Monday, October 18, 2004

Let Dogs Lie: The latest bickering in this election seems to be over which campaign is lying more. Some people have tried to quantify both the number and severity of the lies. I'm not going to try to tip the scales in either direction. I do, however, want to point out that both campaigns are getting called liars even when they are making legitimate political points.

For example, people say President Bush is lying when he charges that Senator Kerry's "global test" amounts to giving other countries a veto over our security. Critics rightfully point out that Kerry has said loud and clear that he won't give any other country such a veto.

But that's not where the story ends. Kerry has also said that he wants to form a "legitimate coalition" for Iraq and other endeavors. Yet he has not adequately explained at what point he would draw the line between "going it alone" and waiting for others. He criticizes Bush for rushing to war in Iraq, even though the president spent months pleading with France, Russia, and the rest of the U.N. to commit to force. When it was obvious that they would not come along, we went to war with a small coalition that supported us.

Kerry needs to make it clear what he would have done differently. If he would have spent years and years negotiating with the U.N., that's essentially giving other countries a veto over our military. If he would have waited a couple months longer and gone on without the U.N., then his position is essentially no different than Bush's. Kerry can't have it both ways.

On the other side, political observers have called Kerry a liar, too, because he repeats the refrain that Bush wants to bring back the draft. Bush has said time and time again that we will keep an all-volunteer military. But we are at war. The attack on this country on 9/11 cost more lives and destruction than what happened at Pearl Harbor. And there was a draft for World War II (enacted shortly before we entered the war). It's perfectly plausible to think that we may need one again to protect this country from Islamofascists. It may not be apparent now, but Kerry is right to warn us that it could happen later.

There are other examples, too -- from Bush claiming that Kerry will raise everybody's taxes while Kerry denies it, and Kerry claiming that Bush will privatize Social Security while Bush denies it. It's true that politicians often lie about their opponents' positions. But don't forget that politicians also lie and exaggerate about their own positions as well. And both candidates are right to call out the other when they think it happens.


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