To Gingrich DeLay

Wes Vernon describes the tactic in The Real Story Behind the Attacks on Tom DeLay (NewsMax 7ap05)

This is the way the powers of the liberal establishment trashed Newt Gingrich. They would have done the same thing to DeLay long ago, except that DeLay has been more effective in selecting his fights and deciding when to speak out and when to work behind the scenes. Newt had to have an opinion on everything and share it with the world, day in and day out.

Since then, they’ve tried the same demonizing tactic on Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and President Bush himself. Those efforts flopped.

You can see another description of these tactics in Rich Lowry on Tom DeLay on National Review Online

Its not enough to disagree, you have to vilify. The sad part is when they start to actually believe what they say and the vilification becomes more and more ugly while sanity and reason leave the deck.

The old Marxist playbook says if you can’t defeat your effective adversary on substantive issues, assassinate him. In this case, the tactic is character assassination. After all, poisoned umbrellas are not available on every street corner.

Gingrich was subject to something like 80 formal accusations. He paid IRS fines in regard to some of these allegations that were later found to have no foundation. At last count none of the accusations were found to have any substance. But the very fact of their being made was used to smear the former speaker.

There are several dangers to these tactics. One is that they inhibit effective debate and discussion of issues. Another is the personal costs which also tend to inhibit anyone not willing to undergo such personal assaults from seeking office. A third is that they obfuscate viewpoints and confuse those trying to understand issues at hand. A fourth is that they tend to promote cynicism and distrust of all politicians and the process in general. And fifth is that they hide real malfeasance by confusing made up malfeasance and minor malfeasance with behaviors that really do warrant serious public attention.

There is a contrast. It is sometimes used to rationalize the assault on Gingrich, Bush, DeLay, Cheney, and others. The contrast is the ‘assault’ on Clinton. One big problem is that a ‘you did it to us so we can do it to you’ ethos is a childish rationale that should be left on the elementary school playground. Another contrasting point is that the Clinton scandals were based on significant events and the investigation into those events lead to numerous criminal convictions and other penalties. Such moral equivalencing to rationalize comparison of unbalanced phenomena is a dishonest tactic in itself that should be inspected on another day.

It is very expensive to our liberties to undergo the destruction of process as we are seeing in tactics such as this. It might be worth considering how much of it we can afford before it causes real damage.

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