Political lies are appalling, but they work

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 5, 2012

One morning last week, CNN reported that it had vetted claims made in a Republican campaign commercial and determined that it presented false information about President Obama and the federal Medicare program.

The cable news network contacted the national party and asked if it would continue running the ad.

“Yes,” the reporter was told. “We’ve found it to be an effective ad.”

That is not to say that the national Democratic party hasn’t done the same thing, but to point out that the practice has become so commonplace, that even when called on the carpet by a major news network, politicos think making false claims is an OK thing to do.

GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s convention speech has been meticulously picked apart by reporters to find claims as absurd as his previous comments detailing a marathon he ran in “under three hours,” (his time was actually four hours, one minute, and a few seconds). He also made misleading comments about the federal stimulus package, indicating he did not seek any of the money for his district. Reporters quickly presented evidence that he did.

No doubt, we will see similar vetting of the Democrats’ convention speeches this week. Hopefully, they have learned from the mistakes of the past week and will do a better job crafting speeches.

Perhaps the practice seems more blatant now because the 24-hour news environment reminds us about lies over and over. Who is to say that “Honest Abe” Lincoln didn’t change his speeches to suit different audiences back in the days when news traveled very slowly.

But it is nonetheless appalling that when parties and candidates expect us to trust them while unabashedly lying to us “because it works.”