Thursday, September 11, 2008

McCain, Lies, and Malicious Distractions

John McCain’s moral values are harmful to America.

We show our moral values through our actions – through what we do, and through what we decide not to do. Our actions show what we value, what we are willing to promote, and what we think is not worth our effort.

On Wednesday, John McCain showed that he has no love of truth, that he supports a culture of lies and malicious distractions as acceptable methods of getting what one wants, and that he thinks it is morally permissible to distract the American people from the discussion of important topics with by diverting their attention with useless trivialities. These are John McCain’s moral values, and they are clearly harmful to America.

Whenever we act, we tell the world (or at least those who know of our action – which, for a presidential candidate is a lot of people) that they should have no aversion to doing the same thing themselves. When President Bush embraced torture (he changed the name, but he did not change the product), he told every two-bit tyrant in the world that torture was acceptable, and they, too, should not be ashamed to use it. When he embraced secret trials with secret evidence he said to the world that no leader should be concerned about doing the same thing, and no citizen in any country has a moral right to protest the possibility of being tried in such a court.

So on Wednesday, when John McCain embraced lies and senseless distractions as a way of gaining election as President, he told the people that there is no moral objection to lying, or to manipulating the American people with senseless distractions. He promoted these as things that all good Americans would and should do under similar circumstances.

However, these are not things that a virtuous person would do. If the people were to follow McCain’s moral lead on these matters, to the degree that they do so, America is made worse off. This is why a good leader . . . a moral leader . . . a leader who cares about what is good for America . . . would be leading America away from a culture of lies and senseless distractions. He would not lead America towards these things – and he particularly would not lead America further into a culture of lies and senseless destructions by his example.

There were two incidents on Wednesday that show how John McCain’s moral values are harmful to America.

Lipstick on a Pig

Barak Obama made the following statement:

John McCain says he's about change too, and so I guess his whole angle is, 'Watch out George Bush -- except for economic policy, health care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy and Karl Rove-style politics -- we're really going to shake things up in Washington.' That's not change. That's just calling something the same thing something different. You know you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig. You know you can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change, it's still going to stink after eight years. We've had enough of the same old thing.

Obama was talking about the fact that John McCain’s policies are similar to President Bush’s policies. Where Bush’s policies are the pig, McCain’s policies represent putting lipstick on that pig.

However, John McCain and his campaign staff, showing an utter lack of decency or moral sense, decided to lie and claim that Obama was talking about Vice President Palin in making these comments. McCain is after the women’s vote, and to get it he thought it would be useful to lie to them and present Obama as somebody who does not respect women.

Sex Education

The second act concerns McCain’s claims about Obama’s support for a sex-education law. The law included provisions for teaching young children that if somebody tries to approach them in an inappropriate matter, that they might be in trouble and they should get away from such people. (See Off Base on Sex Ed)

McCain created an advertisement that distorted this legislation by claiming that Obama favored teaching children about sex before they even knew how to read.

The moral crime here is particularly heinous, and a threat to children, because in the atmosphere that McCain decided to promote to get elected a person dares not support programs that will protect children from sexual predators, because doing so will put them at risk of this type of distortion. Apparently, protecting children from sexual predators is something that America needs to put aside, in favor of McCain finding an easier path to the White House.

The Importance of Character

Moral character is an extremely important quality to consider in a politician.

If you were to let somebody borrow your car, you know that you will not be there to look over his shoulder and see that he treats your car well. You need to know how that person – his dispositions and habits. Perhaps the most important quality to learn about a person in deciding to trust him with something of value is his moral character – his willingness to do what is right.

The more valuable the thing is that you put into somebody else’s care, the more important moral character becomes. If you want to trust somebody with your child, even for a day, issues of moral character are much more important than it is when deciding to trust somebody with your car. You want to take particular care to make sure that you are trusting your child to somebody who will protect him from harm, and would never cause harm to your child in pursuit of something that he finds personally gratifying.

However, on Wednesday, McCain showed us that he is willing to do harm to America in his pursuit of something that he finds personally gratifying. He contributed to and supported a culture of lies, malicious deception, and trivial distractions. These, according to McCain, are perfectly legitimate ways to get something that one wants – that is what McCain told us yesterday. These, however, are things that are harmful to America as a country, and to its individual citizens.

