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Media Distorts Kerry’s Announcement on ’08 Decision

by Pamela Leavey

Eric Boehlert, author of Lap Dogs, has a great piece on Media Matters on the distortion of John Kerry’s speech on the Senate Floor last week announcing his decision to not run for president, but to instead pursue ending the Iraq War. At one point in the speech, Kerry “became emotional and his voice caught.” The media quickly took the moment out of context and many claimed various interpretations of kerry being overcome by emotion in giving up his bid for the presidency. Boehlert lists the examples here and states, “Not one of those descriptions was accurate.” He’s right, as anyone can cleary see in watching the clip below:

Boehlert explains:

Kerry was momentarily overcome with emotion when he noted that the misguided war in Iraq threatened to undo everything he had fought for since his return from Vietnam more than three decades ago.

As The Chicago Tribune’s political blog, The Swamp, accurately noted, “It was when Kerry talked about coming home from Vietnam that he choked up.”

Boehlert goes on to note that that the bulk of Kerry’s “provided a larger overview of the challenges facing Iraq today” and in discussing the speech in the media last week, journalists once again used the opportunity to distort Kerry’s position on the war during the ’04 campaign:

Kerry’s insightful speech, the bulk of which provided a larger overview of the challenges facing Iraq today, ran a grand total of 36 minutes.

The truth is, what Kerry did during his eloquent and passionate critique of the war last Wednesday was what our Founding Fathers hoped U.S. senators would use the chamber for: to speak in depth about the difficult issues facing the day. What the press was doing, I have no idea. Indeed, the same Founding Fathers, who brilliantly carved out a unique role for the free press in our democracy, would have been stunned if they had witnessed Kerry’s address and then read the fictionalized accounts of him allegedly breaking down in tears on the Senate floor.

Lastly, note the other manufactured theme that popped up in the Kerry coverage last week — that Kerry didn’t win in 2004 because voters did not know where he stood regarding Iraq.

“He lost the presidential election largely because of his inability to articulate what he really thought about the war,” wrote Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker, making the point several other pundits did. That has become the media’s accepted conventional wisdom. Much of that is driven by the fact Republicans turned Kerry’s 2004 comment, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion [in war spending] before I voted against it,” into a rhetorical club and to portray Kerry as a flip-flopper. So yes, Republicans, along with the obedient press corps, insisted — and continue to insist — that Kerry’s position on the war in 2004 was muddled. But was it?

I recall a certain catchphrase Kerry used during the campaign to describe Iraq. He called it the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time. (Kerry used that exact phrase in his Wednesday speech in the Senate.) And a search of the Nexis database yields more than 1,600 news references from the 2004 campaign that mentioned Kerry as well as the three phrases “wrong war,” “wrong place” and “wrong time.” That’s because Kerry repeated the mantra at nearly every possible public appearance during the final months of the campaign. But now the press tells us Kerry never articulated a clear position about the war.

Then again, it’s the same press corps that last week told us Kerry was crying on the floor of the Senate.

The text of Kerry’s speech last week is available here and there are links to 4 clips of the entire speech on YouTube.

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