Inside the Capitol

Saturday, August 28, 2004

There's a Sucker Born Every Minute

SANTA FE – What do promoters of Roswell UFOs, Billy the Kid’s pretenders and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have in common?
Despite abundant documentary record to the contrary, people who should know better somehow accept such claims as plausible merely because someone says it is so, despite having no factual evidence in support.
The day after the Roswell Army Air Force Base announced it had captured a flying disk, excitement subsided when “higher headquarters” explained it was a weather balloon. Nothing more was heard of the 1947 incident until 1980, when pseudo-scientists and pseudo-historians began uncovering people who “remembered” the crash.
The latest to remember, was an elderly Roswell woman interviewed on television last week. She even provided us with sound effects. Until then, we hadn’t known for sure what a crashing UFO sounds like. She said she hadn’t spoken out before because the government had threatened her.
A significant portion of American people have heard this often enough that they believe in UFOs and little gray space creatures .
Then there are those who believe that Billy the Kid’s life really wasn’t ended by Sheriff Pat Garrett. They want him to have survived so they are ready to believe trash history that portrays him living a long and happy life outside New Mexico. And every time someone comes up with a new story, it adds to the ranks of true believers.
The latest to add to this pseudo-historical nonsense are the three sheriffs who contend in court filings that there is reasonable evidence to believe Pat Garrett may have shot someone else in order to let Billy get away.
And the more talk we hear about it, the more people who will believe Billy ran free even though no evidence supports it. You can add them to the list of people who believe Elvis, Hitler and Jesse James remained among us until their doting years.
And now there are the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who insist that official Navy reports, citations and task force findings concerning whether John Kerry’s gunboat was under attack are wrong and evidently a conspiracy to help Kerry’s plan for glory.
With many news releases, interviews, two TV ads and a book, the group is repeating its contentions often enough that reportedly a majority of veterans have deserted Kerry for President Bush.
The focus on Kerry’s Vietnam experience may be helping with veterans, but it may not be doing President Bush’s reelection campaign much good, otherwise. Inconsistencies are beginning to dog the group’s message. After insisting there was no connection between the group and the White House, a top legal advisor for the president was outed as an advisor to the Fast Boat Veterans for Truth.
After insisting that Kerry never was in Cambodia because no American troops ever were in Cambodia, it was divulged that tapes from the Nixon White House reveal Kerry’s chief critic, John E. O’Neill, telling Nixon that he was in Cambodia.
Although President Bush is advocating an end to all negative ads by independent groups, the calls for him to condemn the ads maligning Kerry’s citations for bravery won’t seem to go away.
But most importantly, the Swift Boat group’s focus on Vietnam isn’t where the Bush campaign wants to be. His strength is in focusing on what he is doing now in the war on terror, rather than a focus on his military career versus John Kerry’s.
A focus on Vietnam also brings comparisons with our plight in present day Iraq that the White House has been trying to avoid for more than a year.
Possibly a continuation of the attacks on Kerry’s claimed Vietnam valor will finally change the minds of the general voting public as other frequently-told untruths have over the years and end up working to Bush’s advantage.
Or is the American public smarter than that?


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