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September 12, 2004
WaPo Tries Rehabilitating Teresa Heinz Kerry

Evelyn Nieves tries her best to rebuild the reputation of Teresa Heinz Kerry in today's Washington Post, offering laughable defenses for her erratic behavior during the campaign. While reading her article, you can almost feel the breeze coming from Nieves's spin:

Teresa Heinz Kerry was talking, and so the entire room at the St. Moritz restaurant was dead silent, the back rows leaning forward as if the floor itself were tilted.

This held for nearly an hour, the whole time Heinz Kerry spoke. Her voice was so soft that pity the person who coughed. People would turn to the offending noisemaker with faces that said "shush -- or leave."

Nieves uses this speech on health-care proposals to paint a picture of an audience enraptured by Teresa's "wonkish" speech. However, a much better explanation is that Heinz Kerry is a poor public speaker, a quality that has not gone unnoticed before, and that the restaurant failed to provide adequate amplification.

Nieves complains that this event drew little attention from the media, while her comments later that day wound up being rebroadcast from coast to coast:

The event received little notice. But a comment Heinz Kerry made later that afternoon to a Lancaster newspaper sure did. "Only an idiot wouldn't like this," she told the newspaper, speaking of Kerry's health care plan. "Of course, there are idiots."

Apparently, Nieves is unfamiliar with the concept of news. When a candidate's wife reads a speech to the faithful, written by the campaign -- the speechwriter was wonkish, not Mrs. Kerry -- and delivered with little evident skill, that isn't news, it's a campaign press release. Local reporters who know people at the restaurant report it in the next day's newspaper. When said spouse makes ad-lib insults towards people who disagree with her, that's news. If John Kerry had said the same thing, he would have received the same amount of attention.

Nieves describes the tension in the Democratic Party over Mrs. Kerry's unscripted moments, when she gets crass and combative. Instead of actually analyzing the negative impact that Mrs. Kerry has made on her husband's campaign, Nieves acts as an apologist for Mrs. Kerry. For instance, in the infamous "shove it" incident, Nieves' attempt to provide context leaves out the most important part:

That public knows a woman who told a columnist before the Democratic National Convention to "shove it." (Though many people may still not know that the columnist writes for a Pittsburgh newspaper owned by conservative Richard Mellon Scaife, who not only spent millions of dollars trying to discredit the Clintons but also spent years attacking Heinz Kerry's late, first husband, Sen. John Heinz (Pa.) -- a Republican -- whom Scaife found too liberal.)

What Nieves fails to tell her readers, preferring to give the Democratic talking points on this, is that Teresa had just called Republicans "un-American" in an ad-libbed part of her speech. Tapes of the event clearly demonstrate this, and the reporter (Colin McNickle) from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wanted her to explain what she meant by it. Mrs. Kerry denied saying it -- she lied -- and when the reporter asked a follow-up question, she accused him of lying and told him to "shove it".

Nor is that the only time she's embarassed the campaign. Nieves mentions the "four more years in Hell" statement a few days later, which the Bush-haters eat up but which make Mrs. Kerry look classless when reported. Nieves fails to mention the "Asses Of Evil" button with the names of Bush, Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Condi Rice on them to attendees at a fundraiser during the primaries.

Instead, Nieves focuses on several of Mrs. Kerry's smaller, more controlled campaign appearances and argues that she should be let off her leash. One presumes that the Kerry campaign may think they've been bitten once too often to follow Nieves' advice. They'll let the Post's spin play with the readers, but they have learned their lesson over the past few weeks. John Kerry has enough problems right now without letting Teresa attract press coverage for all the wrong reasons.

UPDATE: Reader Todd G. e-mails me this comment regarding the St. Moritz:

I work across the street from the St. Moritz restaurant in Harrisburg, and forget amplificion. It's a small place with a jazz type atmosphere. If your voice couldn't fill that room, you're in trouble.
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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 12, 2004 7:53 AM

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