The Political Lying Game

The Political Lying Game

By David Harsanyi - September 16, 2008

There are many brands of truth. Some are poetic truths; others are political truths; and some are staggering exaggerations -- or what politicians frequently refer to as "talking."

These days, there is an outbreak of artificial indignation over the "lies" of Republicans. Barack Obama's national press secretary, Bill Burton, claims John McCain has run "the sleaziest and least honorable campaign in modern presidential campaign history."

Ouch. We can attribute one of the following to this claim: 1) Burton has just landed on the planet Earth. 2) Burton is attempting to manipulate the media. 3) Burton is "lying."

I pick No. 2. After all, we all have heard the self-serving myth that pits helpless, meek, high-minded, issue-oriented Democrats against mendacious and mean Republicans, who not only detest America -- especially children and small vulnerable creatures -- but also lie and cheat to keep all oppressed.

The facts betray a more equitable story. And it starts with Sarah Palin's assertion that she said "thanks, but no thanks" to the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" and opposed earmarks. That is an elastic political truth.

Technically, she did stop the project after initially supporting it. She has taken earmarks -- even lobbied for them while mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. As governor of Alaska, though, Palin also vetoed more than 300 wasteful projects and made an attempt to reform the process. Her record on earmarks is mixed, but by any measure, it's far superior to either of the Democratic candidates' records.

Moreover, if this Palin claim can be classified as an untruth, Obama can be called a "liar" just as easily.

Take, if you will, the foundational assertion of Obama's entire campaign: He is the candidate of post-partisan change. Obama, meanwhile, voted with fellow Democrats 96 percent of the time in Washington. And the bipartisan achievement he most often cites, an ethics reform bill, was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate.

Unanimous: "being in complete harmony or accord."

So "unity" should be referred to as a poetic truth.

And when much of the media act as if they are personally offended by a questionable McCain ad accusing Obama of voting for a bill that would have provided sex education to kindergarteners, you feel the pain. It was, indeed, a massive stretch.

It reminds me of the Obama ad that accuses McCain of having "voted to cut education funding" and having "proposed" the abolishment of the Department of Education despite neither being true. Not much anger at that one. Just a lot of talk about the media's responsibility to keep candidates honest. And absolutely, journalists have a responsibility to put every candidate through the wringer.

Every candidate.

So maybe, when ABC's Charlie Gibson has the chance to chat with Obama, he can ask him -- twice -- how, with his dearth of experience and his own 2004 "lie" that he would "serve out (his) full six-year term" in the Senate, does he really truly actually believe he is ready for the presidency. Or did he blink? Ever?

And when the Palin inspection is over and Americans know how many mooseburgers she's ingested and every federal cent she has ever requested, cable news shows can begin panel discussions regarding Joe Biden.

They can examine the Democratic VP nominee's relationship with credit card giant MBNA. Someone might even ask Biden why he backed legislation promoted by the credit card industry and opposed by watchdog groups while his son was a lobbyist for MBNA.

That question, it seems, at the very least, deserves as much attention as Palin's teenage daughter's pregnancy.

Because, of course, no one is innocent in politics. Nor does any party, despite what you may have heard, occupy the moral high ground.


David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist. Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.

Copyright 2008, Creators Syndicate Inc.

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