Nets Jump on Cleland Stunt, Hype Ginsburg Overlap with Swifties --8/26/2004
2. CNN and AP Promote Flimsy Evidence O'Neill "Lied" About Cambodia
3. "Top Ten Questions on the Osama Bin Laden Driver Application"
ABC, CBS and NBC reporters all acknowledged how the Bush team called former Senator Max Cleland's trip to Crawford, Texas a "publicity stunt," but that didn't prevent NBC Nightly News from leading with it or the CBS Evening News from pairing it as their top story with the resignation of Bush campaign legal counsel Ben Ginsburg, a pairing ABC's World News Tonight went with after stories on the Russian plane crashes. CNN's NewsNight made Ginsburg its number two story. Without offering any proof, NBC's Tom Brokaw claimed that Cleland "lost his Senate seat after an ad campaign questioning his patriotism." CBS's John Roberts asserted that "Cleland, a war hero whose Vietnam record was attacked by Republicans two years ago, claims the Bush campaign is mounting a similar smear campaign against Kerry."
So TV ads in 2002 questioned Cleland's "patriotism" and "attacked" his "Vietnam record?" See the bottom of this item for the full text of the ad liberals claim was unfair to Cleland, text that does not support the allegations made by Brokaw and Roberts.
Legal counsel hardly direct campaigns but, nonetheless, NBC's David Gregory insisted that the revelation that Ginsburg advised Swift Boat Veterans for Truth provided "new fuel for the Kerry charge that the Bush campaign was behind the Swift Boat ads."
ABC's Terry Moran tried to make Ginsburg's work seem as nefarious as possible as he referred to how "Ginsberg himself was secretly providing legal advice to the Swift Boat Veterans' 527 group." Moran then asserted: "Ginsberg's admission throws into doubt weeks of denials by the Bush campaign, including as recently as yesterday, that there was any link between them and the Swift Boat Veterans."
Over on the CBS Evening News, John Roberts maintained that the Ginsburg matter "certainly presents an appearance problem, say election watchdogs, particularly since the Bush campaign has denied for weeks any connection with the Swift Boat Veterans." Roberts at least mentioned how "it's not just a Republican problem. Two Democratic attorneys, Bob Bauer and Joe Sandler, have done pretty much the same thing." NBC's Gregory and CNN's Brown made a similar allusion Wednesday night, but only ABC's Jake Tapper, in a later story, fully explored the links amongst Democrats, the Kerry campaign and liberal groups which are bashing Bush with TV ads.
On Wednesday morning's GMA, Gibson had jumped on the Ginsburg story as he mockingly contended it proved the anti-Kerry veterans weren't so "independent." Gibson asserted: "The Kerry people for three weeks now have been beleaguered by these ads from a supposedly 'independent group' [makes quote mark gesture], the Swift Boat Veterans, questioning his war record, now learning perhaps not so independent." George Stephanopoulos agreed: "Not so independent..."
(Ginsburg came aboard Wednesday's Nightline and had quite a contentious session with anchor Chris Bury. Ginsburg accused him of having bias in how ABC and the media jumped on him while for months ignoring the client lists of Democratic lawyers who advised both Kerry or the party while simultaneously advising Bush-bashing 527 groups. More on that exchange in the next CyberAlert.)
The Ginsburg news cycle began Wednesday morning with front page stories in both the New York Times and Washington Post, stories which a few paragraphs in noted how there are Democratic lawyers who toil for both Kerry or the DNC and a 527 group -- thus raising the question of why the papers considered Ginsburg to be newsworthy when they until then had ignored the Democratic overlap?
"Veterans' Group Had G.O.P. Lawyer," announced the August 25 New York Times headline. The subhead: "Bush Camp Adviser Aided Anti-Kerry Effort."
Reporters Jim Rutenberg and Kate Zernike led their article:
The Bush campaign's top outside lawyer said Tuesday that he had given legal advice to the group of veterans attacking Senator John Kerry's Vietnam War record and antiwar activism in a book, television commercials and countless appearances on cable news programs.
The lawyer, Benjamin L. Ginsberg, said that the group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, called him last month to ask for his help and that he agreed. Mr. Ginsberg said that he had yet to work out payment details with the group and that he might consider doing the work pro bono.
