Sunday, August 22, 2004

still not exactly where the debate needs to be

I just finished watching the Chris Wallace Show on Fox. Typical of Sunday news programs, there was a panel on the end of the show. Today's panel had Brit Hume, Bill Kristol, Juan Williams and some gal who I didn't see speak too much. The topic (surprise of surprises): the Swift Boat Vets ads.

My take: Brit Hume is very good--and so is Bill Kristol. In fact, Mr. Kristol brought about a good answer to Williams' charge that if this were a debate of the candidate's actions thirty years ago, Kerry is the hand's-down winner. Kristol's take: the President would welcome any debate that focuses on the actions of the two candidates in 1971. Granted, Bush's actions weren't the most heroic in the world--but at least he wasn't making character assassinations on every serving soldier/sailor/airman/Marine that had seen action in VietNam. Not a poor retort--especially in light of the second Swift Boat Vets ad.

I was, however, disappointed in one thing that both Kristol and Hume missed out on. The final question circling the table was something to the effect of "how do the Dems recover from these attacks and return the focus of the election to the issues?" And how I would have LOVED to have been there! All right, I'm giving myself too much credit there. But the response I would have LOVED to have heard: "First of all, all of the allegations brought forward by the Swift Boat Vets ARE an issue to this election--not because of the actions Kerry took 30 years ago half a world away, but rather because of how he has portrayed those actions continually during his tenure as a public servant. I can think of no issue that is of more importance to the country than the credibility of their elected officials, and the Swift Boat Vets have raised several valid questions about the truthfulness that Sen. Kerry has employed at various times in his public life. Let's face it: this debate wouldn't have gotten the attention it has if it weren't for the frequent retelling of lies by the candidate and his supporters, some as recently as at the DNC. So I think that it IS an issue in this election, and that is why the record--ALL records--should be scrutinized."
Continuing on ('cuz of course I'd have limitless time with which to speak): "But to answer the question of "how to recover?", I only have one thing to say: release ALL of your records, and have an open, honest talk about what will be discovered in those records" Surprisingly, neither Kristol or Hume hit on the signing of the form 180 on their closing comments. Consider that an opportunity missed. . .
All of this kind of leads me to what I really hope happens in the next couple days: for the "legs" that this story has already developed to get up to a full-trot, the right needs to bring these allegations into "big picture" form. Right now, it makes for an interesting story, the fact that this guy might have run this unbelievable hoax for the last 30 years. But stories fade, unless there's a reason for people to remember them. The people need to be reminded that CHARACTER is a very important part of the job of President of the United States. And all these questions aren't surfacing--and continually getting more attention--because Kerry's character is above reproach. They surfaced because Kerry has portrayed his actions inconsistently since he's been in the public eye, and they've gained buoyancy because Kerry has yet to deal with them effectively (or, in the personal sense, at all--which also speaks a lot about his character, I think). The people need to be reminded of all this. Gently--but clearly.
And while I'm on the topic (well, not really): when it finally surfaces that Kerry never spent time in Cambodia, I am going to be quick to call Juan Williams' (he's a journalist, after all) employer and insist that he be fired because of a lack of credibility. His performance on the show was straight-scripted from the Dems talking points, including a resurfacing of the allegations that Bush didn't serve honorably in the National Guard. Good Lord, I coulda swore this was all behind us! But more to the point: Hume was very cordial when dealing with Williams, and in response Williams practically shouted that there was no evidence behind the Swiftees ads. When asked by Hume if he had read the Washington Post's expose today--which I think is a fair question, given the fact that it was a fairly balanced article from a largely liberal media source--Williams responded with attacks on the financiers of the swift boat ads. I mean, it wasn't journalism, and it wasn't even civil. And I don't see how, once the defense he was putting forth is thoroughly discredited, he can be looked on as "respected" anymore. I don't mind defending "your guy"--I mind that it was a mindless defense with zero facts put forth to support it and that the level of discourse was something you'd expect in a bar. That's just too much to swallow from a "journalist".


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