FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from








Presidential Campaigns and Media Charades
by Norman Solomon
June 21, 2004

Send this page to a friend! (click here)


Political myth-making goes into overdrive every four years. With presidential campaigns fixated mostly on media, an array of nonstop spin takes its toll while illogic often takes hold: When heroes are absent, they’re invented. When convenient claims are untrue, they’re defended.

Many supporters come to function as enablers -- staying silent or mimicking their candidate’s contorted explanations to try to finesse the gaping contradiction. Fast talk substitutes for straight talk. A kind of “covering fire” across media battlefields makes it easier for the candidate to just keep on dissembling.

There are true believers, of course -- people who believe every word that comes out of their own mouths when, for instance, they stand at the podium of the Republican or Democratic convention. Whatever the extent of their sincerity, only superlatives will do as speakers unequivocally praise George W. Bush or John Kerry.

The fact that Bush keeps saying things that aren’t true should matter. His repeated statements about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, or supposed links between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein (again explicitly refuted on June 16 by the official 9/11 commission), have been mendacious exercises in deadly propaganda. But the president’s avid supporters can’t possibly be honest about those lies while speaking to journalists or appearing on radio and television. Instead, we get a whole lot more hooey.

Meanwhile, the man in line to become the Democratic presidential nominee is supporting the current war in Iraq following an invasion based on distortions that he helped to propagate before the war began. In a speech on Oct. 9, 2002, for instance, John Kerry let fly with this rhetorical question: “Why is Saddam Hussein attempting to develop nuclear weapons when most nations don’t even try?” Kerry also sought to justify his decision to vote for the congressional pro-war resolution with the statement that “according to intelligence, Iraq has chemical and biological weapons.” Yet you can bet that countless Democrats who oppose the current war and never bought the WMD “evidence” will keep pretending -- in public, anyway -- that there’s nothing much wrong with Kerry’s Iraq stance and general hawkishness.

Partisans are frightened off from engaging in candor – especially within media earshot -- because they’re afraid of being accused of simply settling for the lesser of two evils. Yet foggy evasions degrade political discourse. We’d be better off bypassing the media’s black-and-white political color schemes. In the case of the 2004 presidential race, all military hawks are not alike. The Progressive Unity Voter Fund aptly quotes comedian Dan Kaufman: “The only thing worse than the lesser of two evils ... is the greater of two evils.”

The gang in control of George W. Bush’s presidency is beyond even the sort of militarism implemented during the 1980s by the administrations of Ronald Reagan and Bush the First. In a new documentary film, “Hijacking Catastrophe,” Noam Chomsky comments: “They happen to be an extremely arrogant, dangerous group of reactionary statists. They’re not conservatives.”

Usually the media game is to choose your presidential candidate and then sing that candidate’s praises. But for progressive advocates, the most telling -- and honest -- way to support Kerry would be to openly acknowledge his pro-corporate and militaristic positions while pointing out that, overall, Bush is significantly worse.

The crying need to defeat the incumbent president is so clear that presidential candidate Ralph Nader says his campaign this year will aid in ousting him. Nader keeps making that claim, which he phrased this way in late March: “I’m going to take more votes away from Bush than from Kerry.”

But the Progressive Unity Voter Fund’s “Don’t Vote Ralph” site provides a chart and backup data from available independent polls (a total of 37) gauging Nader’s impact. Titled “How Much Nader Is Helping Bush,” the chart is posted at -- and it demolishes Nader’s assertion, while graphically showing why “Bush’s brain” Karl Rove must be thrilled that Nader is in the race. Rove’s gratitude is especially plausible because Nader is trying to get on the ballot in every state -- a big gift to the Bush-Cheney ticket in more than a dozen swing states.

Supporters of Bush, Kerry and Nader differ on many issues. But all too often they’re similar in this unfortunate respect: They are willing to go along with absurd pretenses rather than publicly acknowledge that their candidate is blowing smoke.

Norman Solomon is Executive Director of the Institute for Public Accuracy ( and a syndicated columnist. His latest book is Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You (Context Books, 2003) with Reese Erlich. He can be reached at:

Other Recent Articles by Norman Solomon

* Media Mourning in America
* Nader and the Green Party’s Presidential Choice for 2004
* Major “Liberal” Outlets Clog Media Diets
* About That Invitation to Join the Bush-Cheney ’04 Team...
* The Coming Backlash Against Outrage
* This War and Racism: Media Denial in Overdrive
* Staying the Media Course in Iraq
* Country Joe Band, 2004: “Uncle Sam Needs Your Help Again”
* How the “NewsHour” Changed History
* The Quest for a Monopoly on Violence
* Media Strategy Memo to George and Dick
* The Media Politics of 9/11 
* Spinning the Past, Threatening the Future
* They Shoot Journalists, Don't They?
* Assuming the Right to Intervene
* UN Spying and Evasions of American Journalism
Nader's Tin Ear
* The Collapse of Howard Dean’s Cyber-Bubble
* An Odd Accusation From Ralph Nader
* John Kerry: One of the Hollow Men
* The Deadly Lies of Reliable Sources
* Presidential Candidates: Compared to What?
* The State of the Media Union
* Presidential Campaign Fever: Too Much “Vision” Without Hearing
* Dixie Trap for Democrats in Presidential Race
Running On Empty: Ralph Nader Shouldn’t Run in 2004
* George Will’s Ethics: None of Our Business?
The Unpardonable Lenny Bruce
Announcing the P.U.-Litzer Prizes for 2003
Former British Intel Employee Faces Imprisonment for Exposing US Spying
Breakthrough and Peril for the Green Party
Dean and the Corporate Media Machine

* Pew Poll on “Trade” Doesn’t Pass the Sniff Test

* Linking the Occupation of Iraq With the “War on Terrorism”
* Media Clash in Brazil: A Distant Mirror
* War, Social Justice, Media and Democracy
* The Iraq Trap: Watch Out What You Ask For
* The Steady Theft of Our Time
* Cracking the Media Walls

* The Politics of Media Filtration          
* Brand Loyalty and the Absence of Remorse
* Media Tips for the Next Recall
* Unmasking the Ugly “Anti-American”