Over the past two weeks, the lies emanating from the McCain/Palin campaign have become so brazen that even the most cynical campaign reporters are clearly taken aback. While lies are commonplace in politics, you rarely see candidates continue to repeat factual claims that have been widely debunked in the media, especially claims about biographical facts (lying about your opponent's policy positions is another matter).
The fact that McCain and Palin continue to tell these tall tales about Palin's record in Alaska is aggravating--there's no question--but it also presents the Obama campaign with a golden opportunity. The key to exploiting that opportunity, however, is not to get angry or to join in the lying game. Neither of those tactics ever work well for Democrats. The key to fighting back is to brand McCain and Palin as liars through the use of mockery. I realize that everyone and their brother is playing the role of armchair political consultant at the moment, but please indulge me for thirty seconds.
Here's how I imagine Obama responding:
"You know, I was listening to Governor Palin today and she repeated--for what must be the 20th time--a claim that every news organization has already disproved. She said she "told Congress 'thanks but no thanks' to the Bridge to Nowhere." Then I heard John McCain speak and he repeated that same false claim, along with several others that have been disproved: she didn't ask for any earmarks, she sold the plane on Ebay, she fired the personal chef, and so on . . . . and while I was listening to all that, something occurred to me. I've been doing this all wrong! You see, I've been limiting what I say to things that are actually true. But campaigning is so much easier when can just make stuff up.
So today I wanted to share with you some things I never have before. For starters, did I ever mention that back in my Chicago days I played professional basketball for the Chicago Bulls? It's true: when Jordan retired, they wanted me to take over at guard, but I said "thanks but no thanks; I've got a job to do in the state Senate." Oh, and I don't think I've mentioned this before either, but my running mate, Joe Biden, he once wrestled a live grizzly bear...and he won! He also once sold the entire state of Delaware on Ebay. I kid you not.
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I don't know about you, but I feel liberated. This whole "telling the truth" thing was really holding me back. Now I know how John McCain feels when he says that I'm going to raise your taxes, even though every independent organization who's looked at it says that my plan gives you a bigger tax cut than his. Well, I say to you John McCain: two can play at that game.
Did you know that John McCain will raise every American's taxes by 800,000%? I made that up just now, but it's as true as anything he's telling you, so there you go. Oh, and under his plan, if you fall behind on a house payment, Phil Gramm and a team of monkeys show up and take your house away. It's true. I swear. How do you think he got all those other houses that he doesn't even know he has?"
Okay, that's enough. Hopefully you get the gist. The goal is to create a narrative, to brand McCain and Palin as borderline pathological liars. If done effectively, the press would absolutely eat this up and would play the soundbite over and over again. They are suckers for good humor and they already believe the basis of the narrative. This tactic would turn McCain and Palin's lying into an ongoing joke, one that would pay dividends throughout the remainder of the campaign. If, for instance, either McCain or Palin were to repeat a lie during the debates, all Obama and Biden would have to do is say--in classic Reagan fashion--"there you go again" and everyone would instantly know what they meant. This tactic would work. I'm sure of it.
If you agree, and you have any contacts in the Obama campaign, please pass this along. And if you liked this post, please pay a visit to my own blog when you get a chance.