Mr. Ginsberg, the chief outside counsel to the Bush-Cheney re-election effort, agreed to an interview after several telephone calls to him and the campaign's asking that he explain his role. He said that he was helping the group comply with campaign finance rules and that his work was entirely separate from his work for the president. President Bush has called for an end to advertising by all groups like that of the Swift boat veterans, called 527's for the section of the tax code that created them.
The campaign of Senator John Kerry shares a lawyer, Robert Bauer, with America Coming Together, a liberal group that is organizing a huge multimillion-dollar get-out-the-vote drive that is far more ambitious than the Swift boat group's activities. Mr. Ginsberg said his role was no different from Mr. Bauer's....
END of Excerpt
For the Times story in its entirety: www.nytimes.com
Media interest certainly doesn't follow the money.
"Bush-Cheney Lawyer Advised Anti-Kerry Vets," read the Washington Post headline on its front page. Reporters Dana Milbank and Thomas B. Edsall began:
A top lawyer in President Bush's reelection campaign acknowledged Tuesday that he has been advising the veterans group seeking to discredit Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry's military record, an admission the Kerry campaign said is evidence the president's campaign is orchestrating a "smear" by the private group.
Benjamin L. Ginsberg, the chief outside counsel to the Bush campaign who also has advised Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, said: "I've done some work for them....The law lets lawyers do that...and does not include lawyers among the coordinated political activities" that are prohibited by federal election law.
He said two prominent Democratic lawyers are doing the same thing. He said Robert Bauer, the top legal counsel for the Kerry campaign, also is the attorney for an independent group, America Coming Together, that has been mobilizing voters in support of Kerry. In addition, Ginsberg said, Joseph Sandler is a lawyer for both the Democratic National Committee and for the independent group MoveOn.org, which has run advertisements attacking Bush....
END of Excerpt
For the Post story in full: www.washingtonpost.com
Gibson soon set up a 7am half hour, top of the program, session with George Stephanopoulos, as caught by the MRC's Jessica Anderson: "The Kerry people for three weeks now have been beleaguered by these ads from a supposedly 'independent group' [makes quote mark gesture], the Swift Boat Veterans, questioning his war record, now learning perhaps not so independent."
Ammunition loaded up and fired by the media, the Kerry campaign's infantry.
Gibson observed: "Overall, the Kerry people are hoping, it seems, to eventually, because they've sort of floundered for a response to this swift boat issue, but they, I gather now, are hoping they can begin to turn this issue against the President."
Now, a full rundown of the Cleland/Ginsburg stories on the broadcast network evening newscasts on Wednesday night, August 25, all corrected against the closed-captioning by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
-- ABC's World News Tonight led with the plane crashes in Russia, but anchor Charles Gibson teased: "Damage control: A top lawyer for the Bush campaign resigns. He worked for the Swift Boat Veterans. Tonight, 'A Closer Look' at so-called independent groups that are tied to the campaigns."
Gibson set up the subsequent story: "And now to the presidential race. Today, a very high-profile resignation from the Bush campaign. Election lawyer Benjamin Ginsberg stepped down after acknowledging that he had been quietly advising the Swift Boat Veterans. That's the group that's caused such a stir by questioning Senator Kerry's Navy record and his anti-war activism. ABC's Terry Moran is with the President in Texas tonight. Terry?"
Moran began from Crawford: "Charlie, this latest twist in the Swift Boat Vets saga has thrown the Bush team on the defensive. Benjamin Ginsberg has been a central figure in George W. Bush's political machine for five years, serving as his chief outside counsel and playing a lead role in the Florida recount in 2000."
In "A Closer Look" segment later, Jake Tapper ran through both Republican and Democratic interconnectedness, with on screen graphics of a picture of the person he cited along with a campaign button and the logo of the group in question. Tapper began with the Republican side: "Besides now-former Bush campaign attorney Ben Ginsberg, who also advised the anti-Kerry veterans, Mary Spaeth has given public relations advice to both the Bush administration and the group. And retired Colonel Ken Cordier, until recently an unpaid bush campaign adviser, appears in one of the group's ads."
