[Opinion] – McCain’s lying habit

Now, in my time writing columns here, IâÄôve very rarely mentioned myself. But there is something you should know about me: IâÄôm an English major; IâÄôve got a bit of a thing for language. And thereâÄôs a word that means âÄúto make an untrue statement with intent to deceive.âÄù ItâÄôs âÄúlie.âÄù And Sen. John McCain and his campaign are lying âÄî compulsively and repeatedly. The McCain campaign hit rock bottom last week when they ran a TV commercial about Sen. Barack ObamaâÄôs record on education. It just wasnâÄôt true âÄî not in the least. The central claim of the ad was that Obama supported a bill that required sex education for kindergarteners. âÄúLearning about sex before learning to read?âÄù It was an assertion so obviously ridiculous that it had to be a lie. And, guess what? It is. The advertisement is referring to a bill from ObamaâÄôs days in the Illinois Senate designed to update the stateâÄôs sex-ed classes. The only part of the bill that had anything to do with kindergarteners was a section designed to protect young children from sexual predators by teaching kids what constituted âÄúinappropriate touchingâÄù and what they should do about it. Nothing about having kids put condoms on bananas or showing them film of the birthing process. Does John McCain have a problem with protecting children from sexual predators? Of course not. But he and his campaign couldnâÄôt resist telling an idiotic lie instead of attacking Obama on something substantive. This has become the central theme of John McCainâÄôs run for president: willing to say anything to get elected, regardless of whether itâÄôs the least bit true. McCain has a history of lying in this campaign. Way back in January, when he was still running against Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination, none other than Rush Limbaugh put McCain on blast for lying about RomneyâÄôs position on Iraq war timetables. McCain said Romney supported a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq; Romney advocated no such thing. That didnâÄôt matter to McCain, of course. It was a chance to get a shot in at Romney, and whether it was true clearly didnâÄôt matter. McCain has made a lot of hay playing up his reputation as a different kind of politician âÄî a âÄúmaverick.âÄù But his campaign resembles, not so much an independent, honorable operation, as it does the standard George W. Bush operating procedure of deceit. Of course, Karl Rove has been working with the McCain campaign as a sort of âÄúinformal adviser,âÄù so we shouldnâÄôt be surprised. McCain has embraced the same dirty, shameful politics that were used against him in the 2000 campaign. Some of the lies are silly and seem a bit innocuous, like the mini-uproar a few days ago about whether Barack Obama had called Gov. Sarah Palin a âÄúpig.âÄù (DidnâÄôt happen,, of course). Or the fact that the McCain campaign originally said that Palin had visited Iraq, Germany, and Ireland. Turns out she had a refueling stop in Ireland and never actually crossed the Iraq/Kuwait border. Individually, lies like these might not mean a whole lot. Taken as a whole, however, these incidents form a trend: The McCain/Palin campaign feels no need to say things that are true. Lies are more effective, in their eyes. Some of the lies are more substantive. The McCain/Palin campaign loves to talk up the fact that Palin is a hard-headed reformer who fought the infamous $398 million âÄúBridge to NowhereâÄù project advocated by embattled Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens, a Republican. It fits the campaignâÄôs desired image of the âÄúmaverickâÄù who will shake up Washington and battle excessive pork-barrel spending. But âÄî and hereâÄôs a shocker âÄî this isnâÄôt true either. To borrow a phrase from my good friend John Kerry, Palin was for the bridge before she was against it. ThereâÄôs an unbelievable amount of video footage from PalinâÄôs gubernatorial campaign in which she continually states her support for the project (which is intended to link the small town of Ketchikan with its airport, a short ferry ride away). Over and over, Palin voiced her support for the stateâÄôs congressional delegation, saying âÄúthey do a great jobâÄù of bringing federal money home to Alaska. Once the project became a national embarrassment and a gold-standard example of government waste, Palin quickly backpedaled, saying she had always believed that Alaska should pay for its own projects. The bridge project isnâÄôt actually dead: PalinâÄôs administration is still seeking as much as $73 million in federal money to link the airport to the mainland. But none of that matters to the McCain/Palin campaign, because itâÄôs easier to lie and build an undeserved image as reformers. It brings in more votes. Most national news outlets have been frustratingly reticent in calling the campaignâÄôs distortions what they really are: lies. Articles like the one in FridayâÄôs New York Times, which makes repeated references to the McCain campaignâÄôs âÄúattacks,âÄù âÄúdistortions,âÄù âÄústretching the truth,âÄù âÄúincorrect assertions,âÄù âÄúless than honest,âÄù and on and on and on. But itâÄôs time to use the word the language has given us: McCain is a liar, his campaign is lying, and itâÄôs a long-term trend. John McCain once wrote a book called âÄúCharacter Is Destiny.âÄù If thatâÄôs true, then a McCain administration is destined to lie just as often as his campaign. WeâÄôve seen what happens when a presidential administration lies continuously and refuses to engage in a real conversation on the issues. Indeed, a McCain adviser has said, âÄúthis election is not about issues.âÄù That sums up McCainâÄôs entire campaign: ItâÄôs not about substance, or truth, or basic decency. ItâÄôs about winning, regardless of how much lying it takes. John Sharkey welcomes comments at [email protected]