Anger and Lies

August 25, 2004

Sgt Mom over at Sgt Stryker hits the nail on the head in this rant about the veterans, the Swift boat group, and John Kerry, just as she got it wrong in her previous comments on the Swift vets.

She is darn right today when she discusses the anger that many vets feel at Kerry for his actions in 1971 and afterward. Vietnam is still a painful memory. If Kerry loses the election because veterans and others decide that his actions in the early 1970s harmed the nation more than they helped the nation, that is how things are supposed to work.

However, the Swift Boat Hacks for Bush took their anger one step farther, and made up lies. They shifted from the politics of being critical about the record to the politics of personal destruction. More, they used the big lie of personal destruction. So when Sgt Mom asks why the mainstream media barely covers these guys and then mostly covers them in order to debunk them, it is because their statements smell like rat.

What I find interesting, shifting to the metadebate, is the fine line between exploring a person's record and engaging in personal destruction. The difference seems to be that the latter makes up lies or fails the basic rule of honest paraphrasing - if you are going to represent another person's position, do so in a manner that summarizes the WHOLE thing. Otherwise, all you do is score cheap points against a straw man.

So, to use a more recent and useful example, Kerry voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq. He did so on the understanding that this was yet another confrontation that would end with Hussein backing down. When Bush did not try to resolve the confrontation but instead went out of his way to turn confrontation into combat, Kerry like many other Senators felt that the administration had mis-represented their intended policies. So, when they tried to ask to borrow money to fight that war, he voted against it. He now says he would have voted for the money if it had come out of current spending; he may even be right about that.

That is something we can debate on - should we have forced the confrontation in Iraq? Should we fund the war in Iraq by raising taxes, cutting services, or borrowing? Or rather, what balance between these three should we use? Those are valid policy questions. "He voted for it before he voted against it" is not.

Let me be clear that while I see Republicans engaging in more of this sort of misrepresentation, there is a similar systematic misreading in slogans like "Bush lied; people died," or "No war for oil," or "George Bush is a deserter." The politics of personal destruction cross party lines -- look at Ann Coulter's critics -- and I don't like it at all.

More on this in the post on media bias that I will write later today.

Posted by Red Ted at August 25, 2004 05:35 PM | TrackBack

You say the swifties made up lies. Perhaps they did, who knows? But, in a matter of days, Kerry has 1) backed down from his recollection of being in Cambodia in 1968, seared in his mind though it was, and 2) backed down from his story about his first Purple Heart wound, his campaign admitting that it was perhaps self-inflicted after all. At best, he lied in his diary, by saying he had not yet come under fire in mid-December. Or, his wound was self-inflicted.

Just a tiny bit of scrutiny starts to bring Kerry's fantasy world down around him. The latter lie, by the way, was revealed in the authorized bio, Tour of Duty. Swifties did not do that one.

Kerry's problem is he challenged everyone to judge him by his record. Not his Senate record, and certainly not his anti-war period. Just the 4 months in Vietnam. And not just any version of events. The vets who agree with him are fine, all the rest are Bush proxies. Conspirators, who deserve no First Amendment rights.

Look, Kerry made this Vietnam matter the central focus of his campaign. It was inevitable someone would come forth to dispute his "story". He brought it on, and now is stuck with a fallback strategy of trying to blame the entire thing on Bush, simultaneously demanding Bush use his moral authority to bail Kerry out of this mess.

Swift Boat Vets statements smell like a rat? Only to a biased press, whose obsessive focus on Bush's military records was pretty smelly, as I recall. Do you not think a set of documented, eyewitness accounts at least deserves similar scrutiny? I guess not.

I think we live in an age where we just accept left-wing bias from the press. They are our minds, our consciences. Think no more, just accept the even-handed wisdom of Juan Williams and Eleanor Clift.

So, do we hear Bush screaming "Kerry lied. He betrayed his country!"? Not hardly. Wisely, he simply states that all the 527 ads are not helping and they all ought to cease. The shrillness indeed comes from the Democrats, who now find their tits in a wringer.

