Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Mark Hyman: Sea Lawyer Extraordinaire

You’d think fellow Navy men would have a greater sense of decency and respect for each other. So much for “a band of brothers.”

At least that’s the conclusion one must come to after seeing the latest "Point," in which Mark Hyman does a remarkable job of condensing two weeks of character assassination and falsifications into a one-minute commentary.

Hyman loves to throw around military jargon, playing up his stint in the Navy. This time around, he employs the terms “gundecking” and “sea lawyer” to describe John Kerry. Claiming that Kerry has based “his whole campaign” on his Vietnam record, and that he’s never had his record scrutinized, Hyman says Kerry falsified official records to play up his Vietnam service (“gundecking”) and is someone who uses carefully parsed phrases and other wordplay to mislead people (“sea lawyer”).

(Let’s note, in passing, that although he loves to hype his military background, Hyman’s own career pales in comparison to Kerry’s. Kerry spent months in combat conditions, being wounded several times, personally saving the life of a Green Beret, winning medals for valor, and found himself on more than one occasion looking down the barrel of a gun. About the most dangerous piece of equipment Hyman had pointed at him was an electric pencil sharpener as he battled battalions of manila folders at his desk job.)

Let’s begin taking apart this argument starting with the foundation: the premises. Hyman says Kerry has based his entire campaign on Vietnam and that his record afterwards is “weak.” Really? Well, he served several years as a district attorney, putting criminals behind bars. He continued his career in public service as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts and as a senator, where he helped uncover the Iran-Contra affair, headed up a task force looking into possible American MIAs, worked for veterans’ benefits, better healthcare, and also was credited with helping reveal the BCCI banking scandal, a situation in which an American bank was being used to fund terrorists. In fact, with that one act, Kerry did more to slow terrorism than George W. Bush has done in his entire presidency. He also picked up armloads of awards for his service in the Senate.

In fact, Kerry’s campaign has not focused on the past at all, but on the present and the future. It’s been criticism of Kerry that has maintained a bizarre focus on what happened 35 years ago. Hyman’s own editorials are the epitome of this: in two weeks of screeching about Kerry, Hyman has yet to offer any specific critique of Kerry’s policy positions since 1972.

A “weak” record might be an accurate summation of a candidate whose only qualifications for elected office were having a famous last name and running a series of oil companies into the ground, only to be repeatedly bailed out by family and friends.

So, Kerry’s record is one of a lifetime of public service; Bush’s record is one of self-interested opportunism and failure despite privilege and advantage.

Kerry has talked extensively about the current situation in Iraq, fiscal responsibility, tax fairness, job creation, and his inventive health care initiative. It’s Kerry’s critics, such as Hyman, who’ve based their entire campaign of personal animus on Vietnam and its aftermath, and even they can’t do so without lying about it.

Kerry hasn’t been scrutinized until now? This is probably the most breathtakingly ignorant comment of the many that make up this edition of “The Point.” From the moment he began voicing opposition to Vietnam, the Nixon White House (no strangers to character assassination) devoted themselves to attacking him, including looking into every aspect of his past. If there had been anything fishy about Kerry’s service, the Nixon team would certainly have found it. One doubts George W. Bush would have fared as well had he received similar attention. From the time Kerry entered politics, the Boston media kept him under a microscope, looking for the political angle in every decision, both personal and public, he made. Kerry’s 1996 run for reelection against Governor William Weld was the most watched Senate race in history, attracting national attention. This also included extensive looks at Kerry’s Vietnam record. In fact, virtually none of the slanders that have come from Hyman and his friends on the Angry Right are new; they’re all recycled from that 1996 campaign, in which they were revealed as nonsense.

What about the specific charges Hyman makes?

“Gundecking?” Well, the Navy itself has reviewed Kerry’s service and vetted it. None of the documents Hyman cites, despite his creative reading of them, are inconsistent with the accounts of Kerry and those who were actually involved in the events. On the other hand, every time the Bush administration claims all his National Guard records have been released, new collections emerge, none of which show that Bush actually met his minimal obligations.

“Sea lawyer?” This is wonderful coming from Hyman, himself a liar of the first order, who masquerades as a journalist, isn’t truthful about his role at Sinclair, allows viewers to believe he’s a “local voice,” and works for a company that bases its whole business model on creating prepackaged news that’s meant to seem local even when it’s not. Sinclair Broadcasting’s modus operandi is dishonesty.

Add to this the fact that Hyman’s candidate of choice is George W. Bush, whose administration has made a point of using language in disingenuous ways to make the case for the war in Iraq using trumped up evidence and slyly insinuating ties between Saddam Hussein and the events of September 11th despite absolutely no evidence of this, in a willful act of distortion to accomplish their preexisting policy goals. Bush’s sea lawyering has led to more than 1,000 American dead and a quagmire in Iraq.

Hyman concludes Kerry is a “deeply flawed individual.” He’s never mentioned Bush in his anti-Kerry diatribes, probably because to even breathe his name would invite viewers to draw direct comparisons between the two men. As we’ve noted any number of times, even if one chooses to believe Hyman’s fictions, Bush still comes off as an utter non-entity by comparison.

We can’t look into Mark Hyman’s soul to pronounce metaphysical certainties about him as an individual (a power he seems to claim for himself when evaluating Kerry), but we can say that “deeply flawed” is the very least we can say about Hyman’s argumentative skills, logic, and sense of journalistic ethics.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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