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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

'McCain Invented the Blackberry' and Other Lies Worth Mentioning

Blackberry with text 'OMG! John McCain is SUCH a big fat liar!'
Senator Lieberman -- come quickly -- I need you!
-First words ever spoken on a Blackberry

Those words were spoken by Alexander Graham McCain, inventor of the device that not only works as a cellphone, but allows you to send email and text. Most people think the Blackberry was invented by an R&D division staffed with nerdy IT types, electronics engineers, and computer programmers. But it was really invented by a 72-year old Senator who has no idea how to use the internet.

Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle:

Yes, this is a ridiculous one, but we have to throw it on the LHC [Lies, half-truths, and contradictions] pile. When talking with reporters Tuesday morning, Sen. John McCain's chief economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, held up his Blackberry and said, "You're looking at the miracle that John McCain helped create."

Of course, Holtz-Eakin was talking about McCain's service on the Senate Commerce Committee and it's dealings with the telecommunications industry. He didn't so much "help create" the Blackberry as he allowed someone else to create it. It would've happened regardless; John McCain was simply one of the people who were around at the time. It's like being on the board of the hospital Sarah Palin was born in and claiming you helped deliver her. So John Sidney helped invent the Blackberry. Despite the fact that he wouldn't even be worthy of a footnote in the history of that device.

Among the lies Team McCain has told since beginning the general election, this one is pretty minor. But it's worth noting. Lately, the McCain campaign has been lying about everything. If someone from the team says anything, there's a pretty good chance that it's not true. Take this story from Bloomberg News:

Senator John McCain has drawn some of the biggest crowds of his presidential campaign since adding Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to his ticket on Aug. 29. Now officials say they can't substantiate the figures McCain's aides are claiming.

McCain aide Kimmie Lipscomb told reporters on Sept. 10 that an outdoor rally in Fairfax City, Virginia, drew 23,000 people, attributing the crowd estimate to a fire marshal.

Fairfax City Fire Marshal Andrew Wilson said his office did not supply that number to the campaign and could not confirm it. Wilson, in an interview, said the fire department does not monitor attendance at outdoor events.

In recent days, journalists attending the rallies have been raising questions about the crowd estimates with the campaign. In a story on Sept. 11 about Palin's attraction for some Virginia women voters, Washington Post reporter Marc Fisher estimated the crowd to be 8,000, not the 23,000 cited by the campaign.

There's a helluva big difference between 8,000 and 23,000. The McCain campaign nearly tripled the turnout. It's a ridiculous lie that was easily disproved. But Team McCain, called on their BS, stood by it. "The 23,000 figure was substantiated on the ground," said McCainiac Tucker Bounds. "The campaign is willing to stand by the fact that it was our biggest crowd to date."

Substantiated by whom? Not anyone outside the campaign; Team McCain is getting their numbers straight out of their butts. The same thing happened at Sarah Palin's first public appearance since the convention. "The McCain campaign said 10,000 people showed up at the Consol Energy Arena in Washington, Pennsylvania, home of the Washington Wild Things baseball team," Bloomberg reports. "The campaign attributed that estimate, and several that followed, to U.S. Secret Service figures, based on the number of people who passed through magnetometers."

Yeah, not true. "We didn't provide any numbers to the campaign," said a spokesperson for the Secret Service. Those numbers, like Fairfax numbers, come straight from the McCain team's Office of Made Up Crowd Estimates.

In an example of hopeless incoherence, Bounds followed up his defense by saying crowd size doesn't matter.

"Since day one, this campaign has been consistent that we're not going to win or lose based on crowd size but the substance of John McCain's record," he said. Really? Because this is the first time I've ever heard a McCainster say that the candidate wasn't going to win or lose based on crowd size. And, if it doesn't matter, why are you guys making it up?

For a real festival of lies, we turn to McCain's appearance on The View. He claimed that Sarah Palin had never requested any earmarks for Alaska. Alaska under Palin has received more federal earmark money per capita than any other state. But the worst lie was a lie about lying, as Richard Cohen writes in the Washington Post:

[T]he John McCain of old is unrecognizable. He has become the sort of politician he once despised.

The precise moment of McCain's abasement came, would you believe, not at some news conference or on one of the Sunday shows but on "The View," the daytime TV show created by Barbara Walters. Last week, one of the co-hosts, Joy Behar, took McCain to task for some of the ads his campaign has been running. One deliberately mischaracterized what Barack Obama had said about putting lipstick on a pig -- an Americanism that McCain himself has used. The other asserted that Obama supported teaching sex education to kindergarteners.

"We know that those two ads are untrue," Behar said. "They are lies."

Freeze. Close in on McCain. This was the moment. He has largely been avoiding the press. The Straight Talk Express is now just a brand, an ad slogan like "Home Cooking" or "We Will Not Be Undersold." Until then, it was possible for McCain to say that he had not really known about the ads, that the formulation "I approve this message" was just boilerplate. But he didn't.

"Actually, they are not lies," he said.

"McCain has turned ugly," Cohen writes. "His dishonesty would be unacceptable in any politician, but McCain has always set his own bar higher than most. He has contempt for most of his colleagues for that very reason: They lie. He tells the truth. He internalizes the code of the McCains -- his grandfather, his father: both admirals of the shining sea. He serves his country differently, that's all -- but just as honorably. No more, though."

Before you think this is just some liberal whiner writing for a liberal rag, consider Cohen's own confession in the same piece. "I am one of the journalists accused over the years of being in the tank for McCain," Cohen says. "Guilty." This is what McCain's supporters are left saying about him -- that they don't recognize this man. That this isn't any John McCain that they ever knew. That this new John McCain is dishonest. That this new John McCain is the sort of man the old John McCain despised.

In fact, after telling Joy Behar that the "lipstick on a pig" ad wasn't a lie, he admitted it was. McCain's lying is becoming so constant and so blatant that it's starting to become a media story all its own. But the media still shies away from covering it, mentioning it only briefly if at all, because it goes against their lazy reporting style.

"Why do the McCain people think they can get away with this stuff?" asks Paul Krugman in a piece titled "Blizzard of Lies." "Well, they're probably counting on the common practice in the news media of being 'balanced' at all costs. You know how it goes: If a politician says that black is white, the news report doesn't say that he's wrong, it reports that 'some Democrats say' that he's wrong. Or a grotesque lie from one side is paired with a trivial misstatement from the other, conveying the impression that both sides are equally dirty."

This is the "both sides of the story" reporting that I've written about again and again. The media always tries to report both sides, never bothering to point out which is complete BS. That's left to you to sort out -- if you can. This is why there are evolution doubters and this is why there are global warming deniers. Some people complain about "low information voters," but what the hell do you expect? Half the information people get from the mainstream media is unlabeled BS. The media doesn't bother to actually report truth -- it just repeats things -- so what voter isn't a "low information voter?" Hell, we live in a high-content, low-information world. There are a lot of words coming out of that television, but half of them are lies and none of the lies are pointed out. It's not information, it's a mulligan stew of truth cancelled out by untruth. A meaningless stream of worthless babble in which voters are expected to find meaning and worth.

McCain needs to be blamed for the dishonest, despicable, and dishonorable nature of his campaign. But the media shares the blame. The news consumer believes the media are the referees in this game -- and the news consumer is wrong. All the media is is the scoreboard. In the MSM, there are no referees and nothing, absolutely nothing, is against the rules.

Hold the McCain team responsible for their own lies, by all means. But don't let the media off the hook. The biggest reason why McCain's campaign has taken the low road is not because they can't win any other way (although they probably can't), but because they know that the media will let them get away with it.


1 comment: said...

Do you think that Presidential Campaigning is exceptionally dirty this year? Or does it only looks so, because everything is happening now, because everything is so fresh?
Or maybe it should be so - the one who is smarter and dirtier, is a winner? And after elections we just should forget all false accusations, lies and smearing?
Looks like this year we are able to choose our candidate not only by his policies, but by thinking, is he a lesser lier. So, voters, defend your choice - who is competing honorably, and who is a bigger lier - Obama or McCain?