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September 17, 2008

Unlike John McCain, Obama Doesn't "Lie"....


Barack Obama's official campaign spokesman has publicly accused John McCain of "cynically running the sleaziest and least honorable campaign in modern presidential campaign history." But historians say this is nonsense:

David Axelrod, Barack Obama’s chief strategist, said Sunday that John McCain is running the “sleaziest and least honorable campaign in modern presidential campaign history.” It was a line trotted out all weekend by various Obama staffers as part of an effort to portray the Republican nominee as a purveyor of the slimiest tactics in recent memory.

Yet presidential historians and political scientists interviewed by Politico scoffed at the notion, suggesting McCain’s approach is no harsher than those used in previous modern campaigns and certainly not by comparison to many historic campaigns.

“The idea that this campaign is the sleaziest ever is absurd,” said David Greenberg, a professor of history and media studies at Rutgers who has written books on Presidents Coolidge and Nixon. "In fact, there's been very little that's below the belt, and aides have been fired on all sides when they've gotten near, let alone crossed, the lines. There's nothing at all to rival the Swift-boating of Kerry in 2004, the imputations of un-Americanness to Dukakis in 1988, the anti-Catholic stuff against Al Smith in 1928 and the regular resort to slander and character assassination of so many 19th-century campaigns."

“It’s not new or novel,” said Vanderbilt University political science professor John Geer, author of "In Defense of Negativity." “McCain's tactics are no different than what we've seen in recent years," he said. "Presidential campaigns in the past few decades were worse in many ways.”

The Democratic candidate even purchased ad time to repeat the smear, with a liberal helping of insults thrown in for good measure:

"What's happened to John McCain? He's running the sleaziest ads ever. Truly vile."

"Dishonest smears that he repeats, even after it's been exposed as a lie. Truth be damned. A disgraceful, dishonorable campaign... It seems deception is all he has left."

All of which leads inquiring minds to ask: is a "dishonest smear" only "disgraceful and dishonorable" when it is perpetrated by a Republican candidate for the Presidency? Because as we all know, Barack Obama would never "lie", would he? Certainly not to the American voter (CWCID: Karrde):

Obama would never "lie" about his opponent's record, and he certainly would never lie to the media about something as important as the war in Iraq.

And surely he wouldn't lie about something so important as his plans for fixing the economy:

Speaking of “dishonesty” in McCain's TV ads, on Fox News Sunday Brit Hume pointed out Barack “Obama goes around claiming he's going to cut the taxes of 95 percent of the public, which is literally impossible” since “40 percent of American taxpayers don't pay any income tax,” but that hasn't stopped ABC (directly) and CBS (implicitly) in recent days from advancing that Obama claim as fact. Charles Gibson, in his third interview session with Sarah Palin excerpted on Friday's 20/20 and Nightline (see earlier NB item), stated that Obama will extend the “Bush tax cuts on everything but people who own or earn more than $250,000 a year -- cuts taxes on over 91 percent of the country.”

A June report from the Tax Foundation listed 32.58 percent of IRS income tax returns for 2005 as “non-paying.”

Hume during the roundtable segment of the September 14 Fox News Sunday:

What they're going to get is a subsidy. It's hardly a tax cut, it's in fact spending.

It's good to know that in an uncertain world, there are still some things the American voter can count on:

The sun always rises each morning.

We can always count on the mainstream media for well reasoned, dispassionate, non-partisan coverage of the election.

And Barack Obama would never lie to us.

I don't know about you, but maybe it's time for both sides to climb down off their high horses and get on with the election. We all know politics is an adversarial business. No one expects candidates to present each other's positions in the most advantageous light. With a little over 6 weeks left, it sure would be nice if we could drop the faux outrage and the identity politics and talk about the issues for a change.

Remember the issues? Yeah. Me neither.

Posted by Cassandra at September 17, 2008 06:15 AM

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I think this is the reaction to the McCain convention speech you were asking about.

Not long after that speech, Obama's campaign spokesman said that it was no wonder McCain had once told an interviewer he couldn't define "honor." The next week, suddenly all the top liberal blogs were using the term "dishonorable" in reference to McCain. By the end of the week, the spokesman had doubled down on it, using the term in a comment to the press; and then they bought an ad to put the term "dishonorable" in conjunction with McCain on the airways.

My guess? Their internals show that people were deeply moved by McCain's speech and story. This is about attacking that image of him as honorable and ready to sacrifice for his country. It's clearly coordinated, and very well focused and defined. "Dishonorable" is the word, and you'll see it pointed at him until the election, or until their internals show that it's failing as a tactic.

