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Lies and the Big Lie

In late October of 2008, just before the Presidential election, The New York Times published an OpEd by Bob Herbert in which he lamented (with very good reason) the low tone and despicable lack of honesty — what he described as the Lee Atwater and Karl Rove style of “attack, attack, attack” — with which John McCain’s campaign attacked Barack Obama.  I thought he was right.  I also thought he had missed — or ignored — the excruciating level of dishonesty upon which the entire Democratic campaign rested.  I sent this directly to Mr. Herbert, not for publication.

28 October 2008

Ref: “A Choice and an Echo”, 27 Oct 2008, NYT

I cannot fault your reasoning, and I also lament John McCain’s choice to campaign on the basis of innuendo and lies rather than on principled discussion. It is both shameful and a shame.

But I cannot accept your contention that the Democrats, and their standard-bearer Barack Obama, were all that far above those methods.

It is true that, for the most part, the Obama campaign has avoided the spiteful, harassing, and petty attacks that so characterize the end of the McCain campaign. But then, they didn’t need such tactics when the big lie had worked for them so well and for so long.

From the beginning, even before the end of the primaries had revealed who would be the Republican or Democratic candidates for the general election, the Democratic party had decided on its strategy: they would not run against either Republicans or the Republican candidate; rather, they would run against George W. Bush. And the Obama campaign went along with that strategy.

What could be a more scurrilous lie than the one repeated ad nauseum by every Democrat who found themselves in front of a microphone for the last six months: “John McCain = George W. Bush”; a vote for McCain is a vote for a 3rd Bush term.

Forget that McCain has spent the last 8 years bucking both President and Party to bring an alternate vision of conservatism to the fore. Forget that he worked across the aisle when he could.  Forget that he stood up for what he thought was best for the country even when it meant undermining his own chances at the presidency. No, the Democratic strategy in this, and in every other race, has been to ignore the actual candidate in front of them, to replace that candidate with their cardboard cutout of George Bush and then to flail at it mercilessly.

I have great sympathy for John McCain. It’s one thing to be beaten on the basis of your proposals or your temperament or your philosophy of government, or by bad timing and unfortunate circumstance. But to be beaten by the lie that you are what you hate, by the lie that you stand for the things you’ve spent your time and your political capital resisting — that must be the ultimate bitter pill.

© Copyright 2008, Augustus P. Lowell

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