Tapper, however, then noted how "the Bush campaign says there are much stronger ties between Kerry's campaign and the independent groups supporting him." He outlined the examples: "The liberal Moveon.org group has run some of the harshest anti-bush ads. Moveon.org's former organizing director now helps run the Kerry campaign's Web site. Moveon.org gets legal advice from Joe Sandler, who also works for the Democratic National Committee, which works directly with the Kerry campaign. The Bush campaign claims illegal coordination between the Kerry campaign and not only Moveon.org, but liberal independent groups, America Coming Together, or A.C.T., and its partner, the Media Fund. Harold Ickes advises both A.C.T. and the Democratic National Committee. Attorney Bob Bauer gives legal advice to A.C.T. and gets paid by the DNC for advice he gives to the Kerry campaign. Bill Knapp made TV ads for the Media Fund and now makes them for the Kerry campaign. Even former Kerry campaign manager Jim Jordan, who left the campaign late last year, now helps run both A.C.T. and the Media Fund."
Tapper concluded by pointing out: "Liberal independent groups have out-raised their conservative counterparts, 14-to-1. So, in financial terms, no candidate in history has benefitted more from these independent groups than John Kerry."
But that has received a fraction of the media coverage, and none Wednesday night on CBS and NBC.
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather teased: "Tonight, the attack on Kerry's war record: A Bush campaign advisor abruptly resigns. A wounded Vietnam War hero demands President Bush condemn the ads."
Rather opened his broadcast: "Good evening. A top legal adviser to President Bush's re-election campaign abruptly resigned today. He did so after it was revealed that he also gave advice to some Vietnam veterans running negative campaign ads attacking Senator John Kerry's war record as a decorated and wounded combat officer. Vietnam War maimed for life hero Max Cleland tried to deliver a letter to President Bush demanding he condemn the ads. Mr. Bush's spokesman called that a political stunt. CBS News chief White House correspondent John Roberts is at the President's home in Texas."
Roberts, over split screen with Ginsburg on one side, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad playing on the other: "It was another unwanted surprise for a President hoping to build momentum ahead of the Republican convention. The admission that his top campaign legal mind, Benjamin Ginsberg, had been consulting for the Swift Boat Veterans, the group viciously attacking John Kerry's Vietnam record. Ginsberg promptly resigned from the campaign today, but not, he says, for any wrongdoing."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw teased his top story: "Ad wars: A showdown at the Bush ranch over those anti-Kerry Vietnam ads and a resignation from the Bush campaign."
Brokaw opened his newscast: "Good evening. It was like a scene out of an old Western today at President Bush's Texas ranch. Max Cleland, a gravely wounded Vietnam veteran and major supporter of Senator John Kerry, made a dramatic appearance to protest the anti-Kerry ads featuring other Vietnam vets, ads not officially tied to the Bush campaign. Cleland, who lost his Senate seat after an ad campaign questioning his patriotism, didn't get to see President Bush, but he did have his say. Here's NBC's David Gregory."
Gregory, in Washington, DC, began: "The Kerry campaign took the Swift Boat ad fight to the gates of the President's Texas ranch today."
# As for Brokaw's claim that TV ads in 2002 questioned Cleland's "patriotism" and the allegation by CBS's John Roberts that Republicans "attacked" Cleland's "Vietnam record," liberals who claim that Cleland's successful opponent, Saxby Chambliss, impugned Cleland's patriotism point to a specific ad, this one:
On screen, divided into four quadrants: video/pictures of Osama bin Laden, soldiers, fighter jets and Saddam Hussein shaking hands with another uniformed man.
Text on screen below frame of clips of Cleland ads. From this point forward in ad all audio also displayed as text on screen:
Over scrolling bill numbers, with Congressional Quarterly banner at top.
Over picture of Cleland.
That hardly supports the contentions of Brokaw and Roberts.
TalkingPointsMemo.com has posted the ad, from which I transcribed it, in RealPlayer format: www.talkingpointsmemo.com
"Swift Boat Writer Lied on Cambodia Claim" proclaimed the headline over a Wednesday AP story on Yahoo about how John O'Neill, author of Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, who now says he never took his swift boat into Cambodia, had told Richard Nixon in a recorded Oval Office meeting: "I was in Cambodia." But he had quickly added, as if to clarify his misstatement: "I worked along the border." That's hardly the same as John Kerry's repeated declarations over the years that he was in Cambodia, a memory he maintained was "seared" in him. On Tuesday, CNN's NewsNight, which for three months ignored O'Neill's charge that Kerry lied about being in Cambodia, pounced immediately on the opposition research as Joe Johns relayed how the Kerry campaign said it found "evidence one of the top members of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is an outright liar." Johns insisted that O'Neill "is now being held to the same standard of literal accuracy they've tried to impose on John Kerry." Johns ridiculously insisted that while O'Neill now denies going into Cambodia, he said "something completely different" to Nixon.
