AP's Will Lester defies parody
The Republican National Committee did a very nice job in putting together an 11-minute video (which can be found at www.demsextrememakeover.com). The video makes a pretty effective case on the sheer opportunism of John Kerry regarding Iraq and Saddam Hussein. One might make the counterclaim that the remarks are taken out of context or that other contemporary remarks would make a clearer case, but that's for the opposition to make.
Well, the story popped up on the AP's radar and made the headlines page of Yahoo. Enter Will Lester. He writes the story describing the video, but here's how he describes it (emphases are mine):
"Using video clips of Kerry discussing Iraq on various talk shows, the Republican National Committee (news - web sites) has put together an 11-minute video that traces how Kerry struggled with the issue of Iraq through 2003 and early 2004 as he competed for — and finally won — the Democratic presidential nomination."
"In the video clips, Kerry gradually shifts from harsh anti-Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) rhetoric in 2001 and 2002 to more cautious comments about Iraq in late 2003 and then to anti-war comments by early 2004."
"Through 2003 and early 2004, Kerry became more cautious and talked against the war, as problems grew in Iraq and his primary campaign against anti-war candidate Howard Dean (news - web sites) became more intense."
"While the video clips are often brief and lack context, they do appear to show Kerry evolving from a harsh critic of Saddam to an anti-war candidate by early 2004 at the height of the campaign for the nomination."
Now, what's wrong with this approach? Well, it just doesn't accurately portray what the Republican-made video is trying to say. The video doesn't try to show Kerry as "struggling" with the issues and "gradually" becoming "more cautious" or "evolving." It tries to show that Kerry is an opportunist willing to take contradictory strong positions based on what's popular at the time. You can agree or disagree how successful the video is at convincing the viewer of that or whether it's accurate, but there's no doubt that's what it's trying to do.
But Will Lester totally gets it wrong. He misrepresents the video's purpose, coincidentally interpreting it in the vein of Kerry the nuanced sophisticate, and includes the "lack context" point that a Kerry advocate makes in the piece as part of a purportedly dispassionate analysis. He also describes as an objective reality that the flow of statements from Kerry is a smooth curve, but Jim Geraghty from National Review Online's Kerry Spot points this out:
"What’s perhaps most damning about the video is the degree to which Kerry doesn’t seem to be straddling when he takes either the pro or anti-war position. When he is talking about the need to take action in 1998, 2001 or 2003, Kerry is forceful, decisive, aggressive. He indicates that an aggressive military stance is the only logical policy, and that those who disagree with him just don’t understand the seriousness of the threat.
And then, in 1991 or 2004, Kerry is every bit as forceful, decisive, and aggressive, in the opposite direction. Anyone who would disagree with his call for more diplomacy and a slower approach must be a crazed warmonger."
This is a far more accurate description of the actual contents of the video from the admitted partisan than we get from the purportedly objective journalist. And they wonder why people think they're biased?