November 2, 2006

Kerry, Bush and the Nature of Truth

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 9:17 pm

Given my previous disclosure that I am still resentful of past swiftboating, I have to comment on the Kerry “stuck in Iraq” flap. First, let’s just look at some of the facts. Here’s the prepared text of the speech Kerry was supposed to give:

Do you know where you end up if you don’t study, if you aren’t smart, if you’re intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.

Kerry, unfortunately and perhaps even unprofessionally, left off that last line when he delivered it. But the intended meaning is pretty clear.

And here’s Keith Olbermann, God bless him, with another of his special comments, providing the context leading up to Kerry’s famous comment:

Sen. Kerry, as you well know, spoke at a college in Southern California. With bitter humor he told the students that he had been in Texas the day before, that President Bush used to live in that state, but that now he lives in the state of denial.

He said the trip had reminded him about the value of education — that “if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

The context, missing from all the press accounts, seems that his topic was President Bush, not the troops.

What would an objective, uninvolved observer conclude? Either Kerry seemed to be setting up to criticize President Bush, then veered off and criticized the troops out of the blue, and his staff then doctored his prepared speech after the fact to try to change the apparent meaning of what he said. Or Kerry botched the line.

Which is the reasonable conclusion? Which would we conclude, in the absence of a hotly contested election, is the true explanation? Which is truth?

Clearly the latter interpretation.

But alas we are not uninvolved observers, and we are in the midst of a hotly contested election, so we see comments like this from a conservative blogger at The Corner (via Kevin Drum):

Every Democratic candidate should now be asked whether they think the troops are in Iraq because (a) they are committed to the mission and want to win or (b) because of their lack of economic and social opportunity back home. The latter is plainly Kerry’s position — and that of the Democratic left — and it has now been revealed as a position for which one has to apologize. [emphasis mine]

Ah, but there is no absolute truth in this post-modern era! How else to claim that not only Kerry, but the whole Democratic left, think our troops are uneducated? After all, Bush creates his own reality, which is why

Bush told a cheering throng in Georgia that Kerry’s remarks were “insulting” and “shameful,” and he called on him to apologize to U.S. troops.

Faced with these two alternative conclusions, President Bush created his own truth. Which is why Olbermann, in that same special comment, said:

And Mr. Bush and his minions responded by appearing to be too stupid to realize that they had been called stupid.

They demanded Kerry apologize to the troops in Iraq.

And so he now has.

That phrase — “appearing to be too stupid” — is used deliberately, Mr. Bush.

Because there are only three possibilities here.

One, sir, is that you are far more stupid than the worst of your critics have suggested; that you could not follow the construction of a simple sentence; that you could not recognize your own life story when it was deftly summarized; that you could not perceive it was the sad ledger of your presidency that was being recounted.

This, of course, compliments you, Mr. Bush, because even those who do not “make the most of it,” who do not “study hard,” who do not “do their homework,” and who do not “make an effort to be smart” might still just be stupid, but honest.

No, the first option, sir, is, at best, improbable. You are not honest.

The second option is that you and those who work for you deliberately twisted what Sen. Kerry said to fit your political template; that you decided to take advantage of it, to once again pretend that the attacks, solely about your own incompetence, were in fact attacks on the troops or even on the nation itself.

The third possibility is, obviously, the nightmare scenario: that the first two options are in some way conflated.

That it is both politically convenient for you and personally satisfying to you, to confuse yourself with the country for which, sir, you work.

Truth matters, and it should matter even more during an election campaign. For Christians who bemoan the coarsening of our culture, we should look to our political elites, not only the cultural elites, and demand, if nothing else, truth. For truth is a moral issue, and a moral value. We sacrifice truth at our peril.

4 Comments

  1. I have to say that I don’t think Kerry intended to insult the troops. Even without the “prepared text” I could see it as a possibility that he meant to insult Bush. But we also know that what you quoted from The Corner is correct, and has been documented: Democrats believe that the majority of troops are there because they didn’t have other “economic or social opportunity back home.” That’s not necessarily a jab at the intelligence of our troops. Of course, he creates an unfair question. The other option shouldn’t include anything about winning the war.

    Kerry said something stupid. I have no doubt it was a slip of the tongue, but he still owed a real apology. Instead of spending a day talking about the Rebuplican “smear and fear” campaign, he should have realized that what he said was offensive to people who heard it. Regular people get fired for making comments like that, even if they mixed up their words.

    Comment by Elmo — November 3, 2006 @ 8:01 am

  2. It is absurd that Kerry, a decorated war veteran with long ties to the vet community, would be intending to insult the troops. It makes zero sense to assert otherwise, but if you were a Republican in the present election cycle, what else would you have to hang on to?

    Comment by Public Theologian — November 3, 2006 @ 1:49 pm

  3. I agree with you that Kerry likely botched the line; and I also agree with your insistence on truth, which is why I am baffled that you quote from Keith Olbermann, who is just as much of a political hack as Rush Limbaugh.

    Comment by Allan R. Bevere — November 3, 2006 @ 2:42 pm

  4. Great comments. Thank you for bringing up the issue of Christians seeking truth.

    Comment by Kevin — November 3, 2006 @ 4:54 pm

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