FROM THE PHONE BOOTH: The Smallest Space in Hollywood
Swift-boat THIS: Short Pants’ Short Memory
Hollywood Conservative Forum
Michael Kinsley is wearing his intellectual short pants again, in his essay on Swiftboating. Wishing upon wishes for a ‘clean’ campaign of purity, he asserts, “Swift-boat is shorthand for the brilliant, despicable Republican campaign strategy in 2004 that turned John Kerry's honorable service in Vietnam into a negative factor in his campaign. The phrase has become more broadly the term for a particular category of campaign tactics and has even become a verb. To ‘swift-boat’ somebody is to use these tactics against him or her.”
Kinsley is not stupid, nor ignorant, but plainly very conveniently ‘forgetful’ of much history in his lifetime, never mind that of the DNC and its minions earlier in the century, before Kinsley’s mind was even a glimmer in his parents' youthful eyes. Swiftboating began in January of 1929, nine gestative months before the Black Tuesday stockmarket crash foreshadowed the Great Depression, and the swiftboating by historians and journalists of Herbert Clark Hoover.
Kinsley’s claims, and definitions, go further: “Swift-boating's essence is a particular kind of dishonesty, or rather a particular combination of shadowy dishonesties. It usually involves a complex web of facts, many of which may even be true. It exploits its own complexity and the reluctance of the media to adjudicate factual disputes. No matter how thoroughly a charge may be discredited, enough taint remains to support an argument. The fundamental dishonesty is the suggestion that the issue, whatever it is, really matters. This is how swift-boating differs from its cousin McCarthyism, which deals in totally baseless charges that would be deeply serious if true. Swift-boating is McCarthyism lite. There is usually a little something to the accusation but not enough to make it legitimately matter.”
In Kinsley’s lifetime, the swiftboating of Barry Goldwater lingers, with the anniversary of the famed DNC “Daisy ad” coming up number 44 this September. Senatorial candidate Al Franken sheepishly admitted in a documentary on “Mr. Conservative” that indeed, yes, that ad was ‘unfair’ and bows his head, his voice trailing off a wee bit, as he makes this very belated admission.
The Daisy Ad was but one of many swiftboats launched against Goldwater, as was done against Eisenhower by JFK’s 1960 campaign, intent on branding Ike and thus his VP Nixon, as weak on defense! Yes, indeed, Ike sputtered in a flustered voice during a press-conference, unbelieving that anyone would label him as even remotely weak on defense. But, the charge stuck, as the so-called ‘missile gap’ and bomber gap’ entered the lexicon, even as JFK was given highly secret CIA and DOD data the proved were miles ahead of the Soviets in both categories.
Thus, JFK ‘got to the right of Nixon’ on defense issues, the one weak arena for the DNC, not so many years after being timid on commies during Truman’s heyday. Ike had gone easy on the Dems’ laggardly concerns, even as he knew many things to verify Nixon and McCarthy’s assertions, but no favor was returned. Truman had laid the groundwork for that, with Hoover’s memory invoked to the red-meat eating crowds, in the 1948 campaign.
Hoover was brought back into public service by Truman, who acknowledged to many that “Hoover didn’t cause the Depression” but it merely fell on him like everyone else. Quite a startling admission, one which got my attention on the PBS broadcast of the one-man show, “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry” starring James Whitmore. It was the first ‘revelation’ from an otherwise fully cooperative intelligentsia, that maybe Hoover wasn’t the dastardly fellah I’d always been taught him to be.
After the ‘rehabilitation’ of Hoover [in reorganizing the government, saving millions to the taxpayers, as he’d done before entering the Oval], Truman then waved the bloody shirt again to win in the challenging race of ’48, shocking Bert, who queried how his ‘new friend’ could bandy Hoover’s name in such vicious ways. Oh, it’s just politics, assured Truman to the startled ex-president: his re-entry to honorable service to his country could not interfere with political cynicism by the titular head of the DNC.
Even in my political youth, that old bloody shirt was continually waved proudly, by my mother and her allies, in Democrat Women, and Young Democrats, and others throughout all corners of my political incubator. It was simply ‘decided truth’ to not be questioned – akin to today’s assertions on global warming. Hoover was a bad man, evil and uncaring and cold and indifferent to the sufferings of millions in desperate straits.
Then, another PBS show on “The Presidents” had a narrative fragment on how great a man Hoover had been before the crisis sunk him, and was what led to my little adventure into the library stacks, which revealed that, Yes indeed he was a giant among giants in an age of giant achievements.
But ya wouldn’t know it to read history, listen to reporters, view documentaries, absorb ‘lessons’ by PBS history perfessors or in any way find out what the truth is about any period surveyed and described by leftwing keepers of the flame of truth. The purveyors of what we ‘know’ and thus understand had rigged the game. As Kinsley frames the ethical realm, the left then and since and forever more, Hoover was subjected to “a particular combination of shadowy dishonesties. It usually involves a complex web of facts, many of which may even be true. It exploits its own complexity and the reluctance of the media to adjudicate factual disputes” as well as historians of leftward leanings.
