Wednesday, September 24, 2008

1984's Big Lie Typifies 2008 Campaign

We live in the Age of the Big Lie.

George Orwell saw it coming, but it took a couple of decades longer than he thought. Somehow, it seems appropriate that Ronald Reagan was president in 1984, because his administration gave voice to the Orwellian view:

“To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it is becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed…”

In those days, it came in the form of the solemn promise that Americans could somehow have it all – and all while cutting taxes. In the end, it set in motion policies that would begin the greatest concentration of wealth and the greatest income disparity in history, all while creating more national debt that all previous U.S. presidents combined.


And yet, today, looking back, it almost looks quaintly naïve, compared to today’s default to The Big Lie. It’s never seemed as obvious as in the current presidential campaign season. Never have so many talking heads and candidates looked directly into the camera and lied – about each other, about the impact of their programs and about the ultimate beneficiaries of their policies.

It has become so blatant that both political parties have now abandoned politic-speak of the past when they talked about “untruths,” “misstatements” and “falsehoods.” Bluntness has been forced to the surface with both parties using the “l word” in responses to unsavory political ads that harken back to the tone of the campaign between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

Jefferson supporters described Adams as a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” In a counter attack, Adams’ advocates called Jefferson “mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw (and) sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

Political Nostalgia

Things did eventually calm down with Jefferson being accused of being an atheist and a coward and Adams called a fool and a criminal. In a portent of things to come, Jefferson even hired a hatchet man to slur Adams, but without admitting that he was paying him.

It all seems nostalgic compared to what voters are subjected to today, as parades of talking heads on endless news programs repeat mindless talking points with a total absence of self-consciousness. The fact that the exact same talking points can shift back and forth between political parties (in what we affectionately call the “Bay Buchanan Syndrome”), depending on who’s in power, speaks to utter lack of honesty, not to mention consistency, in contemporary political discourse.

Ads today say that Senator John McCain favors a 100-year war while his campaign suggests that Senator Barack Obama’s only achievement in education was teaching sex education to kindergartners.

Lying For A Living

Both are unmistakably lies and becoming common place. has rated 22 statements and ads from Sen. McCain as barely true, 23 as false, and 6 as “pants on fire” false. For Sen. Obama, 14 have been rated as barely true, 18 false and 1 “pants on fire” false.

We deserve better, and yet the Big Lie rolls on:

“This $700 billion buy-out is to protect Main Street, not Wall Street.”

“He (Sen. Obama) will raise middle class taxes and the taxes of small businesses.”

“It is in the national interest to cut taxes in times of economic uncertainty to jump start the economy.”

“Reasonable people can disagree about the conduct of the war, but it is irresponsible for Democrats to now claim that we misled them and the American people…Saddam Hussein was a threat.”

Boundless Manipulations

The degree of manipulative distortion today seems to know no bounds, and at times, the war on terrorism appears more accurately to be a war on reason. It appeals to a vein of anti-intellectualism and delivers up the kind of simplistic answers in a complex world that too many people find comfort in.

Jingoism is an American tradition, but it’s hard to think of an era when the truth has been as effectively dispatched in pursuit of political gain. In his undisclosed location, it’s likely that the vice-president is still muttering that there’s a direct link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

On the domestic front, tax cuts have fueled the bulging national debt, with some estimates that about half the debt since 2001 are for the redistribution of wealth to the richest among us. At the same time, the federal government abandoned its role as a supporter of capitalism to become its instrument.

Tipping Point

Hopefully, America’s eight years of the “ends justify the means” national leadership will someday only be seen an aberration, but its sibling, The Big Lie, seems destined to remain.

More and more, political messaging insults America’s central virtues – honest self-assessment – and it’s likely only American voters can bring it to an end. Hopefully, regardless of who wins this election, we have reached the tipping point, and in the post-Rovean world, it is exercised in an unmistakable message by refusing to vote for any candidate whose skills include The Big Lie.


Anonymous said...

So your just figuring all of this out now ?

Anonymous said...

"We do not support government bailouts of private institutions. Government interference in the markets exacerbates problems in the marketplace and causes the free market to take longer to correct itself."

-- Republican Party platform, 2008

Midtowner said...

You just can't resist taking a pot-shot at Reagan can you? lol

First, you practically admit that both sides are lying ... yet you probably support one liar over over the other. Voting for the lesser of two liars is still voting for a liar.

Anybody notice that none of the third parties are invited to any of the debates.

As for the Reagan years and the national debt. You being disingenuous.

