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You might as well tell the truth

Fri, Sep 19th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

Well before the two major political parties held their coronations each party put out ads on radio and television touting their candidates' positions and simultaneously offering information about their opponents' positions and programs. Most of us watch these ads and assume that they are for the most part truthful. But are they really?

As the saying goes, politics can be a dirty business and it's not for the faint of heart. Stretching the truth to put your opponent in a bad light has been the norm for quite sometime. However, there is a difference between stretching the truth and pure lies.

We are all now familiar with the approach to information dissemination espoused by the Bush administration. Succinctly put, it is tell them what you want them to believe even if it isn't true; then keep telling it even if the facts point otherwise.

So it is with the McCain-Palin campaign.

Early on in his quest for the Republican nomination Senator McCain took great pride in telling folks he will always give them the "straight talk". Implying that what he says you can take to the bank as the truth. He even named his campaign bus the "Straight Talk Express". Ah, but now that many of President Bush's former political advisors have joined the McCain political team we don't hear too much straight talk. What we do hear from Senator McCain and from Governor Palin are distortions and even outright falsehoods.

We used to believe that newspapers and TV news shows would give us balanced, unbiased reporting. We now know that this is not so. Most of us know that TV Fox News leans towards the Republicans, putting them in the best light possible. We also know that some commentators on MSNBC lean in the opposite direction. We believe that the New York Times leans more towards the Democrats while the Wall Street Journal favors the Republicans. To whom does one turn to get the facts behind the utterances of the Republicans or the Democrats?

Recently I came upon a website, FactCheck.org, sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania. According to their mission statement they are a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocate for voters. Their aim is to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. They monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. They accept no funding from business corporations, labor unions, political parties, lobbying organizations or individuals. It is funded primarily by the Annenberg Foundation.

So, using their findings as our source, let's look at the record of the McCain-Palin campaign. In her Vice-Presidential nomination acceptance speech Governor Palin said that upon becoming governor she put the jet plane purchased by the former Alaskan governor up for sale on e-Bay. Implying that it was sold this way. In fact, it was not sold on e-Bay. It was eventually sold to a business man from Valdez, Alaska, for $2.1 million, less than the $2.7 million it originally cost and less than the $2.5 million suggested as the selling price. This, however, did not keep Senator McCain from claiming on September 5th, that Governor Palin sold the plane on e-Bay and made a profit on the sale as well.

During her interview with Charles Gibson of ABC Television News, Governor Palin said that Alaska produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy. This in response to a question about one of her credentials, that being in the area of energy independence. In fact, Alaska produces just over 14 percent of the oil produced in the U.S. This is 4.8 percent of all the crude oil supplied to the U.S. and includes domestic production and imports. Energy supply is a term that is generally defined as energy consumed, taking into account power produced in the U.S. to include nuclear, coal and hydroelectric dams. Senator McCain reiterated this falsehood when he subsequently told Mr. Gibson that Governor Palin was "in charge of 20 percent of America's energy supply."

An ad from the McCain campaign in August said that "renewable energy to transform our economy, create jobs and energy independence, that's John McCain." However, his published energy plan doesn't specify any new federal spending on renewable energy. The pictures with this ad show wind-driven turbines.

Finally, the McCain campaign has repeatedly stated that Senator Obama would raise taxes on middle income Americans. Not so. The fact is that Mr. Obama has proposed a tax cut for all but the most affluent families and wants to restore (raise) tax rates to pre-Bush tax levels only for those making over $250,000 a year.

There are other examples of purposeful distortions of the facts and outright falsehood by the McCain campaign regarding Senator Obama, his proposed policies and his previous legislative record. To be fair there are website articles describing instances where the Obama campaign has stretched the truth. But careful reading will show that while the truth may have been stretched, lies are not there.

Haven't we had enough lies from the current Republican administration? Haven't we had enough fabrication of information and cherry picking of facts? Senator McCain has surrounded himself with advisors of the Bush administration. This is not change and certainly is not straight talk. This clearly points to how a McCain administration will operate.

Even Karl Rove has taken Senator McCain to task for not telling the truth about Senator Obama. Let's not believe all that we read, see and hear. Let's spend a bit of time to find out what the real story is.

As the line in the Delbert McClinton song goes "if you can't lie no better than that, you might as well tell the truth."

Alan Lipowitz lives in Peterson.

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