Anti-War Party Brewing in South Dakota? Hardly - June 3, 2004 -

Times Watch for June 3, 2004

Anti-War Party Brewing in South Dakota? Hardly

Stephen Kinzer's report on a special House election won by a female Democrat is headlined, "The Voters in South Dakota Send a Woman to Washington for the First Time." Note the unusual lack of Democratic cheerleading. In this case, however, the headline hides the story's effort to see an anti-war agenda where it doesn't seem to exist.

The spin starts right at the top in his Thursday story: "Electing Stephanie Herseth on Tuesday to fill a vacant House seat, South Dakota voters sent a woman to Congress for the first time. Some said they also sent a message to President Bush about his handling of the war in Iraq. 'The president got us into something awful over there, and I don't know how we're going to get out,' Eleanor Nold said after she cast her ballot at the Turner County Courthouse here. 'It's really an awful situation. It can't help but influence the way you vote.' Of about 80 people who voted at the stately brick courthouse in the midmorning hours, 9 said they had chosen their candidate partly because they wanted to let the Bush administration know they were unhappy with its Iraq policies. They and others like them may have helped seal the victory for Ms. Herseth, a Democrat."

Taking Kinzer's dinky survey seriously, we get these results: Ten percent of voters (since the Turner County vote split down the middle, lets guess and say 20 percent of Democratic voters) said the war in Iraq (which promises to be a major campaign issue) was part of the reason they voted for the Democrat. Even if the results were scientific, that's hardly earth-shatteringly bad news for Bush, no matter how Kinzer spins it.

For the rest of Kinzer's report, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Congress | Iraq War | Stephen Kinzer | South Dakota

"Americans United" to Beat Bush

Thursday's front-page story by David Kirkpatrick, the Timesman on the conservative beat, is blandly titled: "Bush Campaign Seeks Help From Congregations." But the story itself puts the Bush campaign on the defensive right from the start: "The Bush campaign is seeking to enlist thousands of religious congregations around the country in distributing campaign information and registering voters, according to an message sent to many members of the clergy and others in Pennsylvania. Liberal groups charged that the effort invited violations of the separation of church and state and jeopardized the tax-exempt status of churches that cooperated. Some socially conservative church leaders also said they would advise pastors against participating in such a partisan effort."

Later on Kirkpatrick notes: "The message was provided to The New York Times by a group critical of President Bush."

What group? Well, the liberal secular group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, a longtime critic of conservative religious groups, posted a release about the Republican email on its website yesterday. (Kirkpatrick quotes group director Barry Lynn in the story, accurately labeling the group as liberal.)

For the rest of Kirkpatrick's story on Bush and the churches, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Conservatives | David Kirkpatrick | Religion

Elizabeth Becker's anti-NAFTA "Editorial"

Elizabeth Becker's profile of retiring Democratic Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings celebrates his opposition to free trade as a man finally getting the respect he deserves.

In Tuesday's "A Senator Once Isolated on Trade Now Finds a Chorus," Becker writes: "That [Hollings' protectionist belief] has led him to question full-blown free-trade agreements with countries that are not at the same level of development as the United States, a position that remains distinctly unpopular just about everywhere except with his constituents. That does not disturb him. 'Changing the culture on trade is like changing the culture of the South on racism,' Mr. Hollings said. 'It's going to take time.'"

(That's possibly not the best metaphor for Hollings to use, considering the Senator's spotty record on ethnic sensitivity.)

Still, Hollings is a visionary to Becker: "Many of the senator's predictions have come to pass: The United States' trade deficit has reached record highs rather than disappearing under the trade accords, even as Japan and the European Union enjoy trade surpluses. The North American Free Trade Agreement has failed to deliver on its promises to raise living standards, provide hundreds of thousands of new, well-paying jobs on both sides of the border and curb illegal immigration to the United States. And the expanding global trading system has proved such a disappointment to poorer countries that they are clamoring for new global trade laws."

Actually, economists on both the left and right would disagree with the bald assertion Becker makes about NAFTA's "failings." Is Becker writing a news story or an anti-NAFTA opinion piece?

As liberal economist J. Bradford Delong notes, many predictions made by protectionists about NAFTA have truly failed to come to pass: "Ross Perot and Pat Choate heard a 'giant sucking sound' of American firms betraying their country by transferring up to five million American jobs to Mexico. Ralph Nader claimed that NAFTA would gut U.S. environmental regulation-that Americans would be poisoned by polluted Mexican strawberries-and that NAFTA would undermine the sovereign authority of the U.S. government".in retrospect they have proved clearly false. You have to work really, really hard to find any significant effect-positive or negative-of increased economic integration with Mexico."

For the rest of Becker on Sen. Hollings, click here.

" Elizabeth Becker | Free Trade | Sen. Ernest Hollings | NAFTA

Dexter Filkins' "Heavy Hand" in Iraq

Reporter Dexter Filkins writes in Thursday's edition about one of Iraq's Shiite parties expressing "reservations" about the selection process for the country's interim government: "The statement did not provide details, but it appeared to allude to reports of heavy-handed efforts to ensure that the new government was sympathetic with American interests."

Filkins himself has been rather "heavy-handed" with that adjective of late. On May 31 he opened another story about the selection process in Iraq this way: "When Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations envoy, arrived earlier this month, he declared that he would crisscross Iraq to give the people a new government, one that he suggested would be more independent of America's heavy-handed ways."

Near the end of that story Filkins repeats it, in a criticism of U.S. support for Adnan Pachachi as president: "It was that kind of heavy-handedness, some Iraqis say, that was supposed to be missing from the new government-and which many had expected Mr. Brahimi to cure."

For the rest of Filkins' heavy hand, click here.

" Dexter Filkins | Iraq War