Monday’s Post has an article by Milbank and VandeHei entitled “From Bush, Unprecedented Negativity: Scholars Say Campaign Is Making History With Often-Misleading Attacks.” After recounting a series of broadsides against Kerry the authors write, “Scholars and political strategists say the ferocious Bush assault on Kerry this spring has been extraordinary, both for the volume of attacks and for the liberties the president and his campaign have taken with the facts.”
By all means, read the article, which, if following the dictates of Strunk & White, might be titled “Bush Campaign Lies with Unprecedented Frequency”. But if you’d like a more immediate and tangible read on the sorts of campaigns the two are running, stop by the campaign sites of President Bush and John Kerry.
Now, look at how often, candidate A’s face appears on the front page of candidate B’s website, and vice versa. For instance, as of the early morning hours of Monday, John Kerry’s face appears 6 times on the front of the Kerry website, while President Bush’s face appears not once. On Bush’s website, Kerry’s face appears 4 times. Bush’s face, not once.
And one last point: volumes, which the authors leave largely implicit, if not overlooked, are contained in this graf down a ways into the piece …
But Bush has outdone Kerry in the number of untruths, in part because Bush has leveled so many specific charges (and Kerry has such a lengthy voting record), but also because Kerry has learned from the troubles caused by Al Gore’s misstatements in 2000. “The balance of misleading claims tips to Bush,” Jamieson said, “in part because the Kerry team has been more careful.”
So the Kerry campaign is watching its back because the Washington press corps swallowed the GOP’s anti-Gore, ‘invented the Internet’ mau-mauing hook, line and sinker. And the Bush campaign lies with impunity because even in the rare instance when caught red-handed in a front page piece in the Post, they can still be confident that the blow will be cushioned by plenty of paraphrastic padding, such as the Post’s description of the Bush campaign’s lies as “wrong, or at least highly misleading” or the “liberties the president and his campaign have taken with the facts.”
In other words, ‘working the refs’ pays off.