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September 02, 2004

Ace Screws Up

CORRECTION: I misread this article and went off on a rant that turned out be much less well-founded than I thought.

Basically, I thought the LA Times never mentioned Miller's party affiliation until deep in the article. They don't mention it directly, but they do mention it obliquely in the fifth paragraph.

I still think the article is slyly written to underplay the lede -- that a sitting Democratic Senator just ripped into his colleague John Kerry -- but it's not as egregious as I first thought.

I'm leaving the article here because I don't want to bury my own mistake. But there's no point in reading further, unless you want to have a good laugh at me.

This LA Times "report" departs rather badly from the actual events of the evening:

GOP Assails Kerry's Character, Credibility

We're already off to a bad start. Notice there's no mention that toughest attack wasn't delivered by the "GOP," but by a sitting Democratic Senator.

NEW YORK - Turning from compassion to confrontation, Republicans unleashed a withering barrage tonight at Sen. John F. Kerry, turning the third session of their national convention into attacks on his character, credibility and nearly 20 years in Congress.

Vice President Dick Cheney led the verbal fire, using Kerry's own words to portray the Democratic nominee as too spineless to lead the country at a time of surpassing danger.

Cheney led the verbal fire? I think a simple checking of the videotape will demonstrate he did not "lead" the fire.

Why is this important? Because the article avoids mention until the last paragraphs that the man delivering the harsh attack on Kerry is Kerry's own Senatorial and Democratic colleague. This information, oddly enough, isn't given the "Dog Bites Man" prominent placement you'd expect; it's reported, quite deliberately, past the point at which most people stop reading.

And then it's only implicated-- the article never says clearly that Miller is a Democrat.

In order to achieve this -- to bury mentions of Zell until deep into the article -- it becomes necessary to say that Dick Cheney "led" the assault. You start off with the guy who "led" the assault, right?

Let's move on:

"He talks about 'leading a more sensitive war on terror' as though Al Qaeda will be impressed with our softer side,'' Cheney said in his address accepting his renomination on the GOP ticket. "He declared at the Democratic convention that he will forcefully defend America - after we have been attacked.

"My fellow Americans, we were already attacked and faced with an enemy who seeks the deadliest of weapons to use against us. We cannot wait for the next attack. We must do everything we can to prevent it - and that includes the use of military force."

Cheney was joined in the assault by an improbable ally, Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, who painted his fellow Democrat as a waffler who would put the nation's security at risk.

Correction: Damn it, I missed that early reference to a "fellow Democrat." That makes the whole of this rant pretty moot.

I still think that's a sly, blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference, but obviously it is sort-of mentioned far earlier than I'd thought. So, sort of forget this whole article.

Why is Sen. Zell Miller an "improbable ally"? Aren't reporters supposed to explain such things? Not this reporter.

"For more than 20 years, on every one of the great issues of freedom and security, John Kerry has been more wrong, more weak and more wobbly than any other national figure," said Miller, reprising the keynote role he played 12 years ago inside Madison Square Garden on behalf of Bill Clinton.

In what capacity? Why was this presumed-Republican even there? The LA Times doesn't know, apparently.

This time, the drawling ex-Marine turned his sulfurous wit and blistering critique against his own "warped" party, saying the country "is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our commander-in-chief."

Interesting the reporter deigns to mention he was a Marine. Still no mention of the most salient and arresting fact-- that he's a Democrat attacking his own colleague.

In a veiled swipe at Kerry's decorated Vietnam service, which has been central to his candidacy, Miller said the Democratic nominee "wants to refight yesterday's war."

"George Bush believes we have to fight today's war and be ready for tomorrow's challenges," Miller said.

The Republicans gathered in New York City were fighting on two fronts today: defending the invasion of Iraq and reaching back more than 30 years to the conflict in Southeast Asia to question Kerry's character and judgment.

The Republicans and Zell Miller, of course. Still nothing to tip you off as to his party affiliation.

Now comes about ten paragraphs of unrelated material. Well, it's about Kerry's counter-charges and Bush's visit to Ohio, which I guess is "related" in the sense that it's about the campaign generally; but most readers, at this point, would realize they are now reading dated and tangential information and stop reading.

Ten paragraphs here. Ten paragraphs of buffer.


Miller's lacerating speech was to be much like the one he gave in July 1992 when he tore into Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush, as a clueless elitist out of touch with the economic suffering he blamed on Bush's policies. (Years later, Miller apologized.)

Again, I understand there is a strong implication that Miller is -- or at least was -- a Democrat. But why is this very-important, very-interesting information being conveyed, if at all, only through implication?

Can anyone tell me with a straight face that this reporter and editor didn't conspire together to delete all straight references to his political affiliation from the article?

Again, this is the sort of information that would naturally pop up in an article. You can't not report it "by accident." It's too implicit to the story. If there's no mention, it can only be due to deliberate action.

Speaking tonight, Miller described his estrangement from the Democratic Party - his lifelong home after being raised a Democrat by his strong-willed mother - by speaking of the four great grandchildren born since his last convention appearance.

"Like you, I ask which leader it is today that has the vision, the willpower and, yes, the backbone to best protect my family,'' Miller said. "The clear answer to that question has placed me in this hall with you tonight. For me, family is more important than my party."

The veteran Georgia lawmaker, who is retiring at the end of his term in January, has grown increasingly antagonistic toward his fellow Democrats over the past several years. He has sided with the president on a number of key votes. But Miller's political break with his party came earlier this year, when he endorsed Bush and began a series of harsh attacks on Kerry.

Finally, a reference towards his "fellow Democrats." This does count as a mention, but only in the most oblique way.

The lede isn't just "buried" here. The lede is hacked into pieces in a bathtub, dissolved with acid, and then mixed in with the cement in some mob-controlled construction project in New Jersey.

Update: AP plays it straight, and mentions Miller's a Democrat right in the lede paragraph. Where it should be.

On the other hand, it chooses this photo to illustrate Cheney on this "Night of Rage:"


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posted by Ace at 01:38 AM

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