If you’ve been watching the campaign action the past couple of weeks, you’ve heard dozens of Democratic attacks on John McCain. Some are legitimate, some are not.
One that caught my eye was the claim that McCain advocates “100 years of war” in Iraq. I know he’s hawkish, but that one didn’t smell right. So I went to Youtube and saw McCain’s exchange with a voter in one of the primary states. It seemed pretty clear to me that he was not advocating a century more of IEDs and fighting in Fallujah, but was talking about maintaining some kind of American presence in the Middle East, as we do now with former enemies like Japan and Germany.
I asked several discerning friends of various political stripes to watch the video and tell me what they thought Mccain was saying. Here are five of the responses to the question: Is he advocating endless war, or an American presence?
*Sorry I missed responding to your email in a timely fashion. My interpretation is he is advocating a presence. Advocating 100 years of warfare is ludicrous! At 6:30 a.m., that’s about all I can say. –Robyn Kassab
*This video makes it very clear to me that he is advocating long-term presence. . . and only if needed–Ann Tucker
*Well, it’s clear that he’s talking about U. S. presence, not war. You’re right about the Internet giving us a chance to view the truth!–Dennis Chamberlain
*Long-term presence. He even states a couple of times that what Americans don’t like is the loss of life, so it couldn’t be a 100-year war statement. Nice try, Democrats. I must say, though, that the #1 reason people (including me!) are not going to vote for McCain is that he’s in no hurry to exit Iraq. At this point Obama’s my choice. We didn’t vote in the primaries because we’re not registered Democrats, but we’ll be voting in November. — Brenda Chamberlain.
As for myself, I agree with the panel above, so we’re 6-for6. There may be dozens of reason to vote against McCain, but this statement is not one of them.
Why focus on this one distortion, a mere snowflake in the blizzard to come? Several reasons: First, I like to work by microcosm, looking at something small and within our grasp before moving to larger generalizations.
Second, the YouTube video makes it relatively easy to get the evidence and form our own opinion, whereas charges about X’s alleged refusal to restore a 3.7% cost-of-living adjustment to the Medicare Part B section of the 1999 Supplemental Financing Act are harder to pin down.
Third, there is deliberate lying here. The people making these charges are educated, well-informed people with large staffs whose members have all watched the same video we watched, and know the same facts we know, but they lied anyway.
True, this happens every day, but it’s rare to see it so nakedly displayed. As I go through the months leading to the November election, this experience will continue to inform my thinking about the tactics used by all sides. Since his involvement with the Keating Five scandal more than 20 years ago, McCain has cultivated an image of being above petty lying for advantage–but how much above? It will be interesting to see if his campaign stoops to the same kind of win-at-any-cost tactics.
One indication he might: In his 2000 run, he pandered to the religious right in Southern states. One indication he might not: When a right-wing talk jock at one of his recent rallies beat up on Obama, repeatedly calling him “Barack Hussein Obama,” McCain went out of his way to apologize, denounced the man and said he didn’t want support from people who did such things.
One closing thought, to be continued: The deliberate dishonesty in the “100-Year War” charge is the very thing that turns so many people off on politics. They just see it as a hopeless mosh pit of lies and smears, so they want nothing to do with it. They’ve made their decision to avoid the slime even if it means having not even a small voice in the political process. (Bumper sticker: “Avoiding the Slime.”)
For those of us who can’t see abdicating that way, what do we do? Do we say, “I’ll back the one who lies the least?” (There’s a great T-shirt.) Do we convince ourselves that our cause is so important that bad means justify our good ends? How important would a cause have to be in order for us to say that success justifies any means at all? More on this another time.