Sunday, August 29, 2004

Lying Swifties Redux

As we wait for more yammering from New York, let’s revisit an issue that has come up in a number of Mark Hyman editorials.

“The Point” was one of the first media outlets to air the allegations of a group known as “Swiftboat Veterans for Truth,” and Hyman has continued to play his part in the media echo chamber that has elevated baseless charges to the level of national debate. We wonder how Hyman can keep a straight face as he bemoans the “elite, liberal” media, given how willingly major media outlets have been to present the Swift Boater’s nonsense as if it were something to be taken seriously.

Of late (and much too late), the press have finally gotten to the point of asking some questions about the validity of the Swifities’ charges, not to mention the sources of their money and organization. Revelations have caused them to hem and haw, change their stories, and in at least one case, recant their participation in the whole “get-Kerry” scheme.

But where was the President in all this? Was it unreasonable to expect him to denounce these ads, if not put a stop to them?

The Swift Boat ads were created by folks technically outside the campaign, so one might argue that simply giving a blanket condemnation of advertising by independent organizations (as the President did) is all he could do. Is it fair to make him the Swifties’ keeper?

But if the President of the United States can’t get a group of political allies to pull an ad, the logical question is then how can we expect him to deal with the North Koreans, Iranians, or anybody else? For the President to plead impotence in this matter is far more damning than admitting direct complicity (and infinitely less plausible).

On the other hand, isn’t it just naïve to expect a politician running for the highest office in the land to jump to the defense of his rival? Politics is a contact sport, after all, and if the shoe were on the other foot, would we expect anything different?

In 1988, a man named Chester Mierzejewski came forward with charges that George H.W. Bush’s service in WWII wasn’t quite so heroic as the then-vice president made it out to be. As a crewman in a plane on the mission during which Bush Sr. was shot down, he claimed he saw Bush bail out of the plane before any fire or smoke appeared, condemning the two other crewmen on his plane to death. This contradicted Bush’s story, which insisted that the plane was engulfed in flames and both fellow crewmen dead before he bailed out.

Unlike with the Swift Boaters, Mierzejewski had no political ties to any campaign, or any longstanding history of animus toward the subject of his charges. He was also, undeniably, at the scene of the incident in question, something none of the Swifties can say about their charges against Kerry.

Fortunately for Bush, Sr., a champion emerged who quickly squelched the controversy over his service before it began, rendering it a non-issue. According to a New York Times article from August 14, 1988, he said,

''I don't think that kind of thing has any place in the campaign . . . [Mr. Bush] served this country. He served it well and with tremendous courage, and you don't fly 58 missions without enormous courage and tremendous patriotism.''

That champion? Gov. Michael Dukakis, Democratic presidential nominee.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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