The Corner

The Banner ÜBer Alles

Several readers are taking exception to my post about the Mission Accomplished banner. One fellow says I’m “pulling a Clinton,” which I would think would be a lot dirtier than anything I’m doing. Another reader writes:

At best, your arguments about Bush and the “Mission Accomplished” banner

sound like shill from an overly aggressive lawyer or advertiser. Even if

literally correct, Bush’s statements were misleading.

The banner reminds me of a 48-point credit card offer for a “fixed 4% rate.”

In 6-point text on the back, the company explains that the “fixed” rate is

subject to change at any time and will go up after 2 months. While

the “fixed 4% rate” is true in some sense, it is deceptive (although, I

admit, a deception most consumers have learned to live with).

From a lawyer’s perspective, I can say in a header, “Mr. Smith was charged

with robbery and murder. The jury found him not guilty.” If the text of my

brief explained that the jury found Mr. Smith not guilty of robbery, but

guilty of murder, the header would be literally true, but deceptive.

Likewise, Bush can say his speech was a caveat on the sign, but the speech

cannot undo the message of the banner. The banner was like the “fixed 4%” or

the “not guilty” headers. True is some sense, but deceptive.

The same logic holds for the WMD and Iraq-OBL connections. Some truth may be

there, but the rhetorical headers were exaggerated. Instead of being an

administration known for honesty, W has become the need-to-read-the-fine-

print president.

Me:I’m sorry, but I think this is close to nonsense. As I understand it, the ship put the Mission Accomplished banner up because, well, their mission was accomplished. Maybe you could make a fair argument that Bush should have ordered the banner down, but give me a break. There’s plenty to criticize Bush about, but this story has always struck me as opportunistic after-the-fact b.s.

And even if the critics were right, it is still the most over-emphasized banner in history. How many silly slogans have we seen as backdrops at political events? Are they all now more important than what the President actually said? Besides, I would bet that not one in one hundred people watching the coverage at the time would have said, “the president is telling us it’s over.” Indeed, if I remember correctly, the brouhaha over the banner came long, long after the carrier event. For weeks afterward, the debate was all about how the “hard part” was still to come. Chris Matthews, for example, didn’t say “the president is telling us the war is over” he was too busy talking about Bush’s masculine bulges in his flight suit and how the carrier landing was a brilliant political coup.

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