KERRY AND THE GLOBE.
Talk about timing. Yesterday, Slate's Tim Noah posted a
to a piece he'd written earlier
contending that the Boston Globe despises John Kerry. Noah
argues that Globe editor Marty Baron's preface to a new
book, John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography by the Boston Globe
Reporters Who Know Him Best, "demonstrates Kerry's unique ability
to get under the Globe's skin."
This morning, the Globe
published a front-page, below-the-fold story by Michael Kranish - the
lead author of the Kerry bio - questioning whether Kerry deserved the
first of the three Purple Hearts he won while serving in the Vietnam
War. The story, headlined "Kerry Faces Questions over Purple Heart,"
examines the claims of a few right-wing Vietnam veterans who've
never gotten over Kerry's becoming a leading anti-war activist after
he returned home.
"He had a little scratch
on his forearm, and he was holding a piece of shrapnel," recalled
Kerry's commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Grant Hibbard.
"People in the office were saying, 'I don't think we got any
fire,' and there is a guy holding a little piece of shrapnel in
his palm." Hibbard said he couldn't be certain whether Kerry
actually came under fire on Dec. 2, 1968, the date in question and
that is why he said he asked Kerry questions about the
But Kerry persisted and, to his
own "chagrin," Hibbard said, he dropped the matter. "I do remember
some questions, some correspondence about it," Hibbard said. "I
finally said, 'OK, if that's what happened ... do whatever you
want.' After that, I don't know what happened. Obviously, he got
it, I don't know how."
Kerry declined to talk to the
Globe about the issue during the preparation of the Kerry
biography. But his press secretary, Michael Meehan, noted that the
Navy concluded that Kerry deserved the Purple Heart.
Kranish's piece, overall, is fair:
he points out at great length that regardless of whether Kerry
deserved his first Purple Heart, it is nevertheless true that his
reputation for heroism under fire is well-deserved. But the
pullquote, from Hibbard - "I've had thorns from a rose that were
worse" - is absolutely brutal.
The Globe has developed
something of a reputation for Kerry-bashing during this presidential
campaign. In addition to Tim Noah's two-parter, ABC
News's political dope sheet, The
Note, last November got at how just-fired
Kerry-campaign chief Jim Jordan felt about the Globe by
fictional letter from
Jordan to his replacement, Mary Beth Cahill. "Jordan" whacked the
Globe for "what is the most relentlessly negative coverage of
any presidential candidate EVER by a hometown paper - and I mean the
news page. Don't even get me started on the op-ed page." (Media Log
realizes that this is so post-modern as to be
During a recent interview, I asked
Baron about the perception that the Globe is anti-Kerry. Among
other things, Baron called Noah's first piece "silly." It didn't make
it into the piece
I was working on (hey, I only had 8000 words!), but here is part of
the exchange we had:
Q: How do you
A: I plead
objective. We're covering him like we cover anybody else.
Obviously there were some stories that he probably would have
preferred not to see. We spent a lot of time researching John
Kerry, more than anybody else had, as far as I can tell. The
series that we did last
June was as thorough a piece on a politician that's probably run
anywhere in a newspaper. Maybe that's a bit of hyperbole, but I
think it was pretty damn thorough. And in the process we learned a
lot about John Kerry that had not been previously known. Look,
he's running for president, we should know that.
things that we wrote about Howard Dean that the Howard Dean
campaign was not terribly happy to see, and that actually affected
his campaign in a major way. The stuff about attracting offshore
companies, special tax breaks for insurance companies, things of
that sort. The tax plan. They weren't terribly happy to see those
stories, either. John Kerry used those stories to his
Q: When does the
Kerry book come out?
A: Next month.
It's written. It's finished.
Q: How far does
this move beyond the seven-part series? Is there a lot of new
A: Yeah, I
actually think there is new material. It's substantially longer
than the seven-part series, obviously, in order to make a book.
But in the process the reporters had a lot of additional material
in their notebooks. They also did additional reporting for the
book, and posed additional questions to the Kerry campaign. Some
of those questions were answered. Not all of those questions were
Q: What do you
hope the book will accomplish?
A: That people will have a
complete understanding of John Kerry, as best as it can be
developed at this point. Obviously I think it's important, and I
thought it was important when we went into this campaign, that the
Boston Globe be the source, the definitive source for
information about John Kerry. That I didn't think we should leave
any crumbs on the table for anybody else to pick up. That we
should do a thorough job, that we should be the point of reference
for anyone who really wants to know about John Kerry. And that
should be our job as the major newspaper in this
So does the Globe have it in
for Kerry? A few columnists do. But as I told Noah back in January, and
as he acknowledged, there really isn't anyone at the Globe who
despises Kerry as much as do Boston Herald columnist Howie
Carr and WLVI-TV (Channel 56) political analyst Jon Keller. More than
anything, though, I think the Globe's coverage of Kerry shows
that it's not the same paper that gave aid and succor to the Kennedys
and other liberal Democrats for many years. That began to change
under Baron's predecessor, Matt Storin, and has accelerated since the
arrival of Baron, in 2001.
