December 14, 2008

Can Republicans Kick the Habit?

In spite of the dire economic circumstances from which this country suffers, and the desperate need for all Americans to work together, the RNC appears to be gearing up another swiftboat campaign.



The term swiftboating was coined by Kate Zernike, columnist for the New York Times and ardent John Kerry supporter, in response to the highly effective but dubious "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" campaign. The continued, unproven, ad hominem attacks sunk the 2004 Kerry Presidential bid, but so disgusted the electorate that “swiftboat” has since entered the American political lexicon, used to describe mudslinging, and unfair or untrue allegations used to smear a candidate.

This is unfortunate. During the Vietnam conflict the PCF’s, or “Swift Boats”, patrolled coastal areas and the waterways of the Mekong Delta. They performed interdiction efforts that prevented enemy manpower and supplies from passing. The veterans of this effort served bravely and undoubtedly prevented many American deaths.

Only a handful of the 3,500 Swift Boat veterans participated in the 2004 campaign, but the mudslinging campaign has tarnished the reputation for all.

Even before the term was invented, GOP strategists still smarting from the 1992 loss of the Whitehouse, launched a prolonged series of attacks on Bill Clinton. The controversies surrounding this effort initially involved an investment scheme called Whitewater, and interestingly enough it was a New York Times article that precipitated the nearly eight-year long Republican smear efforts. The term “Whitewater” became the catchphrase of a never-ending series of allegations. Although some of the allegations may have been correct, most were unfounded.

Just like swiftboat, “whitewater” has become political jargon. The impeachment efforts distracted the entire country and fomented political polarization at a time when we could afford neither. Circumstances are far worse now, so let us hope this isn't déjà vu all over again. We’ve somehow got to get back to the basics and stop this kind of political suicide; particularly at a time when the country so desperately needs unity.

John McCain, the 2008 GOP standard-bearer, recognizes this fact, and said as much in a Sunday interview with the host of ABC’s “This Week,” George Stephanopoulos.

“You know, in all due respect to the Republican National Committee and anybody — right now, I think we should try to be working constructively together, not only on an issue such as this, but on the economy stimulus package, reforms that are necessary. And so, I don't know all the details of the relationship between President-elect Obama's campaign or his people and the governor of Illinois, but I have some confidence that all the information will come out. It always does, it seems to me.”

Wise words from a wise man; one I would have voted for in 2004 had Karl Rove not swiftboated him.

Republican or Democrat; brown, black, red or white; male or female; gay or straight; Muslim, Christian or atheist… we need to cease the infighting and focus on being Americans.

The Republicans have got to kick the swiftboating habit… and perhaps the Democrats need to lay off the cigars.

...

27 Comments:

MiniKat said...

I'll be danged. Someone else saying that we need to be Americans and forget the other differences that make us Americans.

Seriously though if we're going to succeed as a nation, we need to get along as a country.

J.R.Shirley said...

"the desperate need for all Americans to work together"...

I dunno. That's certainly a *true sounding* statement, isn't it? But how can we all work together when, at heart, there is such a divide in how fiscal conservatives and fiscal liberals believe we can repair our hemorrhaging economy?

Anyway, I look forward to reading what you have to share. I'm a libertarian in most aspects myself- I believe everything that doesn't infringe on other's rights should be legal, and I also believe we owe people the right to fail. For the good of our people and our economy.

Mule Breath... said...

Welcome to my pasture, John.

Regarding beliefs, I lean toward few except absolute liberty, yet history has proved the need for a system of laws. Humankind shares a common planet, atmosphere, need for community, and we have settled into at least some agreement that there should be government. It is the "hang together" analogy.

TOTWTYTR said...

The problem that President Elect Obama has is that he is a product of the same Chicago political machine as Blagojevich. That machine includes Rahm Emmanual, the Daley's, Tony Rezko and others.

Obama can be totally innocent, but it is the stench of those around him that are going to harm him. That's not "swiftboating", that's politics. The same kind Obama played in his previous campaigns and it's something he should expect.

Politics ain't badminton as the saying goes.

