Thursday, June 01, 2006

Swift Boat Liars Lessons

The New York Times had a story a few days ago revisiting the Swift Boat Liars smear campaign that is partially credited with defeating Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign and extending the term of the Worst. President. Ever.

I’m glad to see that Kerry is finally devoting his attention to exposing all the lies stirred up by this GOP character assassination squad, but I’m also disappointed that he did not take it more seriously during the campaign when it might have made a difference.
I had a lot to say about the Swift Boat Liars during the campaign here, here and here.

It still burns me up every time I have to think about it. Without a doubt it was one of the most disgusting, dishonest, despicable displays of political chicanery in recent times. The lesson we should take from this story is that because it worked it will undoubtedly happen again and again. These GOP spin artists now know that they can get away with saying anything, however demonstratably untrue, and the national media will dutifully report it to achieve “balance” in their horserace-style coverage of election campaigns.
The only way to combat it is to be relentless in defending yourself against these types of scurillous accusations. No more of this high-minded, “I’m not going to respond because it would give the charges credibility” nonsense. The candidate or a surrogate speaking for the candidate has to take the smear artists on full-force and respond in kind to each and every attack. It is the only way to survive in today’s media-saturated culture.

Worst. President. Ever.

A new poll that is just out confirms that Bush is The Worst President Ever. And, of course, I always believe every poll that comes out (as long as it confirms what I already think).

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Henry Cuellar is no Lloyd Bentsen

What an awful, awful column by Jonathan Gurwitz today.
Why a hard-core right-wing partisan like Gurwitz constantly feels the need to advise Democrats on how to run their party is beyond me, but at the very least you would think he could make a coherent argument. But here we have Gurwitz claiming that:

Independent-minded politicians willing to do right by their constituents are an increasingly rare breed in both parties. But among Democrats, they are positively an endangered species.

But who is Gurwitz’ example of this? Why Henry Cuellar who Gurwitz admits coasted to an easy primary victory recently and faces no serious opposition in November. Some endangered species.
Is there another example? Oh, yes, there is Sen. Joseph Lieberman whose ultra-hawkish support of the debacle in Iraq has drawn him a primary opponent in the liberal bastion of Connecticut. Lieberman has been a more outspoken proponent of the war in Iraq than most of the Republicans representing his home state, so it should be no surprise that he might face a primary challenge this time. But there is no guarantee that he will lose. In fact, chances are that he will coast to victory just as easily as Cuellar did.

So then, how can Gurwitz support his contention that Lloyd Bentsen could not win a Democratic primary campaign in Texas today? He can’t. Bentsen would win easily if he were running today. His kind of traditional conservatism - fiscal discipline, responsible management of our military resources - is still very popular among mainstream voters today in contrast to the reckless and radical misuse of both our domestic and military resources by the current administration.
But Bentsen was no Henry Cuellar. It was not Cuellar’s support of free trade agreements or his opposition to the estate tax that riled so many Democrats during the last campaign. It was his decision to sit on the Republican side of the aisle during the State of the Union Address and his playing kissy-face with the president afterwards. Bentsen would never have done such a thing.

As for Lieberman drawing a primary opponent, let me ask Gurwitz to consider this scenario. What if our own Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison were to suddenly announce her strong support for abortion rights and then began voting like Olympia Snowe of Maine. And what if she also suddenly became a very outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq. Would she be likely to draw an opponent in the next Republican primary? You bet she would!
The other big fallacy of Gurwitz’ column is the blind eye he casts on his own party’s ideological intolerance. You think Democrats are purging their party of conservatives? What about the dodo birds of modern politics - the liberal Republicans? That is almost an oxymoron these days. Remember what happened to James Jeffords? I think the GOP needs to worry about the log in its own eye before trying to pick the sliver out of the Democratic Party’s eye.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Da Vinci Code

I got to see The Da Vinci Code over the weekend and really enjoyed it. The movie it most reminds me of is National Treasure, the Disney film starring Nicolas Cage that came out a couple of years ago. It too involved efforts to unlock a puzzle created by an ancient secret society that sends our heros on an elaborate scavenger hunt in the search of a grand prize.
I thought the movie was well done, the acting was superb and the story was both interesting and entertaining.
What I did not understand was why the movie or the book should have sparked such a strong protest from the religious right. I went into the movie, based on all the hype, thinking it was going to try and debunk Christ’s divinity. But it does nothing of the sort. Instead, it is all based on a mythical theory that Christ fathered a child with Mary Magdalene before his crucifixtion and created a blood line that would have been seen as a threat to the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. But whether or not Christ would have fathered a child, it would not preclude nor does it make any claim as to his own divine lineage.
Interestingly enough, the only person who actually questions Christ’s divinity in the film is the guy who turns out to be the “bad guy” in the end. Everyone else, inlcluding the Tom Hanks character, defends the Biblical story as we know it today.
I also thought it was interesting that, despite all of the killing, there really were no “bad guys” in the movie. Everyone was acting on what they believed to be a higher purpose or a greater good, including the Catholic archbishop, the French cop and the “teacher” who set everything in motion to begin with. Even the albino assassin. In fact, you could argue that he was probably the most devout person in the whole movie.