Liar, Liar In a Fiery, Smoldering Pair of Pants.

This is a fucking joke, right?  Barack Obama uses a terribly cliche’ analogy – “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig” – to describe McCain’s strategy, and in response, the McCain campaign* turns around and accuses Obama of making a sexist attack on Gov. Palin.  Check out the ad they put out today:

McCain has yet to apply any of his much-vaunted “honor” to his presidential campaign.  Indeed, his campaign is everything but honorable.  But, you know, I’m not really shouldn’t be surprised by McCain’s willingness to use breathtakingly dishonest tactics.  McCain has an almost preternatural belief in his inate goodness and incorruptability (his “maverickness,” if you will).  In his mind, he’s allowed to run a ridiculously dishonest campaign, since his shameless lying is “in service” of his country, and thus doesn’t really “count.” And so we see McCain repeatedly distort and lie about every aspect of Obama’s record:

  • Obama supported sensible legislation allowings schools to teach kindergardeners how to identify sexual predators, and McCain attacks him for promoting “sex” to children**.
  • Obama supports slowing the Pentagon’s Future Combat Systems program, a major (and very, very expensive) effort to upgrade existing military technology and implement advances in computer technology and robotics.  Considering that it’s largely designed for set-piece warfare, and we’re currently focused on fighting an insurgency, slowing it’s development seems like a sensible thing to do.  So sensible in fact, that McCain supported it.  But now that he’s running for president, he’s entirely willing to radically distort Obama’s statement, and portray him as being against general military funding*** (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, frankly).
  • The McCain campaign has been telling middle class audiences that Obama’s fiscal plan will raise their taxes.  Which is funny, because the general consensus thus far is that Obama’s plan will lower taxes for the middle class.  Moreover, while Obama’s plan will add 3.5 trillion dollars to the national debt, McCain’s will add a staggering 5 trillion dollars to our national debt.  But, of course, McCain is a Republican, which means he’s a “fiscal conservative.”
As many others have pointed out however, none of this would be possible without a complicit media.  The media, instead of calling out lies and presenting the truth, has been content to treat this election like a game: McCain’s/Palin’s distortions and lies are just part of the “horserace.”  Michael Tomasky’s take on this is pretty on point:
McCain and Palin are engaged in serial total fabrications. And almost no one calls them on it. The New York Times, which found the space to run a puffy piece on Palin’s family on its front page the other day, hasn’t found similar space to run a story under a headline like, “McCain-Palin Claims Stretch Credulity, Some Say.”

CBS and CNN have finally gotten around to running reports that pretty much state outright that Palin is lying about the bridge. ABC’s Jake Tapper plainly called out the “truth squad” on the lipstick story. McClatchy did a strong fact-check of the McCain education ad. But for the most part, the media treats it all as entertainment, a matter of which side has seized the offensive.

The McCain team knows all this. So they consciously promote lies, knowing that no real mechanism exists to stop them from doing so. […]

Once again, the media is completely abdicating it’s responsibility to be an honest broker in our political process, and once again, that abdication might result in another manifestly unfit Republican ascending to higher office.

But this race is now a test of the media too. You’d think after being told in the run-up to the Iraq war a bushel of things that didn’t end up being true that they printed anyway, they’d have given some thought to the question of how not to let themselves be manipulated like that again. But it is happening again, and the media are getting played in exactly the same way.

Once again, the media is completely abdicating it’s responsibility to be an honest broker in our political process, and once again, that abdication might result in another manifestly unfit Republican ascending to higher office.
* David Sirota notes that McCain used the “lipstick” analogy in reference to Hillary Clinton earlier this year.
** Here’s the Obama campaign’s response to McCain’s “education” attack:
It is shameful and downright perverse for the McCain campaign to use a bill that was written to protect young children from sexual predators as a recycled and discredited political attack against a father of two young girls – a position that his friend Mitt Romney also holds. Last week, John McCain told Time magazine he couldn’t define what honor was. Now we know why.
*** It’s telling that McCain omits the word “wasted” from Obama’s statement.  To me at least, it signals that McCain doesn’t believe in “wasteful military spending.”  Which isn’t really surprising, but still very worrying.
(h/t to Adam Serwer for the post title)
cross-posted at my blog


Jamelle Bouie is a writer for Slate. He has also written for The Daily Beast, The American Prospect and The Nation. His work centers on politics, race, and the intersection of the two.

