In a recent post, I pointedly accused the McCain campaign, and generally Republicans, of lying. For that, I was taken to task by a conservative friend whose opinion I respect although we find little to agree upon from a political standpoint. He made a case for his point that the word "liar" is a harsh and seemingly drastic label that doesn't help in encouraging dialog between two parties who do not agree.
In thinking about this and agreeing that elevating the discourse, as a more refined person may call it, is an honorable position to take, I keep coming back to the thought that if an "untruth" is not called out, then in some ways t is given implied approval... it's a tacit agreement.
My friend had me for a while, and I told him I thought I could do better than using that word. But one thing kept bugging me. As part of his argument, he included the video clip of former president Bill Clinton's infamous "I did not have sex with that woman" quote. The rhetorical statement my friend was making was that if we wanted to talk about who made calling a person a liar more acceptable in political debate, we can look to the person who told that Big Lie as the one who made lying somehow OK.
The more I thought about that, the more I realized that my friend had made my point for me with that Clinton quote. Clinton did lie, as a certain blue dress and a little DNA proved conclusively. For that lie -- and it was a pretty bold lie -- the Republicans decided to enter into impeachment proceedings. Even though it was a matter of personal failure -- extramarital sex by most people's definition -- he lied and Republicans felt he should be removed from office for that untruth. They called it what it was: a lie.
So what is a lie? Why is that word considered too harsh for civil conversation, but openly used as grounds for impeachment of a sitting president when he denied getting a blow job? Webster's Dictionary offers this definition of the word:
lied; ly·ing \ˈlī-iŋ\
1 : to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive
2 : to create a false or misleading impression
: to bring about by telling lies "lied his way out of trouble"
synonyms: lie , prevaricate , equivocate , palter , fib mean to tell an untruth. lie is the blunt term, imputing dishonesty "lied about where he had been".
The blogosphere and now, finally, the mainstream news media, are calling the McCain campaign out for what has become apparent: the are employing a political strategy of lying. That word is being used, and used a lot. It's used with that second intransitive verb definition about creating a false or misleading perception. The untruths, half-truths, distortions and, well, lies, are out there. Rather than cherry pick a link from an opinion writer who shares my point of view, I suggest Googling any one of these topics regarding the McCain/Palin campaign:
* Palin supports "bridge to nowhere" before she doesn't
* Palin sells state jet on eBay for a profit
* McCain + campaign staff + lobbyists
* McCain commercial + Obama for sex ed for kindergartners
* Alaska + earmarks
There are several more, and they are finally getting a little light shed on them because even the media, who have gone easy on McCain and even easier on his running mate, are catching on. Perhaps that's because the media don't like to be lied to either, especially after being used to disseminate lies. I expect that my friend will start looking for examples of (hopefully recent) Democratic lies. There probably are a few floating around. Through mistake or stupidity, lies occur. But within the Obama campaign, there isn't a pattern -- a strategy -- of intended deception. There seems to be such a strategy in play with the McCain campaign. A pattern is showing itself, and it is part of a larger strategy to win at any cost including character assassination, co-opting of the Obama message, and a whole lot of smoke and bullshit. Why? Because they can't run on the issues. If they do, they lose.
Politics ain't bean bag, as the late mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington, used to say. It's not a field for the faint of heart or the easily offended or hurt. But it should be honest. (I can dream.) Part of that honesty is calling out lies -- yes, lies -- when they are being repeated as truth even after they have been debunked. Democrats have continued to take a high road. In all due respect to their spirit of being more intellectually honest than their Republican opponents, fuck that. How in the world can we trust anything that a President McCain and Vice President Palin say if it is obvious they are very comfortable distorting, misrepresenting and bending the truth -- lying -- as candidates. Our country's future is too important, and at this time too precarious, for Democrats to let lies stand.
And that's what they are: lies.
[cross-posted on Kerfuffle]