Thursday, September 18, 2008

McCain Getting Desperate?

Either Sen. McCain has simply lost the ability to tell fact from fiction and truth from lies or he is getting so desperate that he just doesn't care. As I suggested yesterday, I think that he wants so badly to be President that he is willing to lie -- and damage the democratic process -- in order to achieve that ultimate goal. So, I've decided to start laying out some of Sen. McCain's lies as I find them (and I'm not going to bother with the claim that Sen. McCain invented the BlackBerry ... that's just too easy).

Let's start with a stump speech that Sen. McCain gave on Tuesday, September 16 (the day after declaring that the fundamentals of the economy were sound even as Lehman Brothers was going bankrupt, Merrill Lynch was being bought for pennies, and AIG was being bailed out by the government for $85 billion). What did Sen. McCain say on September 16? According to FactCheck:

In a Sept. 16 stump speech in Vienna, Ohio, Republican presidential nominee John McCain went after Barack Obama, his Democratic counterpart, charging that Obama can’t possibly hope to change Washington. After all, McCain said, Obama is a big part of the problem. Why? Here’s McCain:

"McCain (Sept. 16, Vienna, Ohio): He talks a tough game on the financial crisis, but the facts tell a different story. Senator Obama took more money from Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac than anyone but the chairman of the committee they answer to, and he put Fannie Mae’s CEO, who helped create this problem in charge of finding his vice president. That’s not change, that’s what’s broken in Washington."

McCain’s allegation about Obama’s contributions from the FMs is not true. As we’ve said many times, it’s illegal for candidates to accept contributions directly from corporations. But the FEC does keep track of the employers of individuals who give at least $200 to candidates. And according to the respected nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, in the 2008 election cycle Barack Obama has received $18,150 from employees of Freddie Mac. CRP does not list any Obama contributions from Fannie Mae.

But Obama is not No. 2 on the list of those getting contributions from the two companies, as McCain said. In fact, he ranks fourth in combined contributions, trailing Sen. Christopher Dodd, Rep. Melissa Bean and Sen. Lamar Alexander. McCain also neglects to mention his own $9,500 from Freddie Mac.

Obama is second on the list of those getting contributions from employees of only Freddie Mac. But, seriously, neither candidate’s number really makes much difference. Obama has raised more than $389.4 million in the 2008 election cycle. That makes his combined contributions from the FMs work out to roughly 0.005 percent of his total contributions. And McCain has raised about $174.2 million, making his combined FM contributions work out to … 0.005 percent.

Oh, and that part about Fannie Mae’s CEO being on Obama’s VP committee? Sort of. On June 4, Obama announced that Caroline Kennedy, Eric Holder and Jim Johnson would head his VP search committee. Kennedy, of course, is the daughter of JFK. Holder was Bill Clinton’s deputy attorney general. Johnson remained on Obama’s committee for just a week. He resigned on June 11, amid allegations that Johnson received preferential treatment from Countrywide Financial Corp.

But Johnson wasn’t the current CEO of Fannie Mae, as you might think from listening to McCain. He left nine years ago, in 1999.

How many lies did Sen. McCain manage to shove into one short statement? And we're supposed to think that Sen. McCain is an honorable, straight talker?

For some analysis of some of Sen. McCain's other recent lies, see There He Goes Again, Energetically Wrong, Belittling Palin?, Off Base on Sex Ed, and McCain-Palin Distorts Our Finding (all from FactCheck.org and all from within the last 8 days). FactCheck.org also finds fault with some of the statements coming from Sen. Obama's campaign, but not of the same character or frequency.

And on the subject of telling lies, Leonard Pitts, Jr., a columnist for the Miami Herald (carried by The Indianapolis Star) has an excellent essay on the prevalence of lies in the campaign. His conclusion echoes some of the concerns that I expressed yesterday and last week:

Like so many other things in this country, it has become splintered and factionalized. These days, every ideology has a ''truth,'' and everybody's ''truth'' has an agenda. Nothing is settled and known. All things are up in the air, all things open to interpretation. Indeed, truth hardly seems to be the point anymore. Lies serve just as well. As a result, we are no longer grounded in the same shared body of facts and in a very real sense, have no basis upon which to reason together, no basis for shared mission, purpose or identity.

Those bases are, not incidentally, foundation blocks of nationhood.

Already the political sides in this country talk past each other like Mars and Venus. If the games of obfuscation and fabrication political hacks play really are becoming common among real people, it can only get worse.

They think they're helping a candidate win an election. Truth is, they're helping all of us lose a whole lot more.

By the way, as to the notion that Sen. McCain is getting desperate, there is an interesting anecdote in The New York Times (confirmed by several other sources):

After Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, his running-mate, riveted the overflow crowd at an airplane hangar here for 16 minutes, it was Mr. McCain’s turn, and people in his audience began murmuring and drifting away midway through a 14-minute speech that was flat and cheerless. When Mr. McCain made his first appearance without Ms. Palin, on Monday morning in Jacksonville, Fla., he faced an arena that was one-quarter full.
MSNBC reports that the Jacksonville, Florida, rally mentioned above had an attendance of only 3,000 people in an arena with 16,000 seats (the Huffington Post has some great pictures of the nearly empty arena). Of course, the McCain campaign doesn't want you to know that Sen. McCain hasn't been able to pack people in to his rallies; in fact, his campaign has been caught lying about attendance figures.

In other words, while the nomination of Gov. Palin may have energized and excited people, that excitement and energy may not actually be rubbing off on Sen. McCain, himself, but the campaign is willing to lie about that too.

When it gets to the point that practically every word coming out of the candidate's mouth is a lie, exaggeration, or gaffe (I hope to have more on Sen. McCain apparently thinking that Spain is in South America and that it isn't one of our allies as the story gets fleshed out...), and when you compound that with errors in judgment (Gov. Palin and the "fundamentally sound" economy, for example), one has to wonder just why anyone would vote for Sen. McCain. More importantly, you to wonder just what a McCain administration would look like? Why would we trust the judgment of a President McCain and why would we trust a President McCain to tell us the truth?

Update (September 19, 2008)

Just so nobody can claim that I'm trying to play fast and loose with facts, FactCheck, which I quoted above, has corrected its facts concerning political contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac:
We said originally that Obama was the fourth largest recipient of donations from troubled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That’s wrong. Our post was drawn from data from the Center for Responsive Politics’ Web site, OpenSecrets.org. But the data we used were incomplete.

We talked to a spokesperson from the Center for Responsive Politics who told us that looking at all election cycles since 1989 (the first year for which CRP has data), Barack Obama is in fact the second-largest recipient of contributions from employees of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, their unemployed spouses and dependent children and both of the FMs’ political action committees.

According to CRP, Obama’s total contributions from the FMs work out to $126,349. Of that sum, $6,000 comes from the FMs’ political action committees, and the rest from individuals who work for one of the two companies. Obama’s FM contributions account for about 0.03 percent of his total contributions to date. McCain’s FM haul is a smaller $21,550, all from individuals. That’s about 0.01 percent of his total contributions. We stand by our doubts that either candidate will be much swayed by numbers of this size.
I find it hard to get worked up over political contibutions from individuals (or a whopping $6,000 from a PAC) that total $120,000 out of nearly $400,000,000 that Sen. Obama has raised, especially when I remember that Sen. McCain has surrounded himself with lobbyists including lobbyists who worked for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

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