One of the earliest lessons I ever learned was “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.” In politics, this is even more true. Whenever I’ve heard or read something that perfectly confirms my preconceptions or beliefs or suspicions, I get paranoid. I find myself far more suspicious of those who speak up in support of me than of my detractors.
It’s paid off. I once got into a big argument with the host and some posters on another web site. Another guy chimed in, backing me up and offering more evidence to support my position. But it turns out he was plagiarizing, cutting and pasting whole paragraphs from online articles. Luckily, I recognized what he was doing and busted him before my whole position could be discredited.
But it’s a lesson that others never seem to learn.
In the Rathergate scandal, Rather and Mapes had their own version of events locked firmly in mind. George W. Bush had served less than honorably in the National Guard, shirking his responsibilities and using his family connections to evade being held accountable. Then, when they received those infamous fake memos, they let themselves be blinded by that belief and refused to give those memos even the most casual scrutiny that would have revealed them for the blatant forgeries they were.
It’s happened again.
The Left has its image of George W. Bush. Since he was born again at the age of 40, they’re convinced he’s a religious zealot, a fanatical Jesus freak who uses his belief in God as his touchstone on every single major decision.
And last week, when Nabil Shaath, the former Palestinian Foreign Minister told London’s Guardian that President Bush had told him that “God had told him to invade Iraq,” and later God had told him to help establish a Palestinian state.
This was exactly the kind of story the Guardian and others on the left could sink their teeth into. Here was clear and convincing proof that the leader of the free world wasn’t being guided by principle, or politics, or even pragmatism, but the direct, personal, one-on-one word of God — much like the Islamic terrorists who scream their god’s praises as they saw off people’s heads and blow up bombs strapped to themselves.
In their eagerness, though, they never questioned the credibility of their source. And why should they? They all KNEW that what he said was accurate, if not necessarily true. So the need to nail down the finer details was lost in the rush to disclose the “greater truth.”
What they should have done was note several facts:
1) The statements, while confirming their perceptions of George W. Bush, was completely out of character for any other of his public statements.
2) Bush has never been particularly fond of the Palestinian leadership, and would not be likely to make such an intimate confession to people he doesn’t trust.
3) The phrasing itself is awkward, and not in the usual Dubya clumsiness. To my ear, at least, it has the hallmarks of someone for whom English is not their first language, but one they have studied and learned — unlike Dubya’s stumblemouthedness, which is more of a dialect of English itself.
But that simply didn’t matter. The Guardian (among the most liberal of London’s papers, with a long history of simply getting things wrong, out of ideology, laziness, or both) rushed the story to print.
And now that they’ve committed themselves, their original source is backing off. The White House (apparently not asked to comment before publication) has said, unequivocally, that Bush never said any such thing. And Mahmoud Abbas, the current Palestinian leader who was also at that meeting, has also denied Shaath’s account — who cannot be reached for comment.
But facts are pesky things, especially when THE TRUTH is obvious. Just ask Mary Mapes or Dan Rather.