Warping Time on NPR

In an August 21st story on NPR’s All Things Considered titled “Ad Fight Bogs Down White House Race,” host Jennifer Ludden asks Washington Post staff writer Jim VandeHei if John Kerry’s campaign should have expected attacks on his war record because it was highlighted during the Democratic convention at the end of July. (It takes place between 3:30 and 4:45 in the RealMedia stream of the story.)

LUDDEN: Well, as you said, Kerry has highlighted his service from the beginning of his campaign, it was a hallmark of his speech at the convention. Should he in some way have expected this?

VANDEHEI: I’m sure they did but I don’t think they thought it would have this much effect. They assumed they had sort of put this stuff to rest. It came up in his Senate campaigns in the ’90s. It came up earlier in this campaign and he felt like he dealt with it and that the public would sort of side with him on this. So, this, this one’s really caught him by surprise and there’s a lot of people out there who say it’s not fair game, that we’ve got all these big pressing issues, we have Iraq, we have terrorism, we have job loss, we have health care, that those are the issues we should be talking about. On the other hand, by using his entire convention to promote himself as the candidate who served in war, who can even lead the country in war again, he kind of opened himself up to this.

For either Ludden or VandeHei to pretend that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign is a response to anything that happened at the Democratic convention is a result of willfull blindness to reality. The book produced by the group, “Unfit for Command,” was released on August 15th, less than four weeks after the beginning of the convention, which doesn’t leave much time for conducting interviews, writing, editing, printing, or distributing the book. It was obviously under production before the convention.

More specifically, VandeHei, who’s been covering the presidential race for well over a year, has no excuse for not knowing that the SBVT group was formed months before the convention. Its creation and goals were announced widely in the press, including VandeHei’s own newspaper: on May 5th, in a story titled “Veterans Group Criticizes Kerry’s War Record” by Paul Farhi. That’s about as unambiguous as “Bin Laden Determined to Strike In U.S.”

Why then, did Ludden and VendeHei pretend that the SBVT ads have anything to do with the convention? Do they really think books, ad campaigns, and groups spring from nothingness in a matter of days? Does VandeHei not read his own newspaper? Why are they talking about this subject when they so obviously have no conception of the history of the the campaign or, if they do, they can’t be bothered to recall it accurately?