The front of Thursday’s Washington Post Style section carried a report from Monica Hesse on how the toy makers at Lego were a little embarrassed that one of their "Creativity Awards" was handed to an eight-year-old who would like President Bush impeached:
That last one's winners were announced last week, and Bethesda's Kelsie Kimberlin, 8, got the nod. The judges of Lego's first annual Creativity Awards got more than they bargained for. When the third-grader is asked to describe her winning entry to Lego's Creativity Awards, her explanation -- with just a little prompting from her dad, Brett -- is on message: "I don't want kids to lose any parents in the war."
Later in the article, the youngster added: "I don't like Bush because he sends people to be killed." Hesse explained the YouTube video that Kimberlin and her father made (which the Post also placed on its website for viewing):
So, a synopsis: "Happy Springtime (Bush Is Over)" is more than five minutes of John 'n' Yoko footage, of birds fluttering past a billboard reading "Imagine Peace" and of beautiful children singing, cherubically, "Buuush is ooover!" which, incidentally, is also what their T-shirts say. "Bush Is Over. If You Want It." A credit at the end leads viewers to Justice Through Music, a civic engagement nonprofit run by Kelsie's father.
If you don’t have a 20-year-long memory, then the name "Brett Kimberlin" doesn’t mean anything. Post readers might have been stunned if they stayed with the story until paragraph 16, and suddenly they realize the Post is awarding its warm, fuzzy coverage to a drug dealer and convicted bomber:
Remember that guy who said during the 1988 election that he'd peddled pot at a Burger Chef to a dude named Danny Quayle? That was Brett. His Quayle revelation came from the clink, where he was serving time for a series of Indiana bombings, one of which wounded a Vietnam veteran. Kimberlin always contended he wasn't guilty of the bombings and would have been paroled earlier, except for the government machine trying to keep him quiet about Quayle, who said he never had met the man.
Championed by "Doonesbury's" Garry Trudeau and the New Yorker's Mark Singer, who wrote a 22,000-word article on him, Kimberlin was released in 1993. He moved to Bethesda to live with his mom, had two kids and recorded "Happy Springtime."
"Danny Quayle?" The unproven charge that Quayle bought pot is a "revelation"? In November of 1991, Brent Bozell explained the whole sorry mess of who Brett Kimberlin was, and how the national media largely spurned him as an untrustworthy source:
In the midst of widespread tut-tutting over Garry Trudeau's use of "Doonesbury" to spread lies about drug use and Dan Quayle, The New York Times is defending one of the convicts making the charges.
A November 13 Times editorial concluded: "Mr. Quayle, like any other target of a political cartoonist's pen, is entitled to some indignation over the rehashing of dubious charges. At the same time, if Mr. Kimberlin was subjected to extraordinary punishment because of what he wanted to say, he is entitled to the chance to prove it."
"Mr. Kimberlin" is Brett Kimberlin, a convicted drug dealer who is also known as "The Speedway Bomber." He is serving 51 years in prison for his drug and explosives convictions. (The other drug dealer Trudeau relied later confessed he was lying.) No one in the media believed Kimberlin when he told them he sold marijuana to Dan Quayle in the 1970s. On the very day he was placed in solitary confinement, he gave a four-hour interview to NBC News; the network refused to air any of it. Even National Public Radio's Nina Totenberg, who leaked Anita Hill's allegations, didn't believe Kimberlin and sat on the story. No one thought Kimberlin's story was worth telling, until, of course, Trudeau handed the media a convenient "news hook."
An airing of Kimberlin's case should include the full truth about his past. Since the 1988 election, the New York Times news staff has written only two stories. The Washington Post devoted a long page-three report to Kimberlin's lawsuit on November 19, asserting that "the Kimberlin case continues to clear legal hurdles and gain allies."
But both the Times and the Post both managed to leave out some rather important facts about Kimberlin. For instance, he was convicted of perjury in 1974 for lying about -- surprise -- drugs. The Times and the Post also failed to report that Kimberlin has a reputation for litigiousness. Kimberlin is now suing former Bureau of Prisons chief Michael Quinlan and former Justice Department spokesman Loye Miller for "violating his constitutional rights" by putting him in solitary confinement for two brief periods in November 1988.
But this is at least Kimberlin's fourth lawsuit. In fact, after being convicted of the Speedway, Indiana bombings, he sued the widow of one of his victims for "violating his constitutional rights."
Thanks to one of Kimberlin's bombs, Carl DeLong lost a leg and his hearing in one ear, and according to his widow, Sandra, committed suicide over "the pain and despair of adjusting to his injuries." Mrs. DeLong sought civil damages against Kimberlin, and he countersued, charging that she waited until the Indiana legislature passed a bill making evidence at a criminal trial usable in a civil suit.
So why would a high-powered Washington law firm like Arnold & Porter take on Kimberlin's case? Both The New York Times and The Washington Post left out the revelation that the firm took the case last year on a referral from Ralph Nader's Public Citizen Litigation Group. If Nader's litigators had filed suit for Kimberlin, it would be seen as a transparent political maneuver to hamper Quayle's efforts against excessive regulation. But partisan political intrigue, a theme so common in Washington reporting, excited nobody at the Times or the Post.
Since 1988, the media has been highly critical of the political use of despicable criminals in presidential campaigns. Will Kimberlin become Garry Trudeau's Willie Horton? Not likely.
Most newspapers covering the "Doonesbury" series have been critical of Trudeau's methods, but too many have been trying to have it both ways, running down Trudeau while running the strip. They may ultimately give Trudeau what he wants: publicity.
The Los Angeles Times was so bothered by Trudeau's unsubstantiated charges they ran a disclaimer next to the strip. Why bother? If a comic strip contains fraudulent, clearly non-satirical allegations that a newspaper wouldn't let its reporters print, why should that paper run the strip at all?
Boston Globe columnist Tom Oliphant correctly skewered both Trudeau and the press: "Sure, leaks happen, but the press' responsibility is to know the difference between a phony story and a real one and to sit on the phony ones." Bravo, Mr. Oliphant; but that's a rule that the Boston Globe, among others, violates too often.
By the way, the Speedway Bomber's video dwells on images of Yoko Ono's "Imagine Peace" campaign, where the "peace-loving" people tied their wishes to trees. The Post also promoted that earlier this year.