FAUX FAIRNESS….Peter Beinart writes a frustrating column about democracy promotion in the New Republic today. As he points out, in four of the countries most important to our anti-terror effort ? Russia, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia ? George Bush hasn’t merely ignored their anti-democratic tendencies, he’s practically given them his blessing. But then, just when Beinart ought to be delivering the punch line, the piece peters out feebly, ending only with an airy complaint that Bush and his advisors are “inconsistent” and unwilling to “grapple with the intellectual contradiction underlying their war on terrorism.” That’s some hard hitting column writing!

Instead, why not simply go where the evidence leads? It’s plain that democracy promotion is just a rhetorical device for Bush, one that shows up in speeches about places he doesn’t like ? Iraq, Iran, Syria ? but not something that he genuinely cares about. As Beinart himself ably points out, it’s not just that Bush doesn’t push as hard as he could, it’s that he doesn’t push at all. Why not call a spade a spade?

And it’s not just Beinart. In the Washington Post today, David Ignatius writes a column about the economic train wreck coming our way that makes plenty of good points. But then, after 600 words of smart writing about the recklessness of George Bush’s economic program, he suddenly switches gears and wraps up with the suggestion that John Kerry is probably as much to blame as George Bush. This despite four years of unprecedented fiscal profligacy on Bush’s part and over a decade of relative fiscal hawkishness from Kerry. Why is Ignatius so reluctant to state the obvious simply because the obvious happens to put one side in a worse light than the other?

I’m all for being fair, and there are reasonable arguments to be made in favor of Bush’s overall policies and against Kerry’s. The problem is that even in the cases where the evidence rather clearly points in only one direction, too many columnists are afraid to let the evidence speak for itself and lay the blame directly where it lies. Why?

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