Thursday, June 10, 2004

Is There an Antidote for "Hannitization"?

The question keeps getting asked, and conservatives don't want to answer it:

"If a conservative pundit or politician distorts or exaggerates the facts, or outright lies, to score points in debate, doesn't that cast doubt on the credibility of everything that pundit or politician says?"

Let's look at conservative radio and television pundit Sean Hannity. Should we question Sean's credibility? Consider this recent exchange:

Elaine Kamarck: John Kerry has been a deficit hawk from the word 'go.' In the 80s -- don't laugh at me. Do you that that he voted with President Reagan? In the 80s, he voted for the famous Gramm-Rudman Act. Not many Democrats did that.

Sean Hannity: Did he vote for the Reagan tax cuts?

Kamarck: He voted for ...

Hannity: Did he vote for the Reagan tax cuts? No.

Why didn't Kerry vote for the Reagan tax cuts of 1981? Because he wasn't in Congress yet.

Now, that leads us to two choices:

1) Hannity didn't know that Kerry wasn't in Congress at the time, in which case, he's an idiot for debating an issue he hasn't researched.
2) Hannity did know that Kerry wasn't in Congress at the time, but assumed he could distort the facts and further turn his FOX News Channel audience against Kerry.

Hannity, of course, has repeated the Bush-Cheney 2004 claim that Kerry has voted for higher taxes 350 times in his career -- knowing full well that the figure includes times when Kerry voted for bills pushing tax cuts, but not as deep as competing bills would allow. According to various independent sources, using the Bush-Cheney 2004 math, President Bush had supported higher taxes 63 times since becoming president.

Hannity, like other conservative pundit and politicians, knows the claim is bogus. But it's easier to throw out the simplistic, albeit distorted, number, than to go over specific bills Kerry voted for that raised taxes.

Similarly, it's easier for Hannity and other to say that Kerry once supported a 50-cent gas-tax hike. The truth is that more than a decade ago, in considering ways to reduce the deficit, Kerry mulled a possible gas-tax hike. No bill was ever brought to Congress, and no vote was ever taken. Acting like a responsible politician, Kerry considered the pros and cons before deciding a gas-tax hike wasn't the best way to go.

BTW, Hannity probably doesn't remember -- and if he does, he won't mention -- that his favorite leader, Ronald Reagan, passed a gas-tax hike, in 1982.


Last month, prior to interviewing Sen. John McCain, Hannity said: "(Kerry) has voted against just about every major weapons system we now have."

As pointed out by Bob Somersby of The Daily Howler, that's technically correct, because Kerry voted against annual defense appropriations bills three times in 19 years. By default, that means he's voted against just about every major weapons system we have.

But using that logic, countless Democrats and Republicans have voted against funding our defense department, or education, or veterans benefits, or homeland security -- if they ever voted against an annual budget offered by the president.

Hannity knows that, but he doesn't want to tell his viewers. But McCain knew it was wrong to distort the facts.

McCain: I would be accused of voting against numerous weapon systems, because I voted against defense appropriation bills, because they're loaded down with pork.

So what did Hannity do? He changed the subject: "But on defense issues, the most important issue of our time, that -- your guy is George W. Bush, right?"

Is Sean Hannity credible? He has a right to his opinion, just like any liberal or conservative. But beyond the fact that Hannity distorts the truth to make his points, here's two questions: Why does Hannity have to distort the truth to make his points? Aren't there enough actual facts out there -- supporting Bush, not supporting Kerry -- for conservative pundits like Hannity?

I'd have more respect for Hannity if he just stuck to the facts, rather than the distortions.



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