Wednesday, November 01, 2006


--It follows a pattern, if you dig what I mean.

--Gil Scott Heron

The Bush administration is filled with people who feel no compunction about loudly denying having said things, despite the existence of video tape showing them saying precisely those things; --I never said 'stay the course'-- is just one egregious recent example. These same people loudly insist on recontextualizng their own recorded statements to make them mean otherwise, witness the White House explanations that Vice President Cheney was not condoning waterboarding when he said that "dunking prisoners in water" was a no brainer. The White House has also steadfastly refused to say just what Cheney might have meant by "dunking" if he was not condoning the subjection of people being interrogated to water tortures of the sort for which we have in fact tried people in the past as war criminals.

But then, these same administration figures, in a pattern familiar to any who have followed past Rove-led campaigns, consistently alter and recontextualize the statements of the opposition for the express purpose of convincing the public that they have said something they clearly have not said.

Nothing could be clearer to anyone who reviews the full tape of John Kerry's California comments than that his remarks about getting "stuck in Iraq" were directed squarely at Bush. Bush is the subject of the preceding sentences, and the thesis of Kerry's paragraphs at that point in his comments is that Bush has failed to learn the lessons of history, can't recognize the facts he confronts, and thus has gotten us stuck in Iraq.

This is why the Republicans refuse to read the preceding sentences in their entirety when they are quoting Kerry this week. Why the news media persist in replaying only the sentence to which the Republicans have uniformly taken offense is another matter (though, to his credit, Chris Matthews reread the fuller text several times during his show yesterday -- still, that never swayed his Republican guests from their assigned talking points).

True enough, Kerry has largely fumbled the response in the past 24 hours. It's nice to hear him responding forcefully, but it would be nicer to hear him responding more coherently.

But this is just a rerun of Republican efforts during the last presidential election to make us believe that Kerry had said that any military defense mounted by the United States would only take place after foreign nations had approved it. Millions of Americans had seen and heard what Kerry actually said on that occasion, but that was no reason for the Republicans to stop misquoting him. And the news media, for the most part, chose to cover the controversy resulting from Republican miscontruals rather than simply replay what Kerry had clearly said.

This is a familiar tactic by now -- but what is it about our national political discourse that this tactic gets any traction at all?

And isn't it about time that more journalists take note of the fact that it is those political figures who constantly portray themselves as champions of TRUTH, against those damned liberal relativists, it is Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney and other defenders of the truth who are so sadly prone to the deliberate misrepresentation of the words of others and of themselves?

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