Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Truthiness Stages a Comeback

Frank Rich with a brilliant column highlighting McCain's terrible record on economic issues, hiding the truth on numerous matters and smearing Obama with endless lies:

For better or worse, the candidacy of Barack Obama, a senator-come-lately, must be evaluated on his judgment, ideas and potential to lead. McCain, by contrast, has been chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, where he claims to have overseen "every part of our economy." He didn't, thank heavens, but he does have a long and relevant economic record that begins with the Keating Five scandal of 1989 and extends to this campaign, where his fiscal policies bear the fingerprints of Phil Gramm and Carly Fiorina. It's not the résumé that a presidential candidate wants to advertise as America faces its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. That's why the main thrust of the McCain campaign has been to cover up his history of economic malpractice.

McCain has largely pulled it off so far, under the guidance of Steve Schmidt, a Karl Rove protégé. A Rovian political strategy by definition means all slime, all the time. But the more crucial Rove game plan is to envelop the entire presidential race in a thick fog of truthiness. All campaigns, Obama's included, engage in false attacks. But McCain, Sarah Palin and their surrogates keep repeating the same lies over and over not just to smear their opponents and not just to mask their own record. Their larger aim is to construct a bogus alternative reality so relentless it can overwhelm any haphazard journalistic stabs at puncturing it...

Whatever blanks are yet to be filled in on Obama, we at least know his economic plans and the known quantities who are shaping them (Lawrence Summers, Robert Rubin, Paul Volcker). McCain has reversed himself on every single economic issue this year, often within a 24-hour period, whether he's judging the strength of the economy's fundamentals or the wisdom of the government bailout of A.I.G. He once promised that he'd run every decision past Alan Greenspan — and even have him write a new tax code — but Greenspan has jumped ship rather than support McCain's biggest flip-flop, his expansion of the Bush tax cuts. McCain's official chief economic adviser is now Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who last week declared that McCain had "helped create" the BlackBerry.

But Holtz-Eakin's most telling statement was about McCain's economic plans — namely, that the details are irrelevant. "I don't think it's imperative at this moment to write down what the plan should be," he said. "The real issue here is a leadership issue." This, too, is a Rove-Bush replay. We want a tough guy who will "fix" things with his own two hands — let's take out the S.E.C. chairman! — instead of wimpy Frenchified Democrats who just "talk." The fine print of policy is superfluous if there's a quick-draw decider in the White House.

The twin-pronged strategy of truculence and propaganda that sold Bush and his war could yet work for McCain. Even now his campaign has kept the "filter" from learning the very basics about his fitness to serve as president — his finances and his health. The McCain multihousehold's multimillion-dollar mother lode is buried in Cindy McCain's still-unreleased complete tax returns. John McCain's full medical records, our sole index to the odds of an imminent Palin presidency, also remain locked away. The McCain campaign instead invited 20 chosen reporters to speed-read through 1,173 pages of medical history for a mere three hours on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. No photocopying was permitted.

This is the same tactic of selective document release that the Bush White House used to bamboozle Congress and the press about Saddam's nonexistent W.M.D. As truthiness repeats itself, so may history, and not as farce.

September 21, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist

Truthiness Stages a Comeback

NOT until 2004 could the 9/11 commission at last reveal the title of the intelligence briefing President Bush ignored on Aug. 6, 2001, in Crawford: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." No wonder John McCain called for a new "9/11 commission" to "get to the bottom" of 9/14, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers set off another kind of blood bath in Lower Manhattan. Put a slo-mo Beltway panel in charge, and Election Day will be ancient history before we get to the bottom of just how little he and the president did to defend America against a devastating new threat on their watch.


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