Thursday, October 16, 2008

Aren't lies vile?

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, pop-Marxist Thomas Frank suggests that raising the connection between Bill Ayers and Barack Obama is the GOP's "vilest" hour.

Why, exactly, would that be? The Ayers connection is a fact and, although McCain has not handled it well, it - along with a number of other things - tells us something not about his patriotism or his propensity for violence (I don't question the former and he hasn't the latter), but about his politics.

But Frank's accusation plays into the dominant story line. This is something that is over the top and unfair and even dangerous, focusing on a few nutjobs (at least some of whom turned out not to exist) who shouted vile things in rallies attended by 20,000 other people who did not.

But there's another story line and McCain hinted at. Barack Obama has spent an enormous amount of money on campaign ads and much of it is negative. Of those negative ads, a rather significant percentage are lies.

I don't use that term lightly. I think that much of what we call "lies" in political discourse is either an honest error or a tendentious presentation of the facts or an argument that we believe is wrong. A "lie," in common parlance, is an intentional misrepresentation.

And that is precisely what Obama's ads on McCain's health care plan and position on stem cell research are. McCain's plan would not raise taxes on people who recieve employer provided health care or increase costs for employers. McCain supports even embryo-destructive stem cell research.

These are lies repeated over and over again - even after they have been identified as such.

Now that strikes me as vile.


Anonymous said...

I have asked before and I ask again: if Ayers is the dangerous terrorist some say he is, why has the Bush Administration not used its enhanced powers under the "War on Terror" to arrest Ayers? Or the Illinois politicians (both Republicans and Democrats) who worked with him?

It's not just Democrats who think this is a BS "issue"; poll after poll shows that Independents think it's irrelevant.

Let it Go, Man. This is America, the land of Second Chances.

sean s.

Dad29 said...

And the irony about the 'health-care-tax' lie is that it is EASILY refuted--something McCain has not done.

Anonymous said...

If raising the Obama/Ayers connection is the GOP's vilest hour, then what was Senator Clinton’s vilest hour because she brought it up first?

Anonymous said...

Obama's ads are literally true. The stem cell research ad says that McCain "has opposed" stem cell research. He has; he has since changed his policy. The ad also says that Palin "opposes" stem cell research -- which is true -- and that the Republican Party's platform is more anti-stem-cell-research even than the Bush policy, which is also true.

It's also indisputable that McCain's health care plan will increase taxes. It will tax as income health insurance benefits that are currently exempt from taxation. That's an increase. Whether or not the $2500 or $5000 refundable credits would more than offset the increase in taxes will depend on the cost of the policy and the taxpayer's bracket.

So, these ads are literally true, albeit (certainly with regard to the stem cell ad) misleading. It all depends on what the meaning of "is" is. I think the stem cell ad, in particular, ought to be beneath the Obama campaign.

But let me ask you, Rick. Justice Gableman's ad about former Justice Butler -- the ad that has gotten him into trouble with the Wisconsin Judicial Commission -- was as literally true as the Obama stem cell ad, but equally misleading. Was it a "lie," in your judgment?

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:21

Are you saying that Obama should be investigated or that they should drop the folly with Gableman?

Publius said...

Anon 11:38am

Ayres has had many chances to "recant" his terrorist act and is unrepentant, this is his crime.

For the few who may not know, what he did, and apparently didn't feel he did enough of, was bomb places. And, in fact, the organization he was with, the Weather Underground, was responsible for killing 2 police officers and a Brinks guard, when, acting as common criminals, they robbed an armored car.

Anonymous said...


Failure to recant past bad acts is not a crime. If it were, Ayers would be in jail.

Members of his organization may have killed two police officers; but the organization is not guilty of the crimes of members.

Again: if Ayers is a terrorist, he would be in jail. He's not and even Dubya made no effort to put him there.

Ayer's has lived a non-criminal life for years now; associating with both Republicans and Democrats. Let it go man.

sean s.

Anonymous said...

Sean S.,

I think Charles Krauthammer, in his latest editorial, frames this best:

Let me get this straight. A couple of agitated yahoos in a rally of thousands yell something offensive and incendiary, and John McCain and Sarah Palin are not just guilty by association -- with total strangers, mind you -- but worse: guilty according to The New York Times of "race-baiting and xenophobia."

