Is the Kerry “intern” kerfuffle dead in the water?

I was relieved to see that most of the US mass media were ignoring the non-story, as there was zero evidence to back it up. According to a friend of mine in Arizona even the local right-wing talk radio station was dismissing it as un-newsworthy. The only place it seems to be getting lots of play is the UK supermarket tabloids.

Reading Mark Kleiman today, I feel further relieved.

The Kerry intern scandalette seems to be fading. The woman has been identified and isn’t saying anything. Her parents think that Kerry is a “sleaze” but deny any affair. She apparently never worked for him and is now 24. John Ellis, not a Kerry-lover, reports a detail everyone else seems to have missed:

What is known about the source of this information is that she has a major axe to grind; she hates [Kerry]. She really, really hates him. She is grinding the Mother of All Axes.

Something could still pop — Glenn Reynolds, for one, will be soooooo disappointed if it doesn’t — but that doesn’t really seem likely.

The rumor caused the Kerry nomination contract on Tradesports, which had hit a high of 96, to drop below 80, but it’s back up to 91 now. The Bush re-elect contract is down to 63, the lowest it’s been in months.

Still, whoever told Drudge to steal this from WatchBlog and try to frame Clark as having spread the story didn’t completely waste his or her time. It gave Bush supporters something else to talk about while they were pretending that the dental record ended the AWOL flap. And despite the utter lack of anything approaching a confirmed, on-the-record fact to back up the accusation that “Kerry had an affair with an intern,” that accusation has now spread sufficiently widely that it’s going to be in the back of voters’ minds. Kerry’s picture is on the front pages of the New York Post and the New York Daily News, attached to stories that say he says it isn’t true.

There’s an old story — perhaps canonical, perhaps not — about Lyndon Johnson, trailing near the end of a campaign, telling his campaign manager to spread the word that his opponent was inclined to have romantic interludes with swine. “But Lyndon, we can’t prove that!” the naive manager is supposed to have protested. “Of course we can’t,” said LBJ. “But we can make the son-of-a-bitch deny it.”

Precisely.

This is just the beginning. Now that Bush is under siege, expect the GOP to pull all the stops and launch a furious smear campaign. I just saw a piece in the New Republic that shows just how far the right-wing rags are willing to go to make Kerry look bad. It’s really nothing less than slander. I think we’re about to see the nastiest race ever.

The Discussion: 13 Comments

Yep. This election will be the ugliest one ever. Possibly the most violent, too.

February 16, 2004 @ 5:25 pm | Comment

Orcinus has a post out today on that very topic — the undercurrent of violence in the GOP’s languaging of the election. It starts with words, and then…?

February 16, 2004 @ 5:32 pm | Comment

I independently reached the same conclusion when I saw this.

Just imagine the simultaneous shriek of towering moral outrage that would have erupted in the blogosphere if some wacko leftist had created a cartoon suggesting that Bush’s re-election would gladden the hearts of, say, Saudi oil billionaires or European neo-fascists. But the viewpoint espoused by this loathsome cartoon is on its way to becoming mainstream… and then all bets are off.

I’m VERY glad I’m not planning to be in Boston or New York anytime this summer.

February 16, 2004 @ 5:45 pm | Comment

Frankly Vaara, I think you’re talking a load of rubbish. If you think this is a dirty election campaign, go pick up a history book. Or, if you’re feeling lazy, follow this link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3493277.stm

In addition, do you have any doubt at all who enemies of USA would prefer to see elected? And considering how much stuff I have read accusing Bush and Cheney of all manner of evils and collaboration with dark forces in the business world both within and outside of USA, your comment about the cartoon just looks like it is being deliberately self-deceptive.

Also, this seems to me to be a classic case of media double-standards, especially when you read this quote reported by the BBC. At first the Washington Post reporter tries to justify the refusal to pick up the story as having objective and justifiable reasons, but wait until you get to the last paragraph:

The Washington Post London correspondent Glenn Frankel, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former editor of the Post’s Sunday magazine, defended his newspaper’s editorial judgment.

