Special Report

In the Tank for President Kerry

The New York Times and the 2004 media narrative designed to defeat George W. Bush.

By 10.7.08

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It's the narrative, stupid.

The media coverage of any Republican candidate for president by the "mainstream media" of America is specifically designed to help the Democrat -- any Democrat -- defeat the Republican and win the White House. No news there.

But how is it done? Specifically, what kind of stories are run and what message are they really intended to convey? Who writes them? What's the narrative?

While a close look at any presidential campaign in recent years will do, let's pick the last one that featured President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry (or, as he is known in these parts, Jean-Francois Kerry who by the way served in Vietnam). Let's look at the nerve center of the liberal media, the New York Times. The Times has for decades been the liberal journalistic blacksmith shop where the templates of a presidential campaign have been forged. From its pages the template, like a well-crafted sword, is sent forth in duplicate form to the network news anchors and producers, to the other print outlets in the liberal media arsenal, to be used relentlessly in each and every story. It carves the narrative of what is really happening in the campaign. The narrative is composed of daily messages, like a movie director's storyboards that become the scenes in a movie.

So how did this work in 2004?

Let's begin at the beginning of the fall campaign. Kerry has already been nominated, Bush is about to receive his re-nomination in New York.

September 1, 2004:

Headline: DELEGATES MOCK KERRY'S WOUNDS, ANGERING VETERANS
Reporter: Jim Rutenberg
Message: Bush and the GOP hate military veterans. Veterans, thanks to Democrats, are being informed they have been targeted by the GOP for "insults." One veteran says he is "outraged."

Headline: IN RETREAT, BUSH SAYS U.S. WILL WIN WAR ON TERROR
Reporter: Elisabeth Bumiller
Message: Bush is an idiot. He screwed up in an interview with NBC and gave the impression the U.S. couldn't win the war on terror. Then he "raced back" to his earlier statements in a speech to veterans.

Headline: KERRY NEEDS TO SHARPEN HIS ATTACKS, DEMOCRATS SAY
Reporters: David M. Halbfinger and Jodi Wilgoren
Message: Aimed at Kerry, the message is simple: ya gotta beat Bush's brains out or you will lose. Here's how.

Headline: CHENEY FUNCTIONS AS ICON AS WELL AS LIGHTNING ROD
Reporter: Rick Lyman
Message: Cheney is "perhaps the most controversial running mate since Dan Quayle." Meaning, once he was respected, now he's gone over to the Dark Side. He's so scary that, like Quayle, Cheney is "clearly a liability." The guy is downright scary.

September 2, 2004

Headline: JOBLESS FIGURES COULD EMPHASIZE BUSH'S BIG WEAKNESS
Reporter: Richard Stevenson
Message: The economy is going to hell in a hand basket. The Republican Convention enthusiasm may be dampened. This capitalist stuff is nuts and voters are running from Bush because they know he's an incompetent.

Headline: KERRY TELLS VETERANS BUSH FAILS ON IRAQ AND TERROR
Reporter: David M. Halbfinger
Message: Bush stinks as a Commander in Chief and Kerry, a real war hero, knows what he's doing. Kerry is taking the offensive on the Iraq issue, showing he's stronger than Bush.

Headline: POLICE TACTICS MUTE PROTESTORS AND MESSAGES
Reporter: Michael Slackman and Diane Cardwell
Message: New York City has been turned into a police state by the thug Republicans to hide dissent about Bush from the media and the world.

Headline: FAST, FRISKY AND CAFFEINATED, FOX NEWS LOOKED RIGHT AT HOME ALL WEEK
Reporter: Alessandra Stanley
Message: Fox News is a right-wing hate fest "that envelops loyal viewers in a warm, cozy duvet of rage."

September 3, 2004

Headline: FEEL THE HATE
Columnist: Paul Krugman
Message: Republicans and conservatives, well, you know, hate all things good and true. They are nothing but a group of haters.

Headline: SENATOR WHO CROSSED PARTY LINE IS A POLARIZING FIGURE AFTER SPEECH
Reporter: Carl Hulse
Message: A warning to Democrats who would spurn Kerry for Bush as did Georgia Senator Zell Miller. (Did you see any stories like this in 2008 about former GOP Representative Jim Leach after he spoke at the Democrat's Convention for Obama? Me neither.)