For a person concerned with helping America and protecting it from harm, liars and malicious manipulators are people that the responsible person would want to protect America from. They are not the type of people that the responsible person would teach Americans to become.

Persistence of Moral Values

A person’s moral character tends to persist over time. We can reasonably predict the type of person President McCain would be by looking at the type of person Candidate McCain has become.

What type of President would McCain be?

Judging from his actions recently, he will be a President that has absolutely no use for honesty or integrity. We can expect him to be just as willing to lies and distortions against those who criticize his policies as President as he has decided to use against his opponents as Candidate. Instead of a Presidency in which the country can expect open and honest debate about the issues that confront the country, we can expect personal attacks against anybody who dares to criticize his policies, and for him to blind, confuse, and distract the nation with misinformation and nonsense to keep us confused as he pursues his own interests.

Just as the Bush Administration has done over the past eight years.

I mentioned above how, if you were to trust your child to somebody’s care, you would want to know something about his moral character. If he has a long history of caring for children and protecting him, you would count that in his favor. However, if, in the last couple of years he has become malicious and abusive, this is far more important in knowing what his moral character is today.

When it comes to trusting our country to McCain, we need to pay far more attention to what he has done recently than to what he did several years ago. Today, McCain is somebody who will harm America by promoting lies and malicious deceptions as a way of getting what one wants. Today, McCain is somebody who would leave the country in the hands of an arrogant and ignorant leader who thinks that she can get her instructions straight from God in case of his death. Today, McCain is somebody who shows us over and over again that, instead of being somebody who is eager to protect America from harm, he is willing to be the author of that harm in order to obtain something that he finds personally gratifying.


A person who embraces lies and malicious manipulation is not only unqualified to be President. He does not even make a good citizen.

What type of neighbors and co-workers would you rather share your community with?

Do you want to live and work in a community surrounded by liars and malicious deceivers? If you do, then you will live in a community where you cannot trust what anybody says, and where nobody gives a second thought to distorting the truth or distracting you with made-up trivialities into doing what benefits them at your expense.

Or would you rather live in a community where you can trust your neighbor, and where they will deal with you with honesty, integrity, and respect?

When we act, we lead by example. When McCain acts, he leads by example. But where is he leading us? He is leading us further into a culture of lies, malicious manipulation, and distraction away from an intelligent discussion of real issues. He is promoting the type of community where these vices are accepted. And where a culture accepts these practices we can expect more and more people to engage in them.


Once upon a time an honorable McCain was willing to protect and care for America. Once upon a time, he was somebody that we could have trusted with our country. But that McCain is not running for office today. The McCain that is running or office is willing to do harm to America by promoting a culture of lies and malicious manipulation. We can add this to the fact that the McCain who is running for office today is willing to leave us in the hands of an arrogant and ignorant woman who thinks that she can get her instructions on how to lead the country from God.

These are McCain’s values today.

And they are harmful to America.

If you think that these arguments make sense, I would like to ask you share them with anybody you might know in the Obama campaign who might be able to put them to use. Or, if you know somebody in the McCain campaign who a person of good moral character, you might want to share this with her. Particularly if she is somebody who cares more about honesty, about moral character, and about America, than she cares about political party.


Kid Friendly New York said...

McCain would be just like every other hypocritical moral-pushing religious nut that can't follow a sense of common decency because their strong faith blinds them... except he'd be in power. It would truly be a dangerous country to live in for anyone other than an extremely devout Christian. The worst part is he seems hell-bent on undoing everything our founding fathers based their ideals and country principles on - separation of church and state. McCain in the Whitehouse with Palin...? May as well be Jesus and Mary.

I don't know about you, but I don't like the idea of fictional characters running (or ruining) my life...

Anonymous said...

Hi Alonzo! I must, I actually disagree with you on the Lipstick comment....

