Watching and listening to coverage of the Democratic Convention has been an interesting exercise in media presentation, and subtle spin. It’s a really rich opportunity to practice “savvy media consumer” skills. And I wasn’t even watching Fox or MSNBC!
First I was noticing the difference between watching C-SPAN and watching PBS. (Our local PBS station was showing it tape-delayed, so I could see the same events.) PBS keeps cutting away from the floor to its crop of analysts, who feel they are supposed to tell you what it is you’ve just seen, often spouting comments that are fatuous, or worse, contradict the evidence of your own eyes, all the while keeping you from seeing stuff that their editors have declared “unimportant.” Worst, when they are “covering” the stage, they keep cutting between cameras, away from the speaker and showing random faces from the audience. During the Barack Obama speech, I started timing it; they would stay on Obama for 10-20 seconds, and then bounce around the audience for an equivalent time, with no relation to the structure of the speech, pauses for applause, or anything. As a result, PBS viewers never saw Obama deliver some of his best lines, and got a fractured sense of the construction, and delivery, of his speech.
Then this morning, I was listening to NPR describe the speakers at the convention. You know NPR, that supposed bastion of the liberal media, or, at least, objective reporting? Hmm.
Here’s the email I sent to Morning Edition:
This morning, at the end of the story listed on your website as “Cheney Defends Iraq Policy Before Marines”, Renee Montagne said “a parade of leading Democrats, including Senator Edward Kennedy, former Democratic contender Howard Dean and Teresa Heinz Kerry, all pounded the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq War.”
This is inaccurate, and further, misleading. Coming at the end of a piece featuring several clips from Vice-President Cheney’s speech, which you described as an “official one, as Vice-President, since campaigning isn’t allowed on military bases”, it borders on the sort of biased reporting familiar on the Fox News channel.
Rather than go on about whether Cheney’s comments were “campaigning” or not, despite whatever legal fiction was involved, let’s look at what the Democrats actually said.
Of the three, only Senator Kennedy specifically referred to the Iraq War, and it was for two paragraphs in a four-page speech.
Senator Kennedy said:
“Most of all, we should have honored the principle so fundamental that our nation’s founders placed it in the very first sentence of the Declaration of Independence – that America must give “a decent respect to the Opinions of Mankind.” We failed to do that in Iraq.
More than 900 of our servicemen and women have already paid the ultimate price. Nearly 6,000 have been wounded in this misguided war. The administration has alienated long-time allies. Instead of making America more secure, they have made us less so. They have made it harder to win the real war on terrorism, and the war against Al Qaeda. And none of this had to happen.”
This is the only specific reference ANY of the three named speakers made to the war. It wasn’t the theme of Kennedy’s speech, and it wasn’t repeated. One other reference might be stretched to fit a description of criticizing the “Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq War:
“There’s a reason why this land was called “the American experiment.” If dedication to the common good were hardwired into human nature, we would never have had a need for a revolution. If each of us cared about the public interest, we wouldn’t’t have had the excesses of Enron. We wouldn’t have had the abuses of Halliburton. And Vice President Cheney would be retired to an undisclosed location. Soon, thanks to John Kerry and John Edwards, he’ll have ample time to do just that.”
This is more accurately described as a criticism of selfish greed, and failure to protect the public interest, (perhaps the energy policy?) than “pounding the administration” on the war.
The comments from Howard Dean that might relate to the Iraq War are:
“I am proud of John Kerry’s leadership and I intend to stand shoulder to shoulder with him as we fight for the things that Harry Truman promised us in 1948: health insurance for every single American, a jobs program that will create jobs instead of destroy them, standing up for middle-class and working Americans who got a tax increase not a tax cut, and standing up for a foreign policy that relies on the president of the United States telling the truth to the American people before we send our brave soldiers to fight in a foreign war.
I’d like a commander in chief who supports our soldiers and supports our veterans instead of cutting their hardship pay abroad and cutting their health benefits when they get back home.”
Let’s review: health insurance, jobs, standing up for the middle-class and working Americans, fair taxes, and a foreign policy that relies on the President telling the truth. OK, one of those applies to the Iraq War, if you acknowledge that Bush lied to the American people, which Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld don’t. The line about cutting hardship pay and health benefits does relate to soldiers in Iraq, but taken as a whole, it seems to relate more to the principles involved in how we should treat people in uniform, not the specifics of the Iraq War.
The only comment from Teresa Heinz Kerry that might have ANYTHING to do with the “Bush Administration’s handling of the Iraq War” is this:
“He believes that alternative fuels will guarantee that not only will no American boy or girl go to war because of our dependence on foreign oil, but also that our economy will forever become independent of this need.”
Claiming this as a criticism of the administration’s handling of the war requires that we believe that the Iraq War was related to our dependence on foreign oil, which is a stretch. To say that Teresa Heinz Kerry “pounded the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq War” is just plain wrong. It is NOT TRUE.
So, in the documented speeches of these “parade” members (what’s with that word “parade” anyway?), which were devoted to discussion of defining American values, hope, social responsibility, equity, health care, race, and the immigrant experience, you chose to characterize their speeches as being about the war. They hardly touched on the war, and yet you described a “parade” that “pounded” the administration on the war.
What’s up with that?
(By the way, does anyone out there know what, if any, “official” role the Vice-President has in the military chain of command? The President, not the V-P, is Commander-in-Chief. And I’m still working on why, on an “official” visit, it was required for him to criticize the voting record of a particular member of the US Senate to an audience of Marines, and just how this is NOT considered “campaigning.” Shouldn’t this be illegal?)