Bipartisanship is a myth, and that's a good thing. The battle should be over how to govern because there are different philosophies as to what's right. You and I disagree on these things because of where we were raised. If we switched places at birth, it's likely that you'd be more conservative and I'd be more liberal.

Mule Breath... said...

As usual, I don’t agree with you… at least on some points.

1. Swiftboating is swiftboating. Politics is a part of life and can (should) evolve. Damaging the country for the sake of political gain is inexcusable, and must stop. As I stated, the campaign against Kerry disgusted the voters and the allegations were determined to be mostly lies after the fact. Let’s quit doing that kind of stuff.

2. Obama came from Illinois and is obviously familiar with the machine. This does not mean he is part of the machine. He talks about change, so let’s give him a chance.

3. Your “switched at birth” scenario is possibly true, but I kind of doubt it. My philosophy has far less to do with local attitudes than it does with my curiosity.

4. Politics ain’t sauerkraut either. I understand the nature of playing tough, but I will not forgive those who do not play fair. Both McCain and Hillary have reconciled their respective losses and have appropriately focused their energies on helping the President elect work for the betterment of our nation.

Wow! ss that was ALL of your points ;>)

Patrick said...

In what way were the SBFfT "dubious" along with their effectiveness? It seemed like a bunch of Sailors giving their side of the story. Nowadays, we'd call that "whistleblowing" and if it was somebody in the Bush administration, it'd be widely defended by the very NYT you refer to.

Ad hominem, as I understand it, is attacking the person vs the providing substantive, even factual, arguments against the issue. Since I never actually saw any of the Swift Boat ads, I went to their website, operations suspended. It appears they had five video commentaries. Every one gives the stories of the other men who were there. There's no ad hominem that I can readily see.

But at least we agree on the cigars.

Mule Breath... said...

“In what way were the "dubious" along with their effectiveness?”

Nothing said about dubious effectiveness. In fact I clearly stated that the effort was effective.

… “call that "whistleblowing"… “Ad hominem, as I understand it, is attacking the person...There's no ad hominem that I can readily see.”

You should have seen the ads. From Annenberg’s Fact Check we find the following:

“A group funded by the biggest Republican campaign donor in Texas began running an attack ad Aug. 5 in which former Swift Boat veterans claim Kerry lied to get one of his two decorations for bravery and two of his three purple hearts.”

In my book calling a man a liar is attacking the person.

“It seemed like a bunch of Sailors giving their side of the story.”

The entire SBFfT effort was composed of 13 sailors. Of those only four were actually present during the various events in question. One of them, retired Capt. George Elliot, recanted his accusations upon the revelation that he was the one who recommended Kerry for the medal. Two others claiming Kerry’s assertion of being “under fire” in another incident to be a lie were discredited when it surfaced that one recommended the other for a Bronze Star for the same incident, and both claimed to be under fire at the time. From Fact Check:

“A serious discrepancy in the account of Kerry's accusers came to light Aug. 19, when the Washington Post reported that Navy records describe Thurlow himself as dodging enemy bullets during the same incident, for which Thurlow also was awarded the Bronze Star.”

Countering all the false allegations is the man Kerry actually rescued, while wounded and under fire, Army Special Forces lieutenant Jim Rassmann. Russmann, a registered Republican from California, authored an article in the Wall Street Journal in which he said that Kerry was "wounded by the explosion that threw me off his boat," clearly vindicating Senator Kerry of all SBFfT charges.

The entire effort was financed by one rich Texan by the name of Perry. Records indicate that Perry may have spent as much as $4 million to defeat Kerry.

It’s good to be king.

Patrick said...

Well, I doubt we're going to reach a consensus here, but if my junior medic says s/he checked breath sounds and the EDD, and I say it didn't happen because I was there and observed the lack thereof, I'm calling them a liar and not attacking them.  So I guess it's all HOW I say it didn't happen.  And who apparently paid for me to be able to say that.

And one party funded in the billions by George Soros cannot cry victim when one rich Texan lavishly funds a counterop against that party.   It was a kickass Saturday Night Live portrayal of him, though.

Cheers from 50 degree and rainy Chicago

Mule Breath... said...

