The empire strikes back

I long ago quit reading the editorials of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. My pain threshold simply isn’t high enough. As I have met or spoken with the editorial board members at the Strib over the past few years — Susan Albright, Kate Stanley, Jim Boyd, Dave Hage, et al. — I was struck by their lack of knowledge regarding most of the issues they opined about, their lack of interest in the coherence of their own arguments from one day to the next, their lack of intellectual integrity, their willingness to convert today’s Democratic Party talking points into tomorrow’s editorial, their refusal ever to articulate fairly a serious argument contrary to their own position, their sheer bullying use of their bully pulpit (recall, for example, the case of Dan Cohen — in which the Star Tribune proclaimed its constitutional right to blow a source with impunity), and their refusal to admit a contrary voice to their numbers. As Republican former Senator Rudy Boschwitz has noted, the unanimity of the Star Tribune editorial board is handy because it keeps the board meetings so short.
A few years back I saw them misuse the power of their political endorsements against a black Democratic Ramsey County (greater St. Paul) District Court judge, former University of Minnesota Gopher football player Walter Bowser. (Judge Bowser is a friend whom I greatly admire and I take this story from him.) One of the board’s female editors asked Judge Bowser a few hostile questions by telephone and cranked out an editorial that endorsed the woman lawyer running against him on utterly bogus grounds. You have to understand the priorities.
Today, ladies and gentlemen, Exhibit A in the Star Tribune’s ruthless efforts to becloud the issues of the day on behalf of the Democratic Party is the column by editorial board member Jim Boyd attacking your humble Power Line servants. Boyd’s column is “Republican smear machine can’t stand up to the facts.” The column is Boyd’s response to our “Apocalypse Kerry” that ran in the Star Tribune this past Wednesday.
Boyd’s column engages in a selective refutation of our column, with some personal abuse heaped on for good measure. Boyd takes it as a given, however, apparently because John Kerry or Douglas Brinkley has said so, that Kerry undertoook a mission to Cambodia in January 1969 (covert or otherwise, I guess) as set forth in the statement issued by Kerry’s campaign.
We quoted from the statement in our column and noted how its reference to a possibly “inadvertent” crossing to Cambodia as accounting for Kerry’s 1986 Senate statement belied every version of the Cambodia story Kerry has publicly retailed over the past 25 years. Boyd simply chooses to ignore that niggling detail.
Boyd’s column is representative of the classic Star Tribune editorial style in its assumption of the fact to be proved — that Kerry at any time ever undertook a covert mission to Cambodia — and the abuse it heaps on individuals who have the temerity not to fall into line.
Moreover, Boyd ignores the conflicting stories that Kerry himself has retailed about his covert mission to Cambodia as well as the campaign statement suggesting that Kerry’s crossing to Cambodia may have been inadvertent. Boyd expresses no puzzlement over the fact that none of Kerry’s crewmates had stepped forward as of the date of our column to confirm the existence of a covert mission to Cambodia.
Boyd adopts as gospel the assertions of Douglas Brinkley in the pages of the Daily Telegraph that Kerry undertook several covert missions to Cambodia. What’s wrong with that?
Well, Brinkley wrote an entire book on Kerry’s Vietnam service and left out the occurrence of the mission(s) in issue. Does it not seem more reasonable to rely on Brinkley’s book than his single statement to the Telegraph regarding purported facts he left out of the book? And Boyd omits to mention that Brinkley appears to have gone underground since his interview with the Telegraph. Boyd also omits any reference to the statement by Admiral Roy Hoffman — Kerry’s commanding officer — that no such missions occurred. Why?
Here’s how Boyd concludes his column:

Hinderaker and Johnson are serving as part of the effort to smear John Kerry, just as Republicans smeared Sen. John McCain in 2000, then-Sen. Max Cleland in 2002, and critics Richard Clarke and Joe Wilson in 2004. This serves two purposes: to sow doubts in voters’ minds about Kerry and to divert attention from the serious issues that really should concern voters: health care costs, the anemic state of the American economy, the mess that is Iraq and the continuing, relentless Republican effort to shift the burden of paying for the federal government from America’s wealthy to its middle class.
As the old saying goes, “Politics ain’t beanbag,” but this Republican crew, including Hinderaker and Johnson, take the art of slime-throwing to levels of immorality seldom seen. Voters need to awaken to this tactic, and realize how much contempt it shows for the workings of democracy and for the intelligence they bring to the task of choosing this nation’s leaders.

Now who precisely is “throwing slime”? We challenge the veracity of John Kerry’s Christmas in Cambodia tall tale, a story that the Kerry campaign has itself retracted. Boyd adopts (in part) the Kerry campaign’s fallback position on one version of the tall tale, without noting any of the details that belie it.
When Boyd describes the real issues of the current presidential campaign as “health care costs, the anemic state of the American economy, the mess that is Iraq and the continuing, relentless Republican effort to shift the burden of paying for the federal government from America’s wealthy to its middle class,” that description may sound familiar.
This past Friday, the Kerry campaign released its response to the second advertisement prepared by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The official Kerry campaign response stated:

“This is another ad from a front group funded by Bush allies that is trying to smear John Kerry…The American people want to hear how we’re going to cut health care costs and strengthen the economy, not smears.”

The Kerry campaign press release appears to have landed on Boyd’s desk just as he was putting the finishing touches on his column attributing sinister Republican machinations to us. This, ladies and gentleman, is how the game is played over at the editorial offices of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
HINDROCKET adds: Given the viciousness of the Strib’s personal attack on us, we have asked editorial page editor Eric Ringham for an opportunity to respond. We have also sent an email to Jim Boyd, challenging him to debate us on the Christmas in Cambodia issue on our radio show next Saturday. We will be broadcasting live from the Minnesota State Fair, so if he really thinks he has a leg to stand on, Boyd can be heard by a large live audience at the Fair, many thousands of listeners throughout the Twin Cities, and thousands more listening on the internet, all over the country. If Boyd really thinks he has the facts to back up his personal smears against us, he will show up and face us like a man. We will keep our readers posted on how Ringham and Boyd respond. My prediction: Boyd doesn’t have the guts to face us in person, and he will never be heard from again after the hit-and-run attack on us he made this morning.

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