To the editor:
As with the VP debate in your article "Rivals' Bold Assertions Are Debatable" from three days ago, today's post-debate fact-checking article—"Kerry, Bush Beat Around the Truth in Debate" (10/9/04)--is egregiously skewed in favor of the current administration. Once again, you present the "beating around the truth" in last night's debate as being balanced between the two candidates--but then, contrary to your headlines and the general claims in the opening of the article, what you show clearly describes a huge imbalance in dishonesty between the two candidates.
For Kerry, the only concrete example you give of actual dishonesty is better explained as sloppy: his suggestion that "sneak and peak" started with the Patriot Act. Does anyone really question that the Patriot Act goes too far in the name of security?
The job loss figure Kerry gave, contrary to the claims made by your paper, is the correct figure for the private sector, which was the issue at hand. Government jobs were not at issue, especially when these jobs are paid for by increasing the deficit and do not reflect the health of the economy at all. In other words, the issue was the state of the economy; there was considerable job creation in the government during the depression!
You also suggest that Kerry was dishonest when he claimed he had shown how he would pay for his campaign promises, and how he would do this while not raising middle-class taxes and cutting the Bush deficit in half in four years. LAT also suggests that cutting back on tax breaks to the rich and closing loop holes to corporations is not enough to do justify such claims. This is debatable, making Kerry's claims debatable, not false or misleading.
Kerry has given several accounts of how his numbers add up, and they add up much better than the numbers the Bush administration have given. Bush administration numbers in the past have, on several occasions and as we all know, added up to big lies, and his campaign-promise numbers add up the same way. Even the conservative Economist, who openly supported W four years ago, argues that Bush's numbers don't add up as well as Kerry's. The Economist did a poll of 100 of the world's top economists asking which candidate's platform is more economically sound. Kerry came out way on top. Kerry is much more honest when it comes to numbers, and much more fiscally conservative, and yet Kerry is the only one mentioned as dishonest on this score in your piece.
More to the point here: Is this all you could come up with for Kerry during the whole debate? All I have is "sneak and peak." If so, we have on our hands one of the most honest candidates in US history. I'm sorry, but this does not rate for me as "beating around the truth." Not even close.
With John Edwards in your piece on the VP debates, all I could come up with was a slight exaggeration, if that: 88.5% of coalition casualties are US, not the 90% stated by Edwards (and by Kerry last night too). "Sneak and peak" and 1.5% exaggeration. Cheney and Bush, on the other hand, lied about extremely important issues of national security.
Just as with the VP debates, LAT bends over backwards to present the "truth shading" as balanced when it is clearly not. With the democrats I see no evidence of outright dishonesty presented in your articles; with the Republicans I see clear evidence of bold-faced lies. With the democrats their slight exaggeration and sloppy or vague claims are actually very close to the truth and not really misleading: the Patriotic Act does impinge citizen's freedoms, and very close to 90% of the so-called coalition's casualties are US casualties.
The Republican's bold-faced lies, on the other hand, are extremely misleading--dangerous even. Their lies support the dangerous myths that they have done a good job at securing the US against terrorist when they clearly have not. As I wrote in my previous letter, this administration was deaf to terror warnings before 9/11, resisted the 9/11 commission and the establishment of a department of homeland security after the attacks, never dealt with Saudi Arabia (or Iran) as a serious geographic base of Islamic terror, have yet to do even the most obvious safeguard of compiling and putting into action a terrorist watch list, redirected massive resources needed for attacking al Qaeda away from operations in South Asia to the Persian Gulf, and in so doing enraged a huge chunk of the Islamic world and alienated our traditional allies, etc., etc.
Their lies give the impression that the Iraq war has been a good thing for our country, that the US economy is doing well, that this administration has been a good thing for the middle class—-all gravely untrue.
One of the bold-faced lies you reported was Bush's claim that 75% of al Qaeda's total membership had been captured or killed. You write that, at best, this has happened for only 67% of al Qaeda's known leaders. There is a huge difference between "known leaders" and "membership" in al Qaeda, a difference that could be in the millions--while sympathy with it's goals is clearly in the hundred millions and growing fast as billions around the world see US forces using serious force in Iraq every day. Bush's claim might lead us to think that 75% of the "war on terror" is done, which is a grave distortion of the truth: the threat to the US from Jihadist terrorists has grown substantially since 9/11, not decreased--growth in sympathy with Al Qaeda and, even more so, in reaction to the insane invasion of Iraq.
In his article "Al Qaeda--Not Iraq--Is the Real Threat," Charles V. Peña, director of defense policy studies at the conservative CATO Institute, writes:
The "truth is that the al Qaeda terrorist threat does not emanate from Iraq. Al Qaeda has grown from a relatively small group of radical Islamic extremists to a larger ideological movement in the Muslim world. The threat now goes beyond al Qaeda to include a growing number of radical Muslim groups that share at least some of al Qaeda's ideology, but many of which are not directly connected to or formally affiliated with al Qaeda…. ending the U.S. military occupation of Iraq would go a long way towards stemming the tide of growing radical Islamic extremism."
Bush's 75% claim is not "shading the truth" or "beating around" it; this is one of several bold-faced lies told by Bush and Cheney during the debates. These lies endanger a largely confused electorate about what threatens the US, and therefore puts us all at risk. By not reporting these bold-faced lies as such is irresponsible, making the LAT complicitous in those dangers being increased due to its complicity in the deepening of these confusions. As I said in my previous letter, the stakes are too high for the fourth estate to "beat around the truth" in general--and in particular when it comes to the balance between the dishonesty of each candidate.