Monday, August 23, 2004

Atrios on the Swift Boat Liars

Atrios has taken to calling the Swift Boats Vets the "Swift Boat Liars". So clever. I only wish I had his gift for words. Interestingly enough, he was calling them that long before any evidence of any actual lying had turned up. It's almost like he first picked his position and then looked for evidence to back it up. Would Atrios do such a thing?

Atrios's first use of the term "Swift Boat Liars" seems to be here where he compares the Swift Boat Vets account of Kerry's Bronze Star with that of Kerry's biographer. The Swift Boat Vets say there was no gunfire and Kerry says there was. Atrios offers no motivation for calling the Swift Vets liars except that one of the Swift Boat Vets also received a Bronze Star.

And that proves .... exactly what? That a young naval officer was presented a medal based on a highly exaggerated report by another officer and didn't bother to refute it? And that means that thirty years later he isn't allowed to refute it either? Or does the medal have some other significance that I don't grasp? Atrios doesn't say.

He also doesn't say why we should take more seriously the claims of men who think there was enemy fire from men who think there wasn't. By all accounts there was a lot of gunfire going on --from the boats to the bank. But some observers claim there was no return fire. Who is more reliable in this sort of situation, people who hear shots and think they are being shot at or people who hear shots and say, "Nope, no one shot back." Anyone who knows human nature --and is honest-- would have to agree that it's far more likely to panic and think you are being shot at than to space out and miss the fact that someone is shooting at you.

Atrios gives us no evidence. No argument. Just the bald-faced assertion that the Swift Boat Vets are lying. How would he know? The only answer I can come up with is that he knows because he is determined to make it so.

His next use is in this short post approving of a bizarre tirade by Digby. It seems that Ted Samply, who Digby calls the "Godfather of the Swift Boat Liars", criticized George Bush senior's military valor. Does Digby conclude that therefore Samply is not a partisan hack? That this shows his non-partisanship? That this casts doubt on the speculation that he is in cahoots with Bush Jr.? No, no, no. That wouldn't help Kerry at all. Instead Digby concludes that Bush Jr. hates his father.

Digby "can't think of anything worse than standing with the scum who smeared your own father's war record." Digby seems to have a poor imagination. And Atrios links to this tripe approvingly. Anything to attack Bush, you know, no matter how stupid.

In this post, Atrios quotes Tapped telling how in 1992 the Bush Senior campaign sued to stop someone from dirty campaigning for them. A letter from Bush Junior informed all of the alleged dirty campaigner's funders that they didn't approve him. Ah. Finally, Atrios is lightening up, right? Admitting that maybe there is more to this story. Maybe Bush isn't engaging in smears this time either. Bush has shown his integrity in the past so Atrios is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt now, right? Wrong. Atrios starts the post with the comment: "How things have changed". No, there is no evidence that could possibly effect Atrios's opinion in the slightest.

And now Atrios has this gem arguing both that is not comparable to the Swift Boat Vets and that the media is biased for not treating them comparably. Lovely. Of course he's right on two counts, but for opposite reasons. Swift Boat Vets is a non-partisan group of actual witnesses to Kerry's mendacity. Not just the medals. Other Vets can testify that they were not running around the countryside raping and pillaging as Kerry claimed in his congressional testimony. These are people who have a story to tell., by contrast has no special claim to knowledge or unusual authority on any subject. They are just a bunch of political activists with money.

But the media is treating them differently all right. The Swift Boat Vets are getting a media rectal exam. Their funding and their past political activity, anything they've ever said in public is being examined in minute detail in an effort to find something to discredit them. Nothing comparable has happened to

Atrios writes:
On one hand we have proven liars contradicting existing Navy records and 35 years of public comment, and on the other hand we have legitimate questions, raised by many prominent news organizations, about whether George Bush bothered to show up for national guard service as he was required. There are many legitimate questions about Bush's failure to fulfill his duty, including his failure to take a required flight physical, as well as the fact that Bush lied about his military record in his autobiography. Kerry has Navy records to back up his claims, Bush does not.
Notice that he is comfortable just calling them proven liars without actually having proven any lies. It's dishonorable for vets who were there and witnessed the events in question to disagree with Kerry on what actually happened, but it's just fine and dandy for Atrios and McCain, who have no personal knowledge of events at all to up and call the Swift Boat Vets liars. And Atrios likes to criticize other people for having double standards.

Notice also that he is suggesting that Navy records deserve special presumptions of authority. Let's see if Atrios is so confident in them when they show that Kerry was never in Cambodia. I'm guessing that Atrios is going to suddenly find the Navy to be an untrustworthy organization.

Notice that we have "legitimate questions, raised by many prominent news organizations." And what makes those questions legitimate? Just because they are raised by "prominent news organizations"? That have no special knowledge of the events they are asking questions about? What makes their questions more legitimate than the signed testimony of eye witnesses?

And even if all the worst things Atrios and Kerry claim about Bush's military service were true, it would be no big deal. It still wouldn't be a legitimate issue in the campaign. Who cares what Bush did as a national guardsman 35 years ago? He isn't running on his record as a national guardsman. He isn't claiming that he has led a perfect life. He isn't claiming that he has never done anything he regretted. If all of those charges were true, Bush could just come out and say so and say that he regretted them. And no one who doesn't hate him would care. If a Democrat were accused of trivial and ancient things like this, Atrios would be the first one to pipe up about how unimportant it is. But Bush is a Republican and Atrios is a hypocrite. So it's a big deal.

And that thing about Bush "lying" about his military service is one of the more silly things Atrios harps on. It seems that Bush told his biographer that he served for "the next several years" after training. According to Atrios, the accurate time was 22 months. Bush was talking informally about events decades in the past and he was a little off on his years. Any reasonable person would say that Bush had no motive to lie and it's an easy mistake to make and he probably expected the biographer to fact-check it anyway (isn't that the biographer's job?) so it's just a minor mistake.

But not Atrios. To Atrios, this is a pivotal and damning bit of mendacity. It proves what a pathological liar Bush is. He writes, "Tell me again why the liberal media doesn't care that Bush lies about his military service?" I'll tell you, Atrios. It's because they know it would only help Bush to have the media continue to bash him over something so silly and trivial.

I'm still waiting to hear what Atrios thinks of Kerry's now-admitted lies about being in Cambodia on Christmas, 98. Kerry told that lie several times, not just once. He intended to benefited from the lie, it wasn't just a meaningless bit of trivia. Remembering being illegally in Cambodia on Christmas Eve is not any easy mistake to make. Kerry didn't expect anyone to fact-check him on the story. So I'm betting that Atrios thinks Kerry just got confused.

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