Grinding Old Axes II : This Time It’s Personal

So there wasn’t the groundswell of interest in my old axes in comments, so all continued grinding after the jump. Just to recall I stopped after 3 on a list which continued

4) John Kerry is much too stubborn. He won’t admit it when he is wrong. He should be more willing flip flop
5) Al Gore is a bearer of inconvenient truths who deserves much of the credit (or blame) for the existence of the internet
6) Bill Clinton is an ultra wonk who is relatively honest.
7) Walter Mondale was sharp as a knife and had charisma
8) Jimmy Carter is a visionary.
9) George McGovern was the only US politician willing to try to prevent horrible Communist crimes.

4) Here I think that Kerry has displayed heroic stubborness. His investigation of the BCCI was very thorough, his diplomacy was tireless even ruthless. I honestly think one reason for the Paris accords and the Iran accord was that everyone else realized they would have to listen to Kerry drone on unless they got to yes.

The stubborness was a problem regarding Iraq, exactly the point where he is alleged to have flip flopped. He stuck to a very nuanced utterly stupid position for decades. It was Saddam has WMD, this is unacceptable, if we exhaust all other options, this justifies an invasion, and we haven’t exhausted all other options yet. This was his position under Clinton and Bush Jr. It makes no sense. But he had chosen that hill to die on and he died on it.

5) I think this is no longer controversial. It is recognized that the war against Gore was a disgraceful episode of US journalism (similar to the Whitewater blood sports, the coverage of the 2000 Florida recount, the run up to the Iraq war, the obsession with Clinton’s e-mail surver and the dismissal of evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia “FBI sees no clear link” etc.

Gore is now notoriously honest. He once was notoriously dishonest, because he said things were true, but exaggerated paraphrases of what he said were exaggerated.

Importantly, no one paid any price for the catastrophic journalistic misconduct.

6) here I think of (IIRC) Jon Chait’s thoughts on characteristic White House dishonestly. For the Bush administration it was lies about classified intelligence which were so blatant one could tell they were lies without seeing the intelligence. We can see that they also told more normal lies. The characteristic lies were their extraordinarily obvious lies. But he went on to say the typical Clinton lies were complicated statement which seemed to be designed to mislead but which turned out to be true. In other words, not lies. The characteristic of coverage of Clinton’s alleged dishonesty is that reporters asserted he was dishonest even when he was being honest. It tells us something about what misconduct in that White House, but in the briefing room not the oval office.

So how did Clinton lie ? OK he lied about infidelity as almost all cheating spouses do. Aside from that ? He said a lot. He wrote a lot. What was false ? There is certainly no comparison with Trump’s lies. But also no comparison with Bush Jrs lies.

I think everyone knows he worked incredibly hard. Also Larry Katz (who tends to mention how this or that Harvard colleague isn’t very bright) worked with Clinton and said “Bill Clinton is REAL smart”. That places him in a set containing roughly 10 human beings last I counted.

7) I went to a Mondale rally. I thought he had charisma. On the smartness, this was the conventional view for a few days after each debate. Most especially when Reagain said “there you go again” again. Reagain had been spcifically warned not to do that.

Mondale smiled and said that this reminded him of the time Reagan said that in a debate in 1980. It was when Carter was saying Reagan would try to cut Medicare. Then Mondale noted that Reagan did indeed try to cut Mecicare. This was described the next day as “hitting it out of the park”

But decades later Reagan’s 1980 “There you go again” line was described as brilliant politics. It was not noted that, in 1980, he accused Carter of disonesty for saying something which was later proven (beyond all doubt) to be true. . It was not noted that Reagan ignored the warning to avoid the line and brought up his dishonestly 4 years later. It was not noted that Mondale hit Reagan’s hanging curve ball out of the park.

The relevant facts were forgotten. The only thing that matters, to US journalists, is winning.

Anyway, after the debates it was, very briefly, agreed that Mondale was very smart. But he lost 49 states, so the only narrative which includes that agreed fact involves saying US voters are idiots. And we just can’t say that, can we ?

8) Jimmy Carter is currently perceived to be a saint and a visionary. When he was in office, he was described as a pathological nerd. When the narrative was no longer useful to the GOP, the allegedly liberal establishment MSM abandoned it.


Scholars, activists, and politicians on the left in the U.S. had a variety of reactions to the tyrannical rule of the Khmer Rouge. Few shared the suggestion of former presidential candidate South Dakota Democratic Sen. George McGovern that international intervention was required to stop the genocide. By 1978 McGovern, long one of the leading anti-war voices in the mainstream of American politics, was calling for a military force to oust the murderous Khmer Rouge regime. Few American politicians of either major had any desire to intervene in Cambodia just years after the wars there ended in defeat for the United States, and McGovern’s suggestion was never seriously considered by government officials.

George McGovern was a war hero (awarded the flying cross) and a principled advocate of the use of military force to counter communist tyranny. Both are forgotten, because he lost 49 states. The idea that overwhelmingly voting for Nixon over McGovern is disgraceful is just not acceptable, because the American people can never fail but can only be failed.

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