As Hillary Clinton famously noted, the Democratic party is under assault from a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” It is perhaps smaller than “vast,” but no less right-wing or conspiratorial. The GOP and the right-wing media are very organized and often pitiless in their campaigning tactics, leading to gross inaccuracies being printed and reprinted across the nation and all mediums of media in rapid succession. The strategy is to create or enhance a fraudulent exaggeration and then spread it across the world, forcing a candidate to repudiate it before the skeptical glare of the main-stream media, damaging their fragile public reputation. John Kerry already understands the cycle; he’s been the casualty of two colossal lies in just the past two weeks, both created by conservative media.About two weeks ago, a popular Internet gossip columnist published a dastardly attack aimed at destroying Kerry’s political career. The fictional account included Kerry owning a secret affair with a young Chester County intern of his. Within hours of the posting, the author was on the Sean Hannity radio show spreading the story across the neo-con airwaves where it remained for days in the banter of Limbaugh and company. British newspapers owned by Fox News tycoon Rupert Murdoch, promptly began running stories indicating the rumor’s truth and declaring the young intern’s preparation to give a network tell-all interview. The newspapers also quoted her Pennsylvania parents referencing John Kerry, the “sleezeball.”
Unfortunately for the GOP, the work was investigative reporting at its worse. The young woman, “hiding” in Kenya, released this statement: “I have never had a relationship with Senator Kerry, and the rumors in the press are completely false. Whoever is spreading these rumors and allegations does not know me, but should know the pain they have caused me and my family.” It turns out she had never interned for Kerry, and was in Africa visiting her fiance’s parents. Her parents concurrently released a statement which read: “The allegations that have been made regarding her [their daughter] are completely false….we appreciate the way Senator Kerry has handled the situation and intend on voting for him for President of the United States.” The parents went on to deny defacing Kerry before the British press and voiced concern over the media falsifications. It seems impos-sible that any respectable news organization could misrepresent any story worse than in this case. Every specification was fallacious, every aspect fictional!
Kerry’s also been the subject of a recent photo crisscrossing the Internet in which he shared a stage with Jane Fonda before an anti-war rally in the early ’70s. The photograph is a doctored fake, in which Jane Fonda was simply inserted. The original photographer, now a professor at Berkeley, immediately contacted the press and released the original photo he had taken of Kerry alone on stage for his school newspaper. Is it a right-wing conspiracy or just creative journalism?
Former Democratic Senator from Georgia, Max Cleland, is now a traveling supporter of the Kerry campaign and wears battle wounds from the Republican Party in addition to the Vietnam War. He lost three limbs in Vietnam and yet was accused of being unpatriotic in a television campaign against him in 2002. The ad also compared Cleland to Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. The repugnant commercials succeeded, and Cleland lost his bid for another term in the Senate.
Paul Wellstone was the most idealistic and respected senator in the Democratic party when he tragically died in a plane crash in 2002 during his bid for a second term representing Minnesota. Before his death, he was the victim of an unmerited string of half-truth spin and outright lies. In his recent book, Al Franken discussed one ad which savaged Wellstone for voting “to spend thousands of dollars to control seaweed in Maui” while ignoring national defense. The bill mentioned, S.1216, received an overwhelming 84 votes. Why? Because the seaweed facet was a late edition to a popular bill which funded the clean-up of post-9/11 New York City and increased veterans’ benefits. One wonders whether Wellstone’s Republican opponent was implying his opposition towards the bill, or whether he was just attacking Wellstone in the name of ignorant voters.
To understand how mendacious this coming presidential campaign will be, one needs only to look at the 2000 campaigns. Al Gore was ridiculed by the press for claiming he was the inspiration for the movie “Love Story;” in fact, he was the inspiration for the movie, at least according to the story’s author, but what would he know? And there was also the “I invented the Internet” mishap for which Gore suffered. Unfortunately for the VP, he never said those words; he only defended his congressional actions supporting the funding of a new, crazy idea that would become the World Wide Web. I guess he should have opposed it.
The horrific lengths to which candidates will go came to fruition in the Republican primary in South Carolina in 2000. In that race between Bush and John McCain, thousands of voters received phone calls from an “independent polling company” asking if they would be more likely or less likely to vote for McCain if they learned that he was a “liar,” a “fraud,” and “had fathered an illegitimate black child.” None of this was true of course, but Bush won the close election and went on to the presidency. The Bush campaign denies resorting to these tactics, though some organized, pro-Bush committee did initiate the phone calls and were successful in defacing arguably the most honest senator in Congress.
The history of campaigning, both recent and removed, is thick in negativity. The conservative media and the Republican Party will do what they can to destroy John Kerry and any Democrat before the public can judge those politicians on their issues. I only urge the Democrats to avoid such dishonest tactics; the truth about George Bush is damnatory enough.