the choice 2004 [home]
homeleadershipgeorge w. bushjohn f. kerrydiscussion

photos of kerry and bush
JOIN THE DISCUSSION What are your reactions to this program on the character, experience and worldviews of John Kerry and George Bush? What qualities of presidential leadership do you see in them?

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a long time fan of FRONTLINE and I no doubt will continue to be. However while viewing The Choice, I was a bit unsettled at an apparent lilt in the narrative. As I watched and (more specifically) listened, I began to feel that the history of Senator John Kerry might be getting a more positive tone. My wife and I, who for good or ill, tend not to vote alike, were picking up on what felt like pervasive undercurrent that subtlety presented Sen. Kerry in a more favorable light.

For example, when referring to Sen. Kerry's political base of supporters the narrative would sound something like this "...Sen. Kerry was careful not to offend his political base." A similar remark about Pres. Bush would sound something like this "...Pres Bush was careful not to offend his political base, the religious right."

Did anyone else to pick up on this?

Maybe all of us, including Frontline, are too close (emotionally & historically) to be completely objective.

Rob Lawrence
St. Paul, Minnesota

Dear FRONTLINE,

I can definitely see how people felt the program was biased. I kept on thinking that there would be more positives regarding President Bush and more negatives regarding Senator Kerry. I do believe that the incidents and timelines presented are accurate, although a selective.

The major feeling that I came away with is that Senator Kerry seems willing to change his mind where as President Bush is unwavering when it comes his decisions. While I can see that this unwavering nature is important to many people, I have to think that when comes to sending other people relatives to fight and possibly die for this country, I would want someone to be able to at least take pause at the direction they are leading the country and the decisions they are making.

Larry Laurent
Aptos, Ca

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was looking forward to your 2 hour documentary on Kerry-Bush

("The Choice 2004"). I was extremely disappointed by the

heavy anti-Bush slant in your reporting. Time and time again

you had people making aspersions against Bush without having

anyone to defend him.

I used to have great respect for your

shows. I think you dropped your standards. The producer should

be fired and you should do some soul-searching before you

produce another such biased documentary.

Scott Dixon
Cupertino, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Well, FrontLine, you did it again! You provided a balanced view. A non-partisan view of each candidates life! Sadly the networks have become more partisan as the years and elections come and go, but you have remained truly informative, neutral, timely and complete.

I knew where my vote was going day one of this election. But being a person that values my vote, (in the country I come from you don't have a vote at all!, ever!) I watched your program with intensity and I wrote down the pros and cons to both candidates.

Thank you! I take my hat off to you! Keep up the great job you always do.

Joe Linares
Feeding Hills, MA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I appreciated Frontline's attempt to tackle this difficult task of comparing these two very different men.

Despite its possible bias, it caused me to pause. I found myself (much to my own dismay) admiring Bush's " clarity of focus"; his decisiveness. However misguided his beliefs, at least he stands fast to them.

Moreover, I began to doubt that having a man who has the capacity to analyze a situation from twenty or more viewpoints is going to also possess the conviction to make a decision.

In the end, I still believe that I would prefer to have an intelligent, articulate individual in office. I want someone who has the ability to listen to his advisors AND formulate his own perspective. I just hope that as a leader of our nation, he has what it takes to make decisions in the best interest of the American people and the future of the United States.

Thank you again for "The Choice". It was informative and thought provoking.

Angela Fisher
Aurora, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline,

It's as though you presented a comparison of a grapefruit and an orange. A lot of the people writing in to complain are saying, in effect, "you pointed out that the grapefruit is bigger than the orange but you forgot to mention that the orange tastes better."

People who support President Bush do so for largely intangible reasons. They see a leader they can relate to and who represents their values.

People who support Senator Kerry do so largely for more measurable reasons. They believe he will administer the country with more interest in policy and governance.

Both attributes, Bush's leadership and Kerry's thoughtfulness, were well documented in your report. I think most viewers came away with a better feeling for both candidates. And that may inherently favor a challenger. It's not bias.

Simon Cardinale
San Rafael, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a result of your hit piece on Bush (Choice 2004) I have called several of my relatives and friends begging them to stop supporting public sponsor television and radio. Also to call the congressmen to stop funding public television and radio. I dropped my membership long ago because of the extreme liberal bias. I never forced my feeling on others but I pledge to you I will do everything I can do encourage others to stop supporting public television and radio. And to write the congress to stop using public money to support the DNC.

