I'm going to make some leaps of faith here. Bear with me.
Two passages from the New York Times Swift boat story jumped out at me:
In the television commercial, Dr. Louis Letson looks into the camera and declares, "I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury." ...
Yet Dr. Letson's name does not appear on any of the medical records for Mr. Kerry....
Asked in an interview if there was any way to confirm he had treated Mr. Kerry, Dr. Letson said, "I guess you'll have to take my word for it."
Asked why Mr. Rassmann recalled that he was dodging enemy bullets, a member of the group, Jack Chenoweth, said, "He's lying."
"If that's what we have to say," Mr. Chenoweth added, "that's how it was."
These assertions remind me of a line George W. Bush uses a lot when he's talking about someone on his side, especially someone who's under attack, or who might be -- Bush will say, "He's a good man." Simple words, innocent-seeming on the page -- but often uttered with an undercurrent of menace. The subtext always seems to be: "This man is of good social status, as I am, and I say it's objective fact that his integrity is unimpeachable. You got a problem with that, punk?"
"He's a good man" is a common Bush rejoinder when specific words or deeds are being questioned. And I think your opinion as to whether it's an appropriate rejoinder when there are specific questions about a person really might indicate whether or not you're a conservative.
I'm not a conservative. If you defend someone by saying, "He's a good man," that doesn't settle the matter for me. I think some people are basically good but do bad things. I also think some very bad people are, in a few aspects of their lives, kind and good and virtuous. And I don't think status equates to virtue. So don't talk to me about whether Joe Blow is "a good man." Did he embezzle the money?
Asked if they're telling the truth, Leston and Chenoweth reply, in effect, "We're good men." That's not just "How dare you question my integrity." Chenoweth says it flat out: If that's what we have to say, that's how it was. In other words, We are respectable men and incapable of lying. Got that?
I think at least part of the difference between right-wingers and the rest of us is that they believe that some people embody of Truth and Pure Good while we, even though we may sometimes engage in adulation, know that everyone is capable of doing wrong.
Right-wingers seem to regard this as "moral relativism." I call it realism. It acknowledges the fallen nature of man (religious version); it recognizes that nobody's perfect (secular version).
Leston and Chenoweth: In a situation like this, when the words you're uttering have very significant potential consequences, don't challenge me to believe you. Give me a reason I should.