Tags: Ploy | Evangelical | Voters

A Ploy To Evangelical Voters

Friday, 24 September 2004 12:00 AM

In subsequent years I saw Ms. Estrich quoted frequently in political articles but did not see her face again until she turned up as a Fox News Contributor, one of Fox's "fair and balanced" types. Outside of her winning the Carol Channing sound-alike contest, I always thought Ms. Estrich seemed reasonable in many of her debates with a variety of Republicans. I didn't agree with much of what she said but I never heard the kind of doctrinaire leftist sentiment which my stranger acquaintance attributed to her.

Not until now. In a remarkable syndicated column, Ms. Estrich said, in effect, that because the Republican Convention had come across so successfully, the Swift Boat boys charges had had some affect and Senator John Kerry had dropped behind in the polls, the Kerry Campaign would get ugly.

Ms. Estrich then recycled every unsubstantiated rumor about President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

That, in fact, is a tactic taught by Lenin - as, of course, by others we also don't want to emulate. When you can't win a political argument, go after your opponent's character. If you must make up stories, don't hesitate. So, after all these years, I am discovering what that stranger on the aircraft had implied: that the lady apparently is a leftist whose anchor in some respects might have been - he thought, was - the Soviet Union.

Of course, to the extent it's true, as it appears to be but perhaps isn't, she's not alone. Some hatchet men of American campaigns past are back now. Given that the media agenda is to defeat President Bush, we may expect full cooperation between the character assassins and the networks.

It already has begun. CBS, Dan Rather reporting, said that CBS has documents which show that George W. Bush's superior officer claimed to have been pressured by superiors to cover up some alleged Bush lack of National Guard performance to make Bush look better. One problem: the documents appear to be forged, apparently created by a computer rather than, as any original would have to have been, by a typewriter, because there was no PC at the time.

Further, the son of the (conveniently) deceased superior officer who supposedly signed the cover-up document says that he knew of no reason why his father would have saved any such document, even had it been genuine, because his father saved no other. It also appears the officer was retired at the time he supposedly wrote the documents - and, it goes without saying, retired officers don't write or revise reports, much less on equipment which doesn't yet exist. Now we are being treated to vague and self-righteous Rather explain-it-away talk and a CBS position at best unclear and disingenuous.

Then there is the Ben Barnes episode. Once a Texas Democratic political power and Lieutenant Governor, Mr. Barnes now claims he used his influence to get young George Bush into the Texas Air National Guard and did so that Bush could avoid the risk of service in Vietnam. Barnes says he is ashamed. Should Barnes also be ashamed that he once testified under oath that he did not use his influence for that purpose? A lady identified as, and reasonably believed to be, Barnes' daughter telephoned a Dallas/Fort Worth radio station, saying she is sure her father was lying because in 2000 she had asked her father about it and her father insisted he did not use his influence. (The story seems to have a political life of its own: Bush runs for Governor or President, some version of the story magically pops up.)

How can we ignore Kitty Kelly, best-selling author of various unauthorized biographies replete with statements people who should know flatly and convincingly deny? There are lots of ways to sell books.

Kelly is doing a three-part NBC Today show series. I began watching the Today show in 1953, the year my family bought our first TV. My wife, Joyce, and I have watched Today since we were married in 1963. This morning Joyce shocked me by suggesting that we turn off Today. "They surely will lose viewers. If the charges against the President aren't true, or at least can't be substantiated, why do they keep repeating the charges?" Probably because a goodly portion of folks who watch one channel don't watch another and in any event never will hear a denial or even questions about proof.

Kelly's book talks about alleged Bush cocaine use. Estrich's string of allegations included alleged Bush sexual misbehavior. So on.

What's the motivation? Kelly is selling books and evidently raking in a bundle. The political people almost assuredly - and cleverly - are reaching to the Evangelical voter (using the word "Evangelical" inclusively). They know that millions of Evangelicals did not vote in 2000, many of them turned off by last-minute charges about a supposed DWI arrest when Bush was 20 years of age, charges the Bush campaign people handled maladroitly. The Evangelicals did not want to vote for Gore, so they stayed home.

It's sad to think that people would campaign upon untruths and half-truths but some do. The Bush Campaign must respond clearly and decisively if it expects to avoid a 2000 replay.

It remains to be seen to what extent the Kerry-Edwards Campaign wants to stop these character attacks based upon false documents, altered documents, questioned documents, unsubstantiated (and often unidentified) hearsay and just plain (and maybe ginned up) rumors. Enough of the character-assassin type of approach. There are all kinds of real issues for discussion. The Evangelicals, like other voters, religious and secular, can understand issues and truth when they hear it.


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In subsequent years I saw Ms. Estrich quoted frequently in political articles but did not see her face again until she turned up as a Fox News Contributor, one of Fox's "fair and balanced" types.Outside of her winning the Carol Channing sound-alike contest, I always thought...
Friday, 24 September 2004 12:00 AM
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