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The Maddening Double Standard
October 2, 2003
By Memekiller

Democrats have a character problem: an insistence on objectivity, truth and moral consistency. The problem is that when facing an enemy that respects no trait other than winning, it puts all those who exhibit these character traits at a distinct disadvantage. For years now right-wing pundits have lied with absolute impunity, yet whenever someone dares to call them on their bullshit, there is no shortage of those on the left who jump at the chance to point out the left's far milder offenses. (See Mr. Saletan's recent column at Slate).

Liberals continue to hamstring themselves by insisting that every person who might fall under the liberal label be completely blotless before anyone can comment on this administration's continuous efforts to mislead and distort. Yet no such demands are made on the right by either affiliation. When Gore was getting skewered for his non-lies about the Internet and Love Story, can anyone name a columnist from, say, The Wall Street Journal who pointed out that Bush might have indulged in a fib or two about limiting CO2, his drunk driving arrest or cocaine use?

Of course not. Because unlike the left, the right does not expect their talking heads to tell-it-as-they-see-it. They want them to tell-what-pushes-the-agenda. When the left insists their ranks be without sin before they cast stones, the right seeks out only blind, manipulatable anger. As left-leaning readers turn to columnists who are level-headed and objective, those on the right donít care what their talking heads say, so long as they draw blood. The right's unscrupulous methods of slandering their enemies is without question. What is more boggling is how the victims of these attacks are so content to not only sit mumly by but silence those who would dare stand up to the juggernaut.

After years of Clinton-hating, we have David Brooks over at The New York Times who complains that long overdue books like Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them demonstrate Democrats have started a "new" chapter of American politics where attacks on Presidents have become personal. Brooks' memory does not appear to extend to a certain previous President who suffered eight years of such "impersonal" charges as rape, murder, homosexuality and drug dealing.

Nor do books by Coulter, O'Reilly and Hannity appear to warrant any mention. When the air was filled with the right-wing's invective, we stood silently by and shrugged our shoulders as if to say, What can you do? They're Republicans. We expect more from our side. Such noble sentiments was supposed to help us sleep nights as the right-wing's less scrupulous tactics eventually granted them control of all three branches of government. Have you been sleeping soundly lately?

This misguided pursuit of equality has instead created a vast inequality where conservatives are the only ones allowed not only to falsely malign, but even criticize. How else do you explain the fact that after years of Clinton investigations, the Democrats are accused of overzealousness for asking for a single special prosecutor in the Wilson affair?

What else would allow the Republicans to get away with continuing to call Clinton's Presidency illegitimate because he won by a plurality of the vote? Meanwhile we are accused of being unable to "get over" how this President came to office Ė despite the fact that we put partisanship aside and supported him through 9/11 and Afghanistan, and a good many of us even went so far as to write him a blank check on Iraq, despite having serious questions about his motives.

As thanks, we were greeted with accusations of treason and got Bush's brand of crony capitalism shoved down our throats. Yet when someone like Franken dares to utter a peep of dissent, the left is the first to call for calm as the right continues to do everything within their power to rile up their footsoldiers.

It's time to end the double standard. For far too long our civility has been used against us. It's time we wake up and realize objectivity doesn't mean insisting everybody's the same. It means we ought to demand the truth. When those who do get shot down as those who lie go unchallenged, we ought to be pissed off. That may not come as naturally to those of us who refuse to walk lock-step with the Republican line, which is to our credit, but by golly, we've earned it.


Memekiller is a former "Night & Day" editor of the Houston Press and award-winning journalist who has published in numerous newspapers and magazines.

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