Jim Lennon
St Paul, MN

Dear FRONTLINE,

This presidential election will be the tenth one in which I will vote, and I observed two others before I was old enough to vote. You program was very insightful and provided a view of the candidates that has not been available through the general media.

I do see that you display the same hubris present in the general media that ďthis is the most important election in a generation.Ē The issues in this election are neither less nor more important that the issues we have confronted in the last few election cycles.

President Carter, President Regan, the first President Bush, and President Clinton did not fulfill the predictions of disaster if elected that were fore told by the opposition. More to the point, while President Bush and Senator Kerry are different people in many ways, neither man will destroy our country if elected president. They will make changes and they will have different styles governing, but either will govern well. While I have my preference, if the other person is elected I will not move to another country.

Davis Williams
Jacksonville, North Carolina

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for presenting a very well researched and analyzed history of both candidates. I was a Kerry supporter before watching your presentation. However, I have come to appreciate and understand more of Bush's perspective because of your program. I still very much disagree with his policies, but I empathize with him more. I do not think that the program was biased in favor of Kerry. His early divorce, the Nicaragua situation, and his vote against the first Iraq war could raise lots of reservations for those on the fence. Having said that, I think those that would say your program is biased probably hold biases of their own. Some things may have been edited slightly differently, but in the end, your program was heavy on facts and history and it should stand up to the scrutiny.

James Bayer
Chicago, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a registered republican. Lately however, I can't believe how much my fellow conservatives believe that anything that is not "Pro Bush" or in line with the conservative way of thinking is either biased or "liberal". Folks, that was not a news reporter describing how Mr. Bush was "handed the presidency by the old guard of the Republican party", that was Mr. Shultz himself. You have got to be kidding me that you believe that this program was biased! Nothing stated in this program was unfactual.

As I said, too many of my fellow conservatives simply label somethiing "liberal" if it is not within the party lines. I would like to remind you that another right-wing based political party, not to long ago, had the tendancy to do the same and eventually ended up burning books that were not along the party line... they were called "facist".

This lack of viewing programs as purely a perspective is truly making me ill and having me think twice about what party I should belong to.

Respectfully,

An american service member in Europe.

Wade Paul
Heidelberg, Germany

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a Kerry supporter but I have to say that there was only one caption missing from your programming: "I'm John Kerry and I approved this message".

I think your analysis of John Kerry's early years, particularly in Vietnam, was skewed and left out questions which should, at the very least, have been presented. It certainly would have been more balanced to mention that more than one of the "vets" at the Detroit meeting were frauds who had never stepped foot into Vietnam. The interview on Dick Cavett where John Kerry pointed out John OíNeillís lack of specific knowledge of the Geneva Convention was clipped at a point where the audience was laughing, making John OíNeill look like a fool. This was obviously intentional and completely ignored the essence of the interview. On the other hand, you had no problem presenting extensive information about George Bush's questionable service in Alabama. To date, this issue has never been resolved but neither has John Kerry's service in Vietnam and his performance afterwards.

This political season has brought out the worst in journalism. The lack of integrity, the preponderance of biased political propaganda and the outright failure to live up to basic standards of honesty is truly frightening.

I have always considered your programming to be well researched with in depth analysis not easily obtainable on other networks. Sadly, I am forced to reconsider this opinion now.

Frances Horton
Reno, Nevada

Dear FRONTLINE,

I just watched your show entitled FRONTLINE: THE CHOICE 2004.

I am asking myself how it came to be that the Public Broadcasting Station has become a propaganda machine for the liberal agenda?

Your show portrayed Bush to be a dangerous, overly ambitious ideologue who wants to make his mark in life by shoving his conservative values and Christian morals down the throats of innocent Americans. According to your show, our President, in his arrogance, led us to war and did not plan for the chaos that ensued. It truly sounded like a political commercial for John Kerry.

Kerry, on the other hand, was portrayed as a man of deep moral conviction who will save our government from the likes of Bush.

This show was an outright endorsement for John Kerry for president.

Is this what my taxes paid for? Iíll be writing to my local, state and national representatives that this is not the type of programming that should be funded by American taxpayers. And this type of political bias should not dignified by an association with PBS, regardless of who paid for it.

Mark Borden
Davis, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thanks for the insightful, engaging account of President Bush and Senator Kerry. Dispite an akwardly abrupt transition from a debate with Sen. McCain straight to election night of 2000 --skipping the outcome of the primaries and the entire campaign between Bush and Gore-- I very much appreciated the (uninterupted) program.

There are two points, however, that I would like to bring up. First, the program showed that Sen. Kerry's decision to vote for the war in Iraq was not unconditional: rather, the Senator urged the President to exhaust diplomatic efforts firts, before launching the country into a costly war. Moreover, the Senator also insisted the President ought not to go to war without a plan to win the peace (to speak in a Kerry maxim which certainly has become annoying by now). Thus, I can only conclude thatKerry HAS been consistent on the Iraq question. He voted for it, but the vote was only a qualified form of consent--that is, a consent to go to war as a last resort, a point which he has repeated repeatedly.

Secondly, I found Bush's impulsive nature, and his inability (or unwillingness) to admit to any mistake whatsoever disturbing, and quite worrysome. Add to this Bush's "ambition", and we have a dangerous man in power: one who will act without thinking either before or after the act. In that respect, though I have been undecided for a long time, Kerry seems to be a more sensible, human, and reliable candiadte.

Thanks for giving me this insight.

Jason Gunn
Irving, Texas

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for providing an exceedingly insightful and thought provoking program.

I found the comments from the press to be interesting. Many found the program to be lacking in original subject matter. They missed the point. By simply providing existing subject matter, without commentary, and juxtapositioning the candidates life stories against each other chronologically, you allowed the truth to reveal itself. The truth is in the eye of the beholder.

Is it George the Strong, who stumbled initially but found his stride, or George the Opportunist who once was lost but now is blind with power and religious ideology? John the Brave, who's early experiences forged a noble man of noble causes, or John the Waffler, who allows those experiences to breed indecision?

John Kerry has looked into the face of terror, and he did not blink. Yet because he has looked into the face of terror, John Kerry also knows the horrible consequences of war, and the need to be absolutely sure about our resolve before we commit to such an act of finality. I believe John Kerry loves his country more than most can only imagine, he will not blink.

Robert Nadeau
Brewer, Maine

Dear FRONTLINE,

Here's an amazing thing: I just got through watching the re-broadcast of The Choice 2004. I see a lot of letters praising PBS for a balanced program, and others condemning them for showing a "pro-Kerry" bias. There are a few that accuse them of a pro-Bush bias. It amazes me to see the vehemence in those who accuse the piece of being anti-Bush.

I find this amazing because, in almost 4 years of non-stop complete and utter contempt for Bush, after watching this program I actually don't hate him as much as I did. For someone with such dislike for Bush to have such a change in position is itself amazing; what is even morso is that those who condemned the program are SO convinced that Bush is portrayed unfairly and unflatteringly.

If he lacks in judgment himself, he has at least shown the shrewdness to surround himself with people who can do his thinking for him. The Iron Triangle may be a heinous group of charlatans, but they are undeniably talented at what they do. I find myself marvelling at his talent to land on his feet, again and again, like some Irish cat.

I am also less inclined to believe he is being directed by his Daddy's handlers, and more inclined to believe he is directing his own destiny. I am still shocked and dismayed at what he sees for us in that future, but at least I feel I know more of his motives, of what drives him, and I find myself more forgiving of his convictions. As much as I vehemently disagree with his motives, at least I no longer consider them to be political grandstanding; I accept the notion that some of it might actually be heartfelt, if wrongheaded.

I wonder, as I read these hate filled letters accusing PBS of such blatant anti-Bush bias, just what it is these people saw that upset them so much. Was it the drinking and partying he engaged in? The string of failed businesses? (PBS kindly left out the majority, including his troublingly close pass with the SEC.) All of these are verifiable events in his life. What, exactly, was it that convinces these folks that the program was so very pro-Kerry? I felt they spent a deal MORE time fleshing out Bush's character than Kerry's.

Still, it leaves me wondering just how difficult it must be to find a truly unbiased report in a world where even a centrist view is accused of being hopelessly canted to the left. It also puts into perspective much of the Republican yowling about 'media bias.' Perhaps it isn't so much that the media is biased, but that those viewing it are leaning so hard to the right that their perspective is hopelessly skewed.

I think PBS deserves credit for doing a very difficult job and doing it well. I truly believe they did the best they could with a difficult subject, and that no matter what, some people were going to see what they wanted to. Thank you for making the attempt.

L.S. Hanna-O'Neill
Jennings, OK

more

home · introduction · george w. bush · john f. kerry · what makes a good president?
interviews · links · join the discussion · producer's chat · press reaction · tapes & transcripts · credits · privacy policy
teacher's guide · plan a campus event · FRONTLINE home · wgbh · pbsi

posted oct. 12, 2004

FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of wgbh educational foundation.
some photos copyright © corbis
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

RECENT STORIES

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS