The Routine Acceptance Of Obvious Lies

THE ROUTINE ACCEPTANCE OF OBVIOUS LIES.... For all of his contrarian tendencies, Michael Kinsley can still be devastatingly insightful when he wants to be. In his latest item, he tackled the truly insane flap over "lipstick on a pig," which Kinsley describes as a "controversy" that is "ginned up, a fraud, a lie."

I know that by even bringing this up, I am falling into the trap that McCain's people have set and perpetuating this ridiculous controversy. But the routine acceptance of obvious lies now corrodes our politics as much as the money that was the subject of McCain's famous act of Republican apostasy: McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform. McCain has described his motive for McCain-Feingold as a giant mea culpa for his involvement in the Keating Five scandal. Maybe when this is over, one way or another, McCain will swear off corrupt lying the way he has sworn off corrupt money.But it shouldn't be necessary to wait for one of McCain's conveniently delayed conversions to righteousness. In a democracy, obvious lies and obvious liars should be self-defeating. Why aren't they?

One reason is that the media have trouble calling a lie a lie, or asserting that one side is lying more than the other -- even when that is objectively the case. They lean over backwards to give liars the benefit of the doubt, even when there is no doubt. Objectivity can't be objectively measured. What can be is balance. So if the sins of both campaigns are reported as roughly equal, the media feel they are doing their job -- even if this is objectively untrue.

But the bigger reason is that no one -- not the media, not the campaign professionals, not the voters -- cares enough about lying. [...]

[McCain] says he'd rather lose the election than lose the war. But it seems he'd rather lose that honor he's always going on about than lose the election.




And with that, Kinsley becomes the latest major media professional to give up on respecting John McCain, the scales having fallen from his eyes. Kevin labels the group "The 'Enough' Club," which now includes Kinsley, Friedman, Mallaby, Joe Klein, Dionne, Marcus, Halperin, and Herbert. I'd probably throw Andrew Sullivan in there, for good measure.

And for what it's worth, one gets the sense that even the right-leaning editorial board of the Washington Post is getting close to joining the club, too: "John McCain is a serious man who promised to wage a serious campaign. Win or lose, will he be able to look back on this one with pride? Right now, it's hard to see how."

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