Thursday, September 11, 2008

Even-Handed Campaigns and Coverage

Lying about like they're not going to call you on it is... an interesting strategy, guys!

A McCain-Palin ad has calling Obama's attacks on Palin "absolutely false" and "misleading." That's what we said, but it wasn't about Obama.

We don't object to people reprinting our articles. In fact, our copyright policy encourages it. But we've also asked that "the editorial integrity of the article be preserved" and told those who use our items that "you should not edit the original in such a way as to alter the message."

With its latest ad, released Sept. 10, the McCain-Palin campaign has altered our message in a fashion we consider less than honest. The ad strives to convey the message that said "completely false" attacks on Gov. Sarah Palin had come from Sen. Barack Obama. We said no such thing. We have yet to dispute any claim from the Obama campaign about Palin.

I'm getting really tired of these assertions that both sides are running dirty campaigns, both candidates are dirty greedy lying criminals, and there's just no point in reading anything about politics, or heaven forbid voting, because it's all lies anyway.

House did say everybody lies. He also said, "I lied when I said that."

Look. Saying "there've been smears on both sides, politics is just like that" is untrue. I'll stop short of saying anyone who claims it is a liar, because perhaps it's cynicism or simple ignorance talking. It's much more fair to say there are stupid rumors about both tickets' candidates, but that only one campaign is actively encouraging these nonsensical smears.

For example, there've been wild accusations online that Palin is a witch because of the names of her kids (because two of them happen to match the names of two TV witches whose shows aired after the kids were born). Not only did Obama state that people need to leave her family out of this, his campaign didn't bring those attacks to the fore with a supporting ad from the campaign.

Contrast this with McCain, who saw crazy conspiracy theories online about Obama being the anti-Christ (google "Obama Nicolae Carpathia" and you'll see what I mean), and instead of denouncing or ignoring them McCain's campaign aired that dog-whistle ad calling Obama "The One." There is a big difference in the level and type of attacks on the Dems and Repubs sides here, so treating this election like it's everybody smearing equally is inaccurate and deceptive.

Wild and stupid rumors are spreading on both ends of the political spectrum, but only one candidate is encouraging them: McCain. Grouping Obama's campaign in with McCain's is either a startling display of ignorance about what these campaigns are really doing, or it's a deliberately deceptive attempt to drag Obama down to McCain's level in the minds of people who aren't paying enough attention to know the difference.

Steve Benen has a good essay over at Political Animal called "Thinking like a Republican."
The Washington Post's E. J. Dionne Jr. had a column four years ago this month that's always stuck with me. He noted, in the midst of the last presidential campaign, that Republicans are not above lying, but Democrats just can't bring themselves to do the same thing. "A very intelligent political reporter I know said the other night that Republicans simply run better campaigns than Democrats," Dionne wrote at the time. "If I were given a free pass to stretch the truth to the breaking point, I could run a pretty good campaign, too."

I thought about the column when I was chatting this morning with a friend who works in Democratic campaign politics. We commiserated over the fact that Obama has become efficient in responding to the constant barrage of deceptive attacks from the McCain campaign, but doesn't launch deceptive attacks of his own against the McCain campaign.

My friend asked me what Atwater/Rove/Schmidt would do if they worked for Obama. What kind of attacks would they make against McCain? It got me thinking.

You should go check out the rest. The comments don't really answer Benen's challenge for the most part, but some of them do. It's just for fun of course, since there's no way that Republican tactics would work for Democrats this election cycle, but it's interesting to see what the campaign would look like if both sides really were running smear campaigns. And yes, it's very different.

Most people spend the comments bringing up things that are true, which totally spoils the fun of playing Karl Rove for an evening.

John McCain says he has a plan to catch Osama bin laden -- but he isn't telling President Bush. That leaves all Americans vulnerable to a terrorist attack from Enemy #1.

Why won't John McCain help us get bin Laden, so America can be free of that terrorist threat? -MarkH

The hell! That's just pointing out that he's got a foolproof plan to protect our country and hasn't shared it with anyone with the power to put it into practice. We're not here to point things out. We're here to make them up! Gawd!

McCain denounced his country during time of war. At the time, he said that he did so under torture.

Nowadays, he agrees with Bush that the things done to him were NOT torture, just ways to get the truth in an interrogation.

So, McCain denounced his country without ever being tortured. -John

See what I mean? It's clever, but it's totally off-topic, by dint of it being merely unflattering. All that's doing is pointing out McCain being inconsistent and fucking himself over. Pointing out hypocrisy is not what we're here to do, people! We're here to lie our asses off and see if we can think of anything to match Benen's earmark slam. Come on, guys! What's all this reflexive honesty bullshit?!

Yes, I realize that we can completely destroy McCain's credibility on nearly all domestic and foreign issues using actual verifiable truths, and so does Steve Benen. The point here is not to encourage people to talk about McCain cutting off support for Israel, but to make people realize that the reason we're not hearing the same trash from Obama that we hear from McCain is not that McCain has no weaknesses to exploit. It's not that Obama can't. It's that he doesn't.

One guy posted an interesting little quote in a comment, and I'll leave you with it.

"If the Republicans stop telling lies about us, we will stop telling the truth about them."
--Adlai Stevenson

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