Palling Around With Smears

Kathleen Parker has gotten her share of bashing for her comments on Saraha Palin (who was instructed by Parker to exit the race before her quite effective debate performance). In her latest Parker writes:

“Palling around with terrorists,” as Sarah Palin said of Obama, gets to an underlying xenophobic, anti-Muslim sentiment. Using surrogates who strategically use Obama’s middle name, Hussein, feeds the same dark heart.

That’s just hooey — all three sentences.

As to the first, the sly use of “gets to” hides Parker’s meaning and intent. Is she claiming that Palin’s reference, an obvious one repeated at many campaign stops, to terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dorhn was really not about them at all but about some suspicion that Obama hung out with Islamic terrorists? There’s simply no basis for that at all, unless “terrorist” is another banned word. (“Socialist” is also a racially-loaded term, I suppose.) Only if words have no meaning, and if Obama’s biography and record are totally ignored, does Parker’s accusation fly. One can debate the importance of the issue or the wisdom of raising it, but it’s frankly preposterous to suggest Palin wasn’t really referring to the white, socialist duo but to some other mysterious association, heretofore never raised and never revealed.

And if Parker uses “gets to” as a half-hearted, sloppy means of saying that people hear the reference to Ayers and Dohrn and make the erroneous jump to Islamic terrorists, then Parker is really suggesting that voters are xenophobic, ignorant dolts. That’s Parker’s prerogative, but for her to attribute that assessment to Palin is unfair.

As to the second sentence, this is straight from the Colin Powell playbook — a guilt by association game aimed at McCain who has done his level best to shush, chastise and castigate anyone who played the “Hussein” card. Parker doesn’t quite have the nerve to accuse McCain directly, so she employs the last refuge of smears — the passive voice (“using surrogates”). McCain has done so such thing, but he’s obviously earned no credit for his restraint.

And the final sentence essentially declares that you can’t argue with Parker’s smear. Well I did, so I suppose it isn’t “undeniable” after all.

Everyone has a right to join the tut-tutting about McCain’s campaign. They have every right, if they so desire, to ignore the age jibes from the Obama camp and the blatant xenophobia stirred by Obama’s immigration ad. They can ignore McCain’s refusal to reference Reverend Wright and his efforts to rein in everyone from comics to talk show hosts (not to mention pundits). Goodness knows there’s a market for McCain-Palin “tone”-bashing. But there’s no justification to smear, to imply and hint at conduct that simply didn’t occur, or to attribute evil motives to either McCain or Palin when a more obvious meaning is attributable to their words.

And before this winds up in the “conservatives are attacking conservatives” file, let me be clear. I’d say the same, and have, about liberal pundits who employ smears, half-truths and defective analysis. Conservatives shouldn’t get a pass when they do the same.