Opinion | It’s Not Attainable to ‘Win’ an Argument With Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

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I investigated many of those theories, typically by consulting the sources I’d cultivated. Kennedy was proper that the 2004 election had been rife with irregularities and efforts at disenfranchising voters, notably in Ohio, the place a partisan secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell, had overseen a number of divisive voting measures and obstacles. However just about each knowledgeable I talked to stated that not one of the points had been doubtless sufficiently big to have undone Bush’s win. An investigation by the Democratic Nationwide Committee which checked out precinct stage voting counts discovered that the info “doesn’t counsel the prevalence of widespread fraud that systematically misallocated votes from Kerry to Bush.”

And so: I wrote a point-by-point debunking of Kennedy’s breathless claims. Then Kennedy wrote a rebuttal to my rebuttal, which I, once more, rebutted.

For per week or two this dust-up took over my life. Salon, a usually liberal-leaning publication, was deluged by letters from readers indignant that I used to be defending Bush’s win. Fortunately, my editors supported me, and I bear in mind coming away from the episode feeling bruised however journalistically vindicated: A person with a well-known political identify was fallacious on the web, and, armed with the info, I had stepped in to appropriate the document.

Wanting again, although, I cringe. The opposite day I went again and listened to a debate I had with Kennedy on public radio’s “The Brian Lehrer Present.” Lehrer opened this system by asking Kennedy for his big-picture case. However whether or not Kennedy is speaking about vaccines, elections or different out-there matters (he informed Rogan he’s “aware” that he may very well be assassinated by the American authorities) he tends to current his theories in a selected means. He begins with a number of sprinkles of fact — Ohio’s vote was run by a partisan official, some vaccines have critical unintended effects — after which swirls them up with sufficient exaggerations, omissions and leaps of logic to create a veritable McFlurry of doubt.

Such was his effort after we met on Lehrer: Kennedy provided an assortment of claims concerning the election that, in huge and small methods, had been unsubstantiated. So when Lehrer turned to me, I felt I had no selection however to start out out by correcting Kennedy’s misstatements. I did so fairly handily, however as a result of I needed to level to sources and tease out the nuances Kennedy had elided, I couldn’t assist however sound just like the boring, persnickety nerd caught within the weeds. After a number of rounds of this back-and-forth, I can’t think about that a lot of something had been clarified for the viewers. As an alternative, the impression was certainly one of earnest complexity: One aspect says X, the opposite says Y, however whoever is true, it positive looks like it is a debate we needs to be having.

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