Cold Fury

Harshing your mellow since 9/01

No cigar

Henninger misses on this one:

The election campaign of the 44th U.S. president is now calling another candidate for the American presidency a “liar.” This is a new low. It is amazing and depressing to hear this term being used as a formal strategy by people at the highest level of American politics.

“Liar” is a potent and ugly word with a sleazy political pedigree. But “liar” is not being deployed only by party attack dogs or the Daily Kos comment queue. Mitt Romney is being called a “liar” by officials at the top of the Obama re-election campaign. Speaking the day after the debate in the press cabin of Air Force One, top Obama adviser David Plouffe said, “We thought it was important to let people know that someone who would lie to 50 million Americans, you should have some questions about whether that person should sit in the Oval Office.”

The Democratic National Committee’s Brad Woodhouse said, “Plenty of people have pointed out what a liar Mitt Romney is.” Deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter says Republicans “think lying is a virtue.”

Explicitly calling someone a “liar” is—or used to be—a serious and rare charge, in or out of politics. It’s a loaded word. It crosses a line. “Liar” suggests bad faith and conscious duplicity—a total, cynical falsity.

The Obama campaign’s resurrection of “liar” as a political tool is odious because it has such a repellent pedigree. It dates to the sleazy world of fascist and totalitarian propaganda in the 1930s. It was part of the milieu of stooges, show trials and dupes. These were people willing to say anything to defeat their opposition. Denouncing people as liars was at the center of it. The idea was never to elevate political debate but to debauch it.

The purpose of calling someone a liar then was not merely to refute their ideas or arguments. It was to nullify them, to eliminate them from participation in politics.

Well, if it’s used correctly and eliminates the liars from politics, I’m okay with that. And there’s the rub: when a slimewad like Axelrod makes false claims about Romney and then calls him a liar, he’s, well, lying. We’re not supposed to notice that, or say anything about it? We’re supposed to quietly “harrumph-harrumph” up our shirt sleeves, meekly suggest, “not quite sporting, old chap; not quite playing the game. A sticky wicket, wot?” like a character in a Wodehouse novel, and thereafter consider the matter properly and sufficiently addressed?

Sorry, Dan; not me. Not here. Not ever.

You can call it “low-rent” if you like; I’d say it’s simply telling the truth, myself. And I’d also submit that refusing to call a spade a spade has done more harm to this nation than slinging a little well-earned mud around ever has.

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2 thoughts on “No cigar

  1. The best thing about the accusations of lying from Obamaco is that it means they’re down to bedrock. They can’t dig any further.

    They’ve used up every rhetorical strategy that exists to justify and paper over their mistakes and their totalitarian impulses. They’ve used disinformation, vagueness, post-modern redefinition of terms, appeals to emotion, black-balling, cover-ups, and various lies of their own.

    Their quiver is empty and it still looks like they’re going to lose this fall. It’s “use it or lose it” time for them; every conceivable weapon they can bring to bear has been hauled out, and the overt and constant accusations of lying is the last one, short of “wag the dog”.

    It will work with their base, but I think the rest of the electorate is inured to such accusations by now. They discount them about 99%.

    The lying accusations can only work broadly if the media co-operate in turning it into a narrative, and that would require even more coordinated effort than we’ve seen in the past. The Obamedia’s usual procedure is deception by omission. That won’t work to get the “Romney lies” meme off the ground. They have to actively push it themselves.

    If they do, they might still lose, and there would be consequences, at the personal level, from a Romney administration. Even Romney, squish that he is, would probably not give an interview to someone who pushed the liar meme, and might even block their questions at press conferences, etc. So I don’t think Obamaco is going to get the full-throated cooperation of the media they need to make this one stick.

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