You can find him on Twitter, Flickr, and Instagram as jbouie.
  • newcombrs

    I’m not a Republican or a Conservative (nor a Democrat or Liberal for that matter), so don’t take this as a “Rightist” attack on Obama… I’m just curious: do you really think he is capable of handling the complicated and sticky foreign situations that the United States finds itself in during the 21st Century? Are you familiar with every foreign treaty, policy, and agreement that the United States is part of? I certainly don’t, and I’m willing to bet you don’t either… and Obama has just as much experience as the both of us in regards to foreign policy. With both Iran and Venezuela announcing WAR GAMES IN THE SAME WEEK, and both are allied with the recently empowered Russian Federation (Iran is part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization- a mutual defense group between Russia, China and other Central Asian states; Venezuela is allied with Russia and will be holding war games with the Russian Navy in the Atlantic this year) do you not believe that we need someone with solid foreign policy experience leading our nation?

    You think it’s wise to put someone in command of the United States who wants to decrease military spending, change our foreign policy, and more or less focus soley on domestic affairs? The European Union “Peacekeepers” (modern military, the first EU deployment of federal troops) is squared off with Russian-backed Serbia in Kosovo and the Russians are declaring that they will FIRE NUCLEAR MISSILES into Europe if the defense shield construction project in Poland and Czech Republic doesn’t cease. If war breaks out between Russia and Europe, Obama would let Europe stand alone. He would be content with letting the U.S. military industrial complex sell arms to Europe to pay for the U.S.’s 9 Trillion in debt… making money off of the deaths of millions. This isn’t the Change I want.

  • The only thing that annoys me about the pig-in-lipstick “story” is that the Obama campaign validated it by responding, and thereby allowed the media to spend time on a stupid analogy, rather than the sex-ed in schools issue that, you know, actually matters.

  • quadmoniker

    The McCain-Palin campaign is making me sick in my heart, and it’s even worse that the tactics seem to be working.

    I will say, though, that WashPo has done a better job, and called out the lies in today’s piece:

    I also think, as I said yesterday, that the newspapers aren’t doing the worst of jobs. The puff piece on Palin had to happen because, frankly, they’ve done puff pieces on every other candidate. The bigger problem is local and some national television stations, who present everything as “two-sided” even when it’s not.

  • Big Word

    It’s almost as if the Republicans primed the media to go soft on Palin. Remember how immediately after the announcement of her selection and just before her speech the news broke that her daughter was pregnant and they started to thow around that old liberal-media bias slur?. He media pretty much backed off after that.

  • Wow, EXCELLENT POST, and LOVE your sense of humor.

    Yeah, the GOP is great at deceiving people.

    They pick a black judge who hates civil rights.
    Now a woman who opposes women’s rights!
    A Trojan Horse!

    You might like my latest blog on the subject:

  • Aisha

    Amen. Nothing more to say.

  • quadmoniker

    BW: yes, they did. despite many media commentators urging them not to. Our only hope lies with Charles Gibson. Oh, Mr. Gibson, we remember growing up with you on our TV set every morning before we went to school. Don’t let us down now!

  • “The bigger problem is local and some national television stations, who present everything as “two-sided” even when it’s not.”

    QM: Well said.

  • scott

    Maybe Obama didn’t mean the comment in an offensive way, but it was taken that way. Everyone has said things that others have taken out of context. However, I would think such a smart Harvard trained lawyer might be more careful with his word choice.

  • geo

    scott, it is VERY clear that obama was not referring to the repub vp. he used a this commonplace phrase in reference to mccain having the same policies as dubya but running on “change”. in fact, mccain has used the same phrase before, even as recently a May. so to say it can be “misconstrued” as offensive is a lie if one to where actually listen to research the comment and watch the video in context, instead of going by a soundbite concocted by his opponent.

  • quadmoniker

    Scott: No one in the McCain campaign actually believes it was aimed at Palin. Mark my words. And all this mock offense on her behalf? That’s the most sexist thing going on here.

  • verdeluz