Books, culture, fishing, and other games

August 11, 2004

Kerry's Disappearing Art

"I wish they had a delete button on LexisNexis."
--John Kerry.

That statement in a Washington Post article is especially interesting in light of recent modifications to the Kerry campaign website and other published documents on the web surrounding the historical record of Mssr. Kerry's career. He is quoted saying,

"I'll say thank you to every journalist who wrote [expletive] articles about me," he joked. Then he added, "I plead guilty to being a little brash when I first got into politics. I wish they had a delete button on LexisNexis."

Analyzing this is illuminative of character.

First he focuses anger on the articles and indirectly on the jouralists. Just because he is joking does not mean there isn't real anger driving the joking. We often use this sort of joking as a way to tone down and still express our anger, letting others know we're angry without exposing them to its real lash. That he used an expletive which the paper chose not to print, and that he's a politician conscious of how this sort of expletive comes across, shows it's more than casual joking. It's joking with a purpose. He was communicating a desire that reporters be careful what they write about him because it might hurt his election chances.

Next he pleads "guilty to being a little brash." This can be taken by those who choose to as an apology for things he's said and done in the past. But it is not that. It is an admission that what he did in the past can or is adversely affecting his efforts to accomplish his goals now.

Finally we get the statement the reminds me of a book a friend loaned me recently, The Commisar Vanishes, by David King. The book shows graphically how Stalin sought to force a rewriting (or re-viewing) of history by modifying pictures, paintings, and textual works to remove that and those which he preferred forgotten. Kerry appears to share that impulse.

The activities of his campaign team and his supporters provide some evidence of this statement. One of the earliest incidents involved the Daily Kos furor surrounding the statements made regarding the contractors killed in Fallujah. At the time, Daily Kos was a significant fundraiser online for Kerry and was linked from Kerry's campaign site. When mushroom clouds began erupting over blogs regarding the callousness of Daily Kos, Kos purged the original statement from that blog and issued a lame apology. The Kerry site diappeared the link to Kos. At roughly the same time, the Kerry site disappeared a link to Democratic Underground, another source of controversial (to be clinical) voices singing harmony to the songs Kerry sang back in this days as icon for Vietnam Veterans Against the Wars.

Purging links may not on the surface appear to be the same as airbrushing people out of photographs. But each is an attempt to hide the fact that there were links between people, links that matter historically. The campaign did issue a statement about Kos, but admitted no error in associating with entities so extreme.

Then there was the yellowcake episode culminating in Joe Wilson's accusations that the Bush administration lied when it pronounced the infamous sixteen words in the State of the Union address. As part of his efforts to discredit the adminstration, Wilson lauched a site RestoreHonesty.com. The Kerry campaign hosted it. Sometime around the release of the 9/11 Commission's report that put the lie to Wilson's accusations, the Wilson site was disappeared. There is not reference to it on the Kerry site, and, at least at the moment, I can't find any sign of the Wilson pages anywhere. But the url, www.restorehonesty.com still points to the Kerry campaign site, the last shadow left in the picture after the airbrushing was done.

There are other, less direct, examples. When Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe misquoted one of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in an article, "Veteran retracts criticism of Kerry", it was quickly countered by an affidavit from Capt. Elliot. Supporters of the Swift Boat Vets pointed out there were direct links from that reporter to the Kerry campaign, questioning his objectivity and presenting potential motivation for spinning (in this case "spin" would be understatement) the statements of the Vets to the worst possible light for them and the best possible for Kerry. One of those links was apparent on the cover of the official Kerry-Edwards campaign biography. The key word is "was," shortly after the controvery ignited, Kranish's name and association with the book disappeared. Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit posted on this topic on August 7, 2004. You'll note successive updates showing Kranish's slow evaporation, first from the Amazon site's cover shot and text, then Barnes & Noble's also.

The explanations given by the Kerry campaign or associates may contrain truth. But in light of Kerry's quoted statement, and the developing pattern, one wonders.

We're grown so accustomed to Kerry "flip-flopping" on issues that it's almost become an old joke (which is the earnest hope of the Kerry campaign). While it might be easy to confuse his flip-flopping with this revisionary impulse, the two are not the same. People, even politicians, are allowed to change their minds and their positions. That's human, and in many cases it's even a positive thing if it shows they are observing new facts and modifying their opinions and positions to better fit reality. The corollary of this latter good "flip-flopping" is the tacit admission of earlier error.

When someone tries to hide evidence of error instead admitting the error, we are justified to censure it. It's human, everyone does it on occasion, but when it becomes a pattern it is a character flaw, and one that can cause tremendous harm if it's present in a President. It was Richard Nixon's fatal flaw. We need to ask ourselves if there is a pattern of trying to coverup errors in Mssr. Kerry's history indicating he too suffers from this flaw.

Posted by dan at August 11, 2004 09:49 AM | TrackBack

Great post, Dan. Over at Duncan Black's Eschaton, where Black recently banned me for no reason at all besides his desire to maintain the ideological purity of his fan club, a few of his drones threatened me with physical violence. Black likes to keep up the appearance of an open forum and, so, doesn't require any registration for comments; but this is a sham if he can purge dissent individually. That's any blogmaster's prerogative, but it makes Black a hypocrite all the same.

Posted by: Toby Petzold at August 12, 2004 04:50 AM