The Boston Globe’s recap of the campaign — “On the trail of Kerry’s failed dream” — reads like a journalistic entry in the mockumentary genre pioneered by the folks who brought us “This Is Spinal Tap” and “A Mighty Wind.”
Or perhaps it’s only unintentionally funny. Here, for example, is one story that five of the Globe’s best political reporters are willing to retail without a nudge or a wink:
On the afternoon of Aug. 9, John F. Kerry stood on the lip of the Grand Canyon, about to make one of the biggest mistakes of his three-year quest for the presidency. A stiff wind was blowing across the canyon, and Kerry, whose hearing was damaged by gun blasts in Vietnam, had trouble understanding some of the questions being thrown his way. But he pressed on, coughing from the pollen blowing on the breeze.
Would Kerry have voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq, one reporter asked, even if he knew then that Iraq didn’t have weapons of mass destruction? “Yes, I would have voted for the authority; I believe it’s the right authority for a president to have,” Kerry replied, as aides stood by, dumbfounded.
Kerry’s answer ricocheted around the political world. Faced with the revelation that almost all the prewar arguments for invading Iraq were wrong — the existence of weapons of mass destruction, close links to Al Qaeda — President Bush had nonetheless insisted that he would do nothing differently. And he had been challenging Kerry to do the same, hoping to catch the Democrat changing his position on the unpopular war.
The senator explained to aides that part of the question had been lost in the wind; he thought he was answering a variation on the same basic query he’d been asked countless times: Was it right to give Bush the authority to go to war against Iraq? Kerry had simply given his standard “yes,” with the proviso that he would have “done this very differently from the way President Bush has” — yet the misunderstanding now muddied Kerry’s message.
Worried advisers briefly considered issuing a clarification, but feared it might further feed Republican efforts to portray Kerry as a “flip-flopper.”
Like those skeptical Globe reporters, I buy it completely.
I also buy the Globe’s dismissal of the “inflammatory book by his Nixon-era foe, O’Neill, [that] had topped a national best-seller list.” Here’s the Globe’s quick close-up on the book that remade the campaign:
“Unfit for Command” used mostly unsupported allegations to label Kerry a liar who didn’t deserve some or all of his combat medals. At the same time, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth began airing ads, mostly in swing states, quoting men who said Kerry “has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam,” “lied” to get his medals, “is no war hero,” and “betrayed all his shipmates.”
Of course, I also buy the Globe campaign reportage from this past August on John’s bogus journey to Cambodia: “Kerry disputes allegations on Cambodia.” In the August story, the Globe at least had the decency to let some of the the eyewitnesses do a little of the talking on their own behalf:
James Wasser, who accompanied Kerry on that mission aboard patrol boat No. 44 and who supports Kerry’s candidacy, said that while he believes they were “very, very close” to Cambodia, he did not think they entered Cambodia on that mission. Yet he added: “It is very hard to tell. There are no signs.”
Another crewmate who said he was with Kerry on Christmas Eve, Steven Gardner