April 19, 2008

What was the biggest lie at the Clinton-Obama debate?

My son John Althouse Cohen says it's this, from ABC's moderator Charles Gibson:
I would be remiss tonight if I didn't take note of the fact that today is the one-year anniversary of Virginia Tech. And I think it's fair to say that probably every American during this day, at one point or another, said a small prayer for the great people at that university and for those who died.
Here's the transcript of the debate. I challenge you to find a bigger lie.

I mean, you could stake your life on a bet that what Gibson said was false and he knew it. He had to. Even hedged with "probably," there is absolutely no chance that "every American" said "a small prayer." Surely, some said a big prayer, there must be quite a few people who didn't realize it was the anniversary of the shootings, and plenty who never pray about anything. I'll bet Christopher Hitchens didn't say a prayer. There are atheists in America, Mr. Gibson! (Run for your life!)

On the subject of the debate and lies, didn't Hillary Clinton say she lied about the sniper fire in Bosnia? (My other son, Chris, pointed this out in the comments section of my debate live-blogging.)

From the transcript:
Well, Tom, I can tell you that I may be a lot of things. But I'm not dumb. And I wrote about going to Bosnia in my book in 2004. I laid it all out there. And you're right. On a couple of occasions in the last weeks, I just said some things that weren't in keeping with what I knew to be the case and what I had written about in my book.... [I]t just didn't jive with what I had written about and knew to be the truth.
I just said some things that weren't in keeping with what I knew to be the case. That's the definition of lying.

And I love the "I'm not dumb" part. Take note of this strategy for getting Hillary to confess to lying. Corner her with 2 options: either you're stupid or you're a liar. I'm a liar, dammit! Don't call me dumb!


Meade said...

My pants are on fire.
I know that. I'm not dumb.

amba said...

What Gibson said, that's not a lie, because no one would take it for truth. It's just sanctimonious smarm, aka bullshit.

A lie is like, um, "I didn't inhale," "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," etc. A good test of a lie is whether, if you said it on the stand, you could be guilty of perjury. In that context Gibson's statement is just meaningless.

rhhardin said...

It's not lying. It's fiction. It's the soap opera expectation.

``You soap opera people, our business model demographic audience, will get a thrill out of remembering those exciting days of heart-wrenching entertainment. Let us hope this debate can bring you similar moments. Let us now remember the families.''

The candidates will be forced to bow their heads in respectful agreement, because they cannot offend eager audience by breaking the fiction frame. They are helpless before this demographic.

As Harold Bloom wrote with admiration, on Genesis and its rhetorical strategy

``To shape by molding, to make a fiction, is to fashion Adam out of the adamah, out of the red clay. Adam is not faked ; he is fictitious and not factitious. Yet J's uncanny trope of this fashioning has become another facticity for us. True reading would recover the trope, and yet can any of us avoid literalizing [this] :

When there was as yet no shrub of the field upon earth, and as yet no grasses of the field had sprouted, because Yahweh had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the soil, but a flow welled up from the ground and watered the whole surface of the earth, then Yahweh molded Adam from the earth's dust (adamah), and blew into the nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became a living being.'' (Ruin the Sacred Truths p.10)

What Bloom does not say explicitly is that this inability to avoid literalizing comes from the description also describing what it itself is : the sudden appearing of a literary effect. The literary effect is the life that is blown into the clay of writing.

That confusion of use and mention makes it impossible to stand back. You, as Bloom says, literalize it whether you like it or not.

A similar fictional world is TV news, and it has to pick its audience that in fact lives in that world.

So in particular it's not a lie, any more than Genesis is a lie. In Genesis, it's a world that we in fact inhabit, because we read literary effects.

The criticism isn't that it's a lie ; it's that it's insane.

AllenS said...

Maybe it's not a lie if you have your fingers crossed.

vet66 said...

The Pope arrived just in time to put a temporary kabosh on the lying. Not to worry, Bill Maher filled the gap nicely with his anti-catholic hit-and-run.

The epidemic of in-your-face-lying is a tie. Both Obama and Hillary are running even on the willful distortion front.

George M. Spencer said...

It's not the lies that are interesting.

(Hey, it was a scary landing, she was probably jet lagged, and maybe she was wired up on speed or dosed with Ambien, and she's a weasel. Note that Clinton says she's not "dumb," a term Obama is fond of when referring to mistakes.)

It's the evasive palliatives that are interesting.

He’s [Weatherman Ayers] not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis."

Therefore, one concludes that communication between the two parties is taking place, but not on a fixed basis. And it's not one way—"ideas" between the two former community organizers are being "exchanged."

Obama's most senior adviser David Axelrod says the two men to this day are "friendly."

Ayers is not merely an 'unrepentant radical.' (What a euphemism!). He is a diabolical sociopath. He may have set as many as 20+ bombs, including one in a Pentagon Ladies Room. (Such bravery.) The only communication one would want with him is the application of one's fist to his jaw.

There's not a hair's difference between him and Ted Kaczynski: "We in the Weather Underground blasted away at the rulers." More of his arachnoid weavings appear on his blog.

Sorry, for posting repeatedly about this. But on the Internet no one knows you're a dog, and I'm a mutt with a bone. Woof!

Jake said...

It's an interesting cultural condition when people would rather be a called liars than to be identified as stupid. I'm trying to work this into the whole "elitist" thing we are seeing play out. Are upper middle class, over educated (as the Brits would say!), and politically liberal Americans more frightened of being identified as "intellectually uncompetitive" than they are of not having personal integrity? And what does that mean for the way they lead us? Just wondering.

hdhouse said...

probably the one the Faux Noise told about it in their commentary.

Fen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fen said...

/new word for Fen

George: It's the evasive palliatives that are interesting.

/and just in case any readers are as dumb as me:


1. to relieve or lessen without curing; mitigate; alleviate.

2. to try to mitigate or conceal the gravity of (an offense) by excuses, apologies, etc.

Kirby Olson said...

I think most Americans did think of those who were lost at VT. And most thought of those people and sent them a nice thought of some kind. Even the atheists must have done that, or else they wouldn't have even been human. A prayer doesn't have to be a formal thing where you go down on your knees and address God as Thou. It can just be a nice thought for someone who has suffered. I believe that most if not all Americans did do that.

Anonymous said...

why are we focusing on lies? when no matter who becomes president, he/she will lie. politics is all about lies. lets finally decide on a democratic candidate!! better yet, the one that would make the best candidate of the two. i'm tired of hearing obama speak because all he does is beat around the bush. he never directly answers questions in debates, and does anyone really understand what his policies are and what kind of presidency he is determined to have?? i don't think so. and as much as i would like hilary to be the chosen one, she also needs to decide on what she wants to do and stop changing her mind. but at least she has experience and has a lot more leadership qualities than obama.

Ralph L said...

Protestants don't pray for the dead. That knocks out a goodly chunk of the population. If Gibson is a Protestant, he isn't a very good one.