The AP's use of "Lied" in the headline was the first time the news service has employed that term in a headline in any swift-boat related story. In a search of AP stories on Yahoo News, I found only two other headlines in the past two weeks with a form of "lie" in them: "Abu Ghraib Abuse Suspect Admits Lying" and "Investigator: Peterson Lied About Location."
An excerpt from the August 25 AP dispatch, "Swift Boat Writer Lied on Cambodia Claim," written by Elizabeth Wolfe of the Washington, DC bureau:
The chief critic of John Kerry's military record told President Nixon in 1971 that he had been in Cambodia in a swift boat during the Vietnam War -- a claim at odds with his recent statements that he was not.
"I was in Cambodia, sir. I worked along the border," said John E. O'Neill in a conversation that was taped by the former president's secret recording system. The tape is stored at the National Archives in College Park, Md.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, O'Neill did not dispute what he said to Nixon, but insisted he was never actually in Cambodia.
"I think I made it very clear that I was on the border, which is exactly where I was for three months. I was about 100 yards from Cambodia," O'Neill said in clarifying the June 16, 1971, conversation with Nixon.
Chad Clanton, a spokesman for the Democratic presidential candidate, said the tape "is just the latest in a long line of lies and false statements from a group trying to smear John Kerry's military service. Again, they're being proven liars with their own words. It's time for President Bush to stand up and specifically condemn this smear."...
In the book, O'Neill wrote that Kerry's accounts of having been in Cambodia on Christmas Eve of 1968 "are complete lies."...
In an interview Sunday on ABC's "This Week" O'Neill said: "Our boats didn't go north of, only slightly north of Sedek," which he said was about 50 miles from the Cambodian border.
Kerry's campaign has acknowledged that he may not have been in Cambodia on Christmas Eve of 1968, as he has previously stated. The campaign says Kerry does recall being on patrol along the Cambodia-Vietnam border on that date, although it's unclear if he crossed into Cambodia.
Referring to the tape of the Oval Office meeting with Nixon, O'Neill criticized Kerry for making claims, including in the Senate, that he was in Cambodia.
"I've never represented on the floor of the Senate, or told people 50 times like John Kerry did that I was in Cambodia. That never happened. And I don't think he was ever there either," O'Neill said...
END of Excerpt
For the AP story in full: news.yahoo.com
The audio clearly showed someone who misspoke and then quickly corrected the error.
Johns complained: "Now, O'Neill may have an explanation for this but he has not returned CNN's calls. What does seem clear is that a top member of the swift boat group is now being held to the same standard of literal accuracy they've tried to impose on John Kerry."
An hour before Johns was on CNN, O'Neill was on FNC's Hannity & Colmes where he provided the simple explanation that he misspoke but had immediately corrected himself, unlike Kerry who had made his misstatement numerous times over the years.
Anchor Aaron Brown soon asked Johns: "And just quickly on the O'Neill thing, just for my edification here, Mr. O'Neill's publicist played for you a tape where Mr. O'Neill says what again?"
From the August 25 Late Show with David Letterman, prompted by the Guantanamo hearing Tuesday for Osama bin Laden's driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, the "Top Ten Questions on the Osama Bin Laden Driver Application." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. Can you parallel-park a camel?
9. If two car bombers reach a four-way intersection at the same time, who detonates first?
8. Will you allow Osama to sit on your lap and steer?
7. You know you probably won't be around to redeem your 401(K) right?
6. When getting the car serviced, will you demand genuine GM parts?
5. Do you require a separate air bag for your beard?
4. Do you swear you're not working for the CIA?
3. At a four-way intersection, would you yield to an infidel?
2. Do you know how to say, "Hey goats -- out of the road!" in Pashtun?
1. How long have you been driving a New York City taxi?
-- Brent Baker