What’s the difference between Jennifer Loven and E.J. Dionne? When Loven rehearses DNC talking points they appear as “news” in wire service stories; when Dionne makes the same points, they appear in the Washington Post’s opinion page. This is an importance difference, but it doesn’t make Dionne any more honest than Loven. Consider Dionne’s latest Post column, called “Twisting the Truth.” Dionne starts out with this witticism: “There is one good thing about President Bush’s new advertisement showing John Kerry windsurfing: Kerry does enjoy windsurfing.” The next logical step would be for Dionne, in his capacity as impartial arbiter of “the Truth,” to show that the rest of the ad (or at least something in it) is untrue. But Dionne does not, and cannot, show this because the ad’s thesis — that Kerry’s position change with the wind — is so obviously true.
Dionne therefore switches the subject to other statements by the President that he claims twist the truth. But here too he fails to deliver. Consider Dionne’s first example. A group of Hollywood stars performed at a Kerry fundraiser during which, Dionne admits, some said “distasteful things about Bush.” The “distasteful things” included obscenities by Hollywood mainstay Whoopi Goldberg. Kerry lauded the event, noting that “every performer tonight, either verbally or through their music, through their lyrics have [sic] conveyed to you the heart and soul of our country.” In his Convention speech, Bush countered, “If you say the heart and soul of America is found in Hollywood, I’m afraid you are not the candidate of conservative values.”
Dionne claims that Bush twisted the truth because Kerry never said the heart and soul of the country is found in Hollywood and, anyway, the fundraiser was held in New York. But what is false, misleading, or unfair about the president’s statement? Kerry characterized liberal, Bush-bashing statements made by Hollywood liberals as expressions of the “heart and soul of America.” The fact those who made the statements happened to be in New York at the time hardly changes the fact that the sentiments were those of Hollywood liberals and that Kerry somehow found them to represent this country’s heart and soul. The real twisting of the truth occurred when Kerry called himself the candidate of conservative values. Bush simply called Kerry on this absurd claim, in part by reminding us Kerry regards the distasteful expressions of the decidedly non-conservative Hollywood establishment as reflecting our heart and soul.
Dionne’s next example is the one used by Loven and other DNC shills. Kerry stated that, in deposing Saddam Hussein, “we have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure.” Bush interpreted this to mean that, in Iraq, Kerry “prefers the stability of a dictatorship to the hope and security of democracy.” Dionne thinks that this is a distortion because (1) Kerry also said that Saddam was a loathsome dictator and (2) Kerry favored “pressuring and isolating Saddam.” Rubbish. Kerry is clearly saying that we made a bad trade when we freed Iraq from Saddam. Thus, unless Kerry favors bad trades that leave us less secure, he must be saying that he preferred having a loathsome dictator in power in Iraq to having an Iraq that is heading for elections with the hope of becoming a democracy. Saying that Saddam should rot in hell doesn’t change the preference; if anything it makes the preference more objectionable. And the fact that Kerry favored isolating Saddam in no way diminishes the fact that Kerry (now) wishes that Iraq would have remained a dictatorship, since no one seriously argues that, by isolating Iraq, we would have toppled Saddam or softened his regime.
At one level, Dionne’s piece is just the latest example of Democratic-think: As long as a Democratic candidate’s heart is in the right place (and by definition, it’s always in the right place) it’s unfair to criticize that candidate by pointing to the real world consequences of his policy preferences. At another level, Dionne’s piece suggests that the ideological divide between liberals and conservatives may be creating a linguistic or logical divide, as a result of which the two sides can no longer even agree as to what constitutes a contradiction between two statements. More likely, though, Dionne and his ilk are simply being dishonest, and the real divide is a credibility gap.
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