Playing Whack-a-Lie with Republicans

A couple of weeks ago, I had the displeasure of taking a taxi cab driven by a complete moron. I got in the cab with my cat who was about as thrilled to be going to the vet as I was, and within 5 minutes of the ride, the guy started telling me that he would let his cat die if it started costing him too much money. Meekly, I suggested that, when one decides to take responsibility for an animal, one has an obligation to provide that animal with the best possible care. He was unmoved.

Immediately, the driver turned the conversation to the weather and how he was "going to write Al Gore a letter" complaining that it was too cold out. I implied that his meaning eluded me, and he proceeded to explain that the cooler temperatures were an indication that "Al Gore's global warming" was a myth. When I suggested that evidence indicates that climate change is not a myth, he proceeded to tell me that global warming happens all by itself without human intervention. No sooner did I start to point out the fact that one couldn't have it both ways--you can't say that climate change doesn't exist AND that climate change is a natural phenomenon--Rush Limbaugh came onto the radio, and I told him to turn it off.

Throughout the rest of the cab ride, I was bombarded with all of the classic neocon fabrications in the book--Al Gore has a private plane, the Chinese are drilling off the coast of Florida, etc, etc. It was clear that my concern about my cat had made me weak, and this neocon, in particular, loved to take advantage of weakness. All through the ride, I felt like I was playing whack-a-lie. As soon as I smacked one down, another lie would pop up to replace it. By the time we got to the vet, he was lecturing me on the Pope's opinion of when life began and how Nancy Pelosi "lied" about that. I confessed my ignorance of Catholic doctrine but exclaimed that the Pope had no jurisdiction over me while I slammed the cab door. Exhausted and stressed out, I walked into the veterinary office in a daze.

The reason I bring up this anecdote is that we seem to have fully embarked on the whack-a-lie portion of this election:

Judging from his public statements shortly after he announced Sarah Palin as his running mate, John McCain thought she had opposed the Bridge to Nowhere. She hadn't. He thought she had sold the state's executive jet on eBay and made a profit on it. On both counts, she didn't. He thought she had cut taxes as both mayor and governor. She hadn't. He apparently thought she had fully explained her part in pressuring the state police chief to fire her ex-brother-in-law. She hasn't. He thought she was an enemy of earmarks and federal pork. In fact, she was a pioneer of both.
As Anonymous Liberal points out, Republicans don't just lie about themselves, they lie about Democrats:
The Republicans are allowed to get away with this year after year precisely because they do it so egregiously. If they misrepresented one or two of their opponent's positions, then the press might well notice the discrepancies and point them out. But when they misrepresent them all, it just becomes too much for the press to deal with and they ignore the subject entirely. Bush was the master of this. By the end of the campaigns in 2000 and 2004, his stump speeches were little more than litanies of ridiculous straw man positions that he claimed his opponent believed. McCain has clearly decided to follow the same strategy. As a result, we're going to have yet another election in which the Republican candidate runs against a fictional opponent. Indeed, it's the same fictional opponent that the Democrats always manage to nominate: a guy who wants to raise everyone's taxes and replace their doctors with Kafka-esque bureaucrats. Funny how that works.
The obvious question here is: How do we stop playing whack-a-lie and start expanding the reality-based community? Well, it seems the first thing to do is to focus less on each individual lie and more on the liar. Rather than just calling out each lie as it's told (which is still an important thing to do), I like Obama's strategy of asking WHY the liars are lying. I mean, just what are they trying to pull anyway? If they need to demonstrably lie in order to make their case, what does it say about them? Rather than defensively swatting down the lies as they zing by us, maybe we need to go on the offense and publicly dissect only one or two of the big ones in order to make the larger point that needs to be made.

For instance: Sarah Palin claims to have opposed the bridge to nowhere when, in fact, she did not. Why lie to us about that? What message is she trying to convey when she makes that claim? And what does the fact that she told this lie actually say about Sarah Palin? Also, what does it say about John McCain when he keeps repeating it after it's been debunked multiple times? Is he ignorant or just lying? Inquiring minds should want to know!

These are the real questions that need to be asked publicly in this election. Not only do they enable us to debunk the lies, they work to defeat the overall strategy of building a campaign based on lies. They are Socratic and simple but can help us extricate ourselves from the many theatrical elements of politics. And for me, these are the kinds of questions I'll be asking next time I find myself in a taxi cab driven by a complete moron. Because I'm tired of my very real concerns turned into a weakness.

PS As of right now, my cat's doing splendidly. No worries there for a while.

UPDATE: More on some of the lies told this week can be found here, here, here (video), and pretty much everywhere else. Maybe the reason John McCain isn't aware that his new vp choice is a serial fabulist is that he hasn't yet figured out how to use The Google.

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Nothing New byslag at 10:22 PM

4 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here):

A.L. said...

Good post.

Gye Greene said...

Lies: Jedi Mind Trick.

(Ooh! "Jedi Mind Trick" would be a good band name.)


Gye Greene said...


Some hip-hop group from Philly.

Although: they use it in the plural, not the singular.


Anonymous said...

Haha! That taxi driver sounded so ignorant. I hate people that say that they will just put down their pet because it costs too much money to heal it. After all, would they do that to a child?

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