Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Sunday, September 29, 2002
Jay Caruso has responded to my Gore post below. I'm going to skip over what Jay wrote in my comments and address the more extensive arguments he made in his blog.

I wrote:When Al Gore talks, conservatives listen. And then they lie. And they never, ever, apologize or retract. They just play up one lie until it's discredited, or long after, and then go on to the next one. Conservatives pundits have been doing so for years. And their younger brethren in the blogosphere have learned the same rules.

Jay: Well, there you have it. Conservatives lie. Conservative pundits lie and conservative bloggers lie. Nothing like starting off a screed with a good ole dose of ad hominem! Don't actually try to refute anything said, just start off with what has become a left wing staple of late -- shout "LIAR!!!" and then try to explain it.

"Lie" is a harsh word. But to say it's justified in discussing the attacks on Gore, not just this one but the group of smears that conservatives have been using for years now, is a huge understatement.

One of the great things about debate in the blogosphere is that sometimes, if not often enough, people on both sides are willing to re-examine their views and especially are frequently willing to step back from bad arguments. I've pretty much given up any hope of seeing this among professionals, whose job it is to spin like mad and distort reality to push their cause, and who seem to lack any sense of either personal or professional obligation to the truth. But the fact that I do see it in bloggers gives me the more reason to get upset when bloggers caught in a false claim keep trying to push it.

While both sides can be guilty of this, it really does seem much more common on the right. For instance Jay, just before his post criticizing me, made a post complaining about a phony Bush picture that was being circulated "on many left wing blogs". This photo was exposed as a fake only a few days ago, not long after it started circulating. One of the first to label it was an emphatic leftist. Charles Kuffner also mentioned that it was phony. In fact, I've looked around, only a few days after this was exposed, and I can't find one liberal blog anywhere mentioning or showing the photo uncritically. I didn't find it on any liberal site either, but I looked mostly at blogs.

Compare this to the treatment of Gore. Charles Kuffner's post explicitly links to numerous conservative attacks on Clinton and Gore rehashing long-discredited smears. As I mentioned in my post, the Gore "Internet" lie, now 3 1/2 years old and exposed immediately after it started circulating, is being used by anti-Gore pundits to this day. It was also rehashed by a blogger in a post that Jay links to in this very piece. You could write a very sizable list of Clinton-Gore smears, either proven false by evidence or supported by no evidence, which have circulated for years and still do.

Well, the substance was ignored largely because it completely lacked any substance. Really. Gore's speech was nothing more than a rehash of what liberals having been saying now for months. It's all about what we shouldn't be doing, but doesn't say a word about what we should be doing. No ideas. No alternatives. Just a bunch of crowing about President Bush and what a bad boy he has been. However, if Alex wants a damning rebuttal to all of that 'substance' he can go and read what Virginia Postrel had to say about it.

Postrel did address the speech seriously and even made some good points. Stephen Green also took a shot - on the rocks, presumably. Both made incorrect criticisms, but that's another post, and I'll try to get to it later.

I also disagreed with Kelly's assertion that the Taliban has been destroyed. Jay replied:

Alex Frantz must be leaving on a different planet than you or I. The Taliban hasn't been destroyed? What did I miss? If it is false to say the Taliban has not been destroyed perhaps Frantz could point to a single source that would support his claim. Al Gore doesn't either. They don't because it's made up crap.

You want sources that the Taliban still exists? How about this, this, this, this, this, and this?
Frantz then goes on to support Al Gore's ridiculous statement that "The vast majority of those who sponsored, planned and implemented the cold blooded murder of more than 3,000 Americans are still at large, still neither located nor apprehended, much less punished and neutralized" by pointing to a list put put by the FBI last October 10. Problem is, Frantz then goes on and contradicts his own conclusion by saying, "While it is true that most of those on this list were probably not directly involved in 9/11, this is the government's own list of the most critical and dangerous Al Qaeda activists..." Hello McFly!! If that is indeed true, than what Gore said isn't!

The essential problem with Jay's critique is that nobody knows how many people other than the terrorists who directly carried out the attacks had some involvement in 9/11. There might have been a handful of people, or hundreds. And a lot depends on who you count as involved - would you count all al Qaeda people who contacted or trained the terrorists, even those who didn't know what their mission was?

So we don't have any credible list of who was involved, or any real idea of how long such a list might be. And besides, it's irrelevant - we're at war with all of Al Qaeda, not just those personnel directly involved in 9/11. So I used the government's own list of the most wanted Al Qaeda terrorists, although I don't know how many had direct involvement, and probably the CIA doesn't either.

Incidentally, Jay's last sentence quoted above asserts that the fact that most of those on the list were not directly involved proves that most of those who were have been caught, a basic error in logic.

Jay also points out, correctly, that Gore (and I) misquoted Andrew Card. What Gore said, and I quoted, was "From an advertising point of view, you don't launch a new product line until after Labor Day." What Card really said was, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." Mickey Kaus has, as Jay points out, convinced himself that this is a major difference. He doesn't convince me. His argument might be more persuasive if he didn't make the assumption, without any factual foundation, that Gore deliberately rewrote the quotation to make it worse. He could also have done without the absurd conclusion that the New Republic, having criticized the speech, should now apologize for having ever printed pro-Gore articles. (And incidentally, if he's planning to get excitable about minor dating carelessness, he shouldn't have posts dated "Wednesday, September 26, 2002 ".)

The remainder of Jay's post affirms that Jay still backs the claim that this speech contradicts one Gore made in 1991, without addressing the arguments made in the sources I cited, which blow away this claim to my satisfaction.

Note: The Instaman, in his first notice of this blog, suggests I won't approve of this shot at Gore. It's an interesting theory, but if Al Gore and Seymour Skinner were separated at birth, wouldn't the same also apply to their nemeses?

I have to admit, there are a lot of striking resemblances. Looking at some of Bart's blackboard exercises, Matt Groening might have guessed this all along:

  • They are laughing at me, not with me

  • I will not get very far with this attitude

  • I will not sell land in Florida

  • I will not hide behind the Fifth Amendment

  • I do not have diplomatic immunity

  • Nerve gas is not a toy

  • "The President did it" is not an excuse

  • Grammar is not a time of waste
  • I am not the acting President
  • I will not scare the Vice President
  • Genetics is not an excuse