“We’ve been down this road many, many times before. We are extremely reluctant to follow this kind of thing up unless there is a really, really compelling public interest. We don’t feel there is any reason to until it reaches a threshold.

“All we have at the moment is that the woman’s parents, who are republicans, don’t like Senator Kerry.

“In any case, nobody would be too shocked if Kerry lied about an affair. Even if someone came to us with photographs we still wouldn’t run it. Lying to Don Imus [the radio host to whom Kerry gave his initial denial] is not a federal offence.”

Does anyone here dispute that if it was Bush and not Kerry, the newspaper would be all over it?

I generally don’t read US media and I have no idea of general flavours of each newspaper, but after reading the above quote, I don’t think I’d even use the Washington Post as toilet paper. Perhaps I’m rather naive, but I think media should at least have a go at being objective, and the same standards should be used for all parties.

February 17, 2004 @ 12:08 pm | Comment

Li En, with respect, I have to disagree with you. You make it sound as though when it comes to adultery, the media would only go after Republicans. Do you remember that little incident with Clnton six or so years ago? The news media became all Monica all the time. They never let up. Clinton was a Democrat.

I believe that if an unsubstantiated rumor arose about Bush or Cheney having sex (especially with someone who totally denied it), the media would treat it the exact same way. In fact, there are rumors out there about Bush having committed adultery. The mass media, just as with Kerry, have given it zero play. The public won’t stand for this type of crap and the media know it. It would make the media look bad to run such garbage. With Monica it was another story, and as despicable as I found the media’s drooling over it, I understood it. It was about obstruction of justice and lying under oath; at least that gave the media’s feeding frenzy some legitimacy. Here’s it’s pure and simple rumor mongering. And as that reporter you quoted said, even if there’s a photo, the major media will most likely ignore it because it is irrelevant, as it should be — not just for Kerry, but for all the candidates, Republican or Democrat. The public doesn’t want to hear about it. Thus we are witnessing a stunning lack of interest in this BS, which only takes attention away from critical and truly relevant issues.

February 17, 2004 @ 12:23 pm | Comment

I maintain my opinion. For example, see the nonsense about Bush’s military service. It’s no more and no less of an issue than adultery, but there’s been no hesitation to run with the story. Personally I consider BOTH issues to be a load of nonsense, and my objection is not based upon an argument saying that it deserves attention, but rather that it needs to be played out equally.

I disagree with you totally about the interpretation of the “we wouldn’t run it even if we had photos” comment. You can be sure if they had evidence that they could make stick against Bush they would run it. The only reason they wouldn’t run it for Kerry is that he is the main threat to Bush.

The California election is another case in point. The media played that one with a clear anti-Republican slant … the timing of the allegations against Schwarzenegger (sorry, I can never spell his name) were such that it was a clear case of trying to influence voters. They were printed at exactly the most harmful point: close enough to election to stick in people’s minds, not far enough away for them to do anything about it. For all I know, he might well be guilty as charged … but the way the media handled it was a clear attempt at political intervention, NOT news reporting. (note: I wouldn’t have voted for him. Actors are professional liars and only one step above prostitutes.)

I know I’m sounding more emotional than normal in this debate, but this is due to one of my pet hates … I hate media who take on crusades or seek to influence and not merely to inform. Yes, we all know that they can’t help doing it to a certain extent, but they should at least make the effort. One of the bedrocks of a democratic system is that voters must be properly informed in order to make their own decisions. In my opinion, when media start pushing agendas, they become guilty of nothing short of treason against the democratic ideal. Think about the Chinese media and the problem we all have when they run stories (or suppress them) with clear political agendas.

February 17, 2004 @ 1:52 pm | Comment

Li En, you may be right; I didn’t follow what the media did with the California election. I thought (and this is just from blogs) that specific women came out with allegations of groping. But if it was just unsubstantiated rumors, with no evidence or victim or witness, then the media should be be ashamed if they wrote it up.

