ABC "Bush Makes Me Sick" E-Mail In Context: First 2004 Presidential Debate

The Drudge-revealed e-mail of ABC weekend executive producer John R. Green has not yet been put in context. It's dated September 30, 2004 and Green is saying "Are you watching this? Bush makes me sick. If he uses the 'mixed messages' line one more time, I'm going to puke."

September 30, 2004 was the night of the first presidential debate between Bush and Kerry. (That puts "Are you watching this?" in context.) Looking at the transcript, Green had plenty of occasions to get sick of Bush's message that Kerry couldn't decide on a position. First, this line early in the debate from Bush:

I had the honor of visiting with Prime Minister Allawi. He's a strong, courageous leader. He believes in the freedom of the Iraqi people. He doesn't want U.S. leadership, however, to send mixed signals, to not stand with the Iraqi people.

Later, he added:

First of all, what my opponent wants you to forget is that he voted to authorize the use of force and now says it's the wrong war at the wrong time at the wrong place. I don't see how you can lead this country to succeed in Iraq if you say wrong war, wrong time, wrong place. What message does that send our troops? What message does that send to our allies? What message does that send the Iraqis?

And again:

My opponent says help is on the way, but what kind of message does it say to our troops in harm's way, "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time"? Not a message a commander in chief gives, or this is a "great diversion."

And again, on our allies:

They're not going to follow somebody who says this is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time. They're not going to follow somebody whose core convictions keep changing because of politics in America.

And again:

The only consistent [sic] about my opponent's position is that he's been inconsistent. He changes positions. And you cannot change positions in this war on terror if you expect to win.

And again:

Yes, I understand what it means to the commander in chief. And if I were to ever say, "This is the wrong war at the wrong time at the wrong place," the troops would wonder, how can I follow this guy? You cannot lead the war on terror if you keep changing positions on the war on terror and say things like, "Well, this is just a grand diversion." It's not a grand diversion. This is an essential that we get it right.

And again:

The way to make sure that we succeed is to send consistent, sound messages to the Iraqi people that when we give our word, we will keep our word, that we stand with you, that we believe you want to be free. And I do.

And again:

So we use diplomacy every chance we get, believe me. And I would hope to never have to use force. But by speaking clearly and sending messages that we mean what we say, we've affected the world in a positive way.

But this may have been the kicker, when Jim Lehrer asked Bush if Kerry had "character issues" that should deny him the presidency:

My concerns about the senator is that, in the course of this campaign, I've been listening very carefully to what he says, and he changes positions on the war in Iraq. He changes positions on something as fundamental as what you believe in your core, in your heart of hearts, is right in Iraq. You cannot lead if you send mixed messages. Mixed messages send the wrong signals to our troops. Mixed messages send the wrong signals to our allies. Mixed messages send the wrong signals to the Iraqi citizens.

In context, Green sounds not just like a Bush critic, but a Kerry booster, a man who doesn't like Kerry being accused (correctly) of inconsistency. ABC's weekend boss could have been sick of it because President Bush was staying on the "mixed messages" message. A week before, in a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, Bush said the same thing, more emphatically, repeatedly:

I also know that a free Iraq will send a clear message to the part of the world that is desperate for freedom. It's hard work. The American people know that. But I believe it's necessary work. And I believe a leader must be consistent and clear and not change positions when times get tough. And the times have been hard -- these are hard times. But I understand that -- what mixed messages do. You can embolden an enemy by sending a mixed message. You can dispirit the Iraqi people by sending mixed messages. You send the wrong message to our troops by sending mixed messages.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis