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September 22, 2004
Kristof Can't Be Serious

Nicholas Kristof comes back for Round 2 against the Swiftvets, this time disguised as a "stop the mud" plea to both sides in the election. Unfortunately for Kristof, his latest offering is almost as fact-challenged as his last, and the equivalencies he draws between the two campaigns are at best obscure and at worst deliberately ridiculous:

True, Democrats have also engaged in below-the-belt attacks. Some of "Fahrenheit 9/11," the Michael Moore film, was the liberal equivalent of the anti-Kerry smears. Its innuendos implying that Mr. Bush arranged the war in Afghanistan so backers could profit from an oil pipeline were appalling.

But I, along with some others, immediately complained about "Fahrenheit 9/11." Aside from John McCain, where are the sensible conservatives? Why don't they denounce the Swift Boat Veterans' attacks? And why doesn't President Bush condemn those attacks, showing the kind of integrity that Mr. Dukakis showed?

That's really the only point that Kristof found egregious about Fahrenheit-9/11? He didn't think that explicitly claiming that the Saudi royal family had bought George Bush and his family years ago, using false information to back up that charge, was a smear job? He thought that Moore's depiction of Saddam's Iraq as a happy, kite-flying paradise were dead on?

If Kristof wanted to stop smear jobs on presidential candidates, where was Kristof when leading Democrats -- not just 527s -- started the entire Vietnam service mess back in February? For instance, Democratic Congressman Sherrod Brown tried to trot out the AWOL charge during an open Congressional hearing with Secretary of State Colin Powell:

Powell, however, became testy when Brown said, in a reference to questions about whether Bush completed his National Guard service: "You are one of the very few people in this administration that understands war. We have a president who may have been AWOL" from duty.

Or how about the party's own chairman, Terry McAuliffe, who started this and hasn't dropped it since:

While none of the presidential candidates has directly criticized Bush's service, some Democrats, including Democratic National Committee Chairman Terence R. McAuliffe, have accused the president of shirking his military duties in 1972, when Bush transferred to an Alabama unit. McAuliffe on Sunday called Bush "AWOL," or "absent without leave," during that period.

You can Google "McAuliffe AWOL" and spend the rest of your life checking the links. Or you can also take a look at the Washington Post from April 27th and find John Kerry engaging in the same smear:

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry scolded the White House for criticizing his protest of the Vietnam War and said Monday that President Bush "owes America an explanation" about whether he lived up to his own wartime obligations a generation ago. "I've fought for my country. I know what it means to defend my nation," Kerry said in a television interview here, directly challenging Bush's service for the first time. "This president can't even prove he actually showed up for duty in the National Guard."

And lest we forget, George Bush has never campaigned on his National Guard service, considering it an unremarkable period of a youth he's admitted contains more than its fair share of dissipation. John Kerry, on the other hand, spent almost his entire campaign jettisoning his twenty-year Senate record (for good reason) to make his four months in Viet Nam the central qualification as President. The Republicans didn't make Viet Nam a campaign issue, and still don't; John Kerry did that.

So what does Kristof claim the Democrats need to do to match a Republican effort to muzzle over 250 veterans who fought for their right to speak out against John Kerry? Cocaine abuse at Camp David? Slurs on his intelligence? Favoritism in his National Guard assignment? Nope. Kristof urges dems to stop the madness -- on outsourcing??

If they're intellectually consistent, Democrats will speak out not only against the Swift Boat Veterans but also against Mr. Kerry's demagoguery on trade, like his suggestion that outsourcing is the result of Mr. Bush's economic policies. Trade demagoguery may not be as felonious as an assault on a war hero's character, but it harms America by undermining support for free trade.

I'm afraid that the dishonesty of politics has infected all of us if we're so partisan that we're willing to point out only the sins of the other side. Intellectual consistency requires a tough look first at one's own shortcomings. So Republicans should be denouncing the smear against Mr. Kerry's war record, and Democrats should be denouncing their candidate's protectionist tone on trade.

Either Kristof has caught a case of cluelessness from overexposure to Maureen Dowd -- a confirmed carrier -- or he's cleverly satirizing himself. Unfortunately for readers of the New York Times, I doubt Kristof has enough of a sense of humor or irony for the latter case.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 22, 2004 6:42 AM

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