I think you and I will just have to agree that we’re usually going to disagree on domestic issues and agree on international ones. I found the Bush “AWOL” issue valid because I thought he was being untruthful about it and, in his infuriating way, promising to give information, but then backing out of it. (I hope you notice that since he’s opened the books, I’m not posting on it — and won’t, unless it turns out the books were cooked.)

I agree with you on the dangers of a media fixated on “crusades.” But I see the American media being far laxer on GWB than they were on Clinton, and if there really is a “liberal media,” there’s also a “conservative media” and they hopefully balance one another out.

February 17, 2004 @ 2:41 pm | Comment

What’s really “rubbish” is the idea that we Americans should allow the perceived desires of foreign enemies to dictate whom we elect as our President.

Anyone who accuses all Democrats of being traitors has crossed the line from political debate to demagoguery.

February 17, 2004 @ 6:06 pm | Comment

Election armageddon?

Following are some comments I’ve seen this evening concerning the upcoming presidential election. Peking Duck:I think we’re about to see the nastiest race ever. Vaara in comments at Peking Duck:This election will be the ugliest one ever. Possibly the m…

February 17, 2004 @ 11:02 pm | Comment

Oh dear Vaara … once again I am amazed at how often people are incapable of reading a few simple sentences accurately. While I did criticise the comment you refer to, I never called it rubbish. It was in reference to something else. Go back and read it.

As for what I actually did say, why don’t you answer the question that I posed? Which candidate (Bush/Kerry) do you think the enemies of USA would prefer? Can you find any justification for saying it is NOT Kerry?

I have not come across anyone who has accused ALL Democrats of being traitors to their country, but this is perhaps due to the extent of my reading. It also depends how you define treachery. Is it treachery if you have policies that will harm USA’s national interests? Probably not. What if you believe those policies will lead to the deaths of American citizens, and aid the activities of America’s enemies? It’s less clear.

What if, for example, members of the Democrat party were to accuse Bush of treachery for his environmental policies? Would you consider this demagoguery?

Richard – as I understand it, there was more evidence for the Californian accusations than there is against Kerry. It was more the timing of when the accusations went to air that I found most suspicious. The Californian example did show that the American voter is capable of deciding for themselves if they care or not about accusations of maritial infidelity. The strong impression I get is that it doesn’t actually lose votes.

Also … with regards to our opinions on American domestic issues … it’s your country. You have a vote (and pay taxes?) and in that way some small influence on what happens. In that sense at least your views hold more weight than mine. I’m just an outsider with the temerity to express my opinions, not that I ever let that stop me! ๐Ÿ™‚

February 18, 2004 @ 10:43 am | Comment

I just found out something fascinating via another blog (am I supposed to credit it here? Thinkindifferent). The original BBC story has been edited to exclude the quote I’ve put here. I wonder why that is …

February 18, 2004 @ 10:26 pm | Comment

Li En, not sure what BBC quote you are referring to. This is an ongoing problem with online stories, that magically get edited.

I like your point about the American people making up their own minds despite silly media scandals. It’s true. I remember how the Bush drunk-driving arrest came out right before the 2000 elections and the people totally ignored it, as they should have. (I wish they had voted against him for other reasons, but not an old DUI charge.) Sometimes the American people surprise me with their good judgement, like when they rallied around Clinton as the media and the Republicans picked him apart. It looks like they may surprise me again in voting Bush out of power, not based on silly scandals but on the issues that matter.

February 19, 2004 @ 8:34 am | Comment

The BBC quote I referred to is this one: “In any case, nobody would be too shocked if Kerry lied about an affair. Even if someone came to us with photographs we still wouldn’t run it. Lying to Don Imus [the radio host to whom Kerry gave his initial denial] is not a federal offence.”

February 19, 2004 @ 9:24 am | Comment

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