Last night, this diary
questioned the potential hypocrisy of selective criticism. Is our outrage more a function of personality than policy? Do we give certain Democrats the benefit of the doubt when they stray, while at the same time vilifying any move by the usual targets? If you isolate reaction to a single statement or issue there does appear some bias in the tone of commentary. I would argue that those who think this approach unfair don't see the forest from the trees.
Everyone starts with a blank slate, with no pre-disposed bias for or against. As we watch our representatives over time, we begin to see patterns and develop an opinion of this person. We have precedents, a history, and within this context any future position or comment is viewed from this perspective. Opinions can change, but patterns help cement a favorable or negative viewpoint.
If Joe Lieberman makes a statement regarding Iraq it is immediately viewed with suspicion and cynicism. This knee-jerk negativism is a product of learned response, based on a litany of previous disappointments. Lieberman has earned his vitrol and this makes it hard for any future position(whether we agree or not) to be taken seriously. If Lieberman came out for immediate withdrawal, we would applaud it but would probably still view him as an asshole. Lieberman has earned little "political capital" with progressives and would need a massive overhaul for opinion to change.
Okay, Lieberman is an easy example. What about John Kerry or Hillary Clinton? Kerry recently advocated a timetable for withdrawal, which while welcomed, certainly didn't give him the same kudos Feingold enjoyed with his call for a timetable. Is this a double standard? On the surface you could argue that we are unfair when it comes to Kerry, but I see it more as informed scepticism. I am glad Kerry has advocated a timetable for withdrawal, no question. However, my bias sees political motivations and this someone dampens my enthusiasm. With Feingold, I saw his call for a timetable as brave leadership, sorely needed. Isn't that hypocrisy?
I remember the aftermath of the Robert's vote, where I had an exchange with Armando and he referred to Feingold as a "terrible politican". I agreed, it was a political boner to vote yes on Roberts, when Feingold could so easily have voted no and further cemented the lovefest with progressives. Feingold's vote was meaningless as to whether Roberts would be approved or not. Why not take the easy path and avoid unnecessary criticism- especially when it seems obvious he intends on running in 08? The answer is simple, Feingold consistently makes decisions based on his own moral compass and convictions without political calculations. Positions are not a function of popularity, but of philosophy. It is for this reason, that I can disagree with Feingold's vote, but not feel it necessary to completely turn on him. Feingold has earned "brownie" points with me, based on his integrity which he earned over time. I take my politicans with totality in mind, which helps me reconcile votes or positions which anger. That sentiment doesn't translate into a free pass, but a step back approach.
When Dean came out and suggested abortion rights should be a state regime, many of his blogosphere supporters, myself included, vehemently criticized him for this position. But, despite this dangerous proposal, I still like Dean because he has a positive history of supporting my beliefs, which can't be denied. Dean has earned his "political capital" with me and it would take alot for me to change my opinion of the man.
Kerry, however, doesn't get the same license and the reason is simple. I came to the conclusion long ago that Kerry is primarily a political animal, first and foremost. Even when we agree, I don't think we get to our positions from the same point. I think Kerry the quintessential political opportunist, who puts his finger in the wind and forms policy from there. I welcome his call for a timetable, but experience forces me to see his position as political calculus for his next run. My cynicism is rooted in fact, the illogical inconstituency of his various positions that can't be reconciled.
Last week, I watched the Kerry interview on CNN. Some of what he said sounded great and I found myself nodding in approval. However, Kerry said something which speaks to his thought process and turns me off exponentially. Blitzer made a comment about Edwards statement admitting he erred with his vote on Iraq. Kerry, with nano-second poltical calculation pipes back, "I said that before Senator Edwards wrote that" Clearly, Kerry was uncomfortable allowing a political rival to get any credit. If this was an isolated example, it would have little merit, but I have watched Kerry ad nauseum and he constantly reacts this way. Kerry is always posturing, always calculating- he can't help it. I don't want career politicans, indoctrinated in Washington speak, I want conviction and integrity. I didn't seek to dislike Kerry, it just happened based on a litany of examples.
So, when someone screams double standard, I say maybe some truth on specifics, but opinions are learned responses and a negative one is earned, just as a positive. When I get a letter from Dean, I read it and think "it is good to have him on our side." When I get a letter from Kerry, I think "what is he up too?". I developed these sentiments over time, with some wiggle room for change if merited. IMHO, the best thing John Kerry could do for his stature is announce he is not running in 08. That statement would force me to rethink how I view his various positions, eliminating naked ambition as motivator. I didn't mean for this diary to be a Kerry bashfest, but merely an understanding as to why some get off easy, while others don't.