Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Palin Withdrawal - Attacking Backmann

The Washington Post crew took a pledge that they would not mention Sarah Palin until March. Writing a "Post Partisan" column, Johnathan Capehart bends the rules by referring to Palin without naming her. But he has to kick some conservative woman so he moved on to Michele Bachmann and her "amazing view of history". He takes issue with this quote:

I think it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forbearers who worked tirelessly -- men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.

There is nothing factually wrong with this statement. If you look up Wikipedia's entry for John Quincy Adams you find that he was a life-long opponent of slavery. He was also the attorney successfully representing the prisoners of the slave ship the Amistad in their suit to be freed instead of sold as slaves. What could Capehart possibly find to argue with? A lot as it turns out.

Talking Points Memo corrected Bachmann's history lesson by pointing out that Adams wasn't one of the founders and that he died 15 years before the Emancipation Proclamation. Perhaps she was thinking of John Adams, the second president of the United States, who is different from John Quincy Adams, the new nation's sixth president. And let's just forget about that whole three-fifths compromise thing in Article 1, Section 2, paragraph 3 of the Constitution that counted slaves as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of figuring out how many representatives would be apportioned to each state.

This is a confused mess. Yes, Adams died before the Emancipation Proclamation. So what? Bachmann did not say that Adams ended slavery, only that he opposed it.

Bachman used the term "forbearers" which is a gender neutral version of "forefathers" - the people who came before us. It does not mean "founders". Capehart pulled a rhetorical trick and substituted "founders" for "forbearers". That let him claim that she meant John Adams instead of his son, John Quincy Adams. John Adams was no fan of slavery but his son was the stronger voice on the subject. There is nothing in the quote he provided to indicate that she confused the two. He did that himself and hoped that we would not notice.

John Adams was party to the 3/5s compromise which proves absolutely nothing in this context. The compromise was instituted to limit the number of congressional seats that the slave states would have (i.e. it was an anti-slavery measure). Regardless, Bachmann was talking about John Quincy Adams who was a Boston lawyer during the Constitutional Convention.

So, Bachmann made a factual statement but Capehart deliberately misstated it in order to characterize her as an idiot. Amazing what a little Palin withdrawal will drive you to do.

No comments: