blogenlust
9.02.2004

So I lied...


Fred Kaplan writes in today's Slate:
Still, it is worth setting the record straight. The main falsehood, we have gone over before (click here for the details), but it keeps getting repeated, so here we go again: It is the claim that John Kerry, during his 20 years in the Senate, voted to kill the M-1 tank, the Apache helicopter; the F-14, F-16, and F-18 jet fighters; and just about every other weapon system that has kept our nation free and strong. Here, one more time, is the truth of the matter: Kerry did not vote to kill these weapons, in part because none of these weapons ever came up for a vote, either on the Senate floor or in any of Kerry's committees. This myth took hold last February in a press release put out by the RNC. Those who bothered to look up the fine-print footnotes discovered that they referred to votes on two defense appropriations bills, one in 1990, the other in 1995. Kerry voted against both bills, as did 15 other senators, including five Republicans. The RNC took those bills, cherry-picked some of the weapons systems contained therein, and implied that Kerry voted against those weapons. By the same logic, they could have claimed that Kerry voted to disband the entire U.S. armed forces; but that would have raised suspicions and thus compelled more reporters to read the document more closely. What makes this dishonesty not merely a lie, but a damned lie, is that back when Kerry cast these votes, Dick Cheney—who was the secretary of defense for George W. Bush's father—was truly slashing the military budget. Here was Secretary Cheney, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 31, 1992: Overall, since I've been Secretary, we will have taken the five-year defense program down by well over $300 billion. That's the peace dividend. … And now we're adding to that another $50 billion … of so-called peace dividend. Cheney then lit into the Democratic-controlled Congress for not cutting weapons systems enough: Congress has let me cancel a few programs. But you've squabbled and sometimes bickered and horse-traded and ended up forcing me to spend money on weapons that don't fill a vital need in these times of tight budgets and new requirements. … You've directed me to buy more M1s, F14s, and F16s—all great systems … but we have enough of them. I'm not accusing Cheney of being a girly man on defense. As he notes, the Cold War had just ended; deficits were spiraling; the nation could afford to cut back. But some pro-Kerry equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Zell Miller could make that charge with as much validity as they—and Cheney—make it against Kerry. In other words, it's not just that Cheney and those around him are lying; it's not even just that they know they're lying; it's that they know—or at least Cheney knows—that the same lie could be said about him. That's what makes it a damned lie.
Dishonest hacks. This is, of course, the same pattern used by the Swift Boat Vets. They are willing to take the chance that nobody will call them on the fact that many were awarded medals for the same disputed events for which Kerry was awarded medals. It is actually very canny, politically speaking. By the time someone in the media brings this up, or points out that Cheney slashed the military budget, it is too late. We've already heard that Kerry has cheap medals and voted to eliminate the military. Politics 101, and people are still falling for it.