John McCain‘s is not the resume that a presidential candidate wants to advertise as America faces its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression,” writes N.Y. Times columnist Frank Rich in the 9.21 edition. “That’s why the main thrust of the McCain campaign has been to cover up his history of economic malpractice.
“McCain has largely pulled it off so far, under the guidance of Steve Schmidt, a Karl Rove protege. A Rovian political strategy by definition means all slime, all the time. But the more crucial Rove game plan is to envelop the entire presidential race in a thick fog of truthiness.
“All campaigns, Barack Obama’s included, engage in false attacks. But McCain, Sarah Palin and their surrogates keep repeating the same lies over and over not just to smear their opponents and not just to mask their own record. Their larger aim is to construct a bogus alternative reality so relentless it can overwhelm any haphazard journalistic stabs at puncturing it.
“When a McCain spokesman told Politico a week ago that ‘we’re not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say’ about the campaign’s incessant fictions, he was channeling a famous Bush dictum of 2003: ‘Somehow you just got to go over the heads of the filter.’
“In Bush’s case, the lies lobbed over the heads of the press were to sell the war in Iraq. That propaganda blitz, devised by a secret White House Iraq Group that included Rove, was a triumph. In mere months, Americans came to believe that Saddam Hussein had aided the 9/11 attacks and even that Iraqis were among the hijackers. A largely cowed press failed to set the record straight.
“If you doubt that the big lies are sticking, look at the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll. Half of voters now believe in the daily McCain refrain that Obama will raise their taxes. In fact, Obama proposes raising taxes only on the 1.9 percent of households that make more than $250,000 a year and cutting them for nearly everyone else.
“You know the press is impotent at unmasking this truthiness when the hardest-hitting interrogation McCain has yet faced on television came on The View. Barbara Walters and Joy Behar called him on several falsehoods, including his endlessly repeated fantasy that Palin opposed earmarks for Alaska. Behar used the word ‘lies’ to his face. The McCains are so used to deference from ‘the filter’ that Cindy McCain later complained that The View picked ‘our bones clean.’
“In our news culture, Behar, a stand-up comic by profession, looms as the new Edward R. Murrow.”