Friday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
February 20, 2004 7:32PM (UTC)

More fuzzy math from the White House
President Bush probably wants to tear up his economic report and start over as the third controversy surrounding its contents erupted on Thursday. The Washington Post looks at the report's claim, often mentioned by Bush in speeches, that he "inherited" the recession. Turns out the economic research group that dates business cycles puts the recession squarely in Bush's tenure. "The charts and analyses in the 412-page 'Economic Report of the President,' issued last week, put the 'start of the recession' in the fourth quarter of 2000 -- under President Bill Clinton. But the National Bureau of Economic Research, which dates business cycles, has said the recession lasted eight months beginning in March 2001 -- two months after Bush's inauguration."

This discrepancy comes after a public outcry over a statement in the report that outsourcing is positive for the economy, and after members of Bush's cabinet would not endorse an estimate in the report that the economy would add 2.6 million jobs this year. The White House backed away from the estimate, too. (The president is not a "predictor," nor a "statistician," his spokesman told us.)

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On this last point, House Democratic leaders are demanding the Bush administration resolve the conflicting signals and get straight with the American people about the direction of the economy. "American workers have a right to know what they can expect over the next year and what your plan is for jumpstarting the economy. Given the conflicting statements of your economic team, we urge you to resolve the differences of opinion in your Cabinet and present the American people with a real estimate of the impact of your economic plan and the jobs it will create," they said in a letter.

Evangelicals not happy with Bush
Fiscal conservatives, angry with President Bush over reckless budget mismanagement, are the least of the White House's worries, say evangelical leaders. The Washington Times reports that Bush will have problems getting social conservatives to the polls in November if he doesnt adhere to their script. The issue they're angriest about right now is, of course, gay marriage. "If there is a rerun of 2000, when an estimated 6 million fewer evangelical Christians voted than in the pivotal year of 1994, then the Bush ticket will be in trouble, especially if there is no [Ralph] Nader alternative to draw Democratic votes away from the Democratic candidate," Robert H. Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute.

Religious right leaders are incensed one used the word "apoplexy" -- over what they perceive as Bush's tepid language on gay marriage. Bush has said he is "troubled" by gay nuptials being performed in San Francisco under Mayor Gavin Newsom. "Troubled?" Not good enough. Evangelical leaders want presidential outrage.

"They can't possibly guarantee a large turnout of evangelical Christian voters if he does not do what is morally right and take leadership on this issue as he did on the war" in Iraq, said Concerned Women of America President Sandy Rios.

Drudge: Media should be "ashamed"
Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge see a vast left-wing conspiracy in the failure of media organizations to report the Drudge-driven rumor that John Kerry had an affair with a 27-year-old former Associated Press reporter. The USA Today reports that while media watchdogs groups were relieved to see restraint from news organizations in not reporting the rumor that neither Drudge nor actual news outlets could back up with evidence -- and that both Kerry and the young woman deny -- conservatives say it's proof of the media's bias, not a function of their news judgment.

"Drudge says 'major media ought to be ashamed of themselves' for not pursuing a 'red-hot story.' Limbaugh says the media are guilty of a double standard. 'Just as the White House's denials that Bush was AWOL from the National Guard seemed to raise more questions than they answered in the mainstream press,' the denials by Kerry and Polier 'raise more questions than they answer' and should be pursued, he says in an e-mail to USA TODAY."

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Potential lawsuit over altered Kerry photo
Among the fabricated pap circulating on the Internet about John Kerry last week was a photograph of the young war hero and anti-war activist sitting next to Jane Fonda at a 1971 rally. The image was, it turned out, Photoshopped. Kerry never sat next to Fonda at a rally, although the doctored image found life on the Internet and in a mention in a New York Times story. Whoever created the photo slapped an Associated Press logo on it to make it appear legit. The San Francisco Chronicle tracked down the photographer who snapped the original photo of Kerry, and he turns out to be, ironically enough, a journalism ethics professor! To teach his students and the culprits a lesson in the consequences of breaching ethics, the professor says he'd like to sue.

"Ken Light, now a UC Berkeley professor of journalism ethics, says he photographed Kerry at an anti-war rally in Mineola, N.Y., on June 13, 1971. The decorated Vietnam veteran was preparing to give a speech at the rally -- but Fonda was never at the event Light said this week that the use -- and misuse -- of his copyrighted photo might result in legal action. '(We're) doing everything possible to track down who it was and bring them to justice,' said Light, who said the Associated Press also intended to examine the issue of who would use the agency's copyright for fraudulent purposes. A spokesman for Light's photo agency, Corbis, said its photographers' work and copyrights are treated seriously. 'I was completely shocked and a little disappointed there would be this type of fakery in a political campaign,' he said. 'You become very concerned for democracy when you realize people are so angry, they're desperately trying to find anything to tilt the direction of what people are thinking,' Light said."

Bush ads to focus on early Kerry years
The Washington Post looks at the Bush reelection campaign strategy to go back decades in John Kerry's life for fodder for their political ads. "President Bush's reelection campaign has decided to focus its coming advertising barrage not only on John F. Kerry's record as a senator but also on his days as an antiwar activist, a House candidate and Massachusetts's lieutenant governor. 'The beauty of John Kerry is 32 years of votes and public pronouncements,' said Mark McKinnon, the chief media adviser. McKinnon suggested a possible tag line: 'He's been wrong for 32 years, he's wrong now.'"

"Campaign officials said in interviews that they plan substantial positive advertising about the president, focused on his proposals rather than accomplishments, when they begin spending tens of millions of dollars on the airwaves next month. But they made it clear that many of the ads will accuse the Democratic front-runner of 'hypocrisy,' in McKinnon's word, in part by reaching back into his early career."

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Does President Bush really want to compare his youthful accomplishments, or lack thereof, with those of John Kerry?


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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