The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Poisonous Anecdote

When I fisked John Kerry's nomination acceptance speech, I cautioned that:

...anecdotes are a stupid way to make a point, as Al Gore found out last election.

Kerry made reference to 3 people who had suffered some tragedy. One of them was, in John Kerry's words,

Mary Ann Knowles, a woman with breast cancer I met in New Hampshire, had to keep working day after day right through her chemotherapy, no matter how sick she felt, because she was terrified of losing her family's health insurance.

Donald Sensing has done a little research into this claim. Guess what he found out:

Mary Ann Knowles did not have to work through her chemotherapy for fear of losing her health insurance. Employed by Elderhostel, the Boston-based non-profit travel organization for people 55 and older, Mary Ann had 26 weeks of paid disability at her disposal. More was available for a long-term illness. She did not have to work through her chemotherapy. She chose to.

Read the whole thing.

Why politicians continue to rely on these sob stories is beyond me. It is remarkably easy to check them out, and it is almost a certainty that some will be at best exaggerated, and at worst completely false. This damages the candidates credibility and undermines the point that they were attempting to make.

I don't think that Kerry lied about this. I'm sure some staffer was assigned to collect stories from people and turn the best ones over to Kerry's speech writer. If Kerry did meet with these people, it was probably for a short period of time, and not for the purpose of checking the veracity of their stories. The biggest indictment of Kerry on this issue is not his honesty but his intelligence. Al Gore tried this last election, with claims of children standing in their classrooms in Florida, and an elderly person collecting cans to pay for medication. All proved to be false (the classroom in question was overcrowded, but everyone was sitting, the can collector refused to accept multiple offers of assistance from local charities).

There is no excuse for making this mistake twice.

Those who do not learn from history...


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