Patrick, I'm not seeking consensus, here or anywhere. What I seek is civility and truth. The Swift Boat affair had nothing to do with how something was said, It had to do with deliberate, bought and paid for lies. It was such a sordid thing as to cause the very name to become representative of all that is reprehensible in politics.

Here is the link to Fact Check's site where you can read all the various citations, including the affidavits I mentioned.

http://www.factcheck.org/republican-funded_group_attacks_kerrys_war_record.html

Interesting that you should mention it, because the same rich Texas gave $200K to disgraced (Texas) senator Tom DeLay to run an ad smearing George Soros. Here is a link to that:

http://www.factcheck.org/society/swiftly_defending_delay.html

What is interesting about Soros is that he is widely demonized by rightwingers for supporting liberal candidates and causes here in the U.S.. You never hear that he funded efforts like Poland's Solidarity movement and Czechoslovakia's Human Rights movement, is partly responsible for the Georgian Rose Revolution that deposed Shevardnadze, worked to help end Apartheid in South Africa, contributed millions in aid the the victims of the Sarajevo seige. He has spent billions helping to free people around the globe, but nope, you'll never here that, because all that matters is that his is a damn liberal.

You can support one philosophy or another, I don't really care. All I care is that it is done honestly and with civility and truth.

Patrick said...

"..bought and paid for lies.."

I'm quite sure you don't know what the truth is any more than I do, because neither of us were there.

I generally don't have much faith in "fact check" type organizations, which usually and necessarily have an agenda of some sort, even if it's down to the individual fact-checker. Wikipedia can be factual - it's up to the reader to separate the wheat from the chaff. At least the factcheck.org citations have the original content embedded or linked. So I read those links with some finding of partiality. I'm just that way.

So on the one hand, you doubt Bob Perry because he funds campaigns you don't like. On the other hand, you cite some positive things that Soros has done (some of which I was actually aware of - yaaaay me!), and then can overlook his funding of a steaming pile of dung like Media Matters, with people like the detestable Oliver Willis spewing high volumes of garbage all the day long.

You most certainly cannot be for honesty, civility and truth while supporting Soros' Media Matters.

Mule Breath... said...

"I'm quite sure you don't know what the truth is any more than I do, because neither of us were there"

How high a burden of proof do you require? Truth can be known from corroborating documentation, multiple cites of the same incident by independently verifiable sources, corroborating witness statements, etc. Factcheck.org., is an equal opportunity critic. The organization has filleted as many of one party as the other.You can have as little faith in them as you wish, but the fact remains that their work product is generally good. But if you prefer Wikipedia, check that site and you will find the same information as factcheck.org. The evidence is indesputable.


"You most certainly cannot be for honesty, civility and truth while supporting Soros' Media Matters"

In this statement you create two logical errors. (1) Base rate fallacy - Nothing I've said has indicated support for Soros or Media Matters. I've expressed support for no entity. I defended Soros from your earlier fallacy, but this is weak evidence to yoke me to him. (2) Post hoc ergo propter hoc - As above, I've not supported Soros. Media Matter for America was not part of the discussion. Simply because I salute Soros for his good works does not lead to the conclusion that I support Soros.


"with people like the detestable Oliver Willis spewing high volumes of garbage all the day long.

Perfect example of ad homonym. You could also add this to the fallacies above, as it appears that you attempt by inclusion to associate me or my arguments with a person you feel is "detestable."

Patrick, we could go on for days but it seems that would be time wasted, and the argument has steered far from the intention of the original piece. I will commit my own logical fallacy here by offering two suggestions: (1) You should venture outside Fox news for your information, and (2) Find another mentor. Bill O'Rilley's debate style is rife with logical errors.

The following is known in debate as a Thought Terminating Cliché, the purpose of which is to end an argument: "Never wrestle with a pig. You get muddy and the pig enjoys it." I'll leave it to you to determine which of us is the pig.

Patrick said...