Posted by: Grim at September 17, 2008 09:04 AM

That point of failure may come sooner than later, though. It's a stupid tactic, because:

1) You can't call someone dishonorable without people asking, "What does it mean to be honorable?" There is no definition of that term that fits Obama nearly as well as McCain.

2) Obama's proxies don't know what the word "honor" means well enough to defend it. I've been engaging several of them at Winds of Change, and it's clear that they don't really know what it is. The terms of their defense show that they won't be able to communicate on the point with average Americans, let alone veterans, because they don't really understand what honor is.

They keep reaching for a dictionary definition. One of them thought to trot out the Naval Academy's definition -- which is designed for students while students, not fighting sailors or Marines: it focues 100% on honesty, but the Navy and USMC explicitly train for military deception, IO, and other forms of dishonesty as a means of waging war. They can't grasp the underlying concept of honor and what it means to be an honorable man in a war that requires fighting, war, or defense against evils.

I explained to them what it is, but they aren't interested in learning from me how people who live with honor think about it. They're interested in asserting that McCain is not honorable, and so they need to find some definition that fits that concept.

When they do, they'll use that concept because they've been told by the Obama campaign and its proxies that it's the thing to do. The effect on normal people will be to think, "That's not really what I think honor is about," and then to think, "Well, what is honor? Which man has it?"

There is no way that line of inquiry works out well for Obama. Honor isn't a concept that he has ever really been concerned about. He may have been concerned about being a sensitive man, a kind man, a non-selfish man, or a good man; but he shows no sign of ever having wanted to be a Man of Honor. McCain very clearly did want that, and did live it, at great personal sacrifice.

Posted by: Grim at September 17, 2008 09:15 AM

I suspect Grim has it right. And it is unlikely that anyone will be able to pin them down on what exactly McCain has done that is dishonorable or sleazy.

Posted by: Pile On at September 17, 2008 09:15 AM

"I suspect Grim has it right. And it is unlikely that anyone will be able to pin them down on what exactly McCain has done that is dishonorable or sleazy."
Agreed. Their dishonorable assertion as attack on McCain is all style at the expense of substance.

Metaphors Akimbo Alert: BO, his campaign and supporters don't seem to realize that by using the dishonorable argument, they've left behind the soft, diffuse, red lighting found in their speakeasy, hopeychangy world and stepped into the harsh glare of bright fluorescent lights. It will not reflect well upon them.

In other words, you'd have to be three sheets in the wind at closing time, or at a journeyman's level in the cult to buy into any of it! =;^}

Posted by: bthun at September 17, 2008 09:53 AM

Well, there are a few things McCain has done in his life that were less than honorable.

1. The period leading up to the divorce of his first wife.
2. Frank Keating and his relationship with the S&L crisis.

Having said that, his first wife has little bad to say about McCain at this point in life (and has been pretty supportive and forgiving), and McCain has tried to apply the corrective of McCain-Feingold to the Keating problem. He was also very upfront (after the fact) about disclosing his relationship and where he went wrong with Keating.

We will hear no similar mea culpa from Barack Obama about Tony Rezko, who most people in Illinois politics have known was dirty. He was dirty before Barack ever got involved with him, so he doesn't have the excuse that he didn't know, that McCain had with Keating.
Or his relationship with Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn.
Or his relationship with ACORN.
Or frankly, a host of other questions that are legitimate in the face of the whole 'character is destiny' issue, for the Man Who Would Be President.
Barack has a thin resume, and has associated with a few sleazy characters. But he writes good prose (Dreams of My Father, The Audacity of Hope) that passes as 'biography'. How true it all is, we will probably never know.

But his dissembling nature is evident if you read through what Cass has written about the Iraq situation. He is a patent dissembler, and does not appear to me to be a basically honest man, caught in the difficult world of politics. He appears to thrive on promoting ambiguity, and quartering all points of the political compass.

Good catch on the tax thing. More 'hopey-changey' dissembling. I guess we are all dummies that don't understand the tax code, huh?

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at September 17, 2008 10:20 AM

You know, I'd give McCain a pass on his wife if he asked for one. He and she had been separated for five years, during which he'd undergone torture and she'd undergone a life-altering accident. It's no shock to discover that, when they were reunited, they weren't the same people who'd married several years earlier and didn't know how to make it work. I'd call that a tragedy, not a dishonor.

Yet he hasn't asked for a pass. At Saddleback he sat right up and declared to the world that it was his greatest moral failure.

That's honor, right there: not perfection, which is not attainable. Perfection is not required. What's required is that effort, that attempt to drag yourself back to the principles of duty, sacrifice, responsibility.

Posted by: Grim at September 17, 2008 10:39 AM

I agree with you about McCain and his first marriage. His behavior at the time was less than honorable, but he has not tried to dodge or obfuscate what happened. I think he has tried to be honest about his life and mis-steps.

