What Else Is In Scott's Head?

The blog site for writer Scott C. Smith. Some observations on the world we live in and life in general. And maybe some politics.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Scott's Guide to Dirty Politics: The Out-of-Context Quote

Ah, the out-of-context quote. This has been a staple of politics for a long time. A politician on the campaign trail will use the quote to hurt his opponent. And Americans, being sheep (well, mainly the right-wingers), accept the quote at face value. I think most people (again, right-wingers, who frankly are not the brightest bunch) simply do not have any interest in finding out whether or not their candidate is telling the truth.

Let's take Vice President Dick Cheney as an example. He's out on the campaign trail, giving a standard stump speech. During his speech he lays out the out-of-context line. In this case, saying John Kerry wants to fight a "sensitive" war on terror. Big laughs from the audience.

What did John Kerry say, exactly? First, I'll show Kerry's quote in full context, and then Cheney's version of it.

John Kerry, remarks at the Unity, Journalists of Color conference
August 5

"Now, I'm not going to turn this into a John Kerry book-reading. But let me highlight some of this plan, if I may. The plan has three basic parts. The first part focuses on security.

I will fight this war on terror with the lessons I learned in war. I defended this country as a young man, and I will defend it as president of the United States.

I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history. I lay out a strategy to strengthen our military, to build and lead strong alliances and reform our intelligence system.

I set out a path to win the peace in Iraq and to get the terrorists, wherever they may be, before they get us. To strengthen our homeland security, we're going to do what we should've been doing for the last three years: protecting our ports, securing our chemical and nuclear power plants, and supporting our police officers, our firefighters and our EMTs."

There it is, in context, and yes, he does use the word sensitive, but I think it's a safe bet that he's not referring to weakness. Regardless, the speech discusses far more than fighting a "sensitive" war against terror.

Oh, and before we get to Cheney's out-of-context remarks, let me show an example of Dick Cheney actually lying to people. About John Kerry, of course. Here's the lie:

Dick Cheney Town Hall Meeting
East Grand Forks, Minnesota
August 6

John Kerry is, by National Journal ratings, the most liberal member of the United States Senate. Ted Kennedy is the more conservative of the two senators from Massachusetts. (Laughter.) It's true. All you got to do is go look at the ratings systems. And that captures a lot, I think, in terms of somebody's philosophy. And it's not based on one vote, or one year, it's based on 20 years of service in the United States Senate.

Yes, the "Kerry is the most liberal senator" lie.

The truth: Kerry was rated as the most liberal senator by the National Journal only for the year 2003. Not overall, and not an average of Kerry's 20 years in the Senate. Cheney is just plain lying. When you look at Kerry's average over a span of years, he's not even in the top 10. The period from 1999-2003, for instance, places Kerry as 12th most liberal senator overall.

Now, to the out-of-context quote. From today's (August 12) Reuter's:

"DAYTON, Ohio (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney mocked Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry on Thursday for pledging to wage a more sensitive war against terrorism.

Cheney's speech in the campaign battleground state of Ohio extended a week of Republican attacks on Kerry's security credentials, and Kerry's camp said it showed desperation in the campaign of President Bush over losing one of its presumed strengths -- a strong military stance.

'America has been in too many wars for any of our wishes, but not a one of them was won by being sensitive,' Cheney said.

He accused the Massachusetts senator of having a 'fundamental misunderstanding' of the world.

'Those that threaten us and kill innocents around the world do not need to be treated more sensitively, they need to be destroyed,' he said.

He accented some form of the word 'sensitive' a half-dozen times in his speech and drew laughter from the partisan crowd."

See? And now this line will funnel its way down to conservative talk radio, conservative columnists, and on the nightly cable news pundit shows. In fact, I'm going to predict now that the "sensitive" war bit will be combined with "most liberal" by the pundits. It'll look something like this:

Hannity and Colmes
(Cheney's speech is played).
SEAN HANNITY to liberal guest (how about Howard Dean?): Howard Dean, do we really want to have the MOST LIBERAL MEMBER OF THE SENATE fighting a "sensitive" war against terror? We don't win wars by being "sensitive," we win by being strong.

DEAN: Sean, that's not what Senator Kerry said. He was...

HANNITY: Doctor, I have the quote right here: "I believe I can fight a more sensitive war on terror." Do you deny that John Kerry said those words?

DEAN: Sean, again, you took the line out of context.

HANNITY: This comes directly from the Drudge Report, Howard. Are you saying Matt Drudge is a liar?

DEAN: Yes, I...

ALAN COLMES (to Ann Coulter): Ann, I've read the transcript of John Kerry's speech, and he doesn't say we should fight a sensitive war, he says...

COULTER: Shut up, Alan.


That will be the "fair and balanced" coverage we'll see on Fox and on every other news outlet, and the so-called liberal media will play it out as well.

Tomorrow: more dirty tricks.


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