Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Calling it what it is

When John McCain reminded us of his many meetings with Georgia's "President Shaashgavili," he misspoke. Saakashvili is a hard name for an American to get his mouth around, so misspeaking it is understandable. McCain might credibly explain, "I misspoke because I'm unfamiliar with the Georgian language," even though he did it while claiming great familiarity with the Georgian President.

When McCain talked about the importance of the Iraq-Afghanistan border, he erred. Errors arise out of of inattention, ignorance, or inability. McCain might have explained his error by saying, "I know there's no border between Iraq and Afghanistan, but I wasn't paying attention to what was coming out of my mouth," or, "I guess I'm just ignorant of geography."

Maybe McCain has erred every time he's said offshore drilling would reduce gasoline prices in short order, but that would mean he's been completely inattentive when speaking to his scientific, technical, and economic advisers, and hence remains immensely ignorant. More likely is that he's been following the advice of his Rovian political advisers. He knows that what he's saying is untrue, but he keeps repeating it anyway.

When somebody intentionally tells a falsehood, we say he lied. Somebody who lies repeatedly and shamelessly is called a liar. So why won't Barack Obama just point to the report of the Energy Information Administration and the analysis of every competent economist in the country and call McCain a liar to his face? Why is he, instead, lending credence to McCain's lie by offering a "compromise" on offshore drilling?

Washington politicians, and Democrats in particular, seem to have a hard time using the word liar. I seem to recall some Republicans resolutely (and correctly) asserting that Bill Clinton lied about his relationship with Monica Lewinski, but Democrats seem too "sensitive" to the feelings of others ever to use such "hurtful" language. Even George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the two foremost liars of recent history, have been spared that epithet. Why?

Maybe the Republicans are right: Democrats are wimps. Lately it's been looking like Obama is the biggest wimp of them all. Maybe he's trying not to seem like "a scary black man," but if that's the case, he's overdoing it. How is he supposed to deal with Vladimir Putin or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad if he can't even take a firm stand during the campaign? Why must he immediately give ground and offer some half-assed "compromise?"

(By the way, I'm still not convinced that the Republicans didn't somehow help Obama get the Democratic nomination. Back before the primaries, it looked like the GOP didn't stand a chance -- but now?)

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