Friday, September 12, 2008

Is McCain losing it?

I hate to be spending so much time on this crap, but the way the McCain campaign--including McCain himself--is entangling itself in an ever-proliferating web of distortions, deceptions, and blatant lies is becoming genuinely bizarre. These aren't restricted to complex and ambiguous misrepresentations about large issues open to multiple interpretations. Increasingly, they're direct, unmistakable, stupid, and easily disprovable lies.

And what's even more striking is that as these falsehoods and fables get publicly discredited, the McCain campaign refuses to take the hint and modulate their claims to bring them a bit closer to reality. On the contrary, they dig in, continue to repeat these thoroughly debunked false claims almost word-for-word ... and even go on to elaborate and embellish them. For example (from the AP article below):
Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Friday running mate Sarah Palin has never asked for money for lawmakers' pet projects as Alaska governor when in fact she has sought nearly $200 million in earmarks this year. [....]

When pressed about Palin's record of requesting and accepting such money for Alaska, McCain ignored the record and said: "Not as governor she didn't." [....]
And it's increasingly clear that these kinds of statements are not momentary blunders or careless formulations, but deliberately crafted talking-points.

=> What on earth is going on here?

Whatever one thinks about McCain and his policies, his reputation for integrity (for which I believe there is a real basis over the years) has always been important to him, both personally and politically. Why would he be willing to simply throw it away like this?

Of course, part of the answer is that this strategy may actually work, in the sense of winning the general election. If it does--and if the McCain campaign pays no cost for its contribution to the further debasement of public discourse--that will be bad for all of us.

Yours for reality-based discourse,
Jeff Weintraub

P.S. McCain uttered the specific falsehood quoted above in a TV interview on The View that included the following:
In arguably his toughest interview yet, co-host Joy Behar asked McCain, "There are ads running from your campaign... Now we know that those two ads are untrue, they are lies. And yet, you at the end of it say you approve these messages. Do you really approve these?"

Barbara Walters then threw in her condemnation, telling McCain: "You, yourself, said the same thing about putting lipstick on a pig..."

Watch McCain try and explain the lies: [HERE]
The other clips included there are also of interest.

P.P.S. Watching Palin's TV interview with Charles Gibson, I noticed something interesting about Palin's response when he pressed her about the falsity of her claim that she "told Congress thanks, but no thanks, on that 'Bridge to Nowhere'" and offered her a chance to come clean. ("So do you want to revise and extend your remarks...?") Palin wasn't honest in her response, but she was also careful not to go on record there with a flat and explicit lie. Instead, she tried to prevaricate and change the subject--as you can see HERE. She completed her twisting and turning with a long statement asserting that there is nothing wrong with a mayor or a governor trying to "plug into the federal budget" for infrastructure funds--which sounds bland enough in principle, but ignores the fact that in this particular case she has been pretending otherwise.

I'm increasingly inclined to suspect that this particular line about allegedly telling "Congress thanks, but no thanks, on that 'Bridge to Nowhere'" was not Palin's own formulation, but was fed to her by the McCain campaign. (The fact that the "Bridge to Nowhere" phrase is widely resented in Alaska, and that Palin herself had described it in the past as insulting and unfair, adds some plausibility to this hypothesis.) Of course, Palin herself is responsible for repeatedly making this claim over the past few weeks, even though she knew it was false. But I find it curious that McCain has been even more careless than Pailin herself about embellishing this fable with additional, easily refuted, falsehoods.

CORRECTION: I was too generous to Palin. The relevant video clip I first saw, which I thought covered the whole discussion of the "Bridge to Nowhere" fable between Palin and Gibson, actually captured only a part of that discussion. In a more complete video clip of that exchange (HERE), I see that Palin did, indeed, flat-out lie: "We killed that earmark. We killed that project."

Let me make it clear, in case anyone thinks there is any ambiguity or uncertainty here: That statement was not just misleading or deceptive. It was a repetition of a straightforward lie, and the fact that this is a lie has already been established beyond question. But rather than hedge about it, as she seemed to be doing later on, Palin started out by (once again) lying through her teeth, without apparent embarrassment, about a matter of clear public record. Can they get away with this stuff?

=========================
Associated Press
September 12, 2008 11:50 EST
McCain talks up Palin as a reformer on 'The View'
McCain says Palin is good for the country because of her 'reformer credentials' on 'The View'

Staff, AP News

Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Friday running mate Sarah Palin has never asked for money for lawmakers' pet projects as Alaska governor when in fact she has sought nearly $200 million in earmarks this year.

McCain made the comments as he appeared on the ABC television show "The View" as part of his effort to woo women to his candidacy.

The Arizona senator said the GOP vice presidential nominee would be good for the country because she would reform government, and specifically cited curbing federal spending for earmarks.

When pressed about Palin's record of requesting and accepting such money for Alaska, McCain ignored the record and said: "Not as governor she didn't."

As questions swirl about whether Palin is qualified to serve, McCain defended her and said he's very happy with his selection of her.

"Se's ignited a spark in America," McCain said, even as he acknowledged that they sometimes have different views.

McCain also used the appearance to defend his TV commercials criticizing his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama. McCain stretches the truth in several of them [JW: about this and this, for example] that have been debunked by fact checkers.

"They're not lies," McCain said.

Source: AP News

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