Not many years ago, John McCain tried reforming political campaigns. But now that he is a presidential candidate, he has morphed into the Kevin Trudeau of political commercials.
In 2004, the Federal Trade Commission fined Trudeau millions of dollars and banned him for life from producing or appearing in infomercials promoting a dietary supplement he claimed could cure cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, lupus and other illnesses. The FTC said he was making false claims. In other words, he was lying.
Earlier this week, The Washington Post’s E. J. Dionne wondered whether the truth matters any more in political campaigns, noting that McCain is “stooping to cheap advertising that would be condemned as trivial and misleading in a state legislative race.” Reddit.com was more direct than the ever-courtly Dionne: “Why is lying an acceptable tactic … in campaigning for the most important job in the world?”
As a Senator, McCain wasted a lot of time trying to control big money in politics and got slapped down by the courts. He – and the country – would have been a lot better off passing legislation allowing the FTC to fine political campaigns for promoting obvious falsehoods in their advertisements.
I’m not talking about claims where there are reasonable disputes. I am talking about statements, whether on the stump or in ads, that are so obviously a lie everyone knows it. Such as? Sarah Palin claiming she always opposed the “Bridge to Nowhere” even though countless video tapes show her supporting it strongly. No one could disagree she was flat-out lying.
Or that she sold a state jet on eBay when the state says it was sold through an airplane broker. Or when McCain says he will cut taxes while Obama’s would raise them even though the non-partisan Tax Policy Institute released an analysis stating the Democratic plan would reduce the tax bite for about 80% of all households. Or when McCain runs a thoroughly vile ad claiming Obama would force sex education on kindergarten students, citing a bill he voted for as a State Senator which – the truth is – simply allowed schools to warn young children about inappropriate touching and sexual predators.
Dionne rightly wonders why McCain is against teaching small children about avoiding sexual predators.
Yet the hits just keep on coming.
There’s Palin’s false statement that she fired the chef in the Governor’s Mansion when all she did was change the woman’s title as she kept on cooking. And McCain’s claim to know how to hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden. The list is disgustingly long, and growing.
If any of these claims were made in product ads, they’d be slapped down so fast by the FTC it would make the sponsor’s head swim. So if food and drug companies are barred from making false claims on public airwaves, shouldn’t claims by someone who wants your vote for president be scrutinized for truthfulness – hell, I’d settle for “truthiness” – as much as Kevin Trudeau’s infomercials, given that whether a candidate’s lies are just as vital a question for your health?
Especially disturbing is that the lying is neither a new McCain tactic nor one that shames him, as this new video from Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Video demonstrates:
On the Sept. 9 edition of MSNBC’s Countdown, host Keith Olbermann announced he would donate $100 to charity for every lie McCain and Palin utter during the campaign. It’s a good thing Keith has a lush, seven-figure salary from the network; I suspect the Republican presidential campaign is going to cost him a lot of money.I supposed that since the FTC lacks authority to stop false political advertising, all the rest of us can do is keep showing people that John McCain’s and Sarah Palin’s pants are on fire; in other words, they are blatant liars.
by Charley James
UPDATE: Looks Whose Pants Are On Fire
– by Charley James
I was a guest this morning on Inside Detroit with Mildred Gaddis on WCHB radio. One of the callers was a woman who insisted Sarah Palin never supported the “Bridge to Nowhere.”
Carefully, I noted newspaper citations along with the much-viewed and oft-circulated YouTube videos (including those appearing on Countdown with Keith Olbermann and The Rachel Maddow Show) of Palin stating her unequivocal, unambiguous, strong support for the bridge on a number of occasions.
The caller’s reply? “I just don’t believe it.”
Apparently, to McCain supporters, not even seeing is believing.
Charley James is an American journalist, author and essayist who lives in Toronto.
Reprinted with permission from The Progressive Curmudgeon
Earlier articles by Charley: