Sep 16, 2008

Is Obama telling the truth too much?

PolitiFact calculates that since July, John McCain and his campaign have made 11 political claims that are barely true, eight that are categorically false, and three pants-on-fire lies—a total of 22 clearly deceptive statements. Barack Obama and Joe Biden, meanwhile, have put out eight bare truths, four untruths, and zero pants-on-fire lies— 12 false claims. These statistics are born out by and the Washington Post's Fact Checker.
"This is exactly what's so puzzling about Obama's strategy—why is he paying any attention to the fact-checkers? So far, McCain has seen little blowback from lying. Polls show that he's perceived as more "honest and trustworthy" than Obama and that the public believes his claim that Obama would raise taxes on the middle class. He's boxed in by his oft-repeated search for a different kind of politics. But given the tenor of the campaign, Obama's audience might be happy to see him take the low road. In the past, Democratic voters have been willing to accept lies." — Farhad Manjoo, True Enough: Learning To Live in a Post-Fact Society.
It's certainly tempting. Last week McCain ran an ad claiming that Obama's "one accomplishment" on education policy was to push "legislation to teach 'comprehensive sex education' to kindergartners." The ad contained not a single true fact: The Illinois Senate bill the ad refers to was not Obama's legislation. (He voted for it but didn't write or sponsor it.) It was not an "accomplishment"—the bill didn't pass. Nor did it advocate teaching kids about sex before they learned to read, but envisioned "age-appropriate" language instructing children on "preventing sexual assault."

Micheky Kaus thinks that highlighting McCain's lies is a losing strategy. "When Dems get outraged at unfairness they look weak. How can they stand up to Putin if they start whining when confronted with Steve Schmidt? Lecturing the public on what's 'true" and what's a "lie" (when the truth isn't 100% clear) plays into some of the worst stereotypes about liberals--that they are preachy know-it-alls".

There's no BBC here. No Fleet Street. No single authority to be trusted, just a republic of pure opinion, in which anything can be proved, or disproved, according to ideological persuasion. Anyone wanting to know where people like Bush or Palin come from — how they get as far as they do — need look no farther. Obama has an uphill climb ahead of him.

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