Sunday, August 22, 2004

More about John Kerry's thigh than I needed to know

The Swift boat thing has dominated the media for days, to the exclusion of all else, which was the point of the exercise. It’s been a pretty content-free campaign on both sides, so “to the exclusion of all else” may not be a great loss. Those people, especially liberal bloggers, who have focused on the details of the financing of SUBVERT and the accuracy of the charges, are missing the point. Even discredited, the campaign worked, because some mud always sticks, especially for people not paying a lot of attention, which is most of the electorate. Bush the Elder’s Willie Horton campaign, which was just as dishonest and significantly slimier, although less of a personal attack, worked for just that reason. Most people will not be reading the fine print on the award commendations of Kerry’s accusers, but will vaguely note that there is some controversy, figure there is no smoke without fire, and move on with their lives with their image of Kerry slightly tarnished. Mission--as Flight Suit Boy would say--accomplished. And Kerry, who actually interacts with the press and the occasional unscreened member of the public, had no choice but to waste time on it, while no one has gotten close enough to the Boy in the Bubble to ask that he forthrightly demand the SUBVERTers stop.

Shrub seems never to have to answer questions. 5 years ago tomorrow I asked, “Anyone want to start a pool on when Bush has to answer the question on cocaine?” I wouldn’t have bet on never. I don’t, of course, know whether Bush abused other substances than the one he’ll admit to, although his non-denial denials weren’t exactly confidence-inspiring. I’m just sayin’.

Bob Dole intervened on the issue today, saying Kerry should apologize to veterans, making the quite valid point that he can’t accuse US soldiers in Vietnam of war crimes and then run on that record, and belittling Kerry’s war wounds. Not the best performance from a man who once suggested to Bush the Elder “stop lying about my record.”

Best response, from John Podesta: “Senator Kerry carries shrapnel in his thigh as distinct from President Bush who carries two fillings in his teeth from his service in the Alabama National Guard, which seems to be his only time that he showed up.”

There have been other black propaganda (that’s the CIA term for lies) attempts to plant smears. Sometimes a story quietly planted somewhere on the periphery in the hopes that it will spread (this is also a common CIA technique: insert a news story in a pliable/gullible media outlet, often the Daily Telegraph in Britain, where it will be picked up by Fox News, Drudge, etc) dies on the vine owing to the vagaries of pack journalism. There was an attempt in March to blame 9/11 on Kerry personally, because someone had written him that security at Logan Airport wasn’t very good, which didn’t go anywhere. (My original link in March is dead, but check this out.)

And I know there have been other flash-in-the-pan attempts at scandal-mongering, but I can’t bring them to mind. It’s a Darwinian thing. Some stories have bright petals which attract the eyes of journalists, who spread the seed, while others don’t. Or to use another metaphor, a lot of mud is thrown at the wall, some of it sticks, some doesn’t, and I’ll stop with the metaphors now.

There’s a sort of anti-smear smear too. Kerry just took out an ad noting that in the 2000 primaries, "Bush smeared John McCain," which has the effect of using that smear to discredit McCain’s speech at the convention a couple of weeks from now.

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