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The Key Difference Between A Mistake And A Lie

If someone makes a false claim, it’s a little easier to get away with it the first time. He or she could always just claim ignorance: “Wait, he wa

If someone makes a false claim, it’s a little easier to get away with it the first time. He or she could always just claim ignorance: “Wait, he wasn’t caught in a compromising position with farm animals? Oh, I’d heard that he was. My mistake.”

When someone makes a false claim after he/she has been told it’s false, there’s less of an excuse. At that point, it goes from a mistake to a lie. It’s the difference between inadvertently misleading people and deliberately misleading people.

And John McCain is deliberately misleading people.

McCain and his campaign repeated at least two lines of attack against Obama, which when first said in early July, were called “bogus,” “wrong,” “inflated” and “misleading” by independent fact checkers.

At his town hall today, McCain repeated that Obama wants to raise taxes on those making as little as $32,000 a year and in his campaign’s response to Obama’s event in Springfield, Mo., today, repeated that “…Obama’s bad judgment led him to vote in support of higher taxes 94 times….”

Now, I won’t bore you detailing all of the ways in which McCain is lying here. Instead, I’ll just farm this one out — the claim about raising taxes on those making as little as $32,000 a year is demonstrably false, and the claim about voting for higher taxes 94 times is just as ridiculous.

I bring this up, though, because I think the presumptive Republican nominee is offering up an opportunity to create a new campaign meme: “John McCain has a problem telling the truth.”

This might even work, if there’s a concerted push behind it. Reporters may be slowly realizing that this is a legitimate area of criticism — whether they’re willing to say so out loud or not — as evidenced by the MSNBC blog item mentioned above.

For that matter, reporters also seem to coming to the realization that McCain has become relentlessly negative as a candidate. The next natural step is to point out the obvious: McCain isn’t just launching negative attacks, he’s launching false negative attacks.

McCain lied about Obama snubbing the troops. We know it, he knows it, the media knows it. McCain lied about Obama’s economic policies. We know it, he knows it, the media knows it. McCain lied about coastal drilling offering “short-term” relief. McCain lied about Obama wanting to raise taxes on 23 million small businesses. McCain lied when he held Obama responsible for high gas prices. We know it, he knows it, the media knows it.

Arguing that McCain has become entirely negative is almost beside the point — a candidate can be negative and honest. In fact, I kind of expected to see McCain go after Obama for things that are true — Obama attended Jeremiah Wright’s church; he wants to end the war in Iraq; he’s only held elected office for 12 years, etc. If McCain wanted to go on the attack in a truthful way, he could.

But he’s following a different path. “John McCain has a problem telling the truth.” Tell your friends.

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