Balkinization  

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Not A Liar

JB

Nicholas Kristoff thinks it's bad to call Bush a liar. But look what he says about Bush in the same op-ed:

Bush "stretch[es] the truth," "exaggerat[es], and "carefully avoids the most blatant lies." [as opposed to less blatant lies?] When he says things that aren't true he "always has available a prima facie defense of confusion." Bush "was overzealous and self-deluded" and "surrounded himself with like-minded ideologues" who "deceived themselves along with the public". "[T]here are so many legitimate criticisms we can (and should) make about this president that we don't need to get into kindergarten epithets." "Mr. Bush got us into a mess by overdosing on moral clarity and self-righteousness, and embracing conspiracy theories of like-minded zealots."

But he's not a liar.

I agree that calling someone a liar can be a conversation stopper. And it can impede reasoned analysis. But what do you do when a person repeatedly says things that are not true, and insists on saying them over and over when people object that they are false? Perhaps Bush didn't really understand the economic consequences of his tax proposals in 2000 or who they would actually benefit. Perhaps he really changed his mind repeatedly about why he wanted tax cuts. Perhaps he really thought that there were weapons of mass destruction after all the evidence showed that this was wrong. But at some point, the number of false and misleading statements becomes so great that you have to assume that *some* of them were deliberate. At that point, what word can one use?

Kristoff is certainly correct that liberals should not become conspiracy theorists, or allow themselves to become blinded by rage. But they should not allow government officials to get away with making false and misleading statements repeatedly in order to justify policies that are bad for the nation. For too long the problem with liberals was that they allowed their political opponents to get away with bullying and prevarication. The left shouldn't lose its cool. But it has a moral obligation to speak truth to power.


Comments:

Dear Mr. Kristof,
Can you point me to columns of yours in the '90s that criticized conservatives for their over-the-top attacks on Clinton? Can you point me to columns of yours that criticize, for example, Rush Limbaugh, for the kinds of routine sliming he does?
If not, then I must assume that you find it extremely unseemly when Democrats do this sort of thing, but not worthy of notice when Republicans do it.
That would be a double standard, would it not?

Yours,
Walter Crockett
Worcester, Mass.
 

Let's accept Kristof's point not to call Bush Jr. a liar. Let's accept what Kristof says about Bush Jr. as noted in JB's post. Then what should we call Bush Jr. who has been just plain wrong about so many things concerning the war against Iraq? Should we merely recite these wrongs or should we characterize them in some manner short of not calling him a liar? Should we question the competency of Bush Jr. and his Administration? Should they be described as less than honest, or perhaps arrogant, or something else less than a liar? Should Bush Jr. be accountable for these mistakes? It seems that Kristof is being too sensitive towards Bush Jr. Does Kristof want us to praise Bush Jr.? Does Kristof think Bush Jr. deserves a second chance? Rather than tell us not to call Bush Jr. a liar, Kristof might tell us what he really, really wants us to call Bush Jr. to describe what he has done.
 

Instead of Bush the Liar I suggest a more courteous and respectful George the Mendacious.
 

Mendacious.....hmmmm. Nope. Too many syllables. Smacks of liberal elitism.
 

The best propaganda is factual but very, very distorted and dissembled. As reason and empiricism are abandoned-- actually denied and attacked as unpatrtiotic-- to uphold decietful policies and actions, facts give way to the Big Lie. Keep repeating it and trust in the fear and ignorance of the populace to buy it. That's where we are.

Mr. Kristoff is eccentric and from his lofty perch he can afford to be a useful idiot who defends propaganda by attacking thsoe who challenge it. He's got a lot of dissonance to reduce. Who better to assail than those who see what he resists seeing?

Dan
 

At law, the usual phrase is "knew or should have known." That is, Bush knew or should have known about the probable effects of his tax cuts; Bush knows or should know who gave Valerie Plame's dossier to Robert Novak; Bush knew or should have known that almost everything he said about Iraq or Saddam was false.

Willful ignorance -- seeing to it you don't know things that you might be forced to lie about -- is, therefore, just another version of a lie.
 

"For too long the problem with liberals was that they allowed their political opponents to get away with bullying and prevarication. The left shouldn't lose its cool. But it has a moral obligation to speak truth to power."

May I suggest that my fellow liberals join me in arming ourselves? As the Iraqis have shown it doesn't take much to operate an AK and firing back (literally) would send a very nice message.

(And while I am highly critical of the Iraqis, having a brother who's an army Lieutenant Colonel serving in that waste of life, money and effort, I am still reluctant to call them scum. I will call the poltroon in the White House scum, however.)

M. Johnson
Chicago
 

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