Moderator in SFF, Notebooks, Pre-Built/Barebones
- Aug 23, 2003
Do politicians stretch the truth on occasion? Absolutely. Does it work on the voting public? If you're convincing in your rhetoric, definitely. So why is McCain drowning in his own filth? Because he's a spectacularly bad liar. Nobody, not even Karl Rove or Fox News, is taking his statements seriously anymore. Hour after hour of media coverage of McCain and Palin is filled with "fact-checks", adding an asterisk to everything they say. The notion that nothing McCain says can be taken seriously is getting hammered into the minds of Americans daily, and is completely tearing down that aura of trustworthiness McCain had spent 26-years building up before the election.
Among all his other attainments, Bill Clinton was, in the words of former Sen. Bob Kerrey, "an unusually good liar." It's not the kind of thing you usually see engraved on trophies, but a case can be made that if it's something a president does, he might as well be good at it.
This comes particularly to mind in watching John McCain, who's shown himself over the past few weeks to be a an especially bad liar. McCain sets out untruths that are untrue on their face and untruths that are repeatedly demonstrated to be untrue, repeats them after their untruth is pointed out, and gets caught in them embarrassingly easily.
It's not what you'd call a display of skill.
Moreover, the ineptness is spreading to McCain's running mate, which is disappointing. When a candidate has a running mate 30 years younger, and she has limited national experience, he should be a better -- or at least a more deftly deceitful -- role model.
Instead, McCain and Palin have been insisting that she stopped the bridge to nowhere, no matter how many times people point out differently. In fact, he insists that she has always stood firmly against any federal earmark spending.
He's maintained that despite the Anchorage Daily News reporting that Palin sought $256 million in federal earmark spending during her first year and $197 million in her second. His insistence was even challenged on "The View," a show more typically about the meaning of Tom Cruise.
Told by Barbara Walters that Palin "also took some earmarks," McCain insisted "No, not as governor she didn't. She vetoed -- look, well, the fact is she's a reform governor."
Not only was Barbara Walters right and McCain wrong -- a phrase you don't usually like to hear about a potential president -- but governors can't veto federal earmarks.
Bill Clinton would have distorted that much better.
Still, even that may not have matched his claim, to ABC, that Palin "knows more about energy than probably anyone in the United States of America."
The least you should be able to expect of a candidate's lie is some surface plausibility.
This position was based, if on anything, on the statement by both McCain and Palin that she governed a state producing 20 percent of U.S. energy.
Except she doesn't; Alaska produces 3.4 percent. After several impervious repetitions, the claim was adjusted to say that Alaska produced 20 percent of U.S. oil and gas, except that's not true either; it's more like 7.5 percent.
The percentage of her supreme national expertise on energy might be even lower.
It's discouraging when every statement has to come with asterisks; even the smallest ones.
This week, in an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News - only her second interview since being named as McCain's running mate - Palin recalled her decision to accept the nomination. "It was a time of asking the girls to vote on it, anyway," Palin explained. "And they voted unanimously, yes."
Except, as Andrew Sullivan pointed out, both McCain's communications director and Palin's husband had already said that her kids weren't told until the family had reached Ohio for the official announcement. That doesn't even count Palin telling Charles Gibson that when McCain offered the job, she accepted it immediately -- without blinking.
This is another example of a truly disheartening display of untruth. Not only is it disprovable by previously public evidence, but it wouldn't even do her much good if it were true. If she had said that the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, or the archangel Gabriel, had persuaded her to take the spot, not everyone might have believed her, but at least those who did would have been impressed.
This version, not so much.
We should be able to expect from our politicians, if not invariable truth, at least a little effort and thought in their dishonesties. From McCain and Palin, we're getting a very disappointing performance.
More than a hundred years ago, Mark Twain was similarly saddened by the scope of the lies of a previous GOP candidate, James G. Blaine. The candidate, he thought, was discrediting the entire practice; after listening to him, wrote Twain, "I don't seem able to lie with any heart any more."
If we can't get truth, we can demand better lies.