Friday, August 06, 2004

We're Just Wondering: When Did Lying Become Patriotic?

Well, he’s done it. Mark Hyman and the folks at “The Point” have uncovered John Kerry’s devious intent: Kerry has spent 35 years as a public servant in the military, as a prosecutor, and as an elected representative in an effort to undermine America. Why? Because he hates our country.

At least that’s the gist of the most recent “Point.” Beginning with a bizarre comparison of John Kerry to Napoleon (Hyman specializes in contorted historical allusions), Hyman charges that Kerry believes he is a “patriot for life” because of his Vietnam service, despite the fact that, according to Hyman, Kerry’s actions have been “unpatriotic” for more than 30 years since then.

He also charges that Kerry met with communist Vietnam officials in France and that Kerry is honored in a Vietnamese museum for his anti-war activities.

There’s so much here—shall we start with the specific and go to the more general?

Kerry did meet with delegations from North Vietnam and discussed it in his congressional testimony in 1971. Hyman says Kerry “revealed” this, the word choice suggesting that there was something underhanded about what Kerry did. In fact, Kerry met with Vietnamese officials openly in Paris because that’s where the ongoing peace negotiations were taking place. He met with delegations on both sides and was reporting his assessment of the possibilities for a peace treaty and an American withdrawal from Vietnam to Congress. If participating even in an ancillary way in the peace discussions in Paris qualifies as “unpatriotic,” shouldn’t Hyman be upset with Henry Kissinger, too?

The museum that Hyman is apparently referring to (the one “some Vietnam veterans” have talked about) does exist, and there is a photo of a display at the museum of John Kerry shaking hands with a Vietnamese official. Here’s the catch: the photo featured in the display was taken in 1991 when John Kerry was a member of a congressional delegation working to normalize relations with Vietnam and to facilitate investigation into MIA/POW issues. The museum display documents the growing relationship between Vietnam and the U.S. nearly 20 years after the war, not Kerry’s anti-war activities. In short, the museum honors Kerry as a tool of official U.S. government policy, not as an anti-war activist. No small distinction, eh Mark?

This brings us to the issue of patriotism. Kerry’s resume is well known: combat service in Vietnam, work as a prosecutor, elected office as lieutenant governor and senator. In the senate, he’s worked for veteran’s issues as well as spearheading the effort to look into issues of MIAs and POWs in Vietnam (along with John McCain). When Bush supporters attacked Kerry as “weak on defense,” Republican senators McCain and Chuck Hagel defended Kerry’s record. The twisted interpretation of Kerry’s voting record that serves as the supposed proof of his weakness has been debunked in a number of places including the nonpartisan as well as urban legend site (appropriately enough), For further analysis of these distortions, read this article from the online journal Slate.

Kerry’s patriotism is clear and has been much more clearly demonstrated in his life of public service than that of other public officials that come to mind, who spent much of their past abusing various substances and running a series of companies into the ground, only to be bailed out by wealthy friends and family. But again, let’s recognize Hyman’s game for what it is. Hyman doesn’t seriously question Kerry’s patriotism; he simply disagrees with Kerry’s politics. Because of that, he feels it’s appropriate to smear Kerry in front of a national audience, hoping that they are too ignorant to recognize what’s going on.

Look, no one who runs for public audience can honestly be said to be unpatriotic or anti-American. “The Counterpoint” might disagree with George Bush’s policies and politics, be we wouldn’t suggest that he doesn’t care about his country. We simply argue that his policies are largely mistaken and bad for the nation. However, Hyman cynically lowers the debate by personally attacking a political opponent’s allegiance to the nation in a ridiculous and invalid way as a shortcut to actually dealing with ideas. In doing this, he insults his viewers, shows contempt for the truth, and bastardizes the ideal of democracy as a mode of government in which ideas compete in the public forum by practicing an ugly form of “democracy” in which untruthful personal attacks take the place of rational discourse.

Remind us again, Mark: who’s unpatriotic?

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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