Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

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Crying wolf over Bush

Jerry Stratton, September 24, 2004

If Kerry loses this election, I think it will be as much his supporters’ fault as his own. The “Anyone But Bush” attitude that is pervading the pro-Kerry camp is blinding them to the severe faults of their own arguments. If anything can be twisted to look anti-Bush it will be--and even, often, if it can’t. And that’s making it more likely that potential swing voters aren’t going to care when someone else makes valid arguments against voting for Bush.

When Michael Moore takes a satirical charity speech that Bush gave to raise money for hospital care, and makes it look like Bush was kowtowing to ultra-rich supporters, it becomes that much more difficult to successfully argue that Bush caters too much to the ultra-rich. When Moore takes Condoleeza Rice’s seemingly intelligent statement about Saddam Hussein’s role in the middle-east and turns it into a sound-bite that Rice never made and clearly never meant about Saddam Hussein being tied to Al Qaeda, that makes more valid criticisms of Bush’s reasons for going into Iraq look like invalid criticisms.

When Dan Rather not only uses fabricated documents to “prove” that George Bush did not fulfill his military duties, but then also tries to deflect criticism of obviously fabricated documents by claiming that anyone who would question the documents is themselves biased... that makes it much more difficult to get anyone to care if there are questions about Bush’s military service.

When bloggers and chatroom supporters spread far and wide that Bush “lied” when he paraphrased Kerry’s comment that Hussein’s removal “has left America less safe” into Kerry saying we were “more safe with Hussein in power”, that, too, makes it more difficult to pin valid security concerns on Bush. There are valid arguments against that paraphrase, but it is difficult to argue them--and have people listen--now that Kerry’s supporters have focused attention on an invalid argument.

If we became less safe after Hussein was removed, we must have been more safe before he was removed. There are reasons why we might truly be less safe now that Hussein has been removed from power. But Kerry’s supporters have focused the argument against Kerry’s own statement rather than addressing those issues! By saying that Bush lied, they’re also saying that Kerry was wrong.

When Americans open up their Sunday newspaper and see a list of “gaffes” in the cartoon pages, and most of the gaffes aren’t gaffes at all but are reasonable statements, it makes it much more difficult to argue against Bush’s competence as a leader.

When Kerry’s supporters spread obvious lies about George Bush, any truthful concerns will, justifiably, get lost in the haze. Because it is justifiable to ignore the person or persons who always cry wolf, and it is not worth most people’s time to wade through a mountain of lies in order to find a nugget of truth.

Worse, when such severely flawed arguments are used by either side, the debate by necessity shifts to debating the arguments. After Rather’s faked documents, the debate was, as of course it should have been, about the faking of the documents. When Moore made stuff up about Bush and about Rice, of course the debate shifted to how reliable Moore is, not how justified the invasion of Iraq was. You just can’t have a good discussion about the issues if you’re willing to make things up to get there. The discussion will always focus on whoever is making things up, not what they’re making things up about.

And when these actions are supported by Kerry’s base, this leaves him in a bind: technically, he should have denounced the fabricated documents as soon as it became obvious that they were fabricated. He should have denounced Moore’s movie as soon as it became clear that it was just another fictional work made to appear non-fictional. He should have, by now, said clearly that most of the “misquotes” attributed to Bush are really unreasonable misreadings or just plain pedantic nit-picking about the way normal people speak. He should have, but he can’t, because that would alienate a large portion of his active base who love to trade in these things.

Kerry’s supporters don’t seem to care about Kerry. They care only about Bush. They’re not voting for their candidate, they’re voting against a candidate they hate. The blinders that introduces are, in my opinion, adversely affecting Kerry’s chances of winning.

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