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Tyler Crotty How CNN turned a bored kid with the fidgets into a campaign issue
by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
Zepp's Commentaries
April 3, 2004

Kids and political oratory don't make for a very happy combination. Most kids find political speeches, like Sunday sermons and lectures on hygiene, to be crushing bores. When I was about six, my folks took me to hear Winston Churchill speak. I was asleep within two minutes, to my parents' relief. They harbored no illusions that Churchill's spell-binding style could penetrate childhood.

Putsch was giving a campaign speech in Florida the other day, and the cameras caught him babbling happily away about how less jobs are more jobs and dead forests are healthy forests and bankruptcy is created wealth and all the other mindbenders that make up right wing philosophy. Almost directly behind him was Tyler Crotty, then aged 12, and Tyler, predictably, was bored out of his skull. Contrary to what the happy idiots on Fox like to claim, Putsch is no Churchill -- he's barely a Clement Atlee -- and even if he was, most 12 year olds wouldn't be real thrilled with sitting for three hours at a political function.

So Tyler was yawning and fidgeting and looking at his watch and peering around.

Nor is there anything faintly unusual about this. Oh, you might want to ask Tyler's parents why they have to use the poor kid as a political prop when he should be out enjoying what's left of his childhood (he turned 13 a couple of days later), but that particular failing of politically minded parents isn't unique to Republicans, and when Tyler rebels, maybe he'll pay his parents back by becoming a New Deal Liberal or something. Of course, if George gets elected to a second term, Tyler better watch his ass. If he's caught scratching or peering at his watch, he might end up in the American equivalent of Siberia. Fidget goes to Nome.

David Letterman put the footage on his show, doubtlessly with wisecracks about how this is definitely "one child left behind." Nor is there anything unusual about this. That's just part of Dave's schtick. He's been doing it for about 30 years. He was doing it when I first discovered him on daytime television, back in the 70s.

My guess is that not one viewer went to bed that night thinking that the footage of Tyler fidgeting made for particularly relevant political commentary. It was funny, but not something you would call important. Not in the greater scheme of things. Not even in the lesser scheme of things.

But then it got strange.

CNN (Motto: "No conservative left behind: We're Faux Lite!") started broadcasting the next day that the tape was a fake. Two of their anchors reported that the White House called them and told them that there was no kid standing behind the president. CNN spent most of the day reporting this.

Then they changed the story, claiming that while Tyler WAS at the rally, he wasn't standing where the footage said he was standing, and that the footage had been faked.

Seems like an awful lot of effort for something that got little more than a polite titter from Dave's audience.

Then, the next day, the story changed AGAIN. Now CNN was claiming that the White House never called them, and that the previous reports was the result of a "misunderstanding among the staff." Now you see the kid, now you don't.

"Staff misunderstanding." Let's file that with other memorable phrases of 2004, such as "wardrobe malfunction" "faulty intelligence" and "the President was not in the Situation Room on September 12, 2001."

David Letterman -- who protested vociferously when the first White House / CNN claims came out that the Letterman show faked the footage -- wasn't convinced, and on his website it said, "Dave informs America that neither statement from CNN is true. The boy was at the rally and the boy was standing behind the President. Something strange is going on, and Dave smells a cover up. CNN is now saying the White House never called them. But why would CNN say the White House HAD called if the White House never did? Hmmm. And Dave reveals that our source, a very good source, confirms the White House DID call the CNN. Hoo boy, this is getting interesting. While Condoleeza Rice is testifying in front of the 9/11 Commission, perhaps she can shed some light on this as well."

Thus was a remarkably trivial joke about a remarkably trivial incident blown up into a campaign issue.

The White House is determined to do everything it can to control the message, no matter how petty or stupid. To that end, they will pressure news organizations whenever they think a story puts them in a negative light. Weak and brittle leaders are often like that, and in countries saddled with third-rate tinhorn dictators, you can be thrown in jail for such things as lack of enthusiasm in applauding Der Leader's remarks, or throwing out a newspaper with Der Leader's face on it. George is weak and brittle, and his camp, while vicious and crafty, are also profoundly stupid.

But you can understand why the WH is so intent on manipulating the message. Especially with the whole thing slowly crashing down around their ears. Third rate leaders act like third rate leaders, and there's nothing surprising in the notion that in Putsch's perfect world, children are not allowed to look bored at his speeches.

CNN is the real disgrace here. They've pretty much BEEN a disgrace ever since Walter Isaacson decided they needed to kowtow to the right and make life "more comfortable" for conservatives.

The White House told them to lie about the videotape and they lied. When the lie became inoperative (that the kid wasn't even at the rally), the White House told them to tell a different lie, and they did.

And when that silly lie fell apart, the White House told them to fall on their own sword and deny the White House had even been involved.

And they did.

It was a pathetic performance from a station that, once upon a time, was a fairly good source of news. Now it's just a sorry joke, no different from the silly organs that right wing third rate dictators like to have publish praises of Der Leader 24/7.

Finally, it shows the boneheaded stupidity of the right. Nobody cared or was surprised that a kid would look bored at a three hour political rally.

But a weak leader would care, and a servile news organ would try, pathetically, to oblige.


Posted: April 6, 2004


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