The Myth of Max Cleland - July 27, 2004 -

Times Watch for July 27, 2004

The Myth of Max Cleland

Max Cleland, Republican victim. That's one of the themes from Tuesday's front-page story by David Halbfinger from the Democratic convention in Boston.

Halbfinger opens his story, "In Battle of Patriotic Symbols, Veterans Muster in Kerry Camp," by describing Kerry "shock troops"-the military veterans who support him: "They rolled in on wheelchairs or hobbled on canes, wore one-sleeved shirts or breathed through tubes, decked themselves out in biker vests or American Legion hats. Hundreds of military veterans-many bearing the physical and emotional scars of the Vietnam War-mustered here on Monday to enlist as John Kerry's shock troops in a campaign to win the hearts and minds of independent voters and nullify Republicans' traditional advantage on issues of national security."

Halbfinger is soon repeating the myth of Max Cleland, Republican victim: "And there was Max Cleland, the triple amputee and former Democratic senator from Georgia whose defeat in 2002-by an opponent who ran commercials linking him to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden-has become a rallying point for Democrats determined not to let Republicans who avoided combat bludgeon them with patriotic symbols."

But the commercial from Cleland's Republican opponent (now senator) Saxby Chambliss did no such thing. (You can watch the actual ad here.) Over montage of four photographs, one each of bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, two others of the U.S. military, a narrator reads: "As America faces terrorists and extremist dictators, Max Cleland runs television ads claiming he has the courage to lead." That's hardly "linking him to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden."

For the full Halbfinger on Cleland, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Max Cleland | Democratic Convention | Gaffes | Vietnam

Kennedy, Hillary Voting Records: Liberal or Not?

"So-called liberal" voting records of Democratic senators? Yes, according to a photo caption in a story from Tuesday's Times.

Katharine Seelye's actual story, "In Enemy Territory, Republicans Fight the Democratic Party Line," is unobjectionable, but here's the caption to the large accompanying photo: "At the Democratic convention, the Republicans' war room was decorated on Monday with the so-called liberal ratings of Democrats' voting records."

A close look at the photo shows four visible printouts on the wall, each reading: "2003 National Journal Ratings" followed by the names of the senator carrying that rating (Sens. Lautenberg, Levin, Clinton and Kennedy). Is there really any doubt about the liberal leanings of those senators?

For Seelye's actual story, click here.

" Democratic Convention | Gaffes | Labeling Bias | Katharine Seelye

Lauding Ron Reagan, Dissing Sound Science

Tuesday's special eight-page insert, "The Democrats-The Convention in Boston," includes in its "Worth Watching" sidebar a preview of the Tuesday night speakers at the Democratic convention. On Ron Reagan, the liberal son of the late president, the Times notes that he's "denounced Mr. Bush for limiting financing for stem-cell research. Scientists say the work could lead to a cure for Alzheimer's disease, the illness that debilitated Mr. Reagan's father."

But do they really? The Washington Post found last month that "the infrequently voiced reality, stem cell experts confess, is that, of all the diseases that may someday be cured by embryonic stem cell treatments, Alzheimer's is among the least likely to benefit."

The Times continues the misguided stem-cell crusade in Tuesday's Metro section. A "Public Lives" story by Lynda Richardson profiles Dr. Gerald Fischbach, who loves the idea of Ron Reagan speaking about stem-cell research at the Democratic convention. Richardson writes: "Mr. Reagan's prime-time speech is expected to draw attention to a debate that is one of the prickliest in science and politics. Scientists believe stem cells, which can give rise to all other cells and tissues in the body, could yield treatments for diseases like Parkinson's, diabetes, and perhaps, Alzheimer's, which former President Reagan had. To cultivate the cell lines necessary for research, human embryos have to be destroyed, which draws criticism from religious conservatives and those who oppose abortion."

" Campaign 2004 | Democratic Convention | "Public Lives" | Ron Reagan | Lynda Richardson | Science | Stem-Cell

G.O.P. "Pushed Toward Extremism"

Matt Bai pens "Wiring the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy," the cover story for the Times Sunday magazine, citing the intolerance and intemperance that have come as a result of budding conservative activism of the 1970s: "That success built a governing majority for Republicans, but it may have come at a cost to politics as a whole. In 1965, the Republican Party was an inclusive organization, comprising not just Nixonian pragmatists and Goldwater zealots but also liberal followers of Nelson Rockefeller and Henry Cabot Lodge. Forty years on, it is getting increasingly difficult to find a true moderate in the Republican Party, let alone a liberal, so far to the right has the party's equilibrium tilted. This was in large part-if not entirely-a consequence of the kind of political philanthropy that Stein and Rosenberg have come to emulate. The culture of the party came to reflect the ideology of the men who subsidized it, and the national dialogue, as a result, has grown less temperate and less tolerant."

Bai then warns that new left-wing groups like may some day become as "extremist" as the conservatives: "Every time I talked with someone about the Phoenix Group, I posed these questions: even if you succeed in revitalizing progressive politics, might the Democratic Party, like the G.O.P., be pushed toward extremism?"

For the full Bai story, click here.

" Matt Bai | Campaign 2004 | Conservatives | Liberals

LBJ-style 'credibility gap' for Bush?

Michael Oreskes' front-page story for Sunday's Week in Review asks, "What's the Presidential Tipping Point?" and sees an LBJ-style "credibility gap" opening for Bush.

Oreskes asserts: "For Mr. Bush, the country is about evenly divided on approval of his presidency, according to the latest poll. But there are some ominous signs that Mr. Bush is beginning to suffer from a Johnson-style 'credibility gap' after sending the country to war to root out weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda, and being unable to prove either one. When asked by The New York Times and CBS News in June whether Mr. Bush was being completely honest about the war in Iraq, 20 percent of voters said he was mostly lying and 59 percent said he was hiding something. Only 18 percent thought he was telling the entire truth".Some critics still do raise the legitimacy question. Michael Moore opens his documentary polemic against Mr. Bush with a reprise of the 2000 election. But the question that voters seem to be wrestling with now is not whether Mr. Bush is a legitimate president but whether he is a trustworthy one."

The teaser line: "For Bush, signs of a Johnson-style credibility gap."

But a new ABC New/Washington Post news poll suggests it's Kerry that has to prove himself, not Bush. "Kerry has lost support against Bush in trust to handle five of six issues tested in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, including terrorism, Iraq, taxes and even health care. And Kerry's ratings on personal attributes-honesty, strong leadership, consistency, empathy and others-have softened as well," writes analyst Gary Langer on the ABC News website.

For the rest of Oreskes on Bush's "credibility gap," click here.

" George W. Bush | Campaign 2004 | Iraq War | Lyndon Baines Johnson | Sen. John Kerry | Michael Oreskes | Polls | Terrorism

"Social Conservatives" vs. "Inclusion"

David Halbfinger thinks he knows what went wrong for the Republicans in 1992-they gave too much airtime to harsh social conservatives. In Monday's special convention issue, he writes of the Democratic convention in Boston: "The stakes are high, as the Republicans found in 1992, when the party gave social conservatives like Patrick J. Buchanan a major share of convention airtime, and the battle cries against abortion, gay rights and feminism alienated moderates and contributed to the defeat of President George Bush. His son famously applied that lesson in 2000 by emphasizing 'compassionate conservatism' and images of inclusion over conservative views on social issues."

For the rest of Halbfinger from Boston, click here.

" Pat Buchanan | George Bush Sr. | Campaign 1992 | Democratic Convention | David Halbfinger | Sen. John Kerry