Letters

Washington Post's Evelyn Nieves says she called Dean "angry" because he said he was angry, while readers lament Bush's apparent "Get Out of Gaffe Free" card.


Salon Staff
January 15, 2004 3:24AM (UTC)

[Read "The Media vs. Howard Dean," by Eric Boehlert.]

Your story on the media vs. Howard Dean neglects to mention one tiny little fact: In the first six months of his campaign, Dean marketed himself as angry, serving raw meat to the Democratic base by opening his speeches with the following: "What I want to know is, why are so many Democrats voting for the president's unilateral war on Iraq?"

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He would then go on, Martin Luther King Jr. style, to repeat "What I want to know...," his voice getting louder and, yes, angrier.

So you get me writing "a cartoonish" lede, when Dean was doing his one-note angry Democrat routine. Until it began to boomerang, it served him nicely in garnering, as my July 6 profile in the Washington Post goes on to detail, enormous popular appeal.

So don't blame the press for calling Dean angry. As he told me himself in Iowa when I asked him why he seemed so angry at times: "I am angry!"

-- Evelyn Nieves

It gives me hope to recall that it was the opinion of every inside-the-Beltway "hard-headed analyst" that Americans were angry and would never stand for Clinton lying to them about "that woman." Meanwhile, his approval ratings soared to unprecedented heights. Many would even say that Gore's primary misstep was in distancing himself from Clinton during his campaign -- no doubt on the advice of more inside-the-Beltway folks.

So, the idea that any of these pundits actually know what is going on in the hearts and minds of the American people is absurd. At any rate, how many people read the Washington Post or watch "Meet the Press" outside the Beltway, New York City, Cambridge or my hometown of Brookline, Mass.?

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-- Jen Deaderick

Well, I must say that reading Eric Boehlert's article was akin to finding a bottle of cool Evian in the middle of the Sahara.

As Eric explains so well, the outright abandonment of objectivity by the media in relation to politics is no longer simply an arguable theory, but a fact. Such a marked loss of ethics by almost an entire field raises the question of motivation.

I assert that the pundits and media moguls see in Howard Dean their own future of irrelevance. Grown accustomed to picking our politicians for us, they are not ready to turn over the power of choice to the Internet, the house party or the conversation on the street. For if Dean wins, it will be in spite of them, not because of them.

So I applaud Eric for his candor and insightful approach to his colleagues and his field. I am glad to know that there are still a few real journalists out there.

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-- MaryStarr Hope

Boehlert's piece provides some interesting examples of the "media echo chamber" and of the press's double standard in reporting on Bush and his Democratic opponents. However, I think Boehlert does Democrats a disservice to the extent that he seems to make light of Dean's gaffes.

Dean has not exactly run an airtight campaign thus far -- he does have troubling knowledge gaps, and his apparent need to be right at all times leads him to misspeak and box himself into awkward corners (such as on "Meet the Press," or in his off-putting 'innocent before proven guilty' take on Osama bin Laden).

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I agree with Boehlert that the media's coverage of these shortcomings is unfair when compared to the "Get Out of Gaffe Free" card Bush seems to enjoy, but I don't think this means that Democrats should lower our own standards for our candidate. If anything, it means that the Democratic candidate must be all the more poised, knowledgeable, and prepared, and Dean's limitations -- though exaggerated by the RNC echo chamber -- are real.

I will, of course, support whichever alternative to Bush the Democrats nominate, but I hope that the candidate is better prepared and more composed than Dean currently appears to be. I'd prefer to see a candidate who is smart and charismatic enough to avoid these missteps altogether -- not one who can compete with Bush gaffe for gaffe.

-- Andrew Beck

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If you're upset with negative coverage of Dean and feel a deep need to protect him from the sharp edges of national debate, just wait until the Republicans get hold of him. This kind of vetting needs to happen now, as it will let some of the wind out of the Republicans' rhetoric if he wins the nomination.

It is also part of the nominating process. Dean is not the only candidate with good ideas and strong rhetoric; all of them must be heard and evaluated. We as Americans need this debate to occur, and it is healthy if it gets a bit heated. This is part of the process that will lead to putting forward the best candidate.

-- James Buchanan

I'd like to commend Mr. Boehlert for a well-written piece on the Dean campaign. I agree with everything he says in it other than his claim that Dean's policy proposals "have catapulted him ahead of the Democratic field."

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This is largely nonsense. The suggestion that Dean's policy proposals are what have taken him to the top -- and not the incessant, blaring media coverage (albeit coverage of his belligerent temperament) -- is to ignore the obvious: In no realm of presidential policy discussed on the campaign trail does Howard Dean diverge radically from Kerry, Edwards, Gephardt, or Clark. Dean's elevation to the top of the heap thus far is the direct result of the media blitz that transformed him into an largely confected antiwar, anti-Bush candidate.

That same lack of honesty reveals itself by the lack of attention paid to the one Democratic candidate who does offer an honestly unique vision: Dennis Kucinich.

I don't know how well Kucinich will do in Iowa. I think 5-10 percent is a reasonable expectation. But what will it take to get serious and fair treatment from the media? Will 10 percent do it? Will 20 percent?

Because thus far a truly grassroots campaign organization isn't getting attention.

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-- Shawn Redden

Why should it surprise anyone that the primary issue the press concentrates on when reporting on candidate Dean is his "mean streak"? What else can they talk about? Vermont is a small state with little of national import occurring there. This is not at all a dig at my former home so much as an acknowledgment of the fact that beyond farms, granola hippies, gay marriage, scenic vacations and skiing, there really is little to talk about. That is why it's such a wonderful and refreshing place.

Conservatives and liberals live there side by side in a kind of "I'll mind my business if you mind yours" détente. Bad news for the press. The press wants drama and high society, and that is why this current Born Again Federalist Party is held in such high esteem. Foreign adventurism, capitalist bad boys, knee-jerk patriotism, God and country -- nothing sells air time or print like that. Simple truths are bad for business.

-- D.W. Sabin

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[Read "'This Is Not America,'" by Michelle Goldberg.]

Indymedia commends Salon.com and Michelle Goldberg on her article covering the FTAA protests in Miami. However, it is regrettable that key sources are not cited in the mentioned article.

Two Indymedia correspondents sat with Ms. Goldberg for over five hours, allowing her to view the FTAA Independent Media Center's library of Miami footage. Ms. Goldberg makes continual references to "videos shown" throughout her article, never once citing Indymedia, a nonprofit news source.

Brandon Jourdan and Justin Lipson spent most of their busy day with Michelle Goldberg out of concern for fair coverage and a desire to aid a fellow reporter's sincere search for information.

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It is a shame that neither consideration nor credit was given to Indymedia, since the article relies heavily on the video evidence provided by Indymedia reporters.

It saddens us that, on this occasion, Salon.com lacked the expected professionalism and courtesy that Indymedia video-journalists deserved.

-- Erin Siegal, Brandon Jourdan, and Justin Lipson for the FTAA Indymedia Collective


Salon Staff

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