State of Siege

Unreality TV: Ohioans try to survive an attack by Swift boats

John Kerry's supporters in Ohio are crying for help. But the wrong kind is on the way: a preemptive attack during prime time by Swift boats.

We interrupt next week's scheduled reprogramming of the pseudo-doc Stolen Honor for a word from Ohcat, an Ohioan who somehow got this October 11 message through to us from a battleground in the southwestern part of the state:

I wanted to let all of you know in New York that when Dick Cheney came into Batavia, Ohio, we were holding signs and screaming pro-Kerry phrases. … I wasn't sure if anyone knows that in Ohio we're fighting as hard as we can to get that Rat Bastard out of our White House.

We can't even have signs in our front yards. There have been numerous home movies of people taking Kerry signs out of yards and off of our cars. We are scared, but we are fighting down here. Today, as the vice president came down Highway 32 to go yap it up at the airport, we were at the busiest intersection on the way, getting yelled at and flipped off. I have never felt so proud.

I didn't want it to go unnoticed, so I e-mailed you. In Cincinnati, the media is totally pro-Bush, and the commercials are numerous and horrific. We are scared, but not giving up. Please read this and know there are a lot of Democrats in Ohio, but there are also a lot of people who don't want the rest of America to know.

Ohcat signed the note "Not Giving Up Hope in Ohio." But it's no surprise things are tense there for Kerry people. The media in southwestern Ohio? Carl Lindner, the notorious "Banana Republican" (see this 1996 Mother Jones profile), owns the dominant Cincinnati Enquirer.

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Even what little coverage Cheney's stop in Batavia got in the national press was skewed. The headline in the usually solid San Jose Mercury News: "Friendly Crowd Cheers Cheney in Republican Stronghold County." "Friendly" because you had to have tickets to get in—tickets that were carefully parceled out by the GOP. And Cheney spoke in his own little "green zone," the local airport, well-protected from any potential protesters. (Only a few days before, Kerry spoke in northeastern Ohio, but at a local junior college, where anyone could go see him.)

We noted last month the Bush-Cheney campaign's Soviet-like behavior in Iowa. Some of the national media have also caught on. Mike Allen of The Washington Post wrote a shrewd piece about a week ago on how George W. Bush's handlers keep him isolated from the American public. Wouldn't do for the populace to get a close look at this emperor's new clothes, would it?

The Post's Allen noted that Dubya has held only 15 solo press conferences since taking office, far fewer than any other president in at least the past 60 years. He used to talk to small groups of local-yokel reporters "as his campaign bus rolled through their state," Allen wrote, but "such roundtables have tailed off."

That doesn't mean Bush's handlers have stopped brown-nosing the press. Allen came up with a prime anecdote:

For the extraordinary state of Ohio, Bush made an extraordinary effort. On September 1, two executives and a reporter from the Columbus Dispatch were ushered up the front steps of Air Force One—a treatment unheard of for journalists.

The White House suggested the venue after the newspaper asked Bush to meet with its editorial board. The front-page headline that emerged from the 45-minute interview was a quote from the president: "The Country's Getting Better."

Private sessions are always more fruitful for the Bush-Cheney regime. The official government transcript of Cheney's speech in Batavia, Ohio, contains not only the usual insertions of "(Applause)" but also—I kid you not—a record of the crowd of rapt faithfuls supposedly responding in one voice when Cheney quotes to them what he says Kerry said. It's recorded for posterity this way:

CHENEY: Something Senator Kerry said in the first presidential debate reveals a similar mind set, the same lack of understanding of the danger we face. He said that before America acts, we must pass a quote "global test."

AUDIENCE: Booo!

Wait till the huge Sinclair TV chain (it reaches 24 percent of the country) gets through brainwashing Ohio, where it beams its pro-Bush message from TV towers in Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus. (Sinclair's got a Fox attitude in the latter two markets.)

The Independent (U.K.) recently reminded us that Sinclair's upcoming interruption of prime time to air the anti-Kerry Stolen Honor isn't its first shot at infamy:

Earlier this year, the company, which between 1996 and mid-2004 donated 89 per cent of its total $2.3 million in political contributions to Republicans, ordered seven of its ABC affiliates not to run a program in which the veteran anchor Ted Koppel read the names of American soldiers killed in Iraq.

You don't agree with Sinclair's ham-handed politicizing? Tough. It's a publicly traded company, but the Smith family of Maryland, which runs the day-to-day operations, also controls almost 90 percent of the voting stock, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Keep this sentence from the Sinclair 2003 annual report in mind:

The Smiths exercise control over most matters submitted to a stockholder vote, and may have interests that differ from yours.

Oh, almost forgot. There's at least one more October surprise for swing-state Ohio:

Carl Lindner (see above) gave $500,000 just last week to the Progress for America Voter Fund, according to Political Money Line. Billing itself as "the leading organization dedicated to promoting the conservative issue agenda and rebutting liberal distortions," Progress for America has raised $30 million since late May to blitz the airwaves. Read up on this group, one of what the Center for Public Integrity calls the campaign season's "Silent Partners."

Well, not that silent. One of the three members of Progress for America's advisory board is C. Boyden Gray, Reynolds tobacoo heir, corporate lobbyist, anti-environmentalist, and Bush-Cheney Inc.'s fix-it guy during the Florida Fiasco of '00.

Gray was also Bush the Elder's lawyer during Iran/Contra. Who better for an October surprise all these years later?

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