Friday, September 12, 2008

Ugly Is As Ugly Does

It is a grim reflection on American democracy that the McCain campaign has only begun to ignite after abandoning Sen. McCain's own values.

The choice of America Ferrara as his running mate was a bizarre step away from the moderate conservatism that has marked much of McCain's political life, and particularly from his resistance to the Religious Right and his principled contention that the religious views of political leaders are and ought to remain private.  (This saddened us, as it was the thing we had liked best about him.)

The campaign has begun spreading, and defending, a series of ever-more offensive lies.  These begin with misrepresentations of Gov. Palin's record -- claiming that she never sought earmarks, when as mayor she hired a lobbyist to pursue them, and as governor she sought $200 million worth; insisting that she opposed the Bridge to Nowhere, when in fact she supported it until the stage at which it was a dead idea anyway.

It escalated dramatically with a witless attack on Sen. Obama, claiming that his use of the folksy  expression "you can put lipstick on a pig and it's still a pig" was somehow directed at Palin.  Even the most casual listener, hearing the remark in context, can hear that he is speaking of McCain's somewhat specious offer of "change" from the Bush Administration, made while supporting most of its policies.  McCain himself has often used the same expression, notably in reference to Sen. Clinton's proposed health-care reforms.

Challenged about this on The View, McCain's response was worth noting.  He claimed (a) "they're not lies," which is simply another lie; and added that (b) "Senator Obama chooses his words very carefully."  He considered this idea so important that he repeated it.  Why?

Obviously, (1) he wants us to believe that Obama was speaking in a sort of subliminal sexist code, which could only be heard by the sexist Democrats in his audience -- until McCain cracked the code.  This is nonsense.  McCain may have been (2) attempting some sort of jujitsu move, in an effort to use Obama's superior communication skills against him.  After all, one might infer, if the remark were offensive -- which it patently is not, in this context -- Obama clearly intended it to be so, because he is so articulate; but McCain's own use must be forgiveable, either because he is  so woefully inarticulate or because he is a doddering old man this close to losing his marbles.

(Those last charges things are not true, of course.  But they are the sort of charges to which this foolish strategy leaves McCain exposed, if Obama lowers himself to them.  But of course, if acolytes of Rove who are obviously running McCain's operation now can really piss Obama off, they will have struck gold.  After all, there's nothing easier to run against than an angry black man.) 

It's getting worse.  McCain HQ is now spewing filth like a pressure hose.  The most reprehensible of today's lies (and we know there will be more tomorrow) is the accusation that piece of Illinois legislation Obama sponsored to protect children from sexual predators was really about forcing sex ed on kindergarteners.   Here's a video review, along with Andrew Sullivan's commentary.

Sullivan suggests that McCain has "checked out," leaving campaign strategy to his strategists, even when they tell him to do stupid, evil things. This may be true. Sullivan also proposes that McCain "has mis-timed his lies," swinging right as the country goes left, and dirty as the country yearns for clean. We pray that this is so. But even if neither of these proves true, there is one claim upon which we agree with Sullivan entirely: "John McCain is now for ever a despicable and dishonest and dishonorable man. He has destroyed his reputation."

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