I have read some comments about how the Obama campaign is planning to react to the McCain camp tactics of using lies, malicious deception, and distraction to win the election. They are going to react but putting the emphasis back on the economy, the war in Iraq, the environment, and similar issues.
The Obama campaign seems to be missing an important point.
The use of lies, malicious distortions, and distraction in the pursuit of a political objective is a campaign issue.
The American people face a lot of threats to their well-being . . . to their very lives. These threats include threats to their health (and the high cost of health care), threat to their homes and their ability to pay their mortgages, threats to their lives and their property through terrorist attacks, threats to their retirement from a failing social security system, threats from global warming and the harm it will do to lives and property, threats to their jobs, and the like.
However, one of the threats that they face is the threat of having a political process hijacked by the use of lies, manipulative distortions, and distractions. This problem is, perhaps, one of the most deadly and costly problems facing America today because it stands in the way of us solving any of the other problems.
In fact, the culture of lies, malicious distortions, and distractions has directly cost us nearly $1 trillion, the lives of 4,000 soldiers, the health of more than 30,000 more, and killed nearly 100,000 Iraqis. The willingness of politicians to engage in these practices, and the willingness of the American people to allow it, is exactly how the Bush Administration got us into this mess in Iraq.
They lied. They deliberately misinterpreted the claims of others in order to engage in phony outrage (about insulting the troops or abandoning the troops). They pulled out all sorts of slight of hand and distracted the American people with irrelevant stories. Until, finally, they got what they wanted, and they got over 4,000 of us killed a result.
McCain’s campaign strategy for winning the election is simply a new application of the same playbook that the Bush Administration used for getting us into war with Iraq.
And the same people who are using this playbook for McCain are the people who wrote the playbook for Bush.
Obama thinks that the best thing to do with respect to this threat to the American way of life is to ignore it. We should pretend that this problem does not exist, and we should talk instead about health care, education, social security, and a failing infrastructure.
He is right in that we should talk about these things. He is wrong to think that “political manipulation through lies and distraction” is not or should not also be on that list.
He would not dare suggest that the best way to deal with the health care problem is to limit national debate to a discussion of education, social security, and the failing infrastructure. He would be a fool to say that the failing infrastructure is best dealt with by ignoring it and talking about health care, education, and social security.
So what sense does it make to say that the best way to deal with the problem of lies and manipulation in politics is to ignore it?
Now, we all know that this blog is going to have zero impact on Obama’s campaign strategy. So, let’s not pretend that “if Obama were to only read this post he would change the way he approaches this issue and the world will be a better place.”
He is not going to read this blog. He is not going to change his strategy.
If anything is to be done to make lies and political manipulation a campaign issue, it has to come from us. We have to make it an issue.
And even though we do not have the budget to reach more than a small fraction of potential voters, we can still reach that small corner of potential voters. It does absolutely no good to lament about what we could have done with resources we did not have. The only real-world option is to do what we can with the resources we do have.
What we can do is make lies and political manipulation a campaign issue.
If McCain is going to lie to us now, then he will lie to us a year from now. If he is willing to his political operatives to distract us with trivial concerns to earn the White House now, he is going to put those same political operatives to work to distract us when he is wants to distract us from something we may not approve of next year.
More importantly . . . more important than any of this . . . if we allow a campaign of lies and distraction to win the team that uses it the office of President of the United States today, it will send a message down through the next generation, and the generation after that, that they, too, should grow up to be people who use lies and distractions to reach public office in the years to come.
McCain, by his example, is teaching future generations of politicians the type of person they need to become to get ahead . . . the type of person that they need to be to be President. If McCain becomes President, he would have taught them to lie. He would have taught them to do whatever they can to divert the American people’s attention away from the issues. He would have taught them that they are to claw their way to the top with Machiavellian manipulations and distortions.
However, if McCain fails to win the White House, then his campaign will become a lesson in what NOT to do. McCain’s will serve as an example for countless young people growing up today who will seek a position in politics that it pays to be honest, that it pays to focus on the issues, that that it pays to be a decent, moral person who respects not only truth but who respects the American voters enough to be honest and straight with them.
This should be one of the issues on the table.
We should not only be talking about the threat that future generations face as a result of a national debt that is out of control. We should not only be talking about the threats that they will face as a result of global warming. We should not only be talking about the threats they face as a result of being too poorly educated to be competitive in the global workplace. We should also be concerned about the threats that they face if we leave them a culture of lies and deception. We should be going after the people who contribute to that political culture in the same way that we go after those who feed all of the other threats that we face and that we will leave to our children.
If we want these tactics removed from the political process now and in the future, for the sake of our country today and for the sake of our children and grand children, then we need to make this a campaign issue today, and we need to do what we can to point out to as many voters as we can that people like McCain and those who work for him are a threat to us, to our children, and to the country.
We should point out that, however unfaithful a candidate may be to his wife, to break faith with us by surrounding us with lies and distracting us rather than leveling with us about the important facts of the day is far worse. However difficult it is for a person of the first type to win public office, we consider it far more important to keep people who treat us with as much contempt as the McCain crew out of office. If only for the purpose of teaching our children to adopt better morals than those that the McCain camp appears to have adopted.