Man Without Qualities

Friday, September 10, 2004

The Times And Messrs. Cheney And Kerry

A great deal of commentary has been generated by the recent Los Angeles Times editorial defending the Vice President's observation that if the Democrats win the White House, "the danger is we'll get hit again" by terrorists. But there has been little note taken of this curious passage from the editorial:

The war on terrorism is the central issue in the campaign, and both parties' candidates have various points to make about it. But the issue boils down to one question: Which candidate would do the best job, as president, of making sure that we don't "get hit again." That is what people really care about.

The editorial's point that Mr. Cheney's comment is nothing other than a bluntly phrased mirror image of arguments the Democrats have long been making is clearly correct. But the Times' assertion that terrorism is the central issue in the campaign is dubious and was certainly not necessary to defend the Vice President or otherwise make the editorial's points. True, terrorism is and must be an important issue. But that is very far from the Times' assertion that terrorism is the central issue in the campaign. And, even if terrorism is the central issue in the campaign now, it is by no means has to be (even if it should be). Indeed, Bill Clinton just had a well-reported "long conversation" with Senator Kerry advising him to move away from talking about his Vietnam war record and instead attack Bush on job creation and health care.

But something else is clear:

Terrorism is an issue "owned" by Mr. Bush. If the campaign is really framed with terrorism as its "central issue," then the Republican will almost certainly win.

No, the Times did not have to argue that terrorism is the central issue in the campaign. That argument all but awards the election to Mr. Bush. The Times didn't have to do it - but the Times did it anyway.

Whatever has Senator Kerry done to anger the Los Angeles Times this much?

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