Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lies, Damn Lies, and Misspeakings

I was about to begin this post with the phrase: Right thinking people.... But then a warning light went off. It told me, in no uncertain terms, that in the interest of accuracy, I would have to start:

Left thinking people want to know, need to know, and would love to know how they are going to defend Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal from his serial lies about his military record.

As you know, the information did not come down to us from the National Enquirer or Fox News. If it had, left thinking people would know that they could simply attack the messenger. No, the news came from the New York Times, and left thinking people cannot reasonably discredit the Times.

According to the Times, Blumenthal lied, and he lied over and over again, when he stated that he served in the Marines in Vietnam.

As fact would have it, Blumenthal served in the Marine Reserves and never went to Vietnam. He only joined the Reserves after he ran out of deferments and pulled a high number in the draft lottery.

As soon as the facts became public knowledge Blumenthal decided to get out in front of them, to fight back, to denounce those who would impugn his character because he told a bunch of lies.

So, Blumenthal stood up, surrounded by a group of veterans, and took full responsibility... for misspeaking.

Why would you need to make veterans into stage props, as though they have your back, when you are taking responsibility?

Worse yet, as several commentators have noticed, you do not take responsibility for lying by declaring that you did not really lie.

By refusing to admit his lie, Blumenthal compounded his lie. Misspeaking is nothing more than a weasel word: a misleading word that tends to obscure a fact.

Besides, taking responsibility means paying a price, sacrificing something, doing penance, being contrite. Blumenthal sacrificed nothing and was anything but contrite. He was aggressive and defensive. And he happily accepted his party's nomination as candidate for the Senate from Connecticut.

This should not surprise anyone. A party that enjoyed its greatest recent success behind the presidential leadership of a draft dodger is not going to turn all squeamish about a lack of military service.

A party that rallied to defend a man whom Sen. Bob Kerrey once called: "an unusually good liar" is far more beholden to power than to truth.

Still and all, left thinking people have a bit of a problem with Richard Blumenthal. How are they going to defend him at cocktail parties? How will they rationalize voting for him at the next coffee klatch?

Left thinking people need ammunition. They need something to defend a known liar who does not have enough honor to man up to his lies.

Now, Maureen Dowd has come riding to the rescue. She has provided a finely wrought set of talking points for your next conversation about Richard Blumenthal. Now you can explain why it is right and good that he is running for the Senate and why you are going to send him the maximum contribution. Link here.

According to Dowd, Blumenthal was not really lying. He was indulging in wishful thinking. Aside from that, he is not a Republican, which would, ipso facto, make him an abominable miscreant, and neither his nor Joe Biden's nor Hillary Clinton's lies rise to the level of Dick Cheney's lies.

Dowd does not use this word, but for her it all boils down to Blumenthal's truthiness. Which is another way of saying that gut feelings trump mere facts.

Blumenthal wasn't really lying; he was expressing his feelings. And how can our therapy-addled culture begrudge him that?

Dowd seems to believe that Blumenthal wanted so fervently to have served in Vietnam that he mistook his wishes for facts. Besides fighting in a war looks better on your resume than the job of organizing a Toys for Tots campaign.

As we know, Blumenthal had every opportunity to fight in Vietnam. He was at great pains to avoid such service. If he now wishes he had fought, does that mean that he wants to spruce up his resume or that he regrets not having had the opportunity to defend liberty abroad?

Given the fact that Democrats are often considered to be weak on national defense, did Blumenthal simply want to provide evidence to counter an inevitable accusation?

If so he would not have been the first. To counter the charge of weakness he tried in his news conference to project strength by expressing outrage. As I said, surrounding yourself with a platoon of Marines does not bespeak strength; it shows weakness.

Dowd understands clearly that members of a party that owes its current success to its anti-war crusade can easily be taxed with weakness. She is suggesting that the real fault does not lie with Blumenthal but with the rest of us, because we require a higher measure of patriotism from Democrats, even from the war hero John Kerry.

Neither Dowd nor any serious left thinking person reminds us of the slanderous lies that war hero Kerry pronounced against the American military in the public forum of a Congressional hearing.

The charge against the Democratic party was not invented out of whole white cloth. One might cite the dozens of votes in which Congressional Democrats voted to defund the Iraq war and to redeploy the soldiers to Okinawa. If you did not know that these votes were shameless political expediency-- the Democrats were most opposed to the war because Republicans were running it-- you might think that Democrats were hell bent on surrender.

Finally, because Dowd is Dowd, the article closes with the one talking point that you must keep on hand when next you want to defend Richard Blumenthal. That is: Bush lied!

Dowd does not exactly use that word; she says that Bush and Cheney engaged in "vile exaggeration" to get us into war.

But, who's lying now? The calumny about Bush lying us into war has been repeated so often-- a favorite tactic of the propagandist-- that everyone takes it to be true.

Let's review the point. For it to be true George Bush would have had to know that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Then he would have had to falsify the information deliberately in order to entice us into a war.

But if Bush know that there were no WMDs, then he would have known more than all of the intelligence services that had looked into the matter. Is Dowd sure that she wants to grant George Bush such superior intelligence?

Of course, Congress voted in favor of the war. Many Democrats supported the war. Many of them are on the record denouncing Iraq for its WMD program. All of them had access to the same intelligence that the executive branch used to make its decision.

If you are a Democrat who voted for the war, and you now want to abrogate your responsibility, what better way would there be than to declare that you had been lied to. In the ethical world of taking responsibility, Bush lied is a disgraceful cop out.

The problem is not merely that Richard Blumenthal lied, and that he cannot bring himself to take responsibility for his lie. The problem is not even that Blumenthal, like many other Democrats, tries to counter the notion that he is weak on national defense by adopting a pugilistic posture. The greater problem is that Congressional Democrats who voted to authorize the Iraq War fell back on "Bush lied" as a way to deny any responsibility for it when it wasn't going well.

Now that it is going well, that great exemplar of truthiness, Joe Biden, claimed that credit was due the Obama administration.

Be that as it may, in this morning's Washington Post Kathleen Parker wrote a wonderful column about the Blumenthal kerfuffle that truly shames Maureen Dowd. Parker does not provide talking points for left thinking folks, but her words show well why Blumenthal is not even very good as a wanna-be warrior.

In her words: "Blumenthal ... did not have the right to build personal equity on the borrowed suffering of others. Had he gone to Vietnam, as he apparently thinks he should have, he would have learned this: Real heroes never brag, and real Marines don't lie."

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