Is the story of Kerry's first
Purple Heart legitimate? Yes, but just barely. If Kerry's war heroism
were being questioned, that would be one thing, but Kranish's story
doesn't do that. More than anything, Kranish is advancing the agenda
of the sort of extremists who still hold signs reading "Vietnam Vets
Are Not Fonda Jane." While Kerry may have been seeking a
less-than-meaningful Purple Heart, George W. Bush was presumably
memorizing the names of his frat brothers at Yale.
But Baron's philosophy is that the
Globe is going to report everything about Kerry, and not
"leave any crumbs on the table." That's not negative reporting. It is
aggressive reporting, more aggressive than Kerry has perhaps been
used to over the years. And, in this particular case, bordering on
being more aggressive than is warranted by what happened all those
WHAT WAS THE QUESTION?
George W. Bush last night gave his first televised news conference
since before the war in Iraq. I caught it in chunks. I have no
immediate reaction, but here was the toughest question
transcript), followed by
Q: Mr. President, before
the war you and members of your administration made several claims
about Iraq. That US troops would be greeted as liberators with
sweets and flowers. That Iraqi oil revenue would pay for most of
the reconstruction. And that Iraq not only had weapons of mass
destruction, but as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said, we know
where they are. How do you explain to Americans how you got that
so wrong? And how do you answer your opponents who say that you
took this nation to war on the basis of what have turned out to be
a series of false premises?
A: Well, let me step back and
review my thinking prior to going into Iraq. First, the lesson of
September 11 is when this nation sees a threat, a gathering
threat, we've got to deal with it. We can no longer hope that
oceans protect us from harm. Every threat we must take
Saddam Hussein was a threat. He
was a threat because he had used weapons of mass destruction on
his own people. He was a threat because he coddled terrorists. He
was a threat because he funded suiciders [sic]. He
was a threat to the region. He was a threat to the United States.
That's the assessment that I made from the intelligence, the
assessment that Congress made from the intelligence. That's the
exact same assessment that the United Nations Security Council
made with the intelligence.
I went to the UN as you might
recall and said, Either you take care of him or we will. Anytime
an American president says, If you don't, we will, we better be
prepared to. And I was prepared to. I thought it was important for
the United Nations Security Council that when it says something,
it means something for the sake of security in the world. See, the
war on terror had changed the calculations. We needed to work with
people. People needed to come together - and therefore, empty
words would embolden the actions of those who are willing to kill
indiscriminately. The United Nations passed a Security Council
resolution unanimously that said, Disarm or face serious
consequences. And he refused to disarm.
I thought it was very
interesting that Charlie Duelfer, who just came back - he's the
head of the Iraqi Survey Group - reported some interesting
findings from his recent tour there. And one of the things was he
was amazed at how deceptive the Iraqis had been toward UNMOVIC and
UNSCOM [the UN agencies that searched Iraq for weapons of mass
destruction], deceptive at hiding things. We knew they were
hiding things. A country that hides something is a country that is
afraid of getting caught. And that was part of our calculation.
Charlie confirmed that. He also confirmed that Saddam had a - the
ability to produce biological and chemical weapons. In other
words, he was a danger. He had long-range missiles that were
undeclared to the United Nations. He was a danger. And so we dealt
What else, part of the question?
Oh, oil revenues. Well, the oil revenues are, they're bigger than
we thought they would be at this point in time. I mean one year
after the liberation of Iraq, the revenues of the oil stream is
pretty darn significant. One of the things I was concerned about
prior to going into Iraq was that the oil fields would be
destroyed. But they weren't. They're now up and running. And that
money is, it will benefit the Iraqi people. It's their oil. And
they'll use it to reconstruct the country.
Finally, the attitude of the
Iraqis toward the American people: it's an interesting question.
They're really pleased we got rid of Saddam Hussein. And you can
understand why. This is a guy who's a torturer, a killer, a
maimer. There's mass graves. I mean he was a horrible individual
that really shocked the country in many ways, shocked it into kind
of a fear of making decisions toward liberty. That's what we've
seen recently. Some citizens are fearful of stepping up. And they
were happy - they're not happy they're occupied. I wouldn't be
happy if I were occupied either.
They do want us there to help
with security. And that's why this transfer of sovereignty is an
important signal to send. And it's why it's also important for
them to hear we will stand with them until they become a free
Okay, now. Where are the weapons?
What did Rumsfeld mean? Why did we have to lay out $87 billion when
the oil revenues were supposed to pay for the occupation? Why are the
Iraqis killing Americans?
Never mind. Next
FREE-SPEECH FORUM. On
Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Cambridge Public Library, I'll
be taking part in a panel
put together by PEN New England's Freedom to Write
Billed as a forum on the Patriot
Act, I'll be joined by library director Susan Flannery, Boston
Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, and ACLU of Massachusetts executive
director Carol Rose. The discussion will be moderated by Judith Nies
and introduced by Fred Marchant.