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The truth is out there - but you won't find it in a political ad

August 15, 2012

I’m used to politicians lying in their campaign advertisements. What I’m not used to is campaigns acknowledging that their story lines are untrue, but perpetuating them anyway.

“Mitt Romney is a felon.”

“Really?”

“No, but if he committed a serious crime, that would make him a felon.”

“Obama is promising to send checks to people who refuse to work.”

“Really?”

“No, but he has the power to do it, so you have to figure that he will.”

Great, politics has gone virtual. If it is possible that a candidate could conceivably do something, that’s good enough. Doesn’t matter whether he actually did it or not.

Romney hypothetically didn’t pay any taxes. Obama could hypothetically be influenced by terrorists because someone in his administration practices Islam. So he didn’t, and he is.

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And you point out to these partisans that it’s all a pack of lies and they say, “Oh yeah, we know. So what’s your point?”

You can always tell if it’s going to be a negative ad because they give the ol’ “I’m Barack Obama and I approved this message” BEFORE the dirt begins to fly. Like by the time the commercial is halfway through, we’ll have forgotten where it came from. (Which, given our Twitteresque attention span, is probably true.)

But if the message is warm and uplifting and features puppies getting jobs in a clean-energy plant, the “I approved this message” line comes AFTER the ad.

This tells me they know right from wrong and have a guilty conscience about the negative ads. To the degree that a politician can have a conscience, of course.

Or they can disavow themselves from the real disgusting ads altogether by saying they have no control over SuperPacs that are free to say that Mitt Romney murdered their family members, or Barack Obama has a secret plan to wipe religion off the face of the earth.

Welcome to the world of post-Citizens United politics, where money really is no object. And certainly not objective.

My only solace is the thought that Supreme Court Justice John Roberts must have cable, so he’s being subjected to this fetid swamp of money politics just like the rest of us.

Every time he sees another production from “Americans for Prosperity,” he must want to do something drastic.

And your ad’s gotta be outrageous because the other guy’s ads are outrageous. So we get a pack of lies that make Swift Boat Veterans for Truth look like Honest Abe.

In fact, Swift Boat proved the point. John Kerry didn’t respond because he thought their political motivations were so transparent that no one would believe their silly little claims.

The lesson was, never underestimate the public’s tendency to believe everything.

What I find curious is we have one guy who drives around with a dog on the roof of his car. And another who believes it’s a good idea to run a bullet train through the desert. And yet these actual facts aren’t good enough? You have a man who puts an animal in a roof rack and yet you still feel the need to make things up?

Gentlemen, I beg you, it’s the equivalent of drilling for oil overseas when we have plenty of proven reserves right here at home.

Or maybe the goal is that by November, the lies will have become so stupid and so over the top that no one will believe any of it and it will all cancel out. That would make sense, I suppose. But it’s still a whole lot of money to spend on nothing.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or by email at timr@herald-mail.com.

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