The presidential election isn't over and already it has been a real disappointment. The process fell far short of my expectations. Barack Obama's historic campaign was supposed to be about transcending partisanship and political "business as usual." I'm not sure if anyone ever bought into that, but it is still a letdown to see that ideal shattered.
Of course, Obama isn't the only one at fault; almost everyone acknowledges that the Republicans deserve most of the blame for this, having run a remarkably dirty and dishonorable campaign. This isn't just my humble opinion: Even the fiscally conservative Economist magazine (whose previous endorsements include both Bob Dole and George W. Bush) published a stinging indictment of the Republican campaign.
McCain's political transformation is perhaps the most regrettable feature of this election. He used to be respectable. I might even have voted for maverick McCain. You know, the straight-talker who defied his party and nearly beat Bush for the Republican nomination in 2000.
Unfortunately, that man has long since passed away. What we are left with now is a war hero (and a senior citizen to boot) who has thoroughly besmirched his name and honor. McCain sank to a new low when he adopted the same Rovian dirty politics that Bush used against him in the 2000 election. Evidently McCain would rather lose his soul than lose an election.
In almost every election Democrats and Republicans distort each other's records mercilessly. Obama takes McCain's quote on spending 100 years in Iraq out of context and brutally teases him about his houses and cars. McCain claims his opponent would like to teach kindergartners comprehensive sexual education.
When confronted with an advertisement made by his campaign that quite literally spread lies about Obama, McCain refused to acknowledge the falsehoods. Sarah Palin continues to claim that she opposed the Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska in her speeches, even though she admitted a few days after the convention that she supported it.
What's worse, the campaigns refuse to tell the truth about themselves. For months and months, Obama based his bid for the presidency on change and then selected a man who has been in the senate since Obama was 11.
McCain's campaign stressed the importance of experience and judgment right up until the conventions. Then it picked a vice presidential candidate with even less political experience than Obama -- one who thinks that living between Russia and Canada is a legitimate foreign policy credential. This all comes on top of the Republicans' miraculous recognition of the evils of sexism in American society and the Democrats' newfound disdain for the public financing of elections.
It is distressing and problematic that America's most powerful politicians repeatedly distort the truth and abandon their values. It's gotten to the point where readers no longer blink upon reading the words "lie" and "hypocrisy."
Should we lay the blame on politicians in general and resign ourselves to continued electoral deception? That doesn't seem completely right. Politicians are rational people. They do not lie for the pleasure of it, and they probably do have fundamental values. Politicians tell lies because they can get away with it. In fact, they are often rewarded for it.
Some people heap scorn on"The Daily Show" or "The Colbert Report" for being "cynical" or "snarky." But these shows serve an important purpose. To date, they are the only news outlets that regularly call politicians out for lying or being hypocritical. These shows specialize in showing archived video footage of a politician or commentator saying one thing juxtaposed with more recent footage of the same persn completely contradicting himself.
Conservatives can whine about the shows' liberal bias, but their time would be better spent creating their own version of "The Daily Show." In fact, I encourage them to do so. Satirical programs reduce politicians' incentive to lie by making them look ridiculous.
That is a laudable purpose. If a politician lies about his or her record or abandonspreviouslu declared values, that person should not get a pass. But the mainstream media do not hold politicians accountable for their dishonesty or fluid principles. Someone should. Because if they don't, American politics will become completely dominated by liars and hypocrites. And that's the word.