Monday, September 15, 2008

With Liberty & Lies for All

To realize how far we have diverged, one just has to recall the story of George Washington's "I cannot tell a lie," which was ingrained in us as part of the fabric of our history as a nation.

"I cannot tell the truth" may well be the slogan of the times, based upon John McCain's campaign strategy. This was enunciated by the words of Don Sipple, a Republican advertising strategist, who said "I think the predominance of liberty taken with truth and the facts has been more McCain than Obama." See McCain Barbs Stirring Outcry as Distortions. Liberty indeed.

As usual, Paul Krugman of the NYTimes, Blizzard of Lies, hones in on the issue:

Dishonesty is nothing new in politics. I spent much of 2000 — my first year at The Times — trying to alert readers to the blatant dishonesty of the Bush campaign’s claims about taxes, spending and Social Security.

But I can’t think of any precedent, at least in America, for the blizzard of lies since the Republican convention. The Bush campaign’s lies in 2000 were artful — you needed some grasp of arithmetic to realize that you were being conned. This year, however, the McCain campaign keeps making assertions that anyone with an Internet connection can disprove in a minute, and repeating these assertions over and over again.

* * * *

Why do the McCain people think they can get away with this stuff? Well, they’re probably counting on the common practice in the news media of being “balanced” at all costs. You know how it goes: If a politician says that black is white, the news report doesn’t say that he’s wrong, it reports that “some Democrats say” that he’s wrong. Or a grotesque lie from one side is paired with a trivial misstatement from the other, conveying the impression that both sides are equally dirty.

They’re probably also counting on the prevalence of horse-race reporting, so that instead of the story being “McCain campaign lies,” it becomes “Obama on defensive in face of attacks.”

Still, how upset should we be about the McCain campaign’s lies? I mean, politics ain’t beanbag, and all that.

One answer is that the muck being hurled by the McCain campaign is preventing a debate on real issues — on whether the country really wants, for example, to continue the economic policies of the last eight years.

AmericaBlog has a compendium of editorials decrying the lies and negative tactics of McSleazy, Lies. And then there's John McCain's Journey From Maverick to Liar. As Will Bunch notes in his perfectly phrased caption, Wow -- even Karl Rove doesn't approve this message, even Karl Rove thinks McCain has gone too far with his lying ways (sure).

It's gotten so bad that the press is even resorting to using the L word (Lie) to describe it. As The Politico explains, Why McCain is going so negative, so often:

McCain’s tactics are drawing the scorn of many in the media and organizations tasked with fact-checking the truthfulness of campaigns. In recent weeks, Team McCain has been described as dishonorable, disingenuous and downright cynical.

A series of ads — including accusations that Barack Obama backed teaching sex education to Illinois kindergartners and charges that Obama called Sarah Palin a lipstick-wearing pig — have provoked a cascade of criticism of McCain’s tactics.

The furor presents a breathtaking contrast to McCain’s image as a kind of anti-politician who plays fair, disdains politics as usual and has never forgotten how his 2000 presidential campaign was incinerated by a series of loathsome dirty tricks in the South Carolina primary.

Current campaign aides and other Republicans who’ve closely watched the race, however, have a very different response to the media elites and good-government scolds: We don’t care what you think.

McCain seems to have made a choice that many politicians succumb to but that he had always promised to avoid — he appears ready to do whatever it takes to win, even it if soils his reputation.

“We recognize it’s not going to be 2000 again,” McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said, alluding to the media’s swooning coverage of McCain’s ill-fated crusade against then-Gov. George W. Bush and the GOP establishment. “But he lost then. We’re running a campaign to win. And we’re not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it.”

Echoing this sentiment, Tom Edsell at the Huffington Post, in McGamble, adds:

So far, based on polling over the past two weeks, McCain's roll of the dice has paid off. Not only has McCain made substantial gains, pulling modestly ahead in most national polls, but his assaults on Obama appear to have damaged the Democratic Party as well, raising Republican hopes of minimizing House and Senate losses."

So where does that leave us? The Anonymous Liberal posits, in The Media's Moment of Truth:

John McCain is on the verge of doing one of two things: he's either about to implode under the weight of his own lies, or he's on the verge of proving, definitively, that there is no political downside to telling an endless stream of bald-faced lies. Sadly, I'm beginning to suspect the latter."

And that's the truth and nothing but the truth.

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