Kerry campaign director Mary Beth Cahill, told a Kennedy School audience that the campaign initially thought there would be “no reach” to the ad campaign by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and didn’t initially respond for that reason. Cahill also stated that “it was only because of the news coverage” that the ad campaign had “reach.” Thus, the Kerry campaign thought that the SwiftVet ads would receive little news coverage, and thus that the ads would have no reach.
Modesty or discretion prevents Cahill from saying, in her defense, that it was reasonable for her campaign to believe that the MSM would not cover the SwiftVets. Indeed, as Rocket Man noted here the New York Times sat on the story for weeks, addressing it only after Senator Kerry broke his silence, and then only to attack the Vets as tools of the Bush campaign.
But the campaign erred, I think, in assuming (as Cahill still does) that lack of news coverage would translate into little “reach.” As I predicted here, during the period of time in question, the MSM could not fail to cover the story because it could not afford to stay out of the conversation about Kerry’s service. And the conversation reached the point where the MSM had to participate because (a) there are so many Vietnam vets, and people who respect them and (b) the blogosphere helped spread the word.
In my opinion, then, the SwiftVet story didn’t obtain reach because the MSM covered it; rather the MSM covered it because it had reach.
UPDATE: Harry Forbes at Squaring the Boston Globe sent me his take on the Cahilll-Kennedy School story, along with a link to the Globe’s coverage of the forum. The Globe’s account has little to say about the SwiftVet discussion, but more than it had to say about the SwiftVets themselves when the controversy arose and for a few weeks thereafter. Forbes adds that the Cahill-led Kerry campaign tried, with initial success, to suppress the SwiftVet story in the MSM.
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