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.