Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Can Truth Catch Up With Romney/Ryan?

Barack Obama has a wardrobe problem.

"A lie,” said Mark Twain, who knew about whoppers, “can run around the world six times while truth is still trying to put on its pants." Multiply by digital speed and quantity to gauge Joe Biden’s dilemma last week and the President’s tomorrow night.

Can you persuade voters two and two isn’t at least five when the other guys keep insisting it’s seven, eight or twelve with heartfelt sincerity and no proof? In a sound-bite town hall, you can’t.

So, to put it with the delicacy of Obama aides, how then do you picture Romney as “twisting facts without seeming rude?”

If that’s the President’s perception, the debate is lost before it begins. Rudeness has to be worth the risk to open a window on the airless say-anything Romney/Ryanworld that smothered him in the first encounter.    

The GOP wants to exclude lies as issue but they are the issue. Not cosmic lying in the quasi-intellectual sense but simple, testable factual truths voters encounter daily at work and in the supermarket.

Says the Wall Street Journal: “The Obama campaign’s resurrection of ‘liar’ as a political tool...dates to the sleazy world of fascist and totalitarian propaganda in the 1930s...These were people willing to say anything to defeat their opposition. Denouncing people as liars was at the center of it.”

Actually, it was the author of “Mein Kampf” himself who spread a lie so "colossal" that he expected no one to believe he "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously."

In today’s world, over-politeness about lying is a doubtful strategy. I recall the first authority figure who ever lied to my face, a dean I interviewed for the college newspaper. I knew he was lying, he knew I knew but didn’t miss a beat. He later went into politics and left in disgrace for lying about corruption.

Thanks to Romney and Ryan, that little morality tale is ancient history. If Barack Obama is to overcome his passivity in the first debate that undid the Convention bounce of Clinton truth-telling, he will have to find an artful way of driving home the message about their lies.

If he fails, nothing else may matter for the man who had to work so hard to prove he was "Born in the U.S.A."

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