Boston, Summer, 2004–Political conventions are the perfect time for mischief. In the 21st century they don’t have a real job to do because the primaries have selected the presidential nominee. Yet they get the world’s media spotlight for four days, as if they were up to something important. Think about it: a phenomenal 15,000 journalists will be scouring Boston in July, looking for a story. It is the dirty prankster’s dream.
That is why it was so easy for the political nut Lyndon LaRouche to spread a false but damaging story about Michael Dukakis’ mental health at the Democratic Convention in 1988. Surely there will be a repeat attempt to scoop the world with some as yet undiscovered fatal flaw in Kerry during the four-day fest in Boston July 26-29. The Democrats may dig for some new scandal to push at the GOP convention in New York in August. But President Bush is much less vulnerable to such political mudslinging at this point, because the voters already know what he is like as president, and they have seen the real results of this leadership.
So in Boston, in July, Kerry, an unknown quantity in the White House job, is the perfect quarry. Watch for the purported mistresses who will suddenly appear, either in person, pushed before the microphones by Republican operatives, or in whispers from the Internet. There will be dueling Vietnam veterans, those who admired Kerry’s war record and those resentful of his antiwar activism in the 1970s. There will be Boston cops and others who will talk about the rich Kerry-Heinz family seeking special privileges, like moving the fire hydrant to create a parking spot in front of their house in Boston. No story is too small to be blown up by 15,000 journalists without anything real to cover. Few will bother to ask, what are the biases or credentials of this critic? why does this matter? compared to what?
Watch for picket lines by aggrieved parties whether it is religious groups opposed to Kerry’s stands on abortion or the police unions pushing for maximum advantage in their contract negotiations with the Mayor. And watch for the lobbyists, whether they are the fat cats, pressing their advantage even further, or the ideologues, preaching about taxes or the End of Time. They are all licking their chops: 15,000 journalists! What an opportunity to tell my story!
Every crackpot has this city, and the Kerry campaign, over a barrel because these hosts want the convention to be a happy showcase. It is so easy to spoil a party, so hard to put it on right. Somewhere, partisan scoundrels are plotting, at this very moment, how they will drop their poisonous morsels into the media food chain. Will it be Drudge this time? Or Rush Limbaugh, to help him with his recovery? Will it be Fox News? No one will be able to resist the story, whatever it is. The old boundaries of taste and verification are fine for some other time and place. But they don’t exist when you are in a firestorm of 15,000 journalists, swirling around a hot rumor.
Some scholars watch this picture with equanimity, saying that scandal and passion are helpful for motivating people to vote. But many other observers, including this one, will watch with dismay as clowns, assassins and anarchists have a field day with the real issues facing this nation. It is so much easier to destroy something than to build it. Just ask President Bush, and the people of Iraq.