On the front page of the New York Times this morning is a devastating, above-the-fold look at how the McCain campaign is distorting and lying its way to a lead in the polls. But the fact that the candidate is being called on it doesn’t seem to stop him from doing it. Take, for instance, what he says about Obama’s health care plan:
Disputed characterizations are not uncommon on the trail. At a campaign stop this week in Missouri, Mr. McCain said that Mr. Obama’s plan would “force small businesses to cut jobs and reduce wages and force families into a government-run health care system where a bureaucrat stands between you and your doctor.”
Jonathan B. Oberlander, who teaches health policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that Mr. Obama’s plan would not force families into a government-run system. “I would say this is an inaccurate and false characterization of the Obama plan,” he said. “I don’t use those words lightly.”
In fact, what Obama got criticized for during the Democratic primary was the fact that his plan doesn’t force people into any health care plan–government-run or otherwise, though it does include a requirement that children get coverage.
There are consequences to winning an election this way, and Mark Shields put his finger on them last night on the NewsHour.:
MARK SHIELDS: John McCain said — and he meant it — that he would rather lose an election if it meant winning the war when he supported the surge. And, right now, I think that that the bargain he has made — and I hate to say this, because this — these are dishonorable acts. This makes — these are dishonest…
JIM LEHRER: Dishonorable.
MARK SHIELDS: Dishonest and dishonorable. And that’s not the kind of campaign that one expected from John McCain. It is certainly not John McCain’s lifetime. And one hopes that he is not going to trade his self-respect for political victory, because I will tell you, it will be ashes if he does win that way. It will be ashes. There will be no chance of bipartisanship.
You will think Bill Clinton had a rocky road in ’93. It will be awful in 2009.
In that same segment of the show, David Brooks agreed that while both sides have been guilty of not always coloring inside the lines, McCain’s offenses have been more egregious:
JIM LEHRER: David, do you share them?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I would say depressing, rather than dishonorable.
The last 60 days of any campaign, even for those of us who love politics, tend to be depressing, because they get into the gutter. I think both campaigns have been misleading, exaggerating.
I think the McCain campaign has been more misleading and exaggerating. Obama has said things which I think are blatantly untrue, where he said John McCain said yes to — when you make $5 million, you are rich. McCain never said that seriously. Obama ran an ad today saying John McCain hasn’t changed since he join the Senate in ’82, that he doesn’t know how to use a computer. I don’t any of us as journalists would that as the factual truth. Those things are just not true.
So, I think both campaigns are trading untrue charges. They enjoy their own lies. They get furious at the other.
JIM LEHRER: Enjoy their own lies?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
I mean partisan people — this is the narcissism of partisan. You get furiously outraged at the other campaign’s lies, and you love your own. Nonetheless, I do think it is fair to say that the McCain campaign has been more egregious than the Obama campaign.