Wednesday, November 01, 2006

 

John Kerry and sound bites

The recent John Kerry brouhaha is symptomatic of several major problems in American politics.

Here's what Kerry said:
If you make the most of it, if you study hard and do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well, if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.
Here's what he meant to say:
I can't overstress the importance of a great education. 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.
Problem one: Republicans lie, and the media let them get away with it. It was fairly obvious from the context, and far more obvious from Kerry's history, that he did not intend to insult the troops. But George W. Bush, and Tony Snow, and John McCain, and even (groan) a few Democrats are insisting that Kerry should apologize for insulting the troops.

They know better. They are deliberately quoting Kerry out of context. They are lying. They're lying because they think (perhaps correctly, alas) that it will energize the Republican base, and make next week's election just a little less disastrous for them. They're lying because they care more about staying in power than about honor.

Problem two: Democrats don't deal well with this. Kerry has responded with entirely appropriate outrage to this whole thing (which is an improvement over his relative lack of response to the swift boat liars) -- but the original sound bite is still out there, and that's still what people will remember about this. What he should be doing, in my humble opinion, is telling the joke correctly at every possible opportunity. It's a pretty good joke; it's not sidesplittingly funny, but it makes a very good point about George W. Bush's incompetence and the tragic consequences of it. But nobody is hearing it. I only know what he meant to say because a couple of bloggers happened to mention it.

Here it is again:
I can't overstress the importance of a great education. 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.
That should be the sound bite we're hearing, and we're not hearing it because John Kerry isn't out there saying it.

The same thing happened during the 2004 campaign, with his infamous “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.” He later acknowledged that it was "one of those inarticulate moments", but he completely blew the opportunity to explain what he actually meant. He favored the $87 billion in funding; he voted for a bill that would provide it by cutting back some of Bush's tax cuts, and against another bill that would provide it by increasing the deficit. It's a simple story, but Kerry never actually told it.

(Or maybe he did, but it wasn't a good enough sound bite.)

And, of course, the so-called "liberal" media are part of the problem. The root of this whole thing was that John Kerry (who isn't even running for office) botched a line in a live speech. How often has George W. Bush done the same thing? When Bush flubs a line, we laugh at him; in some cases, the media even correct his errors for him when they quote him. When a Democrat flubs a line, the wingnuts pretend to believe he meant exactly what he said, and to be shocked, shocked, that someone would say such a thing.

So let's apply the same standard to the President. Take a look at this:
In this clip, the President argues that OBGYN's are being denied the opportunity to practice their "love with women all over this country". I can only conclude that the President is in favor of OBGYN's sexually assaulting women and therefore committing malpractice. I am outraged and disgusted and the President owes the women of America an apology and I am calling for an immediate investigation.
Let's be fair. Let's be "balanced".

Or, better yet, let's be honest.

UPDATE: And now the top headline on cnn.com is "Kerry: I personally apologize".

Sigh.

UPDATE 2: Above, I wrote that "Republicans lie". Obviously, not all Republicans lie. It just seems that most of the ones currently in power do so.

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