Democrats & Liberals Archives

Spins and Damn Spins

First off, thanks to Stephen for his post Reliable Principles, or Reliable Words?. The article he quotes is actually one of several recent ones that look past the spin and actually look at what Kerry has said about Iraq, and guess what, they all come to the same conclusion: Kerry has been completely consistent in his views on the current Iraq war. Personally, after I done my homework, I was sort of surprised at this conclusion. I mean, everyone knows Kerry's "flip-flopped" on Iraq---I figured somewhere along the line he must have actually changed positions, somehow. But apparently not.

The first piece I've seen analyze Kerry's history of statements was a Slate article from August 12 titled Would Kerry Vote Today for the Iraq War? No.. This one summarizes the Kerry statements that were collected in a 12 minute video compiled by the RNC, looks at the quotes in context, and produced a summary that looks a lot like Stephen's, noting at each point in the summary that there are no contradictions, and no changes in position. A later piece in Slate concludes: "Disagree with Kerry's reasoning if you want, call him ambivalent or even unclear, but you can't say that he's been inconsistent or that he flip-flopped." Also, FactCheck.Org has a story Bush Ad Twists Kerry's Words on Iraq, which has the summary:

Kerry has never wavered from his support for giving Bush authority to use force in Iraq, nor has he changed his position that he, as President, would not have gone to war without greater international support. But a Bush ad released Sept. 27 takes many of Kerry's words out of context to make him appear to be alternately praising the war and condemning it.

These are not partisan articles. William Saletan, the author of the first Slate piece, doesn't sound at all like a Kerry supporter: e.g., at the end of the article he includes a Kerry quote which he says "gave the RNC more comic material" and contains "endless, backside-covering nuance". Chris Suellentrop, the author of the second Slate piece, spends a paragraph arguing that Kerry's current position does contradict the position he took for Gulf I. But both of them acknowledge the basic consistency of Kerry's position on Gulf II, which Saletan summarizes as: compliance, inspections, skepticism, process.

Meanwhile, Kerry's non-existent "flip-flops" on Iraq are the heart of Bush's current campaign (which I now summarize as: look out, if you elect Kerry the terrorists will get you!) Leave aside the 527's: Bush himself is cracking jokes about this ("Kerry could have a 90 minute debate with himself!") and distributing an online game called "Kerry's Flip Flop Olympics".

So, here are some discussion questions for the Red Storm (that must surely be rising in response).

1. Is taking a candidate out of context in this way misleading?

2. Does Bush know that he's being misleading, or is this the result of faulty intelligence?

3. On what issues is it right (not effective now, I mean morally right) for a sitting President to deliberately mislead the country? His opponent's views? His own views? His own plans?

4. Why did Bush and his campaign strategists decide to waste our time with childish name-calling, and obscure the issues to the extent that we need stories in Slate (for God's sake) to straighten them out? Why not just open up an open debate about the disagreements that he and Kerry actually have on Iraq? Posted by William Cohen at September 30, 2004 5:00 PM