One of the things I dislike about internet debates is that people argue with statements you didn’t make and then the debate continues around those arguments. Today, for instance, Dr. Helen—aka Glenn Reynolds’ Insta-wife—said of my Monday post on Herman Cain: “What Klavan is advocating is political suicide. He might as well have taken his playbook from Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals where Alinsky’s fourth rule is ‘Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. You can kill them with this…'” She goes on to cite an episode of the TV comedy Fresh Prince of Bel Air in which a candidate refuses to respond to low attacks and thus loses the election.
I respect Doc Helen tons professionally and like her very much personally and her remarks echo those of commenters that essentially assume I think Cain is guilty or shouldn’t fight back or that the remarks of his accusers should be taken at face value. (One fellow, to prove his point, accuses me of sexually harassing him and dares me to disprove it. On the contrary, it’s a night I’ll always remember fondly.)
But I neither say nor believe any of these things. I don’t know yet whether Cain is innocent or guilty. If he’s innocent, he should fight back like a lion. If anyone can fairly discredit his accusers, go to it. I always thought George W. Bush was far too gracious in his response to unfair attacks, and the republic was harmed because of it. And certainly no one can accuse me of suffering fools gladly myself.
But there’s a difference between allowing your opponents to hold you to their absurd re-creation of your standards and not living up to your standards yourself. Would we really ignore the homicidal sins of a right wing Ted Kennedy merely because he was right wing? Man, I hope not. It is precisely the folly of the left that they confuse their political positions with virtue and thus think themselves exempt from ordinary moral considerations. They riot, lie and even kill in the certainty that what they will achieve will be so wonderful as to justify them even in their foulness. I pointed to the foolishness of this point of view in my Monday post last week. I don’t now plan to adopt it in dealing with Cain or anyone.
Alinsky notwithstanding, we can’t live down to the standards of the left. A victory won on those terms is ultimately a defeat both for ourselves and the nation. Cain stands accused. The burden of proof is entirely on his accusers. But if they do make their case, I’m not going to change my values to save his neck.