Kennedy thinks it's fishy that the recorded vote didn't match the exit polls in four battleground states where Kerry was supposedly ahead. He also thinks the Republicans discouraged voters by creating long lines at voting stations in heavily Democratic areas. But bitter surmise isn't proof. And according to a long and detailed analysis on Salon.com -- no hotbed of Republican thought -- the evidence Kennedy cites isn't new, and his argument is filled with distortions and the deliberate omission of key data.
Why would Kennedy damage his credibility this way? This may not be breaking news, but if an assertion reflects a widely shared emotion, it can make great headway in this culture without any need to prove its truth. We have been through this many times. The 2000 election was allegedly stolen, though no credible investigation backed up the claim, not even the one by the Civil Rights Commission, which was then firmly in Democratic hands.
The Katrina theory that blacks died because of racism wasn't true, but it fit both the emotions and the beliefs of the political and media establishments. The Duke rape case also unfolded along the lines of conventional liberal beliefs about privileged whites and allegedly dumb jocks. The leadership at Duke should be ashamed. As the facts emerge, ever so slowly, it is becoming apparent that the prosecutor should be disciplined for his shocking behavior.
Assertion doesn't always beat facts, but it happens a lot. For example, many of President Bush's detractors are saying that his argument for keeping troops in Iraq -- to achieve a democratic transformation -- is a new rationale meant to distract from the missing WMDs. The New York Times made that charge in an editorial on April 27. But it isn't true. Bush listed democratic transformation in Iraq as one of his aims before the war, as the Times acknowledged in an editorial on Feb. 27, 2003. Distilling the president's various arguments on Iraq down to the one on which a lot of people think they were snookered -- the WMDs -- is a distortion, but it accurately expresses a popular feeling, so who cares if it isn't so? Not the Times, apparently.