Washington Post Calls McCain “Dishonest”

It’s about time someone called McCain’s campaign out on this:

These are disagreements rooted in divergent views about the role of tax policy: the importance of reducing inequality versus the importance of encouraging investment. Mr. Obama has the wiser and more fiscally responsible of the plans, on balance, but this is by no means a one-sided debate between evil, tycoon-hugging Republicans and good-hearted Democrats. Higher taxes do have consequences for the behavior of both individuals and corporations. Listening to the candidates debate and defend their actual plans would be a useful exercise.

Instead, the McCain campaign insists on completely misrepresenting Mr. Obama’s plan. The ad opens with the Obama-as-celebrity theme — “Celebrities don’t have to worry about family budgets, but we sure do,” says the female announcer. “We’re paying more for food and gas, making it harder to save for college, retirement.” Then she sticks it to him: “Obama’s solution? Higher taxes, called ‘a recipe for economic disaster.’ He’s ready to raise your taxes but not ready to lead.”

 

The facts? The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that the Obama plan would give households in the bottom fifth of the income distribution an average tax cut of 5.5 percent of income ($567) in 2009, while those in the middle fifth would get an average cut of 2.6 percent of income ($1,118). “Your taxes” would go up, yes — but not if you’re someone who is sweating higher gas prices. By contrast, Mr. McCain’s tax plan would give those in the bottom fifth of income an average tax cut of $21 in 2009. The middle fifth would get $325 — less than a third of the Obama cut. The wealthiest taxpayers make out terrifically.

It’s a cliche, obviously, to claim that politicians aren’t exactly truthful. But even in politics, you don’t usually tell outright lies about your opponents proposals. You might cherry pick expert opinions or engage in some creative math, or pick and choose what you tell different audiences, but if your opponent wants to do X, it’s usually out of bounds to go around saying they want to do Y. And there’s a very simple reason for that; for the most part, seriousness has reigned and the important political functionaries, campaigns, think tanks, and the media, have recognized that some semblance of honest debate is essential to a democratic form of government. Some level of good faith disagreement is a necessity, if we expect to maintain a system wherein citizens are asked to vote for their leaders. If one candidate resorts to simply lying about their opponents policy proposal and attributing ideas to them that they’ve never espoused, then the entire democratic system is undermined. But as the old saying goes, It’s OK If You’re John McCain. Or at least it was.

So far as I can tell, this is one of the most abrupt criticisms of McCain to ever appear in the MSM. In fact, it’s one of the strongest rebukes I’ve seen of any politician I’ve seen in quite a while. Media outlets are generally reluctant to engage in such frank observation, preferring to couch everything in a “he said-she said, there are always two sides of the debate” framework, lest someone accuse them of the dreaded B word. But here, the Washington Post has gone so far as to call John McCain, or at least his campaign, “outright dishonest.” I imagine that raised some Beltway eyebrows this morning.

Cable news usually takes their cues from the big newspapers. Indeed, all of the talk about McCain playing the POW card at the beginning of the past week was brought up by way of Maureen Dowd’s Op-Ed on the matter. So while