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Journalist amalyzes election

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Margaret Carlson, a political commentator and 2004-05 journalist-in-residence at Notre Dame, spoke about the presidential election Tuesday, contending that President Bush won because of his ability to mobilize his conservative base and get them to the polls. “How did Bush get here? Karl Rove and those four millions evangelicals. He said he was going to get them, and he did … and he formed a religious coalition, he got Orthodox Jews and he got Catholics,” she said in her lecture at the Hesburgh Center. But Carlson also said the issue of moral values, which helped make conservative turnout so high, is in fact much more complex than Bush and Republicans would have America believe. “Much is being made of the moral values issue, and people voting on that basis, but you have to ask, ‘What does it mean? What are moral values,'” she said. “Do people that voted for Bush have better ones than the people that voted for Kerry?” She related her own moral values to the criticism of liberals.”I didn’t want my daughter watching Britney Spears or Paris Hilton and some of MTV or Viagra commercials during the Super Bowl,” she said. “I am not responsible for Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. I don’t want it any more than people in the red states, and yet Karl Rove seems to suggest that we [liberals] are okay with it.” After rejecting this conclusion of conservatives as unfair, Carlson said that control of media content ultimately rests with the president. She went on to blame Rupert Murdoch, the politically conservative owner of the FOX Corporation, for some amount of the vulgarity on television, including the Janet Jackson incident and Viagra commercials, both of which occurred during FOX’s Super Bowl coverage. Carlson also said another reason for President Bush’s reelection was the popular impression of Sen. John Kerry as liberal, aristocratic and coldly cerebral – and therefore unable to connect with the common person. “It was the atmospherics of Kerry, the five mansions, the windsurfing, Nantucket, the outfits,” Carlson said. “When it’s Wrangler’s versus Gortex, clearing brush versus windsurfing, when it’s the wife from Mozambique versus Laura Bush … Kerry was too easy to caricature, a little too French, a little bit too rich, a little too long-winded, a little bit too intellectual.” Carlson then turned on the perceptions of Kerry’s economic plan.”Another thing that stuck was the ‘tax-and-spend liberal,'” she said. “Tax-and-spend is a really bad label, and there was no way a Massachusetts liberal was going to be able to say we can begin this health care program and then look into the camera and say he’s not going to raise taxes on Americans that make less than $200,000.”Carlson also said that opposition to the Iraq War was made difficult by the president’s tactics.”Bush welded together the war on terror and the war in Iraq … no amount of media coverage or John Kerry speeches could pull the two apart,” she said. She then cited as an example a poll taken of University of Maryland students, 70 percent of whom believed incorrectly that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and the Sept. 11 attacks.Carlson also mentioned Kerry’s inability to articulate a clear exit strategy for U.S. forces in Iraq as a reason why he was unable to capitalize upon the Bush administration’s lack of success there. “Kerry never had a plan,” she said. “People didn’t buy that he could fix Iraq any better than Bush would be able to do.”