09 September 2008

And I thought Palin was too kind

Richard Cohen thinks Senator Obama is being swift-boated.


Obama does not understand…he is being Swift-boated. The term does not apply to a mere smear. It is bolder, more outrageous than that. It means going straight at your opponent's strength and maligning it. This is what was done in 2004 to John Kerry, who had commanded a Swift boat in Vietnam. Kerry had won three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star and had emerged from the war a certified hero. It was that record his opponents attacked, a tactic Kerry thought so ludicrous that he at first ignored it. The record shows that he lost the election.
Actually swift-boating ought to refer to presenting missing details from an historical narrative which, though strictly true, is mis-leading. The swift-boaters’ claim was that certain elements were missing from the narrative which called into question whether his “certification” as a war hero was truly justified. I never bothered too much about the swift-boaters: Kerry’s war hero status was to me irrelevant; he could have been the Vietnam War’s version of Sergeant York for all I cared. But, Mr. Cohen ought to consider the possibility that what one asserts as a qualification or relevant strength for office is going to be attacked; one opens oneself up to such attack. It was John Kerry who made his Vietnam service and hero status an issue. The swift-boaters only responded to the claim.

Clearly, Cohen thinks any claimed strength must go unchallenged and accepted uncritically.

The McCain campaign is maligning Obama’s strength, his strength as a community organizer. Never mind that Obama just about asked for it by first maligning Governor Palin’s strength as a former mayor. Does that make the senator a swift-boater himself? Cohen apparently thinks it unfair to suggest that if experience as a mayor is irrelevant to the Vice-Presidency, then community organizing is irrelevant to the Presidency.

After all, one just has to ask just how relevant is the job of a community organizer to the office of the Presidency? I’m sure there’s some foreign policy experience in there somewhere.

With respect to the aforementioned Senator Kerry, “swift-boating” as Cohen defines it assumes that being a war hero was one of Kerry’s strengths as a presidential candidate. It wasn’t. In fact, being a war hero is even less relevant to the office than being a community organizer, or a mayor. Bill Clinton never served at all; much less was he a war hero. (As if!) But to Democrats during that campaign season, Clinton’s lack of military service was irrelevant. In fact, accusations of his being a draft dodger were followed by bumper stickers asserting, “My draft dodger [i.e., Clinton] is better than your draft dodger [i.e., Dan Quayle]!”

If Obama is being swift-boated then what is happening is that certain facts about what is a community organizer are coming to the fore; and they aren’t very flattering when compared to what a mayor does.

Swift-boated? Please. If one is going to assert that something about experience as a community organizer enhances the resume of a candidate for the office of President of the United States while being a small-town mayor does not, then one simply opens up oneself to just such criticism as Cohen complains of here. It means that people will ask, and answer the question: Just what the heck does a community organizer do in comparison with what a mayor does?

Whatever a community organizer does, we know at least one thing. We know that a community organizer has no governing responsibility or authority. That was pretty much what Palin said and which has Cohen complaining.

Note that Cohen doesn’t say that what Palin said is untrue, that is, that a mayor is like a community organizer except with actual (governing) responsibility. He says that pointing out this truth is an attack on one of Obama’s strengths.

Frankly, I thought the comparison, though dripping with sarcasm, was too kind to community organizers.

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About Me

James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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