What began so long ago as the most entertaining campaign season in memory has turned ugly, and in a painfully predictable way. It’s not just that the candidates are slugging it out in “hit” ads, though that’s happening. It’s that the press has decided that it’s found the way to beat John McCain, and they plan to beat him by changing his image from “Maverick” to “Liar.”
I was trying to take inventory of what the Obama camp claims McCain has been lying about yesterday, in the wake of an unusually vicious Obama ad responding to BornAliveFacts.org’s ad featuring abortion survivor Gianna Jessen (see the ad here, and Michelle Malkin’s discussion here.) What I found was that major news sources, like Time, Newsweek, and the Washington Post, have picked up the Obama campaign’s knee-jerk response to all McCain ads and turned it into a theme: “Why is McCain lying?”
It’s no mystery why they’re doing it. Obama has been caught lying so many times that we’re almost immune to new instances; we think, “Oh, he’s at it again” and we tune it out. The list seems endless. He lied about his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Lied outright. Said he was proud of him, then said he’d never heard the things we were so agitated about. Bullshit, Barry. You heard them, and they sounded normal to you. He lied about his relationship with felon Tony Rezko; he produced favors for him through city hall and the legislature, and received favors in return. He lied about his relationship with unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers; he said he was just a guy who lived down the block, but it turns out they did the Annenberg Challenge more or less together for five years. He lied about his stance on Iraq, he lied about his achievements in the Illinois legislature, he lied about his votes on born-alive infants, he lied about what his neighborhood activism achieved… the man’s instinct is to lie to protect himself, and if that doesn’t work, then he changes his story. The public learning about this has hurt Obama considerably.
So the press has to change the momentum and the message, and they’ve chosen to turn on Mav. In just one example among several, Joe Klein at Time Magazine published this utterly inaccurate piece characterizing McCain’s campaign as beyond the pale of ordinary political fudging. Similar examples can be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek, and various Democratic blogs. From Klein’s piece:
McCain’s lies have ranged from the annoying to the sleazy, and the problem is in both degree and kind. His campaign has been a ceaseless assault on his opponent’s character and policies, featuring a consistent—and witting—disdain for the truth.
It’s difficult for me to think that he actually believes this. Certainly yesterday’s howler from the Washington Post, in which they had to debunk their own news reports in order to claim an inaccuracy in McCain’s ad, illustrates how ready some media sources are to burn their own credibility in order to attack McCain’s. Klein’s article in Time is only slightly less laughable. We know they’re in the tank for Obama, but it’s disturbing that they’re willing to sell their integrity for him.
I’ve been watching McCain’s ads, and if they’re inaccurate in any way at all, it’s certainly not in any way that’s unusual for hard-hitting political advertising. What Klein seems to be complaining about is that McCain’s ads don’t take Obama’s campaign promises at face value. McCain, for example, claims Obama plans to raise our taxes, whereas Obama says he’s going to cut taxes to the middle class. As is usual for political advertising, both are accurate in their own sense. The marginal rates in Obama’s tax plan are lower than the official baseline of future tax revenues, but higher than what we’re paying today, so one can say either without lying. He plans to tax corporations, which are certain to pass along their taxes to all consumers. He plans to engage in copious social engineering by manipulating tax incentives, which inevitably distorts market behaviors and produces social dislocation. Worse, his promised initiatives will require far more funding than he’s accounted for in his plans to raise additional funds, so it’s easy to predict that he’ll have to raise taxes if he actually tries to do all that he’s planning. And of course, all this analysis rests on the assumption that one can trust Obama to do what he claims he’s going to do, and the McCain campaign would suggest that Obama’s past behavior, which includes support for tax increases, is a better predictor of his future behavior than is his campaign web site — and I would agree. All of this supports a plausible conclusion that an Obama presidency would require higher taxes.
The point in this instance is not that McCain’s ad is Gospel, where Obama’s contrary position is a Lie From the Pit of Hell. The point is that this is ordinary political advertising stating a candidate’s conclusions, not some new, nefarious depth of prevarication as Klein wants us to believe.
Or take Klein’s complaint about McCain’s ad mentioning Obama’s support for “comprehensive sex education” for students in kindergarten. Klein objects that the support was for instruction concerning inappropriate touching, which is what the Obama campaign said. That’s a nice thing to say, but the actual legislation is very, very clear, and it says “comprehensive sex education for K through 12.” The only mention of age-appropriateness in the legislation applies to age-appropriate instruction on the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. Whether you think that any mention of STDs is age-appropriate for kindergarteners (I don’t,) this clearly goes beyond protection against inappropriate touching. Obama might be speaking truly about his intentions at the time (though we have good reason from the legislation itself not to believe him,) but McCain is entirely within his rights to quote the law verbatim, for crying out loud. Byron York has a full discussion at The Corner.
What we’re watching is a planned, deliberate screeching inversion. The Democrats are counting on support from the national press to produce a preponderance of firepower, overwhelming the McCain campaign’s ability to control the narrative by flooding the airwaves with their new and completely manufactured complaint about McCain’s illusive mendacity.
It’s not as though Democrats slandering Republicans is something new. Character assassination is about the only thing Democrats do well, and the list of slandered Republicans is long: Robert Bork, Dan Quayle, Clarence Thomas, Newt Gingrich, Ken Starr, Ann Coulter, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, etc. Nor is press bias anything new. We’ve been pointing out for years how the press has taken sides, and examples of uneven treatment according to party affiliation fall into one’s hand like ripe apples from a tree.
What’s new is the size and virulence of it. It’s like we’re living in one of those horror flicks, where we’ve had the same pack of wild animals roaming the neighborhood at night for years. At first, they were a nuisance tearing up gardens. Then, they grew, and started threatening our pets. Then we started having to keep the kids close, ’cause a pack of them cornered somebody’s child. But now they’ve grown so big that we’re under siege in our own homes, having to board the windows and hunker behind doors with shotguns. The monsters have been feeding, and they’ve grown huge.
We don’t know yet whether the Obama campaign will get away with it. We do know that the national press corps intends to help them get away with it if they can. These are hard times for friends of liberty.