When Carter left office it was $0.93 trillion; when Reagan left office it was $2.68 trillion ... in round numbers an increase of $1.75 trillion.

Bush I left office the debt was $4.18 trillion. When Clinton left office the debt was $5.66 trillion ... an increase of $1.48 trillion.

The difference is that Clinton increased the debt $0.27 trillion less than Reagan ... ooohhhh, that's a lot to brag about!

Reagan had to deal with one of the worst economic Presidents in office before him. He had to deal with the stagflation mess left by Jimmy Carter.

Clinton, OTH, inherited an expanding economy led by the internet .com boom. That helped him to actually have a balanced budget the last year of his term ... one year out eight. Of course, nobody wants to give any credit to the republican congress for that.

Reagan presided over an era of increased defense spending which eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of Cold War. Part of that defense spending was to reverse the deep cuts by Carter. I was on active duty during part of the Reagan years and we finally had funds to get new equipment and increase our training.

He also had a deal with the democratically controlled House to cut spending along with the tax cuts ... the democrats reneged so non-defense spending was continued to grow at fast pace.

Clinton, OTH, cut defense spending so much that my Reserve unit didn't have spare parts and sometimes not enough money to for fuel for our vehicles ... they sat idle in the motor pool ... so that the military would have spare parts and fuel for his military intervention in Somalia and Bosnia. He accelerated base closings because he treated the terrorist attacks on the US (World Trade Center, US Embassies, USS Cole) as a law enforcement matter rather than a terrorist threat. And I will blame the republican congress for going along with it.

And since you want to sling mud, let's not forget that it was under the Clinton watch that missile technology went to China and he let Bin Laden slip thru his fingers.

So yes, Reagan had much more difficult threats and problems to contend with than did Bush Sr. or Clinton and yet Clinton still almost managed to increase the debt by the same amount.

I used to call the republicans: democrats-lite.

But now, after the spending by Bush and company ... especially the domestic spend that would make Clinton drool, I can call the democrats: republicans-lite.

The question is whether the republicans are the party of small gov't or the party of "not quite as big as the democrats" gov't.

At least Clinton was somewhat of a moderate - especially compared to Obama. If McCain is going to continue to spend like Bush, then you have a choice between tweedle dee and tweedle dum ... one republocrat or the other.

Which is why I vote 3rd party. I refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils ... a vote for the lesser of two evils is still a vote for evil.

Smart City Consulting said...

Reagan apologists are infinitely interesting, because he laid the foundation for the crumbling of our values, the disinvestment in our cities, and the greatest disparity in incomes in world history.

Also, his prosperity by charge card policies created more debt in eight years than all previous presidents combined.

We admit it. We are no Reagan acolytes and no keepers of the mythology that has overtaken reality.

Zippy the giver said...

I wish you could read your information without bias and seek a reasonable conclusion that is nonpartisan yourself, SMC, but it seems you have drawn your own line in the sand. That makes your stance on quite a few thing disingenuous.
In your non-Reagan acolyte status you have refused to rebuke a certain party or any member as if they are saints.
That makes no sense.

Anonymous said...

Our current two party system is broken and facilitates the mess you see in the current Presidential race.

Everyone that personally knows Sens McCain and Obama would have called you an outright lier if you told them 2 years ago that this race would come to what you see now. Any Presidential candidate and eventual winner on either side of the aisle ends up a different person than they were going into the race.

The only change we will see in January is a different person in the White House. People who count on either candidate to become a "miracle worker" or "messiah" will be extremely dissapointed. Of course, most apologist on either side will spin the record and brag about the greatness of their candidate. All the while, Americans will be left to swallow another dose of politics as usual.

Hold on for the ride!

Smart City Consulting said...


Every one has a context in which their experience, the beliefs and their principles converge, and our opinions are born out of it. We have never denied that when it comes to our blog, but some Democrats have complained that we seem to criticize them more than the other party, so we guess everything is in the end in the eye of the beholder.


Zippy the giver said...

SMC, I've never seen that on this blog.

Midtowner said...

There's no need to apologize for Reagan. He was a great president.

He was the last republocrat I voted for in a presidential race. He wasn't perfect but he was much better than many who came before and all that have come after him. And I doubt if either of the two republocrats running in this election will be anywhere near as good.

Anon 9:55 - looks like a majority of the republican in the house held true that their platform ... that's rarity but I'll give credit where credit is due. For once they all didn't fold like a house of cards.

Anonymous said...

If Reagan is the standard for greatness, it gives Benjamin Harrison heirs hope.