Monday, August 23, 2004

Moral gymnasium

When Dole deployed his more-wounded-than-thou act against Kerry yesterday, he didn’t even bother getting his facts straight first, falsely claiming that 2 of Kerry’s wounds occurred on the same day. And here’s the astounding part, to me: he actually used no-smoke-without-fire as if it were a legitimate debating point: "not every one of these people can be Republican liars. There’s got to be some truth to the charges." What a high standard of proof he holds himself to.

Kerry called Dole today to express his disappointment. Dole told him, "John, I didn’t mean to offend you." Or to quote Michael Corleone, "It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business." (Although Dole is really more like Fredo, but with Sonny’s temperament.)

Reporters did get to the Boy in the Bubble today, but once again he would only condemn the ad in the context of all the ads, which means he is effectively putting these scurrilous lies in the same category as all other 527 ads, honest or dishonest. He won’t give up using this form of ad unless Kerry does too, which means that he is declaring the use of libelous ads legitimate; he won’t unilaterally say that this sort of ad is beneath him. McClellan said today, "Sen. Kerry wants to have it both ways. He should call for a stop to all of these ads." Scotty is trying to establish a moral equivalence where there is none (indeed, CNN had a spectacularly stupid but not inaccurate headline, "Bush Urges Kerry to Condemn Attack Ads.") The American Prospect’s weblog today is a good one-stop shopping place for articles on 527s. And it has McClellan repeatedly dodging efforts to get him to answer whether Bush condemns the content of the ads.

It is fascinating to see how little historical content there is in what is that rarest of all things in American politics, a debate about history. I mean, with all this talk about what Kerry did or did not do in Vietnam, there is no discussion of the war itself, its legitimacy, the role of the US in the world, when and how the US should have withdrawn, etc etc. You’d never know the Vietnamese War had actual Vietnamese people in it, a bunch of them shot dead by Kerry himself, which I guess is somehow less significant, less revealing of his character, than the one American guy he pulled out of the water. In Kerry’s portrayal, it’s all about his relation to other Americans in Vietnam, the "band of brothers," as if, to quote Bernard Shaw, "the world [was] a moral gymnasium built expressly to strengthen your character in".

It’s not like the consequences of that war don’t continue. One of them is the tens of thousands of Hmong who made the mistake of fighting for the US, still sitting in refugee camps in Thailand. The US has finally agreed to take them, but only if they give up polygamy (and presumably leave the extraneous wives behind, although that’s not clear from this article).

An op-ed piece in the Indy asks what’s so "radical" about "radical cleric" Sadr, who wants the occupation to end, and even then didn’t turn away from non-violence until a year into the occupation.

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