Saturday, August 28, 2004

Bob Dole's opinion

Chris Suellentrop at Slate is reporting (link from Atrios) that Bob Dole thinks George Bush should be ashamed for his campaign activities four years ago. Let's leave aside the fact that they got the footage in a way that would have caused hyperventilation if it had happened at FOX News and embarrassed a Democrat. They have footage with Dole apparently agreeing with John McCain that Bush "should be ashamed" for his tactics in the primaries in the last election. Suellentrop says:
Democrats now have an unlikely ally in their quest to prove that Bush has a history of these kinds of dirty tricks: Bob Dole.
But of course this is false. Dole has no first-hand knowledge of events. If he thinks Bush did something shameful, he is merely taking the word of John McCain or the media. To a rational commentator, this would suggest that Dole is even-handed about these things. He thinks Bush was over the top in 2000, so he isn't a pro-Bush zombie who thinks that Bush can do no wrong.

If Suellentrop draws such a conclusion it isn't apparent from the article. Instead he asks the rhetorical question to Bob Dole:
If President Bush should be ashamed of his behavior four years ago, why aren't you ashamed now?
Maybe because Dole thinks the situations are different? I don't know what Dole thinks Bush did to McCain four years ago, but he damn sure doesn't think Bush got a couple of hundred of people who served with McCain to go on record contradicting everything McCain said about his war record. For any rational person, that has to give you something to wonder about. As Dole said "not every one of these people can be Republican liars."

Suellentrop writes that Dole "made several demonstrably false statements about John Kerry's war record ...". But Suellentrop gives us no clue what these "demonstrably false" things might be. Could that be because the only thing that demonstrates their falsehood is that they disagree with Kerry's side of the story? That would make the whole thing a bit rhetorically weaker than the simple but manly "demonstrably false", wouldn't it?

And speaking of being ashamed, Chris, are you a little ashamed of that dodge? Just saying "demonstrably false" without actually demonstrating anything false? I would be. Sure, you might convince a few idiots, but anyone with any brains will suspect that you are being deceptive. Aren't you worried about this coming back to haunt you?

In a comment, Donald Crankshaw points out that Bob Dole said he thought Kerry got two purple hearts in one day. If that's what Suellentrop was referring to, it is no less shameful. Kerry did get two medals in one day and one was a purple heart. Bob Dole was simply misremembering and even qualified it because he wasn't sure he was remembering correctly. No honorable commentator would refer to this honest and insignificant error as "several demonstrably false statements".

He could have criticized Dole for it honorably. He could have said that this error shows that Dole has a predisposition to exaggerate Kerry's flaws or to believe the worst about Kerry. Not true I think, but it would be an honorable criticism. What Suellentrop said was deliberately deceptive.

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