>> Tuesday, September 9, 2008
An unrebutted lie becomes the truth and a rebutted lie is quickly forgotten. That is the operating principle of the McCain campaign. Lie, lie, lie about anything and everything. Get those lies into all available media. Saturate the market with them until they become received wisdom. Force Obama to defend against them all the time. It is a strategy that may be without honor, but it is a strategy that wins. Understanding this, progressives become irate. The blogosphere cries, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!!” Barack Obama says, “you can’t just make stuff up”. Well, with all due respect to Sen. Obama, yes you can. Yes, you can just make stuff up.
To answer why you can “just make stuff up” I answer the question of why calling McCain a liar will not work. There are multiple factors at work that ultimately make it unworkable to attack McCain in this way. The first is that John McCain still has a vast army of water carriers and tire swing riders to excuse him at every turn.
His legion of admirers in the press, while shrinking, is still vast. He benefits from the well known conservative bias in the media. Look what happened when Keith Olbermann decried the politicization of 9/11 at the RNC, he was demoted. Tom Brokaw still calls McCain a Maverick despite all the evidence to the contrary. In addition to the conservatives who populate the networks he also has Fox, a ready made propaganda wing. These groups are almost always willing to propagate his falsehoods without challenge. Calling McCain a liar will just get the person skeptical criticism and questions about why you wont admit the surge worked.
The second reason beyond the press is that Obama has already undermined any character attacks against John McCain. He and Joe Biden do this constantly in a number of ways that are constantly carried about the press. Obama declares,
I have never suggested that Senator McCain picks his positions on national security based on politics or personal ambition. I have not suggested it because I believe that he genuinely wants to serve America's national interest.
Biden does the same thing only a lot worse.
"John McCain is my friend," said the loquacious Blue Hen. "I admire John McCain. I know of no man or woman I have ever met that has more personal courage than John McCain. We have been friends for over 33 years. We have traveled together. When John was Navy liaison he staffed me for three or four years everywhere I traveled in the world.
"Jill and John are good friends," Biden said, referring to his wife Dr. Jill Biden, who had just introduced him. "Matter of fact there’s a best-selling book written about us called The Nightingale's Song about John and some of his graduating class from Annapolis that references Jill and John in the book as good buddies.
"She doesn’t like the reference,'" Biden added, "but John, John’s a great guy. John was staffing me in Greece. I was meeting with the Prime Minister Papandreou and we were supposed to go to this fancy dinner and Jill said 'Do we have to go to this dinner?' And John said, 'No, no, no I know this great place for dinner.'
"And there was a place literally down on the docks, where Zorba lived I think, and so I had to go to the fancy thing and I come back down and I find it, and we’re wandering through these alleys on the dock -- you’re gonna get very angry at this Jill -- but I walk around the corner and there’s these cement tables like down at the shore you know, the cement base ,the cement table, and I walk in and Jill and John are standing up on the table drinking ouzo dancing with one another, and I’m thinking, 'I’ve never trusted John since then, Jillie.'
"But he’s a great guy," Biden said, "and if John called me today and said 'Joe -,' like when they went after John McCain, when Bush went after him in South Carolina with the scurrilous comments they made about his character, I called him and said, 'John, where do you want me? I’m an Al Gore man but where do you want me? I will show up anywhere in America to testify to the kind of man you are.' And he is a good man, he is a good man."
Now there is a school of thought that says you can say nice things about someone then come in and kneecap them. Except, that to do that, you have to say, “Bless his heart” when you compliment the opponent. There are certain signals you have to send to let people know what is coming. Biden does way too much of the soft stuff up front. It effectively makes John McCain immune to character attacks. You cannot call your friend a political opportunist and a liar. Who admits to those types of friends? It just does not fit and people will reject it.
Think about the logic you are asking people to engage in,
Preface I: John McCain is honorable and my friend.
Preface II: Liars are not honorable or my friends.
Result: John McCain is a liar and my friend.
Something is wrong in that construction. It does not make sense. Obama has restricted himself to working with policy. He does this to try and win a mandate to govern with. John McCain knows he cannot fight on policy and has no problems with doing things to get elected. He will just apologize later. Therefore, Obama has unilaterally disarmed himself.
The new politics he advocates restricts Obama. As he freely admits, personal attacks are not a part of it. McCain and the press will hammer Obama on all sides if he deviates from the narrow line of policy. He is boxed in by self created rules and in doing so boxed in everyone else.
Obama will be forced to answer for any of the attacks that others launch on McCain that call him a liar. The press will ask Obama if he believes that McCain is a liar and he will dodge the question or say no. The latter is more probable based on my own observation of how Obama operates and the new politics rules. The effect of this is that 527 style attacks are totally ruled out. Everything has to come from Obama and it is very limiting.
While I believe that John McCain is a political opportunist and that he is lying on an almost constant basis in this campaign, calling him a liar will have limited effect. Obama and team should stop telling people how honorable McCain is. McCain will run from any policy discussion. If Obama is counting on the debates to engage in the policy talk I think he has sorely miscalculated. We know how stupid and inane debates can be and trusting that the moderators will be able to push back against McCain effectively is a huge risk. What is Obama going to do when McCain lies in front of his face to the country during the debate? Will he be able to call such an upstanding, honorable patriot, a liar then? I don’t know.