Narrative of Campaign Changes to McCain’s Dishonesty

John McCain managed to briefly take control of the narrative of the campaign by naming Sarah Palin as his running mate along with attacking Obama with a string of dishonest attacks. The campaign might have become too overconfident by its initial success with this tactic and failed to recall how a similar strategy destroyed Hillary Clinton’s campaign. As McCain’s attacks have become increasingly absurd and increasingly dishonest, the narrative of the campaign might be switching to an examination of McCain’s tactics, which might also allow Obama to defeat McCain in the same manner that he defeated Clinton.

Another example of this can be seen in an AP story which will appear in many newspapers Friday morning:

The “Straight Talk Express” has detoured into doublespeak.

Republican presidential nominee John McCain, a self-proclaimed tell-it-like-it-is maverick, keeps saying his running mate, Sarah Palin, killed the federally funded Bridge to Nowhere when, in fact, she pulled her support only after the project became a political embarrassment. He accuses Democrat Barack Obama of calling Palin a pig, which did not happen. He says Obama would raise nearly everyone’s taxes, when independent groups say 80 percent of families would get tax cuts instead.

Even in a political culture accustomed to truth-stretching, McCain’s skirting of facts has stood out this week. It has infuriated and flustered Obama’s campaign, and campaign pros are watching to see how much voters disregard news reports noting factual holes in the claims.

McCain’s persistence in pushing dubious claims is all the more notable because many political insiders consider him one of the greatest living victims of underhanded campaigning. Locked in a tight race with George W. Bush for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, McCain was rocked in South Carolina by a whisper campaign claiming he had fathered an illegitimate black child and was mentally unstable.

Shaken by the experience, McCain denounced less-than-truthful campaigning. Vowing to live up to his “straight talk” motto, he apologized for his reluctance to criticize the flying of the Confederate flag at South Carolina’s state Capitol in a bid for votes. When the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attacked the military record of Democrat and fellow Navy officer John Kerry in 2004, McCain called the ads “dishonest and dishonorable.”

Now, top aides to McCain include Steve Schmidt, who has close ties to Karl Rove, Bush’s premier political adviser in 2000.

Politicians usually modify or drop claims when a string of newspaper and TV news accounts concludes they are untrue or greatly exaggerated. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, for example, conceded she had not come under sniper fire in Bosnia after a batch of debunking articles subjected her to scorn during her primary contest against Obama.

But McCain and his running mate Palin, the Alaska governor, were defiant this week in the face of similar reports. Day after day she said she had told Congress “no thanks” to the so-called Bridge to Nowhere, a rural Alaska project that was abandoned when critics challenged its costs and usefulness. For nearly a week, major news outlets had documented that Palin supported the bridge when running for governor in 2006, noting that she turned against it only after it became an object of ridicule in Alaska and a symbol of Congress’s out-of-control earmarking.

The McCain-Palin campaign made at least three other aggressive claims this week that omitted key details or made dubious assumptions to criticize Obama. It equated lawmakers’ requests for money for special projects with corruption, even though Palin has sought nearly $200 million in such “earmarks” this year.

It produced an Internet ad implying that Obama had called Palin a pig when he used a familiar phrase, which McCain also has used, about putting “lipstick on a pig” to try to make a bad situation look better. McCain supporters said Obama was slyly alluding to Palin’s description of herself as a pit bull in lipstick, but there was nothing in his remarks to support the claim. Obama accused the GOP campaign of “lies and phony outrage.”

The article provides further information on McCain’s dishonest campaign and on how Obama has responded, suggesting that those who have been writing him off this week have been severely underestimating Obama’s abilities. Even the response from the McCain later in the article is not very  helpful to them:

Dan Schnur, a former McCain aide who now teaches politics at the University of Southern California, said McCain and Obama learned they must stretch the truth “when staying on the high road didn’t work out to their benefit.”

McCain, he said, “tried it his way. He had a poverty tour and nobody covered it. He had a national service tour, and everybody made fun of it. He proposed these joint town halls” with Obama, “and nothing come of it. Through the spring and early summer, that approach didn’t work. You can’t blame him for taking a step back and reassessing.”

In other words, McCain was losing when talking about the issues and therefore felt justified in turning to lies when behind. That hardly speaks well for his integrity as it shows he is willing to say or do anything to get elected.

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6 Comments

  1. 1
    PokticalWorkd says:

    The sad reality is that the duplicity of the McCain campaign and the shift away from issues is being absorbed by the casual voter.  In the next 50 days if the Democrats don’t get a bumper sticker message and get it out there constantly and consistanly, the Democrats will again lose, this time to the non-issue named Sarah Palin., and we will have another pig wearing lipstick in the White House.

  2. 2
    Fred says:

    NEWS UPDATE:
    Neo-Cons still tripping over campaign tactics! The US people are catching on! Lies and more lies fill the rhetorical neo-con ads! Will the new neo-con tactics of lies sway the voters?

    NO!! THEY ARE MUCH SMARTER THAN MCCAIN/PALIN GIVES THEM CREDIT FOR! AND DISTORTING THEIR RECORDS TO WIN VOTES WILL ONLY PROVE THEY ARE LIARS AND INCOMPETENT TO LEAD!

  3. 3
    B. Wishnau says:

    As yesterday was the 7th anniversary of 9/11, I wanted to tell you about a book a read a few weeks ago.  The title is “Second Wave” and it is a real eye opener.  The fictional story is about how easy it would be for terrorists to hit us again. The author is J.P. Spanik, Jr.  I purchased my copy direct from the publisher at PublishAmerica. com  You have to read it because there is no b.s.  It gets straight to the point.

  4. 4
    Jerry says:

    B. Wishnau –
    While I haven’t read “Second Wave” (though now I will) I have kept up on the topic quite well.  The recent poll that showed about 2/3 of Americans don’t believe we’ll be attacked again is disturbing.
    This is exactly why we need Obama/Biden in there making smart moves, not just reacting and never being one step ahead. We’ve been lucky over the last 7 years and only those of us who have some understanding of the porosity of our defenses understand that – and even we are probably being naive.

  5. 5
    Jerry says:

    What’s up with http://www.rasmussenreports.com/?  Their main page looks like McCain’s campaign page.  About 80% of the stories seem to be about McCain moving up in this or that poll and his picture and ads are plastered all over the place!
    If it’s intentional, McCain’s campaign is doing a much better job than Obama’s right now.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    McCain took a slight lead today but they have otherwise been very close recently. Rasmussen does have a reputation for being pro-Republican but perhaps other days will look different–such as when Obama retakes the lead in all the polls.

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