Who's Misleading Whom?

David Limbaugh

6/2/2004 12:00:00 AM - David Limbaugh

The partisan media had a particularly productive Memorial Day weekend run at Bush-bashing. John Kerry obviously isn't doing well enough to suit them, so they sent in their big guns to rescue him.

On Memorial Day, Dana Milbank and Jim VandeHei splattered the Washington Post's front page with "From Bush, Unprecedented Negativity, Scholars Say Campaign is Making History with Often-Misleading Attacks."

The next day, Milbank piled on with a solo piece -- another polemic disguised as a news story: "Making Hay Out of Straw Men." On the same day, the Post ran a story by Dan Froomkin, "White House Going Negative," in which the author cited various writers, including Milbank, trashing the White House.

Amazing. Democrats have been assassinating Bush's character nonstop since 2000, and especially during the primary season, and the media are exercised over Bush's alleged negativity?

Indeed the entire impetus for the Democrats' drive to reclaim the White House has been a palpable Bush-hatred rather than anything positive about their own candidates. Yet the press decides to focus on Bush's long-overdue counterattack? It's nothing short of surreal.

Please don't miss the irony in the media's characterization of President Bush as negative when they, operating as a virtual arm of the Democratic Party, have consistently engaged in the kind of negativity they pretend to decry.

Let's just look at a few points from Milbank's "Straw Men" piece as an illustration of how the press does exactly what it falsely accuses the president of doing, which is engaging in negative, misleading characterizations of his opponents. Here Milbank attempts to demonstrate how Bush impugns Kerry by attributing positions to him that he hasn't taken and then knocking down those "straw men."

In the article, Milbank criticized Bush for denouncing the practitioners of moral relativism without identifying specific offenders. After seemingly acknowledging the drawbacks to relativism, Milbank asks, "But who's made such arguments? Hannibal Lecter?

Well, Mr. Milbank, would you deny that the Democratic Party has embraced moral relativism? If you won't concede that, would you agree that a large percentage of its constituents have?

As an exercise in journalistic balance, why don't you see if you can pin down John Kerry on the issue? Ask him whether he subscribes to moral absolutes. I doubt that he would dare offend his hodgepodge of postmodern supporters by such a risky affirmation.

At the very least surely Mr. Milbank would have to admit that Bush promotes moral absolutes and that many opposing him reject them. So what's wrong with Bush condemning relativism in a speech?

Without question a vote for Bush will do more for moral absolutes in our culture than a vote for his opponent. So there is manifestly nothing dishonest or negative about Bush making an issue out of this.

As another example, Milbank took Mr. Bush on for saying that some people believe we should "lay down our arms" and "negotiate" with our enemies. Again, Milbank implies that no one advocates these "absurd" positions and that Bush is misleading the public by setting up another such "straw man." "Kerry," says Milbank, "certainly has not proposed opening talks with Osama bin Laden or putting him on the couch."

Well, Mr. Milbank, President Bush didn't accuse Kerry of doing that. But since you brought it up, no less a Democrat insider than Bill Clinton -- who reportedly has been drafted to take an increasingly active role in the Kerry campaign -- told Cornell graduates that we should seek to find solutions to problems through cooperation, not conflict.

"If you live in a world where you cannot kill, occupy or imprison all your actual or potential adversaries? you have to try to build a world with more friends and fewer terrorists," said Clinton. "That is the purpose of politics, to bring people together when they cannot control each other and they must work together ? The great power of the United States through history has not been in our weapons but in the power of our example, and the hope we have held out to others."

Is that close enough for you, Mr. Milbank? With such a philosophy articulated by the Democratic Party's hero, wouldn't President Bush be irresponsible not to bring it up? How can we possibly afford to entrust the security of the nation to the owners of such a recklessly naive worldview?

So who is misleading whom? Who is being negative? Who is setting up straw men: you and your colleagues and the party you support, or Mr. Bush?