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August 21, 2005
Rich 'Swiftboats' Himself Into Irrelevancy

Rarely does a columnist for a national news outlet publish a piece as intellectually bankrupt as Frank Rich's entry today in the New York Times. The only item in the column that has full engagement with the truth is this single, lonely statement:

Nicholas D. Kristof and David Brooks are on vacation.

Otherwise, Rich engages in transparent sophistry that must be fisked to be believed. First Rich decries the supposed character assassination of Cindy Sheehan by engaging in the same tactic himself:

Once Ms. Sheehan could no longer be ignored, the Swift Boating began. Character assassination is the Karl Rove tactic of choice, eagerly mimicked by his media surrogates, whenever the White House is confronted by a critic who challenges it on matters of war. The Swift Boating is especially vicious if the critic has more battle scars than a president who connived to serve stateside and a vice president who had "other priorities" during Vietnam.

The most prominent smear victims have been Bush political opponents with heroic Vietnam rsums: John McCain, Max Cleland, John Kerry.

Two points have to be made here. First of all, if one wants to decry character assassination, perhaps one should not engage in it. Unfortunately, that would leave the serially dishonest Mr. Rich out of a job. Second, the transformation of Swift Boat into a verb implies that the 250+ veterans of the Viet Nam war lied about their testimony regarding the in-country and post-war behavior of John Kerry. If Rich wants to get back into that debate, he's welcome to it, because the Swift Boat vets have not been disproven in any of their major allegations -- while Kerry was forced to retract his Christmas in Cambodia tale, the arrogation of Tedd Peck's service record on PCF 94, the battle stories including David Alston as a member of his Silver Star engagement, and so on and so forth.

Besides, if Rich wants to argue that this country cannot abide any criticism of the political rants of a Gold Star Mom, how can he tar these men who actually served in battle as liars? Does that make any sense to anyone at all? Why not just address the criticisms themselves?

True to form, the attack on Cindy Sheehan surfaced early on Fox News, where she was immediately labeled a "crackpot" by Fred Barnes. The right-wing blogosphere quickly spread tales of her divorce, her angry Republican in-laws, her supposed political flip-flops, her incendiary sloganeering and her association with known ticket-stub-carrying attendees of "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Let's let Cindy speak for herself, and let people make up their own minds. Here she is in April of this year:

We have no Constitution. We’re the only country with no checks and balances. We want our country back if we have to impeach George Bush down to the person who picks up the dog sh-t in Washington! Let George Bush send his two little party animals to die in Iraq. It’s OK for Israel to have nuclear weapons but we are waging nuclear war in Iraq, we have contaminated the entire country. It’s not OK for Syria to be in Lebanon. Hypocrites! But Israel can occupy Palestine? Stop the slaughter!

Or in Dallas:

And the other thing I want him to tell me is just what was the noble cause Casey died for? Was it freedom and democracy? Bullshit! He died for oil. He died to make your friends richer. He died to expand American imperialism in the Middle East. Were not freer here, thanks to your PATRIOT Act. Iraq is not free. You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and youll stop the terrorism, she exclaimed.

There, I used the I word imperialism, the 48 year-old mother quipped. And now Im going to use another I word impeachment because we cannot have these people pardoned. They need to be tried on war crimes and go to jail.

As the veterans in Dallas rose to their feet, Sheehan said defiantly, My son was killed in 2004. I am not paying my taxes for 2004. You killed my son, George Bush, and I dont owe you a give my son back and Ill pay my taxes. Come after me (for back taxes) and well put this war on trial.

Cindy Sheehan has every right to protest in this manner. However, reasonable people reading her rants come to the understandable conclusion that she represents the most radical leftist positions possible without advocating violent overthrow. Rich writes that this characterization comes from a Fox-led effort to associate her with people who attended Fahrenheit 9/11, but Sheehan herself made that association plain when she began posting her views on Michael Moore's website. Did Fox arrange for that to happen?

In Rich's little world, the First Amendment applies only to those whose views he shares, and the use of free speech to criticize the political stands of his comrades amounts to character assassination. Harry Truman said it best when he advised the heat-sensitive to stay out of the kitchen. Sheehan has gone on speaking tours and courted the national media that has treated her far too generously thus far. Her pronouncements are fair game for criticism, and if she and Rich can't abide it, they can go back to the oblivion for which they seem eventually destined.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 21, 2005 11:39 AM

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» Cindy Sheehan Updates from scoopstories
Frank Rich wrote about Cindy Sheehan in a column today, which conservative Captain Ed tears apart. Excerpt: August 21, 2005 Rich 'Swiftboats' Himself Into Irrelevancy Rarely does a columnist for a national news outlet publish a piece as intellectually ... [Read More]

Tracked on August 21, 2005 3:00 PM

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Tracked on August 21, 2005 8:22 PM

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