Conversely, Barack has a step-brother in Kenya that lives in bone-grinding poverty. Barack has been through bone-jarring losses in his life: abandoned by his father, his mother re-marries, sent back to live with his grandparents, his mother dies young (she died at 52, he was 34, I think). This is all very sad, frankly.
But if I found out tomorrow that I had a step-brother, even half a world away, I would make every effort at contact and help, if he needed it, on his behalf. But Barack is mute on this issue. Perhaps it is too personal to discuss, but then again, who knows?

Barack is a strange ranger, to say the least.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at September 17, 2008 11:45 AM

The ad Cassandra quotes:

What's happened to John McCain? He's running the sleaziest ads ever. Truly vile.

is called - I kid you not - "Honor". I did a post on it yesterday and tracked down the seven quotes the ad uses to label McCain's campaign sleazy, vile, etc. All the articles quoted are talking about the same four things:

Obama wants to teach sex-ed to kindergartners (4 references)

Palin didn’t really stop the Bridge to Nowhere (2 references)

Obama will raise taxes on everyone (2 references)

Obama was taking a swipe at Palin when he talked about putting lipstick on a pig (1 reference)

None of these McCain claims are models of democratic discourse but there's no way they outdo the rhetoric of past elections, the 2008 primaries, or Obama himself. They all have an arguable factual basis and Obama himself does not come to these issues with clean hands.

It was interesting to read some comments around the web on Obama's ad. People who didn't support Obama were puzzled about what the ad was referring to and people who did support him usually provided some variant of "if you'd been paying attention (or weren't in the tank for McCain) you'd know."

It's as if Obama supporters have arrived at the conclusion (McCain is sleazy) without passing through the argument (McCain did this, that, and the other). I really do think the true sin they see here is that McCain is coming at Obama hard. (BTW, kudos to HRC for predicting Obama would be flabbergasted if he was ever aggressively challenged.) So, yes, "honor" is defined as not being mean to Obama.

Posted by: Elise at September 17, 2008 11:58 AM

Barack has a step-brother in Kenya that lives in bone-grinding poverty.
Posted by: Don Brouhaha at September 17, 2008 11:45 AM

Small point perhaps, but George Obama is his half brother, not his stepbrother...although his living conditions do not speak well of Barack. Am I not my brother's keeper?

Posted by: camojack at September 18, 2008 03:41 AM

Cassandra, I've been keeping track of Obama's lies since last May, if you would like a good reference source.

I thought it might be a handy tool for bloggers to have them all listed in one spot:


Posted by: Nice Deb at September 18, 2008 04:41 PM

The issue is "who is going to get the power of the most powerful office in the world" to decide the life and death of both Americans and foreigners.

And on that issue, Obama is stuck like glue. He ain't lying about his desire for it or his belief that he is the best man for that power.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 19, 2008 01:37 AM

Posted by: Pile On at September 17, 2008 09:15 AM

Fighting the Democrat's dream of a corruption free world, a world free of crime and war and hate, is dishonorable.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 19, 2008 01:39 AM

If you apply the military's need to use deception against enemies and make the actions of the enemies into negative reacting events to people's perceptions, then you can apply the same kind of perception to Obama and his supporters. They certainly believe deception about McCain will net benefits that are both useful and virtuous.

This brings up the question of whether a side deserves victory if they use deception in their tactics or strategy. That's hard to say. Do they deserve victory based upon how they win or what they are actually fighting for?

Or to what extent one even needs to deserve victory, if it can be had by cheating.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at September 19, 2008 01:45 AM

AS usual, Hume got the quote and info from his site wrong....cut taxes for 95% of those that "pay" taxes. Still sounds like a stretch, but it didn't include that 40% which Hume claims don't pay taxes. So if the number is like 85% some percent (which is everyone under $500K a year), the claim is correct. Only until someone makes that $500K threshold do they get less back under Senator Obama's plan. Remember this is theoretical, as is McCain's. McCain's plan actually does the same thing...most people will have a better standing then current, but there will be less receipts going in the coffers which will expand the debt more than Obama. So at my income, i stand a better chance with both candidates plans then the current...theoretically. This of course was all said before we gravitated to corporate socialism. And maybe rightly so. Most Republicans are quite happy with this since they were primarily at the switch for the past eight years. And both candidates within the past few years have supported legislation from the Senate that would tighten regulation. McCain wanted it to be "independent" and Obama more gov't. We are at a very precarious spot. Isn't it interesting that the amount of this bailout will approximate the amount of money we've spent on Iraq War? And should we freeze Iraqi assets in U.S. banks in NY? There is a few 100 billion there right now.

Posted by: Miiguel at September 19, 2008 08:44 PM