Saturday, February 04, 2012

Character Matters: Byron York vs. Brit Hume

There's a very interesting "character matters" tweet debate going on between Byron York and Brit Hume. It involves the Romney charge against Gingrich that he resigned as Speaker of the House because of ethics charges and is thus an "embarrassment"* to the Republican party. Hume thinks the charges are fair politics. York thinks they amount to a "political hanging" because they are based on false charges.

York wrote a recent in-depth summary of the Gingrich ethics case based on his reporting from the 1990's. His conclusion: "The bottom line: Gingrich acted properly and violated no laws. There was no tax fraud scheme."

Yesterday York linked to Mark Souder's piece in The Weekly Standard noting in two tweets linking to the article that Souder was a former "Gingrich colleague (and foe)" who says "Gingrich 'has been unfairly maligned by Mitt Romney, and the full story needs to be told.'" and that the "[e]thics case against Gingrich was 'political hanging, not impartial justice.'"

Brit Hume responded defending the Romney campaign: "re: Gingrich quitting in 'disgrace:' Look up the word. It seems within rough ready bounds of political discourse."

York responded that though disgrace can mean many things still this is a "political hanging":
"Agree that 'disgrace' can be in eye of beholder, but I think Souder's point about 'political hanging' of Gingrich is valid…" 
In a follow up tweet York made the point that:
"Romney has adopted 90's Dem critique of Gingrich, and also embraced Brokaw's interpretation of events…"
After various back and forth tweets (1, 2, 3) the discussion has come to differing conclusions (so far).

Brit Hume: "While ethics case was not immediate cause of ouster, it was part of long chain of events that caused Gingrich's loss of favor."

Byron York: "Absolutely. Then IRS 1999 'Gingrich was right' report made it kind of surreal in retrospect."

Hume says because all these things happened to one man they tie together. York says because the ethics charge was proved wrong, you can't tie them together. It's "surreal" to leave out the point that the main "fact" was disproved by the IRS.

For my money, using charges you know have been proven false is a major character issue. It goes to the question of what someone with power will do to target political enemies. If Governor Romney will target a leading member of his own party with disproven ethical charges, what will he do to political opponents as well as anyone among the "common people" who cross him?

As for Brit Hume, this denigrates his journalistic ethics. It is undoubtedly true that the ethics charges had a part in Gingrich's resignation--but is it honest or competent journalism to bring that up without making it clear that the charges were false?

We usually call people who stick to disproved theories by terms like "truthers", "birthers", or just plain "nutters" to acknowledge that most don't have a moral flaw of denying the truth but a rational problem in putting evidence together. But what to call people who just leave out key evidence and think that's okay?

*Governor Chris Christie who made the allegation against Gingrich seems to have embarrassed himself too.


James Nicholas said...

For my money, using charges you know have been proven false is a major character issue. It goes to the question of what someone with power will do to target political enemies.

On the money. For Romney to be attacking his Republican nomination opponent with the same Democrat bilge that Couter and the boys paper-mached together back in 1994 as part of their usual response to effective Republicans (see Sarah Palin, George Allen, etc) is to be a back stabbing worm of a politician. Sorry, it just doesn't sell. It's Romney whose character is falling under question, and quite frankly he fails, abysmally.

It's amazing Hume doesn't get the distinction between what is an effective political ploy and a truthful assertion. That will be important when you are hoping these people and their followers will support you later.

Santorum looks good to me. Gingrich I can be enthusiastic about . Romney? I don't trust him. If I have to vote for him or Obama than he will have my vote, but is that all this party can offer me?

Good post.

T. D. said...

Thanks, JN! I feel as dismayed as Mark Levin on the conservative "thinkers" giving Romney a pass on Romneycare. As bad, maybe worse, is leading conservatives not only giving him a pass on knowingly false attacks on Gingrich's integrity but then calling Gingrich mean and destructive for pointing out Romney's lack of moral compass.

It will be interesting to see what these conservatives say when the masters at false personal attacks focus on Romney (if he wins the nomination). Then you will see an outcry on the morality of it all rather than the acceptance of it as plain old "politics" that everyone should have known is part of the game.

James Nicholas said...

Well said again. You're on a roll, Terrance! You're turning out the posts, and they're all on target. This is a pretty good blog! : )

T. D. said...

Thanks, JN! I feel the same about you and your blog.