You're right, arguing this in circles will prove nothing. I'll end with a couple of points:

- As I said, I choose neither (Wiki or Factcheck). But citing either as being "indisputable" is laughable. As with Google, who this week finally admitted that there are actually people behind the scenes making decisions on what you see, assuming no bias exists is quite naive.
- Nor do I really watch television to speak of, save for sports or weather. I couldn't tell you what channel Fox is on my cable, unless they're carrying the Sunday Bears game this week.
- Your plain-English defense of Soros caused me to jump to a conclusion which was apparently incorrect. Though I doubt it.
- I find Bill O'Rielly as detestable as I do Oliver Willis.
- Pigs taste wonderful.

I enjoyed this discourse, and hope I may come by again.

Mule Breath... said...

Quality debate is always welcome, and I've found adding pork to my chili makes it somewhat more tasty.

Mi casa es su casa...

Anonymous said...

While John McCain was the Republican nominee, he hardly fit the idea of a fiscally responsible representative by many Republicans. In my situation, I felt he was necessary evil, but only because there was the possibility his chain could be jerked. Describing him as "standard bearer" is a leap. Maybe you can have a poll of Republicans to see if they feel this is an acceptable title. You can entire me as a no.

Whitewater uncovered quite a group of felons, fourteen if I remember correctly, which included many of the business acquaintences of the Clintons. It was a large and cumbersome investigation, but it can be argued that the investigation would have been less of a boondoggle with the cooperation of the Clintons, and their attorneys.

The term "swiftboating" has made it's way into the vocabulary by what method? Is it an accurate description of the actual attempts by the swift boaters who served with Kerry to show their displeasure of the Senator, or is it a catch phrase created by the media to show their displeasure of the same efforts?

As far as "working together": to what end? Where is the common push to end the overspending of the Feds? I see both major parties at the trough and the slop is gone.

Jon

jeg43 said...

Mule Breath,
I think you're right. We all need to continue to work together to solve our problems. Otherwise, more gridlock, more anger, more trouble.
I have another suggestion: Post yourself a set of "rules for commenters" permanently and prominently in your sidebar. This will help to keep you from talking down a well to someone who refuses to hear/understand what you're trying to say.

Here's a link to a site that has posted in the right hand sidebar just such a list (and you may like the site too):
http://eb-misfit.blogspot.com/

Here's for Patrick: We're all human. Get over yourself.
And here's for Jon: I'm sorry you've given up on two party America. However when you stop working with others, you lose the right to piss and moan about the choice of food when the meal is served.

Anonymous said...

When the meal is served? I finance the meal, so I can piss and moan about how the government took the fine raw ingredients, consumed them at leisure, and is trying to tell me a pile of dung is a Christmas turkey.

In Texas the saying is: Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining.

Jon

Mule Breath... said...

As far as "working together": to what end? Where is the common push to end the overspending of the Feds? I see both major parties at the trough and the slop is gone.

Jon, welcome to the pasture. I'm at work so I'll make this brief.

(1) McCain was described as standard-bearer because he won the nomination.

(2) If I implied the Clintons were lily white in the Whitewater deal, I didn't mean to. My point was the distraction caused. I question why all this dirt only surfaced once Clinton was elected. A point in favor of bipartisanship is that the Senate voted 96 to 3 to investigate the deal. So far I've failed to determine who belonged to the missing vote. Anyone know?

(3) I think there we actually 15 Whitewater convictions, but that would have to be researched.

(4) Actually I don't think the swiftboat term came into fashion until it was used to describe the conservative attacks on Cindy Sheehan. It is possible that the media were the first to use it, but it may be that the media simply popularized the usage. Regardless, it is in the dictionary and the definition isn't flattering.

KK said...

I enjoyed the discourse in the remarks section. I obviously found my way over here from Ye Ole Ambulance Driver's Blog and am glad to have a kindred spirit.

I was a fiscally conservative republican until the voodoo economics of Reagan (which as an economics major I still don't understand - or agree with.....) and then on to the vicious attack-dog model of Lee Atwater and then his apparent successor Karl Assface Rove. Couple that with the Republicans snuggling up with the Right to Life - Born Again - Evangelical Demon Worshippers. Well, lets just say that they lost me.

