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Thursday, July 31, 2008

McCain's Low Road

Anyone who hasn't figured out that John McCain has pretty much no case to make for himself just hasn't been paying attention. It's never been so apparent that McCain's entire argument hinges on "Obama sucks." I've pointed out before that he hopes to make the election a referendum on Obama and McCain should hope it becomes just that -- mostly because McCain is running a completely dishonorable campaign of sleaze and lies. It's been a campaign that's been so awful, so mudslinging, so completely dishonest that people could be excused for putting their TVs out by the curb and opening all their windows to get rid of the stink.

McCain has had the balls to complain about all the press Obama has been getting, when he himself spends 90% of his time talking about Obama -- scratch that, lying about Obama. Last night, I decided to go through Annenberg Fact Check's RSS feed and look at the most recent entries. In about a week and a half (the first entry was July 22), Fact Check has shot down five McCain claims. That's one lie every other day. During that same period, the closest thing they found to an Obama lie was a lie on Obama's behalf -- an anti-McCain ad by Planned Parenthood. During this period (which, I admit, is fairly arbitrary) there isn't a single claim from the Obama campaign that's debunked.

But if it's arbitrary, it's also fairly random. Annenberg Fact Check is the gold-standard of political truth-telling; nonpartisan and in no one's camp. If you reach in a pull out random claims, find they're all false, and find they're from the same candidate, then it's pretty safe to assume said candidate is a liar.

-Continued after the jump-

The claims Fact Check have proven false are that Obama's a shallow celebrity who'll raise taxes on electricity, that Obama has been endorsed by Fidel Castro, that Obama didn't visit wounded troops in Germany because he wouldn't be allowed to bring cameras, that Obama's responsible for high gas prices, and that Obama favors not funding the troops.

For their part, the media -- lazy, addicted to sensationalism, and convinced that you're a freakin' moron -- haven't done much other than repeat this crap. To avoid lying themselves, they get pundits to talk about how people "perceive" the candidates, without ever bothering to discuss whether these perceptions are accurate or not. Some go farther and just repeat the smears:

Dana Milbank, Washington Post:

Barack Obama has long been his party's presumptive nominee. Now he's becoming its presumptuous nominee.

Fresh from his presidential-style world tour, during which foreign leaders and American generals lined up to show him affection, Obama settled down to some presidential-style business in Washington yesterday. He ordered up a teleconference with the (current president's) Treasury secretary, granted an audience to the Pakistani prime minister and had his staff arrange for the chairman of the Federal Reserve to give him a briefing. Then, he went up to Capitol Hill to be adored by House Democrats in a presidential-style pep rally.

"On his presidential-style visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem last week, Obama left a written prayer, intercepted by an Israeli newspaper, asking God to 'help me guard against pride and despair.'" Milbank writes. "He seems to have the despair part under control, but the pride could be a problem."

It seems Barack Obama's acting all presidential and stuff -- how awful! What we need is a humble country bumpkin who would never even dare to imagine himself as president, let alone portray himself as one. You know, someone like this guy:

A simple, self-effacing but spunky underdog who refers to himself with the oddly redundant phrase, " The American President Americans Have Been Waiting For."

You know, someone who's not so "presumptuous."

But the problem with McCain's tack and the media's following of it is that we've got pretty much no idea what the hell McCain stands for. One thing I've been noticing in comment threads and online forums is that McCain voters are pretty clueless about McCain themselves. They do nothing but attack Obama, while making no arguments in favor of their guy. I know that people are more likely to vote against something than for something, but you should have some idea why your candidate's a good idea.

For myself, I've got nothing against negative ads. I don't think negative ads are automatically a bad thing. After all, candidates' ads for themselves are usually uninformative -- bland, inoffensive, and trumpeting stands that no one could possibly disagree with; "Candidate A helped draft legislation to keep child molesters out of schools" or "Candidate A supports seniors." The sad truth is that you don't learn crap from positive ads.

Negative ads are the informative ones. And McCain's ads tell us a lot more about McCain than he'd intended. We learn that he's ruthless, dishonest, and without shame. Seems to me we've seen where that train goes for the past eight years. It's not a good place.

Of course, a big part of the explanation for this is some guy named Karl Rove. Rove's working as an adviser to Team McCain. That'd be the same Karl Rove who was just voted to be held in contempt of Congress by the House Judiciary Committee. The same Karl Rove who's being investigated for literally making a political prisoner of former Alabama Governor Don Seigelman.

That Karl Rove. The master of sleazy campaigning. There's a little fact that's getting pretty much zero press. And neither is the fact that McCain has at least two positions on every issue -- one for every audience. McCain seems to be politically nihilist, with no core beliefs at all.

Perhaps the most instructive example of McCain's constantly shifting stances is his stand(s) on immigration. Right now, McCain opposes specific immigration legislation. What's the bill called? The McCain-Kennedy immigration bill.

How unfortunate for Baghdad Johnny.

Given a choice between honest campaigning and lying attacks, McCain's taken the latter. Of the two candidates, it's hard to dispute that Obama's the one who's taken the high road.

Meanwhile, hooked on sensationalism and dirt, the media is following McCain through the swamp of the low road.


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