Lately, the Chronicle has been producing some silly staff editorials.
We don’t especially want to turn this site into a daily Fisking of their latest pablum, but it’s hard to ignore an editorial page that is beginning to resemble a poorly written left-of-center blog.
Take the staff editorial from earlier this week explaining that those “draft cards” sent out by the Rock the Vote organization were a “hoax” and describing Rock the Vote as “liberal-leaning” in its first two paragraphs.
That was a promising start to the editorial, and even represents progress of a sort. As Anne Linehan pointed out recently, the Chronicle itself recently described Rock the Vote as nonpartisan, which itself probably helped to mislead readers who rely mainly upon the Chronicle for their news.
But then the editorial goes off track, with what seem to be reasons that a draft could return and reasons that it won’t return. The argument from the first two paragraphs — which seemed to be heading towards debunking the draft rumors and criticizing a group that spread them — is not sustained, and indeed is contradicted in spots. The middle five paragraphs are just a poorly conceived hodge podge of gripes and observations.
Finally, we get to the final paragraph of the editorial. Despite frequent statements from Bush Administration officials opposing a draft and embracing the volunteer army and despite useful debunking from websites like FactCheck.org and Snopes, the Chronicle concludes the following:
That the draft rumors have gained such traction, though, suggests a troubling security issue. The rumors have been fueled by anti-Bush activists and Democrats, including Kerry, but as a wartime commander in chief, Bush should enjoy enough public trust to dispel the rumors. Instead, he is hampered by his administration’s penchant for secrecy and shifting justification for the war. The president should read the widespread fear of his intentions as worrisome doubt about his credibility.
Why would anyone take those rumors seriously? Is it perhaps because they had not exactly been debunked by major media — at least until House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R) squashed the rumors by bringing the Democratic bill to reinstate the draft to the House floor for a vote? And while the Chronicle is on the topic of credibility, here’s a liberal canard presented as fact in their editorial:
Denials of a draft, said Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, come from “the same people who told us that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11; the same people who told us Saddam Hussein had something to do with weapons of mass destruction. … “
The Bush Administration has not made the case that Saddam Hussein was directly involved in the 9-11 attacks, although partisans continue to accuse it (falsely) of making that case. And people on both sides of the aisle had long believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (although the case for action in Iraq was much broader). So, this quote contains one falsity and one irrelevance, both portrayed as factual and salient by the inclusion of this quote in the editorial. When a newspaper regularly posts factually incorrect information to its editorial page, no wonder people have trouble figuring out what to believe!
Obviously, the Chronicle is free to take whatever left-of-center position it would like on its editorial page. However, one wishes a little more fact-checking would take place. And for that matter, the writing could be much much better. It’s not clear whether the point of this editorial was to dispel rumors of a draft, to raise the possibility of a draft, or simply to bring up various grudges the editors hold against the President.