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Wednesday, June 30, 2004
By Steven Taylor

Kevin Alyward and Hal Hildebrand both comment on addthis_url = 'http%3A%2F%2Fpoliblogger.com%2F%3Fp%3D3958'; addthis_title = 'Getting+Kristof+Right'; addthis_pub = '';

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11 Responses to “Getting Kristof Right”

  1. Hal Says:

    Au contraire. Kristoff is saying that calling Bush a liar is an insult which impedes understanding. This is simply not true. If someone has lied (whether to themselves, or to the rest of us), then calling them a liar does not impede understanding. Rather, it enhances it. As Steve says

    But that’s precisely why calling Bush a liar is different from calling Clinton a murderer. Vincent Foster wasn’t murdered. Ron Brown wasn’t murdered. In each case, the Clintons were accused of a horrific crime, and there was no crime. Bush, on the other hand, is guilty of something with regard to Iraq — either dishonesty or incompetence. You may be off base if you charge him with one when he’s guilty of the other, but you’re not off base by much.

    This faux equality of the two sides calling the others a liar is rather disingenuous and is actually a barrier to a frank discussion of the actual facts.

  2. Hal Says:

    BTW, no “t” at the end of my last name. My family dropped it when they came over from Germany (but we’re related to all those who kept it).

  3. Steven Says:

    Sorry about the spelling–will fix.

    From Kristof’s piece today:

    Bob Woodward’s latest book underscores that Mr. Bush actually believed that Saddam did have W.M.D. After one briefing, Mr. Bush turned to George Tenet and protested, “I’ve been told all this intelligence about having W.M.D., and this is the best we’ve got?” The same book also reports that Mr. Bush told Mr. Tenet several times, “Make sure no one stretches to make our case.”

    In fact, of course, Mr. Bush did stretch the truth. The run-up to Iraq was all about exaggerations, but not flat-out lies. Indeed, there’s some evidence that Mr. Bush carefully avoids the most blatant lies witness his meticulous descriptions of the periods in which he did not use illegal drugs.

    Now, I understand the point your quote is trying to make, but it isn’t the one that Kristof is making in this piece–and as such, the “shorter version” on your blog misses the point of the column.

  4. Hal Says:

    Oh, and so semantic wrangling over whether it was exaggeration or a flat out lie means that it’s morally equivalent to the Right claiming Clinton killed Foster?

    Just because Bush skirted the edges doesn’t mean that his intent wasn’t the same. It just means he has great lawyers.

    After all, isn’t this what everyone was so pissed off about Clinton? Wasn’t the whole issue about Monica was that Clinton was saying that he technically didn’t lie, when everyone around him was saying that he, in fact, did lie?

    Introducing ambiguity and equating the assertion under contention to out and out, blatant falsehoods (i.e. Vince Foster, etc.) is flat out wrong.

  5. Steven Says:

    No, I by no means mean that. However, calling Bush evil comparing him to Hitler, etc, etc pretty much is–which is where a lot of the Left Wing lunacy goes with this stuff, just like the Right Wing nuts did with Clinton (which was the point of Kevin’s post on this topic).

    My point was narrow, and it was about Kristof’s column. The basic thesis being that hyperbole doesn’t produce solid political debate.

  6. Hal Says:

    That’s an interesting metaphysical discussion, but hardly the point. The question is whether it is hyperbole or not. Comparing calling Bush a liar to calling bush a Nazi to calling Clinton a murderer is purposefully muddying the issue.

    Again, if Bush is a liar – however lawyerly he circumscribes his statements – then calling him a liar is not hyperbole. You can argue on the premise – i.e. whether Bush is a liar or not. But you can’t argue on the conclusion. And by claiming, a priori, that any use of the word is hyperbole then the result is to never debate whether or not Bush lied. The result is to shut down debate and refuse calling a spade a spade.

    You can argue whether or not it’s a spade, but you can’t tell me that merely calling it a spade is closing down debate.

  7. Steven Says:

    Hal,

    Arguing over whether Bush lied or not isn’t the point of the Kristof piece. Your characterization of it as being about that missed the point of the column, and therefore your summary of it on your blog is simply incorrect. Indeed, the irony of the fact that you are arguing over Bush’s lies, Foster’s death and Nazis underscores rather dramatically the fact that you utterly missed Kristof’s thesis.

  8. Hal Says:

    It’s equating:

    1) Bush lied
    2) Bush is a Nazi
    3) Clinton murdered Foster

    Apparently, these are all equal, and as you say “over-the-top rhetoric misdirects us from legitimate political debate.”

    As radish say in a comment to my post

    Kristof concedes in so many words that Bush is an overzealous, self-deluding ideologue, often subject to confusion, who stretches the truth, exaggerates, and carefully avoids [ does the word 'only' belong in here? -Ed ] the most blatant lies (claiming to have watched the first airplane hit the tower on TV apparently doesn’t qualify as blatant). . . But Bush doesn’t lie, no sir, because calling someone a liar is a kindergarten epithet and cannot possibly be a cold hard statement of fact…

  9. Steven Says:

    I give up. By that I don’t mean that I concede, but rather that talking past one another is starting to tire me.

  10. Hal Says:

    Well, I’m sorry to hear that. Part of communication is trying to explain one’s self. I may be a dunderhead, but at least I’m trying. It seems, from my frame of reference, that you have only a narrow point which is: Calling someone a liar shuts down debate, so that’s bad. Is this correct? Don’t have to answer, as I know how tiresome I can be, but it would really help to at least state what you’re saying clearly. . . Am I wrong in the statement above? If so, then you’re not addressing my issue, which is “calling someone who is a liar a liar is not shutting down debate.”

  11. Hal Says:

    Actually, The Poor Man and Tim Dunlop have excellent posts on this subject which are far more eloquent than I.


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