Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Dirty Politics, Even by "Point" Standards

Mark Hyman, in his endless search to find the real stories behind the Democratic National Convention, has uncovered quite a scandal. The only problem is that it’s 35 years old.

A day after important and substantive speeches by the likes of President Jimmy Carter, Vice President Al Gore, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and President Clinton, one would thing there would be plenty of substance to discuss. Perhaps Hyman would offer a cogent analysis of the way one or more of the speakers framed the candidates. Maybe he would offer a thoughtful rebuttal to President Clinton’s delineation of the major differences between the major political parties. He could have countered charges laid by the speakers that President Bush has weakened the country both at home and abroad. If he was feeling particularly analytical, Hyman might have critiqued the manner in which the Democrats tried to both appeal to their base and reach out to the larger, more politically diverse, audience beyond the Fleet Center. Even an attack on the practice of marginalizing and containing protestors by a party that criticizes the Bush administration for silencing dissent would have been both appropriate and served Hyman’s larger purpose of undermining the Kerry campaign.

Hyman might have done any of these things, but he didn’t. Instead, he delved into murky, stale, and illogical personal attacks. In a thoroughly bizarre commentary, Hyman likened the platform he stood in front of to the wooden bridge at Chappaquiddick, and proceeded to offer a inflammatory reading of the tragedy, suggesting that Senator Kennedy cared more about his political career than the life of Mary Jo Kopoeckne.

What does this have to do with John Kerry? Nothing, but Hyman hoped that by juxtaposing the Chappaquiddick tragedy, accusations of Kennedy’s wrongdoing, and John Kerry, he could taint the presidential nominee with negative associations. Hyman’s weak linkings of Kennedy and Kerry are based on the fact that Kennedy supports Kerry, that members of Kennedy’s staff work for Kerry, and that (according to Hyman), Kennedy is considered “the conscience of the Democratic Party.” Based on these vague associations, we are apparently expected to feel that somehow John Kerry shares responsibility for the death of a young woman 35 years ago.

One could counter Hyman’s accusations by pointing out that Kennedy was never convicted, let alone charged, with a crime beyond leaving the scene of an accident, something to which he readily admitted. One could also point out that Kennedy’s questionable actions in the immediate aftermath of the accident are consistent with someone who sustained a concussion (which he did), an injury that nearly always causes temporary short-term amnesia. One might even point out that given the proclivities of the current president as a young man when it came to issues of substance abuse, the only reason a similar tragedy didn’t befall him was simple dumb luck.

But to do any of these things would be to accept Hyman’s underlying “logic” as valid, which it obviously is not. Even if the most devious explanations of Kennedy’s actions in 1969 are absolutely true, what possible relevance can they have on the fitness of John Kerry to serve as president? Obviously none. But that doesn’t stop Hyman from hoping that by simply putting the words “Kennedy,” “Chappaquiddick,” and “Kerry” in the same commentary, perhaps enough intellectually-challenged viewers will react in Pavlovian fashion and recoil from Kerry as a candidate.

Perhaps Hyman found it difficult to mount an adequate challenge in the speeches given the day before. He might have not been able to challenge the assertions made, or find a way of critiquing the ideas voiced from the podium in a way that would be persuasive to anyone but the most die-hard Bush-ite. This, however, is no excuse for the intellectually invalid, journalistically empty, and ethically challenged commentary he spewed on Tuesday night.

And that’s the Counterpoint.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Cost of the War in Iraq
(JavaScript Error)
To see more details, click here.