly can’t approve of that. This is an important topic in which both sides should be able to present their views. I eagerly awaited Kennedy’s article and was willing to evaluate whatever evidence he presented. In this case I felt he did a poor job making his case, but if Kennedy or anyone else should write an article actually presenting good evidence I would also cover that.

  3. Ron

    There are so many conflicting opinions on this subject. Personally, I (and many others) feel that any sort of voter suppression, is a form of “stealing” an election. As you stated, Conyers report said “no proof of fraud which shifted sufficient votes to affect the result of the election.”

    Since Conyers report in January new information has come out. Kennedy points to some of this new information.

    Manjoo maybe echoing things others have said – but counter to that Kennedy is also echoing things others have said. Perhaps NO ONE IS RIGHT.

    What disturbs me with Manjoo is he’s echoing a lot of right wing chatter. He stated from the get go (right after the election) that there was no fraud and he holds to that. There are still people independently investigating this and they are not all tinfoil hatters.

    I want to see transparent voting. RFK, Jr wants to see that, John Kerry wants to see that. We all do. Let Kennedy’s article be a call to get peole to wake up to the need for this. Take the rest with a grain of salt.

    Kennedy apparently made some statements re JK, that aren’t verifiable. Those of us who wish that fraud could be proved all also very much understand that it can not.

    That said, I’m all for eveyone agreeing to disagree rather anyone having to be right.

  4. Pamela,

    The definitions get blurred here when we speak of stealing an election.

    Voter suppression definately occured. What is more controversial is the argument that there were intentional acts to change the counting of the vote which were sufficient to change the election result in one direction. Maybe it did occur, but to date there has been no evidence of this.

    It’s not really Manjoo who caused the right wing chatter. Ultimately the problem is the manner in which Kennedy handled this. If he had limited his article to areas where there is proof of problems and appealed to fair elections his article would have been received totally differently. When it is framed in terms of claiming fraud by one side, the other side is going to react, especially in a case like this where the fraud was not proven.

    The reaction from right wing bloggers was inevitable. More important than the right wing bloggers, the mainstream media might have taken it more seriously.

    Ultimatley Manjoo, and the many other liberals who have been critical of these theories, is helpful. Unless attempts at election reform are based upon reality, there is no chance. It is important to make the point that only a minority of liberal bloggers share these views. These views do not represent the views of most blogs, and do not represent the views of Conyers and other Democrats who investigated.

  5. Pamela,

    Speaking of right wing bloggers, was your CNN transcript above the full transcript?

    I’m asking because I’ve seen right wing bloggers attack Kennedy based upon things they claim he said to Wolf Blitzer but your transcript does not reflect what they accuse him of saying. If you only posted a portion of the transcript this could explain this. I also wouldn’t put it past right wing bloggers to lie about what Kennedy said in the interview to try to make their case against him appear even stronger than it is.

  6. What concerns me is that much of the opinion, Markos apparently blocking any fraud talk, has to do with Kerry as a candidate, and not wanting to prove he did well. Maybe because he didn’t represent their viewpoint to a minutia, as they heard about it from MSM, or maybe because he wasn’t their choice.

    I am glad Kerry is venturing into this territory, but they are an unreliable lot, with puppy love for Feingold. Who really deserves more grown-up love.

    Again, were primary seasons always this contentious and childish? Were people always so invested in proving their first loves true blue, that they avoid all mitigating opinion?

    That’s amazing about Markos.

  7. “Again, were primary seasons always this contentious and childish?”

    I don’t know, but I doubt it. I’m not sure that any of us were as involved in previous primaries to the degree we were in 2004. I think a combination of the feelings for Dean and the development of the blogosphere changed this. It created an echo chamber where opponents were criticized more than in previous primaries, and forums to continue the criticism continued long after the primaries were over.

    As for Kos’s motivation, it could go either way. On the one hand, if Kerry really did win it argues against Kos’s arguments that Kerry was a bad candidate. On the other hand, many of the posters at Kos often attack Kerry for not having done enough to fight the election, on the assumption that Kerry stood by and didn’t fight a stolen election.

  8. Ron

    At the link it says it’s a rush trascript. I don’t know if they updated it or not, but yes, I copied the entire Kennedy section of the program.

  9. Pamela,

    My suspicion then is that the right wing bloggers are lying about the interview.

    Obviously they have a different motivation than those of us from liberal blogs and magazines who are critical of Kennedy’s article. Our view is basically that he didn’t prove his case, but remain open to further evidence and agree that investigation is justified.

    Their motivation, in contrast, is to claim Kennedy is definately wrong and oppose any investigation which might find evidence against Republicans. Therefore they are more prone to resort to their usual dishonest tactics to refute Kennedy rather than going over the actual facts.

  10. I guess I better rephrase that. If the comments from Armando really reflect Kos’s views (and Armando typically does act as Kos’s lapdog) then not all liberal sites remain open to further evidence.

  11. Pamela writes: “Kennedy apparently made some statements re JK, that aren’t verifiable.”

    Do you get the sense that Kerry & Co. would rather the whole thing just go away?

  12. Todd

    It’s hard to answer that… I think that Kerry passionately cares about voter reform and I get that he’s not happy with the lack of support on this from the party. As a former prosecutor he has a keen understanding of how hard fraud is to prove. Honestly I think the best thing we can is push the Congress to move on legislation.

  13. Just thought I’d add what Rep. John Conyers, one of RFK’s chief sources for his article, had to say about it over at conyersblog.us:

    Thursday, June 1st, 2006
    Rolling Stone Voting Article Out

    As promised last night, the full version of the pathbreaking Rolling Stone Article by Robert Kennedy, Jr. is out. This is blockbuster reporting and is worth a full read by anyone who cares about the future of our democracy. It includes many quotes from the undersigned and makes ample reference to my “What Went Wrong in Ohio Report.” Kennedy is a great writer and reporter and deserves all of our thanks.

    Blogged by JC on 06.01.06 @ 09:54 PM ET [link] [56 Comments]

  14. We need some national agency overseeing the machines and certifying them, if we have to go electronic. People would rather play video games than have a representative Democracy.

    The election officials think these machines are convenient, hiding all sorts of errors. They find out differently when mistakes happen and machines blow up and jam; otherwise they ignore the lack of transparency. Not all ignore, but some.

    Most don’t want to have to buy these disasters, hearing the peoblems, but Bush’s Dept. of Justice is pushing for compliance.

  15. “We need some national agency overseeing the machines and certifying them. . .”

    And, needless to say, those overseeing elections must not be partisan hacks like in Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004.

  16. All things considered I too was a little underwhelmed by the Kennedy article as it seemed to be a rehashing of old info, and not entirely credible info in some cases, but it did raise the issue of fair elections and echoed Kerry’s comments, that while he couldn’t stand up in a court of law and prove the election was stolen, there was definitely some voter interference and other questionable/illegal activity by the Republicans to suppress his vote, and that’s unacceptable for either party.

    I was hoping for the smoking gun evidence that may invalidate the ’04 election results, but instead was left with the hard reality that the election system is flawed and republicans and democrats both seem unwilling to do what it takes to fix it.

    That’s a disgrace regardless of your political views.

  17. […] l=”bookmark” title=”Permanent Link: Kennedy Made The Cover of the Rolling Stone, and Flopped” href=”http://blog.thedemocraticdaily.com/?p=3178″>Kennedy Made The Cover of the Rolling Stone, and Flopped Posted by Ron Chusid June 3rd, 2006 @ 11:55 a […]