Friday, June 20, 2008

False Frames - Michael Gerson Uses A Lie To Lie Some More

One would have thought that after his column a couple days ago, in which Michael Gerson managed to make such a fool of himself, he might have thought better about writing another column for the op-ed page of The Washington Post. After all, I was hardly the only liberal blogger to take him to task for his ridiculous piece. Yet, he is back at it, struggling gamely to prove that one can be both mendacious and stupid simultaneously.

Before we get to the specifics of Gerson's column (which I would urge you all to read in full by clicking the link), I would note that this column is eerily reminiscent of a discussion highlighted by Crooks & Liars between right-wing blabbermouths Stephen Hayes and Tony Blankley and Rachel Maddow.
The Bizarro-World of the punditocracy has the world so shifted askew that in their view, John McCain, who has voted with President Bush 95% of the time in 2007 and 100% of the time in 2008 is a bipartisan who reaches across the aisle and Barack Obama, who has only the 40th most liberal voting record, is a flaming liberal with no record of working on a bipartisan basis, despite co-sponsoring legislation with ultra-right wingers Tom Coburn and Dick Lugar.

The best part of the piece at C&L comes in a quick-quote from Maddow:
MADDOW: Let me ask you though, in 2004, that “National Journal” poll, who did they say was the most liberal senator in 2004?
HAYES: I don‘t know.
MADDOW: It would be John Kerry.

For those who may not have clicked the link, or are incapable of following along, the National Journal, a conservative magazine, used faulty methods and data to claim that Sen. Barack Obama had the most liberal voting record in the United States Senate, beating out Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, whose only competition on the far left in that body is socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Are you with me so far? Maddow reminds anyone who might be interested that in 2004, John Kerry was named "most liberal Senator" by this same periodical. Strange coincidence? Or, perhaps, part of a strategy to put talking points out in the discourse that can easily be accessed?

Back to Gerson. After an odd prefatory opening, in which Michael Gerson references a 1979 interview of Ted Kennedy by the late Roger Mudd of CBS News, he says the following:
When I recently asked two U.S. senators who are personally favorable to Obama to name a legislative issue on which Obama has vocally bucked his own party, neither could cite a single instance.

The contrast to John McCain is stark.

Now, if you clicked the link to the C&L piece above and read the transcript of the discussion, you might have noticed that Rachel Maddow dealt with this issue pretty easily and pretty clearly. Obama is a freshman Senator. Obviously, his record is pretty slim on bipartisanship. Yet, when he has reached across the aisle, it has been to ultra-right winger Tom Coburn and hyper-partisan Dick Lugar.

Gerson manages to do two things simultaneously in what immediately follows the above quoted section. He manages to be both honest and mendacious in a single sentence. A trick worthy of the man who brought us the "mushroom clouds may be the smoking gun" crap we had to listen to back in 2002.
Contrary to some depictions, McCain is not a moderate. He is a conservative with a habit of massive, eye-stretching heresy.(emphases added)

For clarity's sake, the italics are true, the bold is false.

Further down, Gerson types the following:
Whatever the reason, [Obama's] lack of a strong, centrist ideological identity raises a concern about his governing approach. Obama has no moderate policy agenda that might tame or modify the extremes of his own party in power. Will every Cabinet department simply be handed over to the most extreme Democratic interest groups? Will Obama provide any centrist check on liberal congressional overreach?

"Obama has no moderate policy agenda"? Has Gerson actually read Obama's health care reform proposal? Did he hear Obama's smackdown of black men this past father's day, in which he talked of absent father's in African-American communities, without noting similar absences in white families as well (apparently, this is a racial thing, not a male thing)? Did he pay attention at all to the elongated Democratic primaries, which made it abundantly clear that both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama were flaming moderates on pretty much every issue?

I suppose the easy answer to these questions is one of two possible responses - either "No, he didn't", or the far more likely, "He doesn't care".

In what is one of the sillier things I have read recently (although, the day is young yet, so there is hope), this is how Gerson ends his column:
And the independent voters so eagerly courted in this election may eventually ask about Obama the odd but appropriate question: What dogs has this man bitten?

First of all, I do not think being a liberal is bad. Obviously. Second, the claim that Barack Obama is "the most liberal Senator" is crap. Period. Third, the attempt to show that McCain, who has held elective office in Washington for 26 years (he was elected to the House in the 1980 elections, taking office in January, 1981), has a longer record of working with Democrats than a freshman Senator is one of the most dishonest, not to mention stupid, things a person attempting to do serious political commentary can do. The question at hand is clear. Is Obama "liberal"? He is certainly more liberal that John McCain (which isn't that hard). Is he "the most liberal Senator"? Hardly. The issue isn't Obama's liberal credentials, or their relevance. The issue is the dishonesty of Michael Gerson. This entire discussion is based upon the easily disproved false premise that Obama is Vladimir Lenin with a better suit and beautiful wife. My frustration with crap like this is based not on the label "liberal", but on the fact that Gerson has managed to pen an entire column based upon falsehoods.

He needs to be removed from The Washington Post. Perhaps, in a sane universe, he wouldn't be there in the first place. Yet, Washington, like Shirley Jackson's Hill House, is not sane.

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