It was a masterful stroke by Obama. It is a commonly used phrase, both in the general public and also in Washington (McCain himself has used it before). It's more than just Plausible Deniability, it is completely and utterly deniable. Anyone who suggests otherwise is easily made to look stupid (as McCain did, and was). However I don't believe for one second this was a coincidence. Just a few days prior Palin made her much-reported and oft-repeated "difference between a bulldog and hockey mom" joke. This was a very sutble, well-placed insult.

I'll admit, I laughed and cheered a little when I heard it. The execution was impeccable.

But this was just as intentional as was McCain's ad that compared Barak to Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton. That was designed to trigger subconcious racism and fear by juxtaposing a black man with two attractive young white women.

Neither of these claims will ever be proven, unless someone who participated in the crafting of these messages comes out and admits it, with documentation. But I think it is naiive to believe these were not intentional.

(as a disclaimer, I think Barak's message was an insult to someone who is deserving of insult and condemnation, and thus not a moral crime. On the other hand, McCain's message was an attempt to spark racism, bigotry, and fear, and thus is a moral crime. But I admit my judgment is probably colored by my political leanings)

Alonzo Fyfe said...


So, how would he have phrased it different if he did not mean to insult Palin?

If you are going to appeal to an unseen entity (a belief or a desire) to explain a phenomena, part of that explanation has to be how the absence of that belief or desire could have been detected by some different set of observations.

What about the fish line. Was he also calling Palin a fish?

Anonymous said...

He simply wouldn't have used that line. The fish-in-paper line worked just as well, they aren't both needed. Political speeches are highly engineered entities. Very rarely does anything get into them on accident. And at least one editor would have caught that line if it was carelessly inserted and realized the hoopla that could be made about it.

He was not calling her a fish (the unrelated follow-up was another brilliant addition to plausible deniability). However, imagine if she had within the past few days also made a joke along the lines of "What's the difference between a pirahna and a hockey mom? One reads the paper." All deniability would break down, it would simply be TOO MUCH of a coincidence. Two similar references, back-to-back? However nothing has changed in Barak's speach, the only thing that has changed is what Palin had done before. The timing and the activated neural networks speak to this not being a coincidence.

I admit, as you said, I have no direct evidence, only some knowledge of current election tactics. But sometimes you can assume it rained if the streets are wet, even if you didn't see it raining.

Alonzo Fyfe said...


Your evidence does not pass any type of counterfactual test. If merely using the phrase is evidence that one is talking about Palin, then this would infer that every use of the phrase is an instance of talking about Palin, which is truly false. Clearly, When McCain used the phrase in application to Clinton's health care plan, he was not talking about Palin.

Speaking in terms of "too much of a coincidence" employs the same type of reasoning used to support intelligent design. "If something seems unlikely, then it was intentional - it had a designer."

It's not a good argument.

I'll offer another alternative. Since the word "lipstick" had been used in a political context, when Obama needed to talk about how McCain's policies are like Bush's, the "lipstick on a pig" cliche was an easy reach. There was no intent. It was an apt illustration of the point that he wanted to make, and its assocation with another recently used phrase caused it to come quickly to mind.

Most importantly, we have the statement itself. The statement itself is clearly about how McCain's policies are a slight deviation from Bush's policies. It is a situation in which the "lipstick on a pig" cliche is, in fact, the best way to communicate the idea being presented.

It may even be the case that Obama knew about the relationship to Palin's earlier remarks about lipstick on a bulldog but opted to use it anyway, merely because it was fit.

It may also be the case that Palin used the "lipstick on a bulldow" statement precisely to set up Obama, knowing that this phrase was commonly used, and then waited for a chance to strike.

The Ridger, FCD said...

I would argue that there never was that "honorable McCain" who was "willing to protect and care for America". If there had been, would he - could he - have sunk so low so fast? All there ever was was an ambitious McCain, a man who has no principles (beyond, possibly, the desire to atone for our failure in Vietnam) and no ethics and no morals. See his pre-war (Vietnam War) behavior, see his deregulation decisions, see his S&L track record, see his treatment of his first wife, and for that matter of his second...

And as time passes, and his ambitions slip further away, the facade cracks.

What we see now is who he always was. He's just desperate and reckless enough to show it now.