While FDR was our first really effective social-engineer president [though Wilson took a pretty energetic stab, having access to the new Sixteenth Amendment – the Income Tax!], Hoover was touted and adored for being the Great Engineer, who saved at least a half-billion souls in Europe from starvation. This thru private sector relief initiatives, saving Belgians, then Germans, then Finns, then Russians, long before FDR decided that engineering should be applied to politics, using the public treasury to invoke compassionate aid. Hoover was so gigantic in worldwide reputation that his special passport gave his relief team full, unchallenged access to cross any border for food delivery to starving millions, even during WW-One! It was unique, and dubbed by the media as a “Hoover Passport” – nothing like it ever existed before, or since.
Ya didn’t know that, did ya? Or that he was elected with a slightly larger percentage of the votes cast than was FDR four years later? Or that Bert was an orphan who epitomized the American Ideal: self-made millionaire, who did more good with his own money than FDR, or Kennedy, or any liberal in office could ever dream of achieving. Without government as their bank-account of course. Swift-boating, my dear short-pantsed Kinsley, is an old art practiced in the history books and documentaries and journalistic jeremiads for the lifetime of our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents.
The swift-boat that stabbed Hoover in the back was so enormous that a best-seller of that era was entitled “Why Are There So Many Lies About Mr. Hoover” – which filled a book in hardcover, bought by many even as the Great Depression got less than great in its effect. Until the Bonus Marchers were unceremoniously driven out of the capitol in August of 1932, most observers thought the lifetime of goodwill held by the public toward Hoover might squeak him into re-election.
“This will make me president” proclaimed a smiling FDR, on seeing the news reports of the WW-One vets being beaten by General Douglas McArthur’s troops. This was in direct contravention of Hoover’s orders, but Bert took the hit for McArthur’s public reputation, and never revealed that he had not ordered such a transgression of public honor. That particular ‘swift-boat’ was of history’s making, not DNC scheming. But there was much besides the vets’ eviction.
It did him in. That million dollars had been spent by DNC’s attack-dog, Charlie Michelson, even though the Depression was depressing enough on Hoover’s prospects. No such attack-fund has ever been deposited against a democrat candidate for office, or one just elected. Not even the “Clinton Haters” in 1993 had such a fund, of a million or fifty million dollars. But, consider George Soros: there’s someone who’s still financing swift boat construction as eagerly as did Charles Michelson.
As the short-pants nominee of the DNC takes his stride against the long-pants GOP oldster, the swift-boat drydocks will be working triple shifts. The history perfessors, who write the second-draft of history, working alongside their journalistic brethren and sistren who brag about writing the “first rough-draft of history” will see that one set of boats will be branded swift and clean, and the other branded nasty and dastardly. Ya thought the media and perfessors loved FDR and JFK?
Ya ain’t seen nuttin’ yet – these swift-boat craft being launched from the drydocks of the DNC will make Charlie Michelson smile in his grave, or from the bottom of Bert’s chamberpot. Hoover had an elegant, decorative chamberpot on his NYC fireplace mantle, with a likeness of Michelson engraved inside on its bottom. Bert had a sense of humor, in private if not before the newsreel cameras.
Fitting symbol of the boat yard foreman for the first swift-boat launching by the DNC. When a million dollars would do a lot of sinking of a man’s massive, worldwide reputation – one which led the grateful Finns to coin a new word in their official vocabulary: Hooveri, meaning to do good works. Its counterpart from the same era might be Micheleri: to swiftboat a good and decent man, with the following decades’ enthusiastic cooperation by the history, political science and journalistic keepers of the flame of Truth and Justice. Using Kinsley’s words, let me define it as: “shorthand for the brilliant, despicable [Republican] Democratic campaign strategy in  1929-32 that turned [John Kerry's] Herbert Hoover’s honorable service in [Vietnam] saving over a half-billion humans from starvation into a negative factor in his campaign.”
They did it to Hoover, some of it hammered to Ike [to weaken Nixon], fer shure to Goldwater [the 44th anniversary of that swift-boat is this September 7th], and of course Nixon, and tried it against Reagan [mostly without result, but not for lack of effort]. My historical term, as used in a TV series still gestating, is “Hooverize” a conservative as they did Bert in ‘32 – from Hooveri to Hooverize, we see the swiftboat drydocks filling to capacity.
Which boats will be painted which color by the painters in the media and professorate? Will the red-boats be scrutinized, and the blue-boats be given a pass? The short-pants set will get a pass, as FDR and the DNC and Michelson got a pass from these gatekeepers of public awareness of what happened and what matters and what we should think about. The man in the longpants – the very adult Captain John McCain of the U.S. Navy fighter fame – will be journalistically tortured like he’s never known since leaving Hanoi Hilton hospitality.
And the black man with blue-state sensibilities, and no serious responsibility in his life’s short term, who wears the shortpants of naivete and insane mentality will be scrutinized even less now that Tim Russert is gone from the press ranks. Russert wasn’t all that ‘fair’ but he was the best to hope for in this race for the Rose Garden.
Gentlemen, start your drydocks – the press awaits with its judgment(s). Would ya care to make book on what will be the labels applied this time around the political racetrack, deep inside Charlie Michelson’s chamberpot?