Over these past few months in the name of political journalism, I have found myself in many of the backwaters of our proud country, following the stories that have made this one of the most surreal campaign seasons in the annals of political history. After last Tuesday night’s debate, I can now add Long Island to a list of stops I’ve made that includes Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and, worst of all, Washington D.C. And in those travels there is one overriding element of this national debate that has become apparent above all else: The lying.
It’s everywhere you look. Every candidate – Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Klingon – all of them are lying. All the time. Like five year olds who’ve been caught drawing on the living room wall. I could point to any number of instances in the debate last week (Romney’s constant change of opinion depending on the political headwinds, or Obama’s cherry-picked jobs numbers and obfuscation regarding Romney’s Detroit bailout comments). I could discuss Paul Ryan’s near-constant stream of lies and half-truths. But I don’t need to do those things, because anyone who has ears and a brain has to be aware at this point that they are being flooded by mistruths and hypocritical jabs.
Yesterday, Tagg Romney (spelled with two g’s, just in case you were to confuse him with a children’s game or a real human being), went on a radio program and responded to the host’s question about having to sit there (at the debate) and listen to Obama call his father a liar, by saying that he wanted to “take a swing” at the President. Well, Tagg, as special adviser to your dad’s campaign, if you can’t stand listening to President Obama call him a liar maybe you should tell him to stop lying all the time.
I don’t mean to pile on Republicans only, even though they have been, by far, the biggest liars this campaign season (Hello, we’re the party of Freedom… That is, unless you are a woman, or poor, or non-Christian, or non-white, or are living in a country whose politics we don’t like). It’s everyone, everywhere, every district, every congressional race. Somehow, at some point in the not too distant past, it became acceptable in this country for politicians to lie outright, without even trying to hide the fact they are lying. At least in the past they would pretend what they were saying was somewhat true. Or maybe it’s just that with the explosion of television advertising all the lies politicians have always told are much more apparent because they inundate our airwaves.
The real problem is that by making lying and hypocrisy and obfuscation so prevalent, politicians set a standard for everyone else. You can see it wherever you look. Whether it’s corporations, advertisers, or everyday people, lying or half-truths have gone from taboo to normal. And there is always somewhere, usually on the internet, where one can go to find some study or another that was tailor-made to support their position, no matter how untrue or counter to common sense it may be. Never have Mark Twain’s words, “There are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies, and statistics,” rung more true. There is a new standard in this country, and that standard is mendacity.