The Press Makes the Man —
I think I’ve seen this Columbia Journalism Review item blogged in a couple of places. Back when Kerry was being considered as Al Gore’s running mate, he was “handsome” and “charasmatic” and possessed of an “easy manor.” Now he’s “wooden,” “dour” and “aloof?”
Is it Christian to cut money for Head Start? Is it Christian to cut poor children off health care? Is it Christian to cut old people off Medicare? Is it Christian to write memos justifying torture? Is it Christian to cut after-school, nutrition and AIDS programs so multimillionaires can have bigger tax cuts?
What should we call it, then? Part II —
Kristoff sets aside Sudan today to scold liberals for calling Bush a liar. What is wrong with this man? “Stretched the truth”??!! And is there really any comparison to Clinton’s “stretched truths”? You’ve just got to read this. In fact, let me make it a little easier for you:
So is President Bush a liar?
Plenty of Americans think so. Bookshops are filled with titles about Mr. Bush like “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them,” “Big Lies,” “Thieves in High Places” and “The Lies of George W. Bush.”
A consensus is emerging on the left that Mr. Bush is fundamentally dishonest, perhaps even evil — a nut, yes, but mostly a liar and a schemer. That view is at the heart of Michael Moore’s scathing new documentary, “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
In the 1990’s, nothing made conservatives look more petty and simple-minded than their demonization of Bill and Hillary Clinton, who were even accused of spending their spare time killing Vince Foster and others. Mr. Clinton, in other words, left the right wing addled. Now Mr. Bush is doing the same to the left. For example, Mr. Moore hints that the real reason Mr. Bush invaded Afghanistan was to give his cronies a chance to profit by building an oil pipeline there.
“I’m just raising what I think is a legitimate question,” Mr. Moore told me, a touch defensively, adding, “I’m just posing a question.”
Right. And right-wing nuts were “just posing a question” about whether Mr. Clinton was a serial killer.
I’m against the “liar” label for two reasons. First, it further polarizes the political cesspool, and this polarization is making America increasingly difficult to govern. Second, insults and rage impede understanding.
In fact, of course, Mr. Bush did stretch the truth. The run-up to Iraq was all about exaggerations, but not flat-out lies. Indeed, there’s some evidence that Mr. Bush carefully avoids the most blatant lies — witness his meticulous descriptions of the periods in which he did not use illegal drugs.
True, Mr. Bush boasted that he doesn’t normally read newspaper articles, when his wife said he does. And Mr. Bush wrongly claimed that he was watching on television on the morning of 9/11 as the first airplane hit the World Trade Center. But considering the odd things the president often says (“I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family”), Mr. Bush always has available a prima facie defense of confusion.
Mr. Bush’s central problem is not that he was lying about Iraq, but that he was overzealous and self-deluded. He surrounded himself with like-minded ideologues, and they all told one another that Saddam was a mortal threat to us. They deceived themselves along with the public — a more common problem in government than flat-out lying.
It wasn’t surprising when the right foamed at the mouth during the Clinton years, for conservatives have always been quick to detect evil empires. But liberals love subtlety and describe the world in a palette of grays — yet many have now dropped all nuance about this president.
Mr. Bush got us into a mess by overdosing on moral clarity and self-righteousness, and embracing conspiracy theories of like-minded zealots. How sad that many liberals now seem intent on making the same mistakes.
Worth noting —
“A state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation’s citizens,” according to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.