Posted by: Paul | 09/14/2009

Check, Please

There’s a saying in journalism: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

The point, of course, is that you should “source” everything. Take nothing for granted. Even if a piece of information appears sound — even if it’s coming from a reliable source — verify it before passing it on. (One of the beauties of blogging is that you can include links, allowing people to see for themselves the material you’re discussing.) Check it out.

I got a small example of this today when I clicked on a video that Michelle Malkin put up on her Web site. Titled “A fresh, new Pete Stark Raving Mad moment,” it showed the California congressman taking questions at a town hall meeting. Stark doesn’t exactly have a reputation for patience, so I wasn’t surprised to hear that he was acting up again.

Malkin writes: “A senior citizen lit into various Obamacare talking points and told Rep. Stark: ‘Don’t pee on my leg and then tell me it’s raining.’ At 1:38 of the video clip, Stark grabbed the microphone and lashed back: ‘I wouldn’t dignify you by peeing on your leg. It wouldn’t be worth wasting the urine.’”

Stark said this, all right — and it was, to say the least, very unbecoming behavior for an elected official. Childish, even. It’s easy to imagine the same taunt coming from a third-grader. But does it belong among Stark’s “greatest unhinged moments,” as Malkin puts it? Hardly. Stark was acting boorish at times (fidgeting and doing little to hide his obvious boredom). Yet, apart from the “peeing on your leg” moment, his comments were mostly civil. And he did answer the questions that were put to him.

I’m not saying his answers were good, or that I agree with everything he said, but this wasn’t an appearance for the record books. Even the line about how he “grabbed the microphone” was overstated: the man handed Stark the microphone, and only after he was done speaking.

There are much bigger, more damaging examples of inaccuracy out there, believe me, and I happen to like a great deal of what Michelle Malkin has to say. But we have to sweat the details. Yes, we all make mistakes now and then. But we should try to keep our emotions in check as much as possible, so they don’t cause us to mischaracterize our opponents.

When we go over the line, we make it that much easier for our critics to dismiss us.

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