Saturday, September 13, 2008


Please don't listen to this guy. I'm serious. I'm more than serious. How many caps and bolds can I use to emphasize this?

Here's the jist:

Since July, John McCain and his campaign have made 11 political claims that are barely true, eight that are categorically false, and three that you'd have to call pants-on-fire lies—a total of 22 clearly deceptive statements (many of them made repeatedly in ads and stump speeches). Barack Obama and Joe Biden, meanwhile, have put out eight bare truths, four untruths, and zero pants-on-fire lies—12 false claims. These stats and categories come from PolitiFact, but the story looks pretty much the same if you count up fabrications documented by or the Washington Post's Fact Checker, the other truth-squad operations working the race: During the past two and a half months, McCain has lied more often and more outrageously than Obama. (Click here for a few caveats in this analysis.) . . .

The McCain camp's other sin is one of repetition: They keep saying things that have been proved untrue. In TV ads and nearly every stump speech, Palin has repeated the line that she stopped the federal government's plan to build the "bridge to nowhere," a claim that fact-check sites and nearly every major news organization have shot down. McCain keeps running ads—in English and Spanish—stating that Obama would raise taxes on the middle class when Obama's plan would actually lower taxes for most people.

On several occasions, meanwhile, Obama has adjusted his message when called out by fact-checkers. In February, Obama said that McCain believed the Iraq war would last 100 years; when fact-checking sites pointed out that McCain was referring to the peacetime presence in Iraq, Obama ditched the claim. Last month PolitiFact wrote that Biden was wrong to say McCain voted with Bush 95 percent of the time. Shortly thereafter, the Obama camp began using a more accurate measure, 90 percent.

. . .

This is exactly what's so puzzling about Obama's strategy—why is he paying any attention to the fact-checkers? So far, McCain has seen little blowback from lying. Polls show that he's perceived as more "honest and trustworthy" than Obama and that the public believes his claim that Obama would raise taxes on the middle class. When MediaCurves showed the Obama-called-Palin-a-pig ad to a focus group of women, many came out thinking that Barack Obama had a gender bias. Some of these surveys might simply reflect McCain's post-convention, post-Palin bounce—and perhaps they'll recede as the weeks go on, especially if the media focuses on his attacks.

. . .

The misstatements of 2004 suggest a category of lies that Obama could get away with—ones that the public is already primed to believe about McCain. McCain's signature policy goal is cutting out earmarks. But as the Washington Monthly's Steve Benen points out, in promising to veto all earmarks, McCain has inadvertently called for cutting some popular programs—including all U.S. assistance to Israel, which is technically provided through a kind of earmark. Of course McCain doesn't really want to stop giving aid to Israel; an ad that suggested McCain's cost-cutting zeal would lead to abandoning Israel would be as dishonest as McCain's sex-ed ad. But it might also be effective, reinforcing the idea that McCain wants to cut too much.

Or what about that 100-years war? Picture an Obama ad showing McCain saying that the war in Iraq will last 100—or even 1,000!—years. The ad patches in footage of McCain singing "bomb Iran" and describing all the devastating effects of war. Actually, that ad exists—a comedy group posted it on YouTube in February. Nearly 2 million people have watched it. It's hilarious, effective, and a complete lie. Obama's advisers should be pushing him to approve that message.

The article is full of links to and Politifact, so please read it for yourself and follow the links, particularly to the caveats (one thing to keep in mind about Factcheck and Politifact is that there's no stats on who picks what gets analyzed for truth, so you have to also follow the campaigns yourself and do your own research to see if there's anything that's not being analyzed and what the truth about that is).

I don't want Obama to lie more, I want McCain to lie less. This is not supposed to be about who scores the most digs, who gets the best press. It's about who's best for the job. Lying about it pisses me off because: 1) I have to do a whole lot of research to get at the truth, and that takes time from work and my social life and makes me very cranky; 2) I actually read the positions and listen to the debates, to find out what the candidates are proposing, and the more lies they tell the less I can rely on what they say about what they're going to do and instead have to rely on past voting records, probabilities, and a damn crystal ball to figure out what they're really going to stand for. That also requires a lot of time and effort and PISSES ME OFF. Have I mentioned I weigh honesty into the mix when I vote? Have I mentioned it pisses me off?

I realize that even my modified standards of trustworthiness for politicians - please lie less, and about less serious things, and I'll forgive spin if I can discern what you're actually standing for in the end - is considered hopelessly naive. I realize that too many people vote the damn soundbite and don't take the time to do the research, so if you follow my advice you might actually lose. I realize that my own carefully researched vote is easily cancelled out by Joe (or Jo) Schmoo down the street who votes for someone because they have a cute name or they seem nice or they're buying into some conspiracy theory that they heard off their ultra-right or ultra-left pundit of choice. But what's the alternative? All candidates lying to the point that even the people who are paying attention can't figure out what they're really standing for? Nobody knows what they're doing in the voting booth? Yeah, that sounds like a brilliant way to pick one of the most powerful governments on the planet. Let's just break out the damn dartboard and pick 'em that way.

I want more Charlie Gibson interviews, this time of the actual candidates and not just one VP pick. I want debates, and ones where we actually pin people down on the answers. I want opinions from lawyers on legal proposals, economics people on economic plans, tax people on tax plans, and each of them with actual, detailed proposals to analyze. I remember in my second year of law school - right after reading the flag-burning constitutional cases, some state politician (I don't recall off the top of my head who, or it it was even an Iowa one) was proposing a flag-burning statute, and as soon as I read it, I knew - that's not going to work. I won't go into why, because this post is long enough as it is and it's a dead issue. Point is, I then looked at his background and discovered he was a freaking lawyer, so he knew it wasn't going to work. He was doing it because it sounded nice, it seemed patriotic, and all the time he knew it didn't have a chance in hell of passing, and if it did pass it would be struck down so fast the back-blow could knock over a small skyscraper. He wasn't serious about the issue, it was all a game. Okay, flag burning is quite serious to some but it's not going to change the course of humanity. But what about issues that will - national security, economic policy, healthcare . . . If we don't take the time to understand this stuff, and they're feeding us bullshit on a plate with a nice cilantro garnish, what happens then? Do NOT tell me to sit down and not worry my pretty little head about it.

I'm not doing this because I like it. I've got a gazillion things to do and am constantly stressed out and haven't auditioned for a show in ages, something I actually like to do, because there's simply been no time. But it's important, damn it. Do you know how much research time I'm putting in just to figure out what their economic policies are really likely to be? Hours. Not kidding. And that's just one freaking issue. And it is harder every time one or the other of them makes a stupid, slanted statement about their own policy or the other guy's, because then I have to track that one down too. *@$ %^$# %*^%$*&@^$*!!!!!!!

*****Deep breath*****

I'd like to steal a video off Nelle's blog to close the rant, 'cause it's timely:

SIDE NOTE: I have considered the possibility this piece is simply a plant, but the links bear out, and I've heard enough of this kind of thing bandied about to believe that there are those who actually advocate this stuff and need to be answered. Further, I don't think it would be effective as a plant to get a reaction, because anyone who reacts like I do to the story is reacting more to the premise than either candidate, and, frankly, already knows what Factcheck, Politifact, the Post and those other sites say about veracity.

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