Original Mavericks

Marc Ambinder writes about John McCain’s latest ad:

You can sort of see, from this new McCain-Palin advertisement, why it’s so crucial for Barack Obama to link John McCain to the Republican Party. BTW: the ad claims that Palin “stopped the Bridge to Nowhere,” which is technically true but functionally false. No blowback, though: the electorate doesn’t seem to penalize campaigns for deliberately distorting the record of their candidate and their opponent. It’s probably an artifact of twenty years’ worth of campaign advertisements and has something to do with the way consumers process news.

But couldn’t it have something to do with the way the campaign press reports news? Back in 2000, the exit polls showed that among the 24 percent of the electorate who said it was very important to them to select an “honest and trustworthy” president, 80 percent voted for George W Bush. This, I assume, had something to do with the fact that the press repeatedly weaved through its coverage of Gore a narrative about Gore’s alleged difficulty telling the truth, even though most of the data points where Gore lied or “exaggerated” were actually made up by the press. McCain, by contrast, has not only been caught in several bald-faced lies, but in a few instances — this business with Palin and the bridge most notably — keeps on doing it in very high-profile contexts even though they’ve gotten called on it repeatedly. So where’s the narrative about how McCain’s key strategy introducing Sarah Palin to the public and turning his campaign around is based on putting lies at the heart of the presentation? There are a few dozen people, of whom Marc is one, in a position to create this narrative. They’ve chosen not to do so, but that’s a decision they’ve made not a fact about “the way consumers process news.”