08 October, 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

The burning question o' the day: how many times can a single presidential candidate lie in a 90-minute debate? The answer: many.

Fact-checking a 90-minute debate featuring John McCain is a little daunting -- most of what he has to say strays from the truth.

But looking over my notes and the transcript, a few whoppers jumped out at me.

* McCain said he "left my campaign and suspended it to go back to Washington" to work on the bailout. In reality, there was never an actual suspension.

* McCain said he wants it to be "very clear" to voters: "I am not in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy." Seriously, he said that.

* McCain said, "[O]il drilling offshore now is vital so that we can bridge the gap." But this leads the voter to think coastal drilling will offer short-term benefits. It won't. Even the Bush administration and McCain's policy aides concede that we're about a decade away from new coastal drilling having any kind of effect on the marketplace.

* McCain said that Obama "wants to announce that he's going to attack Pakistan." As Obama explained very effectively last night, that's not even close to true.

* McCain said that Obama "has voted 94 times to either increase your taxes or against tax cuts." First, that's still wrong. Second, if we use
McCain's standards and look at his own record, McCain has voted
477 times to either increase taxes or against tax cuts. The last time I checked, 477 is greater than 94.

No wonder he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. Few people in the United States could keep up with him in the outright lie department.

She also matches his talent for whipping the crowd up into a lynch mob. How bad is it? Bad enough even Faux News has been forced to take note:

Fox News’ political reporter Carl Cameron is on the trail with John McCain. Reporting from a live McCain rally this evening, he said:

You’ll hear the booing behind me. In recent days, when Barack Obama’s name has been mentioned, it has gone from boos and hissing to actual chants and calls of traitor, criminal, and even terrorist.

The McCain campaign says they don’t condone it, they don’t want to see it happen, but it’s happening more and more every day.

That would be because they do condone it and it's exactly what they want to see. There's no other explanation:

Way back in February, Karl Rove heard a growing number of Republicans blasting "Barack Hussein Obama," and warned his fellow Republicans to drop the line. Rove argued it would only perpetuate the notion that Republicans were bigoted, which in turn would hurt the party.

That same week, at an event in Ohio, McCain was introduced by some conservative loud-mouth named Bill Cunningham, who blasted "Barack Hussein Obama." McCain, who was not on stage during Cunningham's harangue, later expressed said he wanted to "disassociate" himself from the remarks. McCain added that he would take responsibility to ensure that similar comments are not repeated at future campaign events.

That was February. This is October.

For the second time in three days, the speaker at a McCain campaign rally used Barack Obama's middle name "Hussein" in a demeaning fashion to ignite the crowd.

Speaking in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Bill Platt, the GOP chair of Lehigh County, twice referred to "Barack Hussein Obama" minutes before John McCain and Sarah Palin were set to take the stage.

On Monday, a local Florida sheriff preceded Palin's speech by declaring: "On Nov. 4, let's leave Barack Hussein Obama wondering what happened."

To be fair, a campaign aide later conceded that this was "inappropriate rhetoric." But the trend nevertheless seems to point in one direction: whipping the angry, far-right Republican base into a frenzy. That includes the increasing frequency of "Hussein" references, but it also includes looking the other way while campaign supporters exclaim "treason!," "terrorist!," and "kill him!" during official rallies.

Steve Benen and Josh Marshall both agree: this kind of thing doesn't happen with such consistency unless the campaign is tacitly (or actively) encouraging it.

The New York Times called them out on it in a blistering editorial:

It is a sorry fact of American political life that campaigns get ugly, often in their final weeks. But Senator John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin have been running one of the most appalling campaigns we can remember.

They have gone far beyond the usual fare of quotes taken out of context and distortions of an opponent’s record — into the dark territory of race-baiting and xenophobia. Senator Barack Obama has taken some cheap shots at Mr. McCain, but there is no comparison.

There really isn't. They've decided that instead of offering useful policies, a clean break with the failed philosophies of the last eight years, and a new way forward, they're better off inciting Americans to hate. These tactics are similar to what they'd employ on the world stage: join us or die. Take McCain's best buddy Lieberman's concerns about an Obama presidency:

In an interview with the right-wing magazine Newsmax yesterday, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) called Sen. Barack Obama’s worldview “naive.” Asked if Obama had “the right stuff to bomb Iran if it came to that level,” Lieberman replied, “I worry about that“:

ASHLEY MARTELLA: Alirght, Iran has sworn to exterminate Israel as well as attack the United States. Does Barack Obama have the right stuff to bomb Iran if it came to that level?

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN: Well, I worry about that. I worry that Sen. Obama’s world view is naive. Sen. McCain has been around awhile. He’s learned some things. I’ve traveled the world with him a lot. He’s, he will be the kind of president who our allies will trust, but who our enemies will fear. And in a dangerous world, al Qaeda, Iran, Iran trying to get a nuclear weapons, we want a president who our enemies will fear. I don’t believe that Sen. Obama will be that kind of president. I believe he’s naive to think that people like Ahmadinejad and Tehran Iran will somehow become America’s friend just by…

MARTELLA: Talking to them unilaterally.

LIEBERMAN: Talking to them in a warm embrace and a cup of tea. It’s not going to work that way. Sen. McCain knows there’s evil as well good in the world and he’ll confront evil
directly in order to protect our security and that of our allies.

Lieberman, you see, believes it's better to bomb a country into submission. He believes fear is better than goodwill for accomplishing America's goals. The problem with this philosophy, other than the obvious moral bankruptcy, is that we cannot drop enough bombs to make foreign powers submit. We cannot bring to bear enough fear to make them do our bidding without negotiation. Lieberman seems to believe all you need is fear and force, forgetting that people subjected to too much fear and force have a nasty habit of rising up and attempting to destroy the source of their fear and pain.

Whereas sitting down for a warm embrace and a nice cup of tea, with the understanding that nice only lasts as long as progress is made, and with the understanding that everybody can come to an accord, is a lot more effective.

But Lieberman and the McCain campaign only understand fear and force. And they're unwilling to unleash both on the world and on Americans in order to get their way.

We need to disabuse them of the notion they can get away with it.

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