But should you bring up Barack Obama's real associations -- 20 years with Jeremiah Wright, working on two foundations and distributing money with William Ayers, citing the raving Michael Pfleger as one who helps him keep his moral compass (Chicago Sun-Times, April 2004) and the long-standing relationship with the left-wing vote-fraud specialist ACORN -- you have crossed the line into illegitimate guilt by association. Moreover, it is tinged with racism.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 7:52 AM;

Here's this guilt by association thing again. I have never accused McCain or Palin of race-baiting or xenophobia; and would not unless the words come out of their mouths. There are idiots in every crowd, whether a crowd of Republicans or a crowd of Democrats. Or a crowd of nuns. There are idiots in every crowd. The speaker at the podium is not guilty of saying what idiots in the crowd shout out.

Likewise, I don't accuse McCain or Palin of the bad behavior of those they work or meet with. Politicians are like cops, they work with the scum of the Earth. It's just part of the job. That goes for McCain and Palin, and equally for Obama and Biden. If you want to get things done in the political arena you have to work with whoever.

Most of us voters out here know the nut-jobs shouting out things don't matter. And that Ayers and Wright don't matter. Let it go.

sean s.

Dad29 said...

But Ayers and Wright DO matter--not as individuals per se, but as part of a larger pattern which includes Frank Meyers, Pfleger, the ACORN crowd, and the Daley Machine folks.

All leading to the 97%-Lefty Senate voting record.

It would be no big deal if Ayers were the only cretin; but he's not.

Anonymous said...


Well, it obviously matters to you. That's your right. It doesn't matter to me. That's my right.

I see these associations the same way I see McCain's associations with neo-con nutjobs; just part of the job. And if McCain were elected, he'd have to work with people just as bad OR WORSE than Ayers, Meyers, Pfleger, ACORN, etc.

Unfortunately for McCain, most voters are not convinced that Ayers and ACORN matter; and that's their right. Perhaps you think this is proof that most voters are idiots, but it's not the job of most voters to agree with you. If you want their agreement, it's your job to persuade; and that you and others have failed to do.

I sympathize. The re-election of Bush was a profound shock to my faith in the voters; but I've gotten over it. Kerry et al. failed to make their case; shame on them. You need to make a better case, or resign yourself to hearing about President Obama in the news for the next four years.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick ...

sean s.

Anonymous said...

Mccain was a part of the S&L scandal of the 1980s

Anonymous said...

From economist Alan Blinder is this startlingly prescient New York Times Op-Ed piece from February of this year.

Thanks to Freakonomics for bringing attention to this.

sean s.

Anonymous said...


I am sorry to hear that you had suffered such a profound shock in your faith of voters; I'll suffer no such symptom should Obama get elected, even if I am a McCain supporter. People are unahppy with President Bush and are willing to punish the Republican Party and John McCain for that. I don't perceive the Ayers,Wright, etc. material to be just Republicans throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. We view these as profound lapses in what is otherwise an admittedly stellar career. And while I perhaps cannot persuade you that these things matter, you are likewise unable to persuade me that I should "let it go."

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 12:35 PM (dad29?)

Thank you for your sympathy. I have gotten over it; what's done is done.

Regarding your "letting it go"; that's up to you. Think of it not as something I am trying to convince you of; think of it as advice from the School of Hard Knocks. Take it or leave it, either way it's no skin off my nose.

Take care. Really.

sean s.

Dad29 said...

We view these as profound lapses in what is otherwise an admittedly stellar career

"Stellar career"?

This guy never won a contested election. Never.

He DID win un-contested caucuses.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that the left hasn't already announced a new holiday for Obama.

In advance of their announcement, I would just like to say that my concern is that it will not replace Independance day.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous;

Not to fret. The Obama Holiday will be on Jan 21, 2009; commemorating the end of our National Nightmare and the beginning of something better.

sean s.

AnotherTosaVoter said...

The problem with this post, Rick, is that you write it as if your own party doesn't do the same thing. Constantly.

Again, partisanship requires cognitive dissonance.

Do you even pretend to disagree?