Look, I don’t know what happened to these explosives, and I’m pretty sure Ed Brayton doesn’t either. But my point was not about what happened to them. My point was about whether it is fair to declare this as an example of alleged incompetence in the White House. Once again, without having the evidence at hand, with at least plausible alternative explanations for these missing weapons, Brayton leaps onto the Kerry explanation like a starving man on a steak—without pausing even to ask whether it is technically feasible for anyone to have kept track of this particular site.
But my main point was that, although he now acknowledges that “There is some doubt as to what really happened here,” his immediate reaction was to declare that this story was yet more proof that “this administration [could not] possibly be any more incompetent.” Also, Mr. Brayton finally says that for John Edwards to promise that the lame will walk again if Kerry is elected president, was “a major exaggeration.” An exaggeration! That’s a perfect term for it. John Edwards said that people like Christopher Reeve will rise up out of their wheelchairs and walk again if John Kerry is elected president, and this is...an exaggeration. Not a lie, not contemptible pandering, not a disgusting absurdity, but an exaggeration. Moreover, it is an exaggeration, Brayton says, “[o]f the type that goes on quite literally all the time by every campaign.” Every campaign? I don’t recall any campaign that ever promised that the lame would walk again if this man were elected president. I certainly do not recall the Bush campaign—which, according to Brayton, is vastly worse in the dirty tricks department—making a claim like this. But Brayton’s even-handed objectivity is such that to him, this sort of “exaggeration” which “goes on quite literally all the time by every campaign,” isn’t really something to be seriously offended about. So, for Brayton, the Republican campaign does something nasty, say, they tell people that terrorists attacks will occur if Kerry is elected. Then it turns out Brayton has to retract his angry attack on this, because it didn’t happen. But, still, he insists, the Republicans are worse than the Democrats, and they’re just constantly lying all the time. Then John Edwards says that Kerry has the Christ-like power to raise the lame to their feet—and Brayton says nothing for two weeks until I badger the hell out of him—and finally, oh, it’s just an exaggeration that goes on all the time.
In fact, it’s “as credible as those ‘he voted 10,000 times to raise taxes’ lines,” says Mr. Brayton. Well, perhaps this, too, is the sort of exaggeration that goes on all the time, but nobody has ever charged that Kerry voted 10,000 times to raise taxes. Instead, Bush said that Kerry had voted 98 times to raise taxes. (That is, less than 1 percent of the figure that Brayton used.) This was an “exaggeration” in that this number includes procedural votes, and re-counts multiple votes in favor of the same bill. (Say, a person votes for the bill, then it’s amended, and he votes for it again.) The Kerry campaign was quick to denounce this as an exaggeration, which I suppose it is, in a way of thinking. But how ought we to count these votes? Should we ignore it when Kerry votes three or four times for the same tax increase? The point of the statistic is to show how consistently in favor of tax increases Senator Kerry is, not to show how many tax increases actually got passed. Counting repeat votes, or procedural votes, seems a pretty fair measure of that issue, although, as with all statistics, it has its flaws. (Sen. Kerry could have voted for these tax increases because there were other things in the bill he liked.) Nevertheless, it would be misleading to say “Kerry voted 50 times for tax increases” if he actually cast twice as many votes in favor of measures that would have raised taxes. But, to Ed Brayton, it’s not that there are different ways of measuring voting patterns—it’s that the Bush campaign is hell-bent on lying and dirty tricks.
Finally, once again let’s return to my point about the Iraq weapons story. The fact is, we know that this story was planned for the last possible minute in the campaign—it would have been released 24 hours before the election if the Kerry campaign—er, I mean, the mainstream press—had done as they planned. In any case, it was done in time to ensure that the Bush campaign would not have time to frame a sensible response to the charge. (Although, strangely, the Kerry campaign already has commercials out on the subject. Pretty quick, eh?) None of this elicits a peep about “dirty tricks” from Ed Brayton. (Meanwhile, Sinclair Broadcasting is bullied out of running their own attack against Kerry, because for them to do so would “influence the election.” But, to credit Brayton, I don’t think he joined in on condemning Sinclair.)
The fact is, that in the dirty tricks and lying department, Kerry is at least the equal of George Bush, and, I suspect, far worse. Kerry claims to have met with the whole U.N. Security Council—yet the Security Council denies it; He says for years he went to Cambodia, then is forced to admit it was a brazen lie; he claims to have a Nixonian “plan” to win the war, which he has never revealed; he consistently claims that we ought to have waited—indefinitely, it seems—for Germany and France to join us in the fight—yet claims that his “global test” comment was distorted by the President. His campaign appears to have been directly involved in the CBS forged memos scandal; it is eerily prepared for the release of this weapons story. The list could go on. Yet Brayton claims that it is Bush who engages in lies and tricks.
Now, I wouldn’t pick on Brayton so much if I didn’t like his blog so much; I think he’s pretty objective on most things. But on this issue, he is consistent: anything that could possibly be construed against the administration, he will embrace, taking the most extreme reading of it before the evidence is in—and any time the Kerry campaign says something outrageous and offensive, he will ignore it until he no longer can, and then will say, “oh, it’s just an exaggeration and everybody does it.”
Less poker, more objectivity!