John Kerry Getting the Kid Gloves Treatment?

I’ve seen a few posts here and there claiming that John Kerry’s been treated with kid gloves the last few weeks, both by the press and by the rival democrats. One theory is that Dean and Gephardt were both badly damaged by their mutual fierce attacks in Iowa, and the contenders learned a lesson from that. That’s plausible as an explanation for the candidates’ circumspection, and good news if it’s true, but what about journalists?

The only explanation I’ve seen for the journalists’ light touch has been rather circuitous and loony: the media love Bush, know that Dean can beat Bush, and that Kerry can not. So they tore Dean down and pushed Kerry up. Crazy, I know. But I did read that in passing, somewhere that I can’t recall at the moment.

A third theory, my theory, is that the media haven’t been light on Kerry at all. First, there’s the botox stuff, which seems to lack traction. But there’s also this asinine and pathetic attempt by Washington Times’ editor in chief Wes Pruden. If this followed the script, Wes Pruden would pitch it in his Washington Times column, then The National Review, The Weekly Standard, and the WSJ editorial page would pick it up. Then the NYT and Washington Post would report on the reports for a few days, the wires might run a story on “reports that Kerry said …,” and eventually Pruden’s allegation would be accepted as conventional wisdom.

What broke the chain this time? Pruden baldly and badly doctored his quote, as Nick Confessore amusingly recounts (Pruden’s reply after being caught red-handed faking a quote was classic: “I did doctor the quote to attribute the statement directly to Kerry, but since Kerry didn’t refute the people he was quoting, faking the quote was the right thing to do.”)


P.S. Note to Pruden: The fine folks at Liberty High School in Bethlehem, PA have conveniently placed their style guide on line. Here’s the part on eliding quotes. If you would like to bring your standards at least up to the high school level, you should write Liberty High School’s quotation mandate 100 times on the nearest blackboard:

IMPORTANT: In no way may any change in a quote alter the intent or meaning of the original writer! [Emphasis in original.]