527 orgs are pretty much free spirits, aren't they? Sending Max Cleland to whine and scream that Bush is behind the swifties rings a bit hollow when you consider the position of Harold Ickes in ACT and Media Fund. Compare anectdotal "evidence" of connections between 527s and political parties. The left will not fare well. Are we to suppose he does not have the occasional cocktail chat with Kerry?

I think Krauthammer nailed it when he observed that conservatives think liberals are stupid, while liberals are convinced conservatives are evil.

Posted by: Roger Snowden at August 25, 2004 11:07 PM

"the swifties made up lies. Perhaps they did."

Of course they lied. They made statements about events in 1968. They made statements praising Kerry in the 1970s, 1980, and 1990s. Now, in 2004, they come out and swear that the real truth is that Kerry faked his medals, contrary to all the documentation, all the contemporary witnesses. Those are not just lies but they are stupid lies. (Such as they guy who swore an affadavit saying that Kerry was lying. His basis, he heard 3 other guys say something about Kerry and believed them. This is hearsay. And the guy is a prosecutor who should have known better. Or O'Neil bragging to Nixon about being in Cambodia, swearing an affadavit that he was never there. Pick one.) And, those stupid lies then make it impossible to believe ANYTHING those guys say.

One of the things that came out of this blizzard of slime was Kerry's Cambodia story. Yep, it does appear that the man condensed some of his wartime experiences, added some extra material to give it oomph, and delivered it as a Senate speech and in a number of interviews. The story he used to explain his time there conflates and confuses events. We all tell stories about our past as part of explaining to ourselves who we are. Some of those stories evolve over time. When you add the hat story to this, sure, it points out a possible character flaw.

But then, at about the same level of magnitude, when George W. Bush apparantly brags to a reporter by mocking condemned prisoners on death row, that also points out a possible character flaw.

Or, to return to service, there is no question that GWB pulled strings to get into the Air Nationl Guard, flew planes well for a few years, and then drifted out of the service. Was he technically AWOL while in Alabama? Probably, but we will never know because his records appear to have been cleansed. What we do know is that he pulled strings to get in, drifted out, and had his but covered by his friends. A persistent pattern in his life and a pattern that is similarly worth considering as we evaluate his fitness for higher office. The media and the voters in both decided it did not matter in 2000. They seem to be looking into it again, in part because the Republicans have been using the politics of patriotism to slander and smear decorated veterans like Max Cleland. (Mediocre senator, but attack him on his record not by making up stories about him.)

My point was simply that there is enough REAL stuff out there on the record that someone going out of their way to lie, smear, or denigrate someone's character is both bad tactics and bad for the republic.

Posted by: Ted K at August 26, 2004 10:21 AM

This just in: American presidential candidates use thinly-veiled third-party groups for smear campaign!

In other news: Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

Since we already know anyone who can get elected is a lying corrupt no-good bastard, I just can't get excited over this stuff.

Posted by: DFH at August 26, 2004 01:51 PM

Okay, it's about "oomph". I get it now.

As they say, boys will be boys. Just a little innocent embellishment by Kerry.

But Bush is a lying, AWOL deserter, right?

Posted by: Roger Snowden at August 26, 2004 05:41 PM

See what I previously wrote about GWB's military service:

I am trying hard to judge both men by the same standards. And I judge GWB to be a selfish, spoiled, incompentant bully, with no empathy, no sincere values, and no conscience. I judge Kerry to be an ambitious politician who traded his youthful fire for boring pragmatism, has a good record on veterans' affairs while disliking foreign military interventions, and who let his principles overwhelm his critical judgement in 1971.

On the policies, Bush is a fiscally spendthrift social conservative, Kerry is a fiscally prudent social liberal. Dubya is radical, Kerry is boring. I will take the boring guy, thanks.

Posted by: Ted K at August 26, 2004 05:51 PM
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