Headline: WITH JAUNDICED EYES AND BARBED TONGUES
Reporter: Jason Zinoman
Message: This is a theater review of two scathing anti-Bush plays. One playwright is quoted as saying, "I feel like everything I did with my life is under attack," comparing the very existence of the Bush administration to the assassination of Martin Luther King. The second play calls Colin Powell a traitor to his race and ridicules the Jewishness of ex-Bush Pentagon deputy secretary Paul Wolfowitz. The point: you can't trust self-hating blacks and shifty Jews who help Bush.

September 6, 2004

Headline: IN TRYING TIME, SCALING DOWN EXPECTATIONS OF JOB GROWTH
Reporter: Eduardo Porter
Message: Once again, under Bush the economy has gone to hell in a handbasket.

September 8, 2004

Headline: PENTAGON RELEASES BUSH'S LONG-SOUGHT MILITARY RECORDS
Reporter: Elisabeth Bumiller
Message: Bush lied about his military service and tried to duck Vietnam service. The story focuses on "Texas for Truth," a Democratic group "questioning" Bush's attendance record while in the guard.

September 9, 2004

Headline: CHENEY SPITS TOADS
Columnist: Maureen Dowd.
Message: The VP is a paranoid nutcase.

September 10, 2004

Headline: KERRY INVOKES BIBLE IN APPEAL FOR BLACK VOTES
Reporter: Jodi Wilgoren
Message: "In a speech to thousands of cheering, swaying members of the National Baptist Convention..." Kerry is "citing scripture and attacking Bush." Kerry has a great connection with minorities and he's religious (but not like Bush) to boot.

September 11, 2004

Headline: CBS DEFENDS ITS REPORT ON BUSH MILITARY RECORD
Reporters: Jim Rutenberg and Kate Zernike
Message: "Dan Rather, the CBS News anchor, moved aggressively -- on the air -- to protect the credibility of the news division." Something is wrong, how can CBS possibly be questioned over what we all know to be true? Go Dan!

September 12, 2004

Headline: KERRY SUGGESTS RIVALS MIGHT SUPRESS BLACK VOTES
Reporter: Jodi Wilgoren
Message: Bush is a racist.

September 30, 2004

Headline: PENTAGON SPENDS WITHOUT BIDS, STUDY SAYS
Reporter: Leslie Wayne
Message: The Bush Pentagon is "a Keystone Kop situation."

October 3, 2004

Headline: ON KERRY'S JOURNEY TO HEALTH, STOPS FOR SHRAPNEL AND CANCER
Reporter: Lawrence K. Altman
Message: Kerry is a real athlete, war hero and cancer survivor. He participates in "strenuous activities like windsurfing," has two pieces of shrapnel "deep" in his left thigh, and has recovered from prostate cancer. What a guy!

October 4, 2004

Headline: AN INVIGORATED KERRY COURTS OHIO, AND SOME SWING VOTERS ARE TAKING A HARDER LOOK
Reporter: David M. Halbfinger
Message: "He's not Clinton, but he's close," says a newly admiring voter and Clinton fan. If "new polls are any indication, swing voters are giving Mr. Kerry a second look after his strong showing in the first presidential debate." Kerry is winning, we tell you, he's winning!!!!!

October 4, 2004

Headline: IN THE SENATE, RAISING A (QUIET) REPUBLICAN VOICE AGAINST THE ADMINISTRATION
Reporter: Sheryl Gay Stolberg
Message: Rhode Island GOP Senator Lincoln Chafee is "stunned" at an agenda of tax cuts, missile defense and saying no to the Kyoto Treaty. More in sorrow than anger, a prep school buddy of Jeb Bush is deeply troubled by the Bush administration. Cheney is an extremist nut.

October 5, 2004

Headline: CAN FEAR WIN UNDECIDED VOTERS? PSYCHOLGISTS SAY MAYBE NOT
Reporter: Benedict Carey
Message: Remember when the GOP used that racist Willie Horton ad? Bush is trying to scare voters again but it won't work.

October 18, 2004

Headline: IMAGINING AMERICA IF GEORGE BUSH CHOSE THE SUPREME COURT
Columnist: Adam Cohen
Message: Gays in prison for having sex in their own home, abortion is a crime, states would be mini-theocracies. My God, they want to make America an evangelical version of Saudi Arabia!

OCTOBER 19, 2004

Headline: POLL SHOWS TIE; CONCERNS CITED ON BOTH RIVALS
Reporter: Adam Nagourney
Message, "As of now, voters have a warmer view of the Democratic Party than the Republican Party..."
Come on team! Pick up your socks! People like us more than the bad guys! We're winning this thing!

October 20, 2004

Headline: POLL SHOWS GAINS FOR KERRY AMONG WOMEN IN THE ELECTORATE
Reporter: Katharine Q. Seelye
Message: "A group that once favored Bush now appears to offer Kerry solid support." Yes! Women to the rescue! What did you expect? There is no such thing as a conservative woman. Women hate Bush!

October 20, 2004

Headline: VATICAN SAYS KERRY STANCE ON ABORTION IS NOT HERESY
Reporter: Pam Belluck
Message: OK you Catholics, listen up: the Pope is really for Kerry, OK????

OCTOBER 21, 2004

Headline: MICHIGAN: KERRY IN THE LEAD ALMOST BY DEFAULT
Reporter: R.W. Apple
Message: This is the beginning of a Kerry sweep, no question. They get it in Michigan.

October 26, 2004

Headline: FOR AL GORE, A RETURN TO 2000 WHERE IT ENDED
Reporter: Jim Dwyer
Message: Al Gore is "the real president" and the bastards stole it from him. Never forget. The poor guy just hasn't gotten over it and we can't blame him.

October 29, 2004

Headline: BUSH CAMPAIGN REPLACES AD THAT HAD DOCTORED IMAGES
Reporter: Jim Rutenberg
Message: The lying SOB's are screwing around with advertising but this outfit called the Daily Kos nailed 'em! Go Daily Kos!

November 1, 2004

Headline: A LOOSER, MORE JOVIAL KERRY PREPARES FOR VOTERS' CHOICE
Reporter: Jodi Wilgoren
Message: The Man is in great shape because he's gonna win!!! He even gets in the shower before his wake-up call! What a guy! What a great president he will be!

November 3, 2004

Headline: AFTER CONCESSION BY KERRY, PRESIDENT CITES 'A DUTY TO SERVE ALL AMERICANS'
Reporter: Adam Nagourney
Message: We lost???!!!! You've got be kidding!!!! How could this happen?

November 4, 2004

Headline: A BLUE CITY (DISCONSOLATE, EVEN) BEWILDERED BY A RED AMERICA
Reporter: Joseph Berger
Message. A voter in Manhattan says, "New York is an island off the coast of Europe." "Some New Yorkers said...they didn't even know any people who voted for President Bush." What is happening to our world! This makes no sense!

Ahhhhh. But fear not. The Times was already thinking ahead when it ran this story on October 27:

Headline: WHERE TO CATCH A RISING POLITICAL STAR? TRY ILLINOIS
Reporter: Monica Davey
Message: There's this hot black guy named Barack Obama and he's raised all this money that he's giving out to U.S. Senate candidates all over America. But why? Why would a mere Illinois State Senator be doing this in the middle of his own campaign to get elected to the U.S. Senate? He says he can't wait to get to Washington and work with Hillary Clinton!

THERE'S MORE, much more. But you get the picture of the 2004 candidates per the New York Times. George Bush is a racist thug and a coward with a paranoid nut for a running mate. John Kerry is a jovial athletic war hero who loves demanding sports and would make a superb Commander in Chief. The economy has fallen apart, the Pentagon is spending like a drunken sailor, but all of this is ignored by Fox News which is a right-wing "duvet of rage." Not to worry, though, because Dan Rather is aggressively getting The Truth out in spite of these idiots. The polls are great, blacks are swaying with delight in the pews, and women are streaming into Kerry's camp because they are terrified of the idiots Bush might put on the Supreme Court. The Pope actually loves Kerry and is trying quietly to get the message out to Catholics with the help of the Times.

And when the results are actually in? The news of a Bush victory is stunning because the voters the Times spoke with "didn't know anybody who voted for Bush."

So. This is the game. This is how it's done day in and day out. Story by story by story. From the Times to the networks. Listen to this quote from Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz on his CNN show Reliable Sources the other day. Kurtz was showing clips of Governor Sarah Palin speaking of her position in opposition to the Bridge to Nowhere. Implying she was lying, and that various mainstream media outlets had called her out on this issue to no effect, Kurtz lamented: "It seems like we can't influence this campaign."

Notice he didn't say they weren't trying. Again.

Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania.

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.