Of course, the other side wasn't any better. Clinton talked a good game but eventually got swallowed (pun intended) up in the Game of Washington. But at least there was HOPE durning his administration that America was doing the right thing even if we went about it in the wrong way.

And you can call me optimistic or maybe of wearing rose colored glasses, but I'm very excited about the prospect of our new president.

I pray that there will be civility once again in the halls in our capitol. I pray that bipartisanship (even if it is a myth) will be the watchword of the era. I pray that we can put the politics aside and do something about the very real problems we face, not only in our nation but in our world.

But mostly, what I want is for America to once again be an example to the rest of the world of to how to act when you are doing the right thing. Because if we can do that again, I believe that we will be blessed beyond measure.

That is all. I'm going back to sleep now~!

Mule Breath... said...

Old AD (or ADHD as I call him) seems to have shooed a few gadflies my way. I'm proud of that, just as I'm proud knowing him and his pals. Like he says, we are way different but we can hold a civil conversation. Polite disagreement is worth more than gold and debate is what built this nation.

Fiscally conservative Republican. Hmmm. I think I remember those. Kind of a rarity these days, and I think they started to disappear a little sooner then the Reagan era. Seems to me a rather interesting fellow we affectionately call FDR spent just over 12 years digging us out of a depression and fighting a world war on two fronts behind the folly of a conservative Republican. It killed FDR, and I know a many won't agree with me, but I think history proves he managed to make something out of the mess.

You're correct though, in that the other side isn't any better. For the bulk of American not blinded by the bull, the choices have been dismal. A majority of voters have never known a President that wasn't either crooked or suffering from some ideology or another. The last great Dem died in office, and the last great pachyderm warned us to beware the likes of all who have followed. I'm working on a missive that concentrates on this theme. Maybe have it posted in a week or so.

Obama is another of these choices. Way far left of anything I would consider favored, but the alternative were far worse. Both parties had far better choices who got knocked out in the primaries, so we had what we had. GWB is proof that the pendulum swinging too far has deleterious effect. When he showed up on the 2000 ticket we were given the choice of way too far right or way too far left. A tiny majority reckoned it was maybe better right than left. As bad as I have hated the way the country has gone since then, I can't honestly say we would have been any better off with Gore.

There have been nothing but bad choices for way too long. Far too many sheep, not enough sheepdogs and a gawd-awful lot of wolves.

Welcome to the pasture KK.

One Fly said...

I'm a skeptical bastard but I agree on the working together.

We've seen what has happened with the loan for the car makers in the senate.

I believe the same games will be played with the new congress. Question is do the Dems plan to fight or will they roll over as usual and accept compromised legislation because of a couple repug senators who will not give an inch.

I hope it's different but I won't believe it till I see it. We need quality legislation quickly!

Anonymous said...

Quality legislation is teetering on becoming an oxymoron, if it hasn't already fallen into the pit. Legislation rarely is a concerted effort to squeeze the bloated body of Government back into the slim clothing of the Constitutional Republic.

As far as a new Congress, there's not much new, although there's plenty of new rhetoric. It's a polished version of business as usual.

Jon

The Old Man said...

What I found interesting was
a) The very high percentage of the men in his squadron who were members of the SBV. But then again, some folks have a negative effect on those who surround them through no fault of their own.
b) I was personally offended as a US Army RVN veteran by John's use of a 19th century reg to escape after 4 months due to picayune wounds. Hell, I served 23 months over in what we called "Rocket Alley" and in no way consider myself any more than one of the boys in the band.
c) I have yet to see any evidence to the contrary of the SBV claims. Surely there is some documentary or even anecdotal evidence refuting the charges.

Mule Breath... said...

Always sad to find someone so damn certain of a position they refuse to be confused by facts. I don't give a rat's patoot about Kerry and didn't vote for him in 2004, but I do care about allegations that have smeared a damn awful lot of valiant men - all in the name of winning an election. Old Man needs to read something not filled with partisan bile.

Old Man sez: The very high percentage of the men in his squadron who were members of the SBV. But then again, some folks have a negative effect on those who surround them through no fault of their own.

Mule Breath sez: There were 13 out of a 3,500 member division signing as SBVT, and only four actually served with Kerry. One of the four was his commander, who later recanted and called his participation with the SBVT "a mistake". Two of those remaining were embarrassed when it came to light that one of them recommended the other for a Bronze Star for the same firefight that they claimed there had been no fire.

Old Man sez: I was personally offended as a US Army RVN veteran by John's use of a 19th century reg to escape after 4 months due to picayune wounds. Hell, I served 23 months over in what we called "Rocket Alley" and in no way consider myself any more than one of the boys in the band.

Mule Breath sez: Then you should be offended at the Navy, not Kerry. In 1969 Navy regulations specified that any soldier wounded three times was automatically reassigned out of the combat arena.

Old Man sez: I have yet to see any evidence to the contrary of the SBV claims. Surely there is some documentary or even anecdotal evidence refuting the charges.

Mule Breath sez: Yep, sure is. For anyone interested in the truth, not the fiction that Old Man believes, follow the link below. This will take you to the Findlaw.com page listing military records for both 2004 Presidential candidates. These documents offer "evidence to the contrary of the SBV claims."

http://news.findlaw.com/legalnews/lit/election2004/docs.html

In addition, over the next few days, I plan to publish a letter written by four of Kerry's squad who were actually with him in the debated firefight, and signed by in agreement by five others. The thing is long, so I plan to publish it over at least a few days. Old Man, you're welcome too... if you're interested in truth.

Old NFO said...

Actually factcheck.org is run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at UPenn, so not really an unbiased fact checker... Also, I worked for 4 years with a retired Naval Officer who was there in 68-69 in PBRs (and was not a member of the Swift Boat Vets, he corroborated a number of their stories. He also said there was no possible way Kerry was in Cambodia on Christmas, since HIS Swift boat was on patrol, Kerry was back at the patrol base and NO Swift boats were allowed up on the border (that was a PBR area). We may never know the truth, but I will tell you, as a retired Naval Officer, if I'd had as bad a set of FITREPS as Kerry did, I'd have been booted out.

Mule Breath... said...

Old NFO - Actually factcheck.org is run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at UPenn, so not really an unbiased fact checker

MB - Most reliable public policy folks disagree. Annenberg is considered as fair to one side as the other and has blistered as many Dems as GOP.

Old NFO - Also, I worked for 4 years with a retired Naval Officer who was there in 68-69 in PBRs (and was not a member of the Swift Boat Vets, he corroborated a number of their stories.

MB - Anecdotal as he was not there, and the documentation refutes it.

Old NFO - He also said there was no possible way Kerry was in Cambodia on Christmas, since HIS Swift boat was on patrol

MB - No argument with this particular, widely reported falsehood. Of all the SBVT arguments, it is the one that I don't think can be refuted.

Old NFO - We may never know the truth

MB - But we do know much of the truth. There is far too much corroborating documentation, from disparate sources, to allow most of the SBVT allegations to go unchallenged.

OldNFO - if I'd had as bad a set of FITREPS as Kerry did, I'd have been booted out.

MB - Doubtful. The military needed you too much. Just like they needed Kerry. Fit or not.

Bingo said...

A bit late to this party, but amused enough by your four-post, verbatim "retort" of Kerry minutia guised as "factual rebuttal" to comment. Rather typical. And not even a closing "So THERE!"?

And your elevation of "FactCheck.org" and "Wikipedia" to a level of pristine arbiter of fact? Oh my...what can one say?

Perhaps the closing quote from the oft-peddled (and rarely cited) "Fact Check" commentary might serve to amuse...

"At this point, 35 years later and half a world away, we see no way to resolve which of these versions of reality is closer to the truth."

The truth will out...and History (capital H)is not yet done with John Forbes Kerry.

Mule Breath... said...

JEG, you got your wish...

I see the wingnuts have a new dog in the hunt. Curious to me how folks arguing from the poles cannot remain on topic. Polarized folks (left or right) never allow facts stand in their way, and march out the same fleabit dog and swayback pony time and again.

Your assertions have been previously addressed, Bingo, To use your own words, rather typical.