Sunday, October 10, 2004

Both Sides Don't Do It

I hate when I try to argue with my Republican co-workers or relatives about Bush's distortion of the facts, or more often, his complete fantasy land distortion of reality. The first thing they do is throw out some instance where Kerry has stated something not quite accurately or used numbers that were contestable in the context provided. For example, when I cite that Bush keeps changing the his rational for invading Iraq, they state that Kerry over stated the cost of the Iraq war at $200B. The conversation usually ends with their saying something like "Kerry is distorting the facts. That's politics. Both sides do it."

Damn it. Both sides don't do what Bush is doing. Kerry may use figures that show a total appropriations instead of funding increase (NCLB funding vs. appropriation), may overstate his numbers (Iraq War cost vs. money spent), and may cite sources both sides don't agree on (partisan sources). But he is not completely making up reality.

Reality for Bush, on the other hand, places no such bound. For example, his claiming Clinton had 15% discretionary spending while it was one of the lowest in three decades at 2.5%, while cliaming his administration's was less than 1% when in reality it was one of the highest in three decades at 8.2%. Kerry might play politics with the facts, but Bush just makes stuff up.

Finally the media seems to finally be calling Bush on it. This week, ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin wrote a memo that was leaked via Drudge. In it he questions the Bush campaign's character:
The New York Times (Nagourney/Stevenson) and Howard Fineman on the web both make the same point today: the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done.

Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win.

We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides "equally" accountable when the facts don't warrant that.
We saw this artificial equity this week with the media's fact checking. Knowing that the blogosphere was doing real time fact checking of the debates, a threat that had the ability undercut their coverage and their credibility, all the major networks announced their poll weightings in advance and interviewed "fact checkers." But just as in the past, they brushed off Bush's timber company and discretionary spending lies, putting them on par with Kerry's use of appropriations approved by congress for NCLB and the total cost of Iraq.

Kerry plays politics with the facts in the time honored tradition of all presidential races. Only Bush makes up the facts based on whatever purposes he needs. Both sides don't do that.