Moore, Malkin, and Vietnam (oh my!)Thanks to David Neiwert for making this transcript available on his blog. Michelle Malkin, author of In Defense of Internment tries to pitch herself as an expert on Kerry’s service in Vietnam. She tries to make an outrageous accusation and then pretend it’s just a legitimate question, and she gets busted for it:
MALKIN: Well, yes. Why don't people ask him more specific questions about the shrapnel in his leg. They are legitimate questions about whether or not it was a self-inflicted wound.
MATTHEWS: What do you mean by self-inflicted? Are you saying he shot himself on purpose? Is that what you're saying?
MALKIN: Did you read the book...
MATTHEWS: I'm asking a simple question. Are you saying that he shot himself on purpose.
MALKIN: I'm saying some of these soldiers...
MATTHEWS: And I'm asking [the] question.
MALKIN: And I'm answering it.
MATTHEWS: Did he shoot himself on purpose?
MALKIN: Some of the soldiers have made allegations that these were self-inflicted wounds.
MATTHEWS: No one has ever accused him of shooting himself on purpose.
MALKIN: That these were self-inflicted wounds.
MATTHEWS: You're saying there are -- he shot himself on purpose? That's a criminal act.
MALKIN: I'm saying that I've read the book and some of the...
MATTHEWS: I want an answer yes or no, Michelle.
MALKIN: Some of the veterans say...
MATTHEWS: No. No one has ever accused him of shooting himself on purpose.
MALKIN: Yes. Some of them say that.
MATTHEWS: Tell me where that...
MALKIN: Self-inflicted wounds -- in February, 1969.
MATTHEWS: This is not a show for this kind of talk. Are you accusing him of shooting himself on purpose to avoid combat or to get credit?
MALKIN: I‘m saying that's what some of these...
MATTHEWS: Give me a name.
MALKIN: Patrick Runyan (ph) and William Zeldonaz (ph).
MATTHEWS: They said—Patrick Runyan...
MALKIN: These people have...
MATTHEWS: And they said he shot himself on purpose to avoid combat or take credit for a wound?
MALKIN: These people have cast a lot of doubt on whether or not...
MATTHEWS: That's cast a lot of doubt. That's complete nonsense.
MALKIN: Did you read the section in the book...
MATTHEWS: I want a statement from you on this program, say to me right, that you believe he shot himself to get credit for a Purple Heart.
MALKIN: I'm not sure. I'm saying...
MATTHEWS: Why did you say?
MALKIN: I'm talking about what's in the book.
MATTHEWS: What is in the book. Is there -- is there a direct accusation in any book you've ever read in your life that says John Kerry ever shot himself on purpose to get credit for a Purple Heart? On purpose?
MALKIN: On --
MATTHEWS: On purpose? Yes or no, Michelle.
MALKIN: In the February 1969 -- in the February 1969 event.
MATTHEWS: Did he say on it purpose.
MALKIN: There are doubts about whether or not it was intense rifle fire or not. And I wish you would ask these questions of John Kerry instead of me.
MATTHEWS: I have never heard anyone say he shot himself on purpose. I haven't heard you say it.
MALKIN: Have you tried to ask -- have you tried ask John Kerry these questions?
MATTHEWS: If he shot himself on purpose? No. I have not asked him that.
MALKIN: Don't you wonder?
MATTHEWS: No, I don't. It's never occurred to me.
Malkin essentially made a criticism through the guise of “asking a question” for which she had no factual basis. It might be somewhat comparable to the “how many times do you beat your wife?” fallacy. Forcing one’s opponents to deny ridiculous accusations puts doubt in the minds of voters. It’s designed not to prove anything, or make any point, but to do precisely the opposite. It’s designed to at once attack a person without basis and shield the attacker from rightful criticism. It’s gratifying to see someone called on the carpet for this.
Giggling aside, this brings up a relevant objection a friend of mine mentioned while we were discussing my criticisms of Moore. Moore, he explained was merely fighting fire with fire. Like it or not, political commentary like this is important to both parties in order that they win an election. To expect the left to not have its Malkins is ridiculous. Victory depends on having people who can do this kind of attack work for you.
I have to admit he’s got a point (though one might further question how effective Moore has been). But it’s not satisfying to me. I want something more. It seems to me that we have a responsibility to call debate in bad faith what it is. Accuracy and fair argument are worthy goals, and having an intelligent democracy requires some standards of public commentary, standards that I think we all too frequently fall below.
And no, there was no golden age where debate was “fair and balanced.” I do not see why that negates my hope for a better future.