Sunday, September 02, 2012

Bonanza Column 248 - Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

Last week’s Republican Convention was a masterpiece of bumbling by a once-great party that has been taken over by a “win at any cost” faction. While Clint Eastwood’s feeble attempt at an attack on President Obama (while failing to mention that he, Eastwood, is on record as pro-choice, believing that climate change is human-influenced, and pro-marriage equality) got a lot of attention, it was VP Candidate Paul Ryan’s speech that was the most egregious example of disregard for the truth and for voters’ ability to tell truth from lies. In the words of no less an authority than Fox News, “Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech.”
Counts of the lies in Ryan’s speech vary, but it was not an isolated instance of lying in the Romney/Ryan campaign. Ryan has also lied about or grossly exaggerated his athletic accomplishments, and as recently as this weekend, Romney accused the President of “throwing Israel under the bus,” despite the fact the both Israel’s President and Defense Minister have praised Obama’s support for the Jewish State and said that relations have never been better between the US and Israel.
In 1984, George H.W. Bush made up a quote about Walter Mondale’s campaign that was both damaging and untrue. Bush's press secretary said: "You can say anything you want during a debate, and 80 million people hear it"; when newspapers point out the lies, "So what?" he said. "Maybe 200 people read it, or 2,000, or 20,000.'' Clearly this cynical disregard for the truth has become part and parcel of the GOP’s campaign strategy. In the words of W.C. Fields, "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with b******t."
To be fair, a Politifact analysis of the two campaigns so far has rated 28% of Democratic campaign material as untrue to at least a degree, as against 46% for the GOP, and I don’t mean to condone only Republican lying, though a good deal more of the GOP side seems to lean toward outright falsehoods, vs. exaggerations or misstatements.
When did outright lying become acceptable in American politics, and what does it say about our putative leaders’ respect for those whose votes they are pursuing? And what does it say about us as voters that we are willing to excuse, condone, or even accept lies as true even when they are proved otherwise? I’m not talking here about the lunatic fringe that still believes the President is an alien or a Muslim – I mean otherwise intelligent people who believe and spread stories without bothering to check them or even after they’ve been checked and proved untrue.
I received from a friend last week a photo purporting to be of Michelle Obama and her daughters at the London Olympics, with the two girls wrapped in South African flags. The accompanying email read “Michelle & the girls at the Olympics. Gee thanks for supporting the United States, their country. What a bunch of losers. See your tax dollars at work!!! How patriotic! The Obamas display their colors at the Olympics…Really? South Africa? Gee, ladies, thanks for your support!”
In fact, the picture was taken a year ago when the First Lady, her daughters, and others in her family made an official visit to Africa in June, 2011, to “focus on youth leadership, education, health, and wellness.” The photo was taken when the group landed in Pretoria, South Africa, and the girls were presented with blankets in the South African colors by a group of children as a welcome gift. June is mid-winter in South Africa, and having just returned from there I can tell you it gets chilly – it was about 51 degrees that day and the girls wrapped themselves in the blankets to keep warm.
This photo is now circulating as further “proof” of the Obamas’ other-ness and is a blatant lie designed as a dog-whistle to racism.
At what point, I wonder, will we as the voting public say “enough” to both parties? Come on, people, run on the substantive issues, run on your real record, and stop trying to lie your way into office. Who cares if Paul Ryan ran a marathon in 3 hours or 4? Mr. Ryan, is that something you want to stake your integrity on? President Obama did NOT remove work requirements from welfare – Mr. Romney, is it worth your pandering to the anti-poor people vote to run on that lie? Obamacare is Romneycare – do you really want to disown a program that has worked and helped millions in Massachusetts just to court the ultra-right?
I don’t know about you, but for me integrity and respect in the leader of America and the world as do policy and leadership. I will proudly vote for President Obama and most Democrats, not because they are perfectly honest, but because they have shown far more respect for the truth and for my ability to discern lies from honesty than has the GOP and Romney.

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