March 16, 2004

: Beat me, hurt me…

I didn’t have time to mention this item before the radio show today, but Ben Gardner and I did kick around the implications of Kerry’s (sort of) assertion that he has support for his candidacy from foreign leaders. Here’s how the Washington Post played the misquote:

At the time Kerry made the remarks in Florida, press reports based on a transcription of a tape recording quoted him as referring to “foreign leaders.” On Monday, however, the Boston Globe reporter who transcribed Kerry’s comments said he had confused the word “foreign” with “more.” However, the context–that Kerry contended his campaign had international support–has not been challenged by Kerry or his aides.

That the Kerry campaign did not challenge the interpretation before press time is telling. Despite what wiggle room there might be here, we should be asking: Who is the audience and what is the purpose of Kerry’s statement as interpreted?

My quick guess: This is merely a floater (a test message) disguised as a play to a certain segment of the Democratic base (i.e. those comfortable with the idea that America, as the lone superpower, should be a bit more humble in the world).

On the show today, Ben correctly pointed out that Americans are usually loathe to admit or allow foreign voices in presidential campaigns. I agreed, adding that I find Kerry’s tactic “dangerous,” i.e. there’s a high potential for backfire. And it’s easy to see why: There’s no way Kerry can reveal which foreign leader may have said what to him in regard to the campaign. And no such leader would ever admit it–except maybe the French (which was a little joke on my part… har har…it is radio, you know…an entertainment medium). This prompted the very tactic presidential press secretary Scott McClellan used, freely accusing Kerry of “making it up” and saying:

“Either he is straightforward and states who they are, or the only conclusion one can draw is that he is making it up to attack the president.”

In other words, Kerry’s tactic allowed McClellan to use a naked either-or fallacy with impunity and make it sound cogent. Here’s a stick–beat me with it!

I suspect it’s true, as far as it goes, that some leader somewhere expressed the desire to see Kerry win. That’s no stretch at all. But I would think Kerry’s communications staff could have crafted a more nuanced talking point that allowed the idea to float without the dangerously heavy ballast.

3 Responses

  1. cj 

    What comes to my mind — isn’t there a DNC organ that can make such claims for Kerry? He gets the credit and some other ‘scapegoat’ gets the discredit from counter-attacks.

    There seems to be much disarray in the DNC organization — which doesn’t seem to be present in the RNC organization. Will that prove the real deciding factor in the election?

  2. Well, there’s this guy, but somehow I think that’s not who Kerry would have hoped for … 😉

  3. Bruce Rheinstein 

    I doubt it was planned as a floater. If it were, it would have come from someone down the food chain so that Kerry could distance himself from it.

    As with cussing out a Secret Service Agent within ear-shot of the press, it reflects a lack of discipline on the part of the candidate. I don’t think Senator Kerry is acustomed to the kind of media exposure that Presidential candiaite Kerry is now receiving.