Monday, March 10, 2003

Trivial pursuit. John Kerry's non-Irish roots are a real -- if exceedingly minor -- story. But whether you're for Kerry or not, you should be concerned about the damage that will be done to our public discourse if minuscule points over whether Kerry may have allowed someone at one time to believe he might be part-Irish are used by his political enemies and the media to tar him as some sort of two-faced lying weasel.

This is exactly what was done in the 2000 campaign, when a series of stories about Al Gore's so-called lying -- led by the false, Republican-created charge that he had once claimed to have "invented the Internet" -- ended up defining the context through which the media viewed him, and, given the closeness of the final vote, probably cost him election. (Not that he actually lost.)

The Herald's Joe Sciacca -- no Kerry suck-up -- today has an exceptionally lucid take on the nitpicking over Kerry's ethnic background, his haircut, and even whether he colors his hair, writing: "If one considers the nature of the scandals that have hounded Kerry in his White House run so far, it seems the bar for what constitutes a relevant campaign issue has been lowered to ant level."

And here's the Daily Howler's characteristically caustic deconstruction of the Globe's latest on Eringate (last item). Unlike the Howler, I do think this is a legitimate story. But let's get a grip, folks: this is cool stuff to know for a trivia quiz, nothing more.

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