Topic: Government & Politics

Senator Kerry's Truth Problem
(4/28/2004)

Honest…The Ethics Scoreboard does not want to pick on John Kerry.

Early on, in fact, we decided that we would have to ban Senator John Kerry from the "Trivial Liar" section of this site, lest he appear there so often that we would be accused of working for Karl Rove. Kerry does this sort of thing so often that it is tempting to ignore it as a sort of a quirk, for he really doesn't strike one as an inveterate puffer, like Al Gore, or as verbally slippery, like Bill Clinton, or as addicted to over-simplification, like President Bush. But Kerry's problem with straightforward truth-telling ( and reviewing the last sentence, one may reasonably conclude that the issue is not whether a particular politician has such a problem, but rather which truth-telling malady he specializes in) is more than a quirk, because it appears to be rooted in a particular kind of cowardice. This decorated hero who showed courage when facing enemy fire appears to quail when confronted with his own inconsistencies.

Senator Kerry told supporters at a Houston "Earth Day" that he deplored SUVs because they used too much fuel and fouled the environment. Following his speech, some pesky reporters asked him about the SUV that had been observed going in and out of one of Kerry's home garages. Kerry responded that he doesn't "own an SUV," and went on to clarify: "The family has the SUV. I don't have it."

Right. The Kerry family, it now comes out, has not one, but FIVE SUVs: a1995 Chevrolet Suburban, a 1993 Land Rover Defender, a 1989 Jeep Cherokee, a 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee and a 2001 Audi Allroad.

John, John, John. Why bother? The "family" dodge is the equivalent of saying that you never inhaled that SUV. It is transparently dishonest, and diminishes you. We believe you don't think SUVs are good for the environment, but they're cool and convenient, and the gas expense won't bother someone in your tax bracket, so you own a few. This doesn't make you a bad person. An ethical response would be that, yes, you own some SUVs, but you realize that it isn't environmentally responsible, and you intend to find other transportation in the future. The response you made, however, is patently dishonest and embarrassingly evasive. Frankly, it makes you look like a weenie, not like a future president.

Grover Cleveland, another fine Democrat, won the presidential election of 1884 after responding to accusations that he had fathered an illegitimate child by stating forthrightly that the accusations were true. If Grover could take responsibility, in a period when extra-marital sex was regarded as a sure-fire express ticket to Hell, for a bastard bun in the oven, surely Senator Kerry can take responsibility for the SUVs in his driveway.

Kerry campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter, who is going to earn her salary this year, offered a game attempt at rebuttal: "Isn't the bigger point here the fact that John Kerry has fought to protect our environment and make our auto industry more competitive by improving fuel efficiency?" No, Stephanie, that's not the point at all. The point is that Senator Kerry needs to show that he can admit an inconsistency when the facts are inescapable.

One more ethical issue to mention: why was this gaffe overwhelmingly reported by the Kerry-hating, conservative press and broadcasters, while so many of the liberal-leaning dailies and mainstream press gave it nary a mention? (By the way, kudos to the Washington Post for at least printing the story, although the paper buried it in a "funny happenings on the political scene column). Yes, this is a trivial lie, but it provides dispiriting evidence about Kerry's character. The media organs that ignored it can justly be accused of the liberal bias they so indignantly deny.

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