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The Stink In Florida:

by Jack McCarthy

Even the most die-hard media critic “centrist” must concede one thing: the vaunted Republican Party “attack machine,” is no myth.

Through intimidation and just plain aggression–as opposed to the passive aggressive liberal democrats–the Republicans set the media agenda in this country.

Two recent examples come to mind.

First is the recent dust up in Florida surrounding allegations of an affair between Jeb Bush and former Playboy bunny and agency czarina, Cynthia Henderson.

Bush’s handling of “the rumor” was news management par excellence. This story began with republican insider, “journalist” Bob Novak writing that Jeb most likely would not be running for re-election due to “family problems.”

It ended with an article in the July issue of Vanity Fair with Bush spinners portraying Bush’s wife as Columba as a hot -tempered Latina woman green eyed and jealous, a party pooper who made life miserable for family man Jeb. And finally a declaration by Jeb that he would indeed run for re-election.

Jeb quashed this troublesome story with not a little help from some of his media friends, who witting or most likely unwittingly, played a role in spiking “the rumor.”

When word got around that Vanity Fair magazine was asking questions about the rumors sweeping the capitol, Jeb Bush’s media strategist nimbly managed to get out in front of this explosive story. They did so by arranging selective interviews with approved reporters, the Orlando’s Mark Silva and the St.Pete Times’ Lucy Morgan. (Despite a deserved reputation as a great reporter, Ms. Lucy loves Jeb like that other Lucy loved Ricky Ricardo. After his defeat at the hands of Lawton “He Coon” Chiles in 1992, Morgan wrote a sappy paean to Jeb and lambasted the Florida press for being unfair–which happened not to be true by a long shot.)

?Both reporters were proceeded by a heads-up column by pro-Jeb columnist/reporter Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat(in fairness, Cotterell has written critically of the Bush administration at times)who wrote a column about “the rumor” and the upcoming Vanity Fair story.

Soon after Cotterell’s column, which created quite a buzz around the capitol, and which Bush people initially didn’t appreciate, Silva quoted Vanity Fair editor(name?)as saying he doubted the magazines profile of Jeb would deal with the issue at all.

And soon after that NY Daily News’ Cindy Adams wrote that the story on Jeb was put on hold.

Alas the profile of Jeb did finally appear as rumored in the July issue. But Silva and Adams to the contrary, VF writer David Margolis did indeed write about “the rumor.”

According to Margolis, the rumor was spread mainly by Republicans, not Democrats as alleged by Morgan in one of her columns. The piece went on to quote sources close to Bush, and who portrayed Bush’s wife Columba as pathologically jealous, a step away from the loony bin.

Margolis was duly informed by Jeb spinners that Columba had even verbally attacked another rumored Jeb squeeze, Secretary of State Katherine Harris.

The Bush spinners adeptly put Jeb in a better light by coloring Columba as crazed and jealous.

One had to wonder: where was Christopher Hitchens and other chivalrous fellows who objected so strenuously to the Clintons’ use of the same tactics on women rumored to be bedmates of Bill?

When all is said the following one easily comes to the following conclusions:

Before Jeb made a final decision to run, he had to knock down “the rumor.” Unsure of what would be reported in Vanity Fair, the Bush media machine leaked all over the place in hopes of fleshing out who knew what. Interesting–is it not–that no one known press critic of Jeb ever wrote a word about the “rumor?”

Finally comfortable in the knowledge that no smoking gun existed, the Bush people neutralized Columba by whispering nasty things about her to Vanity Fair. Jeb, feeling safe now, declared that crazy wife and all, he would run for re-election.

A more striking example of republicans superior news management is the strange case of the dead intern found in the office of Florida republican congressman Joe Scarborough.

As noted in a “special report” in “”, despite the near orgiastic press frenzy surrounding the disappearance of Democrat Gary Condit gal pal Chandra Levy, barely a feather has been ruffled on behalf of the real corpse found on the (Fort Walton)district office floor of Joe Scarborough on July 20th.

Despite initial reports from the controversial coroner in the case, Dr. Michael Berkland,(Berkland’s medical examiner license was revoked in Missouri for reporting false information) that Klausutis suffered seizures as a result of an auto accident years ago, the deceased woman’s family denies this according to APJ writers Denis Wright and Chris George.

Discrepancies between initial reports and the autopsy have raised suspicions (e.g. Originally Berkland reported no head trauma. The autopsy revealed a bruise on Klausutis’ head), and can best be appreciated by reading the APJ piece in its entirety.

But what truly should hit any conscious media/political observer over the head is the discrepancy between media reaction to the Levy case versus the Scarborough affair.

Imagine that Scarborough, who shocked supporters recently by announcing his retirement from congress, and more shock by divorcing his wife, was a democrat. Is their any doubt that the Republican attack machine would have generated a feeding frenzy.

Any doubt that dreadful teams of blond prosecutors, Olson, Alkasne and the hideous Mary Grace of Court TV, would be summoning Scarborough to explain the pretty young corpse on the floor?

Rest assured. The Republican attack machine would be up, running and Joe Scarborough would by now be a household name.

Jack McCarthy is a writer in Tallahassee, Florida. He can be reached at

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