Tags: Smoky | Campaign

A Smoky Campaign

Tuesday, 17 February 2004 12:00 AM

Nothing ate up my entire day yesterday.

"There is nothing to report," John Kerry told Imus this morning. "So there is nothing to talk about. I'm not worried about it. No."

I am. Nothing is what this campaign could end up being about.

My day began with half a dozen calls about nothing. There had been an item on the Internet. Since no legitimate news organizations were reporting anything, they were all calls to be on the radio. Since my cable modem was down, I had no idea what anyone was talking about. Since it was my son's 11th birthday, I had other plans.

I told the producer for my buddy Sean Hannity that I could only be reached on a cell phone at Best Buy during his show. They said that would be fine. I took that as a very bad sign that whatever nothing was, it wasn't good. I hooked up the fax to get the Internet item printed and sent to me.

There is much speculation as to who is behind the news about nothing. My friend Sean spent a chunk of his show warning conservatives to keep far away from nothing, and let Democrats kill each other about it. In an off-the-record conversation with 12 reporters on Tuesday that literally got out of the room before he did (the reporters couldn't believe he said it), Gen. Wes Clark speculated that Kerry could implode over nothing. But he then proceeded to endorse Senator Kerry on Friday.

A lot of fingers have been pointed at Gore and former Gore-Kerry people, no names of course, this being nothing, with various theories about how it all dates back to the vice presidential vetting of 2000.

The problem with that theory is that this particular nothing didn't happen until 2001, which of course is after that -- not to mention the fact that I'm told that the person everybody isn't talking about didn't have access to the documents he would've needed to see to say what he's supposed to not be saying.

So the latest is that it's Republicans who are pushing nothing, since they have nothing else to push, and in an effort to create blood war among Democrats where none really exists, are blaming other Democrats for doing it. Pretty good, hun? The Democrat who is supposed to be spreading this is claiming that he really has nothing to do with anything.

All of which would be pretty funny, if I hadn't lived through a whole lot of nothing in the past: Mike Dukakis' mental illness, a story that was invented by Lee Atwater and Co., the brilliant and ultimately apologetic manager of 41st's election, and sent us down about five points overnight (Dukakis is not crazy, more at 11) along with Kitty Dukakis' flag burning, another wholly invented fiction of the Republican National Committee.

The problem with nothing, as I learned 15 years ago, is that these stories take on a life of their own, and that is even more true today. You ignore them at your peril; by denying them, you give them legitimacy.

Thus, John Kerry's unquotable denial this morning to Don Imus. In 1988, the story that Dukakis had been treated for serious depression spread like wildfire, always with the tag that some news organization was about to report it. When, at a news conference, then-President Reagan referred to the Democratic nominee as an invalid, a reference that could only be understood by explaining the rumor, we bought a television tie for the governor's doctor and tried to stem the damage.

It never works. Just ask Former House Speaker Tom Foley, who was forced to deny a planted rumor that he was gay, on the day he assumed the speakership. Some people will always believe that where there's smoke, there's fire. Unfortunately, sometimes there's just smoke. This could be a very smoky campaign.

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Nothing ate up my entire day yesterday. "There is nothing to report," John Kerry told Imus this morning. "So there is nothing to talk about. I'm not worried about it. No." I am. Nothing is what this campaign could end up being about. My day began with half a dozen...
Smoky,Campaign
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2004-00-17
Tuesday, 17 February 2004 12:00 AM
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