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The Whores Of Perception

The growing disconnect between what is reported and what is actually happening

November 7, 2003

by Tamara Baker

If you've been listening to the national news over the past few days, you've probably been hearing a lot of hoo-ha about the "big" GOP victories in Kentucky and Mississippi this past Tuesday.

What you likely haven't been hearing very much about, in all likelihood, are the far more numerous Democratic victories in Indiana, New Jersey (which is now Democratic down to its toenails), Pennsylvania (especially Philly, which kept its Democratic mayor), New York City (which defeated a GOP-sponsored ballot measure that would have made it impossible for anyone without a ton of Republican money to win the mayor's job there), Michigan, Minnesota, and Long Island, to name a few.

(The Long Island wins are particularly nice: they herald the death of the once-mighty Long Island GOP-Mafia axis that gave us such spectacularly corrupt and incompetent loons as Alfonse D'Amato.)

Once again, the Whores of Perception strike.

Stuff that reflects well on Republicans gets the front-page treatment. Stuff that reflects well on Democrats is buried.

Similarly, if you've been listening to the national news these past few days, it seems that when the press pundits aren't holding up the two GOP wins as "important bellwethers for 2004" (while ignoring the far more numerous Democratic wins), they're trying to promote the non-scandal surrounding Howard Dean's comments about wanting to reach out to white male Southern voters -- a constituency that the Democrats have had a tough time reaching for the last few decades.

To wit, Dean said that he wanted to talk with the guys with the Confederate flags in their trucks, because -- just like their northern brethren -- their kids don't have health care, either.

Kerry and Gephardt jumped on the Confederate flag remark like Ann Coulter lapdancing for Geraldo Rivera. They gleefully and willfully misrepresented what Dean had said, and even the pooh-poohings of Dean supporters like Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., weren't enough to stop the runaway race-baiting smear train. John Edwards, smelling blood in the water, soon followed suit. Al Sharpton threw in a few licks, just for fun.

And the national press, just as they did after Dean was sandbagged on NBC's Meet the Press by Tim Russert, kept muttering solemnly that Dean Was In Serious Trouble.

Now, the thing is that Dean has been making variations on that comment -- and has been applauded by both blacks and whites for it -- as far back as the February 2003 DNC Winter meeting. Several commentators have already mentioned this -- including William Saletan (http://slate.msn.com/id/2090775/). It's been part of his stump speech for months, and everyone who's been paying attention knows this.

So why did Kerry and Geppie and Co. suddenly decide to stage a freak-out, with the help of the national media?

Timing, my friends, timing.

Geppie needs to have the unions, all of them, firmly behind him to have any hope of keeping his campaign alive long enough to reach the primaries. Kerry's sitch isn't quite that desperate, but it's getting there.

But the scuttlebutt for weeks has been that the 1.6-million-strong SEIU, which as recently as two months ago was expected to fall into Geppie's lap, was being pushed by its rank-and-file members to endorse Dean -- or no one. What's more, SEIU's rival and fellow AFL-CIO member union, the 1.4-million-member AFSCME, which had up until two weeks ago favored Clark, was contemplating following SEIU's lead.

Kerry and Geppie had to do something -- anything -- to keep this from happening.

The result?

The Phoney Flag Follies.

However, after all the huffing and pundit puffing -- and the boasts by the race-baiters that Dean Was Now Finished -- guess what?

Not only did the SEIU endorse Dean -- and heartily -- but the only reason it hasn't been officially announced yet is because AFSCME wants to hold with SEIU a joint-endorsement ceremony for Dean next week.

What's more, Dean's fundraising is moving at such a clip that the campaign is already butting up against the federal funds cap. If they want to get matching funds in January, they'll have to stop fundraising -- and campaigning -- right now. So Dean's putting it out to his supporters for a vote -- and the smart money has the 'forego federal funds' vote winning. They'll lose their shot at $19 million -- but the SEIU and AFSCME endorsements are worth that much in and of themselves, with the assurance of more to come.

So, while the pundits huff and puff and predict Dean's doom -- just like they did four months ago after Russert tried to sandbag him on MTP -- Dean keeps getting stronger and stronger and stronger.

'Nuff said.


American Politics Journal E-mail Edition Copyright (C) 2003 American Politics Journal Publications, Inc All rights reserved. ISSN No. 1523-1690
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