By now, everyone is aware of the Bush camp’s attacks on Kerry as a “flip-flopper.” John Harris of the Washington Post breaks from the media herd to point out in “Despite Bush Flip-Flops, Kerry Gets Label” that Bush is on dangerous ground given his own propensity for prevarication. This is, of course, reminiscent of the 2000 campaign’s double standard, where Gore was portrayed by the media as untruthful, but Bush escaped unscathed despite his own history of misstatements. (These are also known as outright lies, depending on one’s forthrightness.)
Missing from nearly all media coverage of the 2004 campaign – because it doesn’t fit their preconception – are Bush’s numerous flip-flops. The Center for American Progress has a long list (“President Bush: Flip-Flopper-In-Chief”) that’s devastating to the media portrayal of Bush as “resolute” and “decisive.” CAP has clearly done some research; their well-documented article links to the original sources – often Dubya’s own words from the White House PR archive – so you can judge for yourself whether or not they are taken out of context or otherwise misinterpreted.
The DNC has a special report (“The Bush Record: Top 10 Bush Flip Flops”) on the same subject, and the Bush Campaign – another obviously partisan source – has an opposing list of Kerry’s flip-flops. The GOP’s list of Kerry flip-flops is longer, but many of them have already been debunked at BushCampaignLies.
Reasonable people can disagree on the significance of each candidate’s position changes, but they first need to know all the facts – not just the ones favoring their side. [Note to GOP delegates: Waving cheap footwear and chanting in unison doesn’t qualify as a substantive counter-argument, and neither does simply repeating a set of talking points.]
Flip-flops aren’t the only relevant issue here: there are also many deceptive campaign advertisements. An article from FactCheck.org (“Bush Ad Twists Kerry's Words on Iraq”) describes Bush’s new ad as “the most egregious example so far in the 2004 campaign of using edited quotes in a way that changes their meaning and misleads voters.” FactCheck does a generally excellent job of revealing both campaigns’ inaccuracies, as does Columbia Journalism Review’s “Campaign Desk.” No matter where you stand politically, you’re likely to learn something by looking through their archives.
Given the heated campaign rhetoric to date, it’s important to watch the upcoming debates with a careful eye for deception – and to beware the inevitable spin. The debate schedule is:
Thursday 30 September (Kerry vs. Bush)
Tuesday 5 October (Edwards vs. Cheney)
Friday 8 October (Kerry vs. Bush)
Wednesday 13 October (Kerry vs. Bush)
Each debate begins at 9:00 PM ET; visit the Commission on Presidential Debates for more information.
Thanks for reading.
Quote of the Day:
“I hope that voters will recall the last time Mr. Bush stood on stage for a presidential debate. If elected, he said, he would support allowing Americans to buy prescription drugs from Canada. He promised that his tax cuts would create millions of new jobs. He vowed to end partisan bickering in Washington. Above all, he pledged that if he put American troops into combat: ‘The force must be strong enough so that the mission can be accomplished. And the exit strategy needs to be well defined.’ Comparing these grandiose promises to his failed record, it's enough to make anyone want to, well, sigh.”
(Al Gore, “How to Debate George Bush”)