Wednesday, June 30, 2004

In The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof is fretting again about those nasty, intemperate lefties. This time it's the word "liar" that's causing him to wring his hands:

Bookshops are filled with titles about Mr. Bush like "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them," "Big Lies," "Thieves in High Places" and "The Lies of George W. Bush."

A consensus is emerging on the left that Mr. Bush is fundamentally dishonest, perhaps even evil — a nut, yes, but mostly a liar and a schemer. That view is at the heart of Michael Moore's scathing new documentary "Farenheit 9/11."

In the 1990's, nothing made conservatives look more petty and simple-minded than their demonization of Bill and Hillary Clinton, who were even accused of spending their spare time killing Vince Foster and others. Mr. Clinton, in other words, left the right wing addled. Now Mr. Bush is doing the same to the left.

I have to confess that I more or less agree with a point Kristof makes later in the column:

Mr. Bush's central problem is not that he was lying about Iraq, but that he was overzealous and self-deluded. He surrounded himself with like-minded ideologues, and they all told one another that Saddam was a mortal threat to us. They deceived themselves along with the public -- a more common problem in government than flat-out lying.

But that's precisely why calling Bush a liar is different from calling Clinton a murderer. Vincent Foster wasn't murdered. Ron Brown wasn't murdered. In each case, the Clintons were accused of a horrific crime, and there was no crime. Bush, on the other hand, is guilty of something with regard to Iraq -- either dishonesty or incompetence. You may be off base if you charge him with one when he's guilty of the other, but you're not off base by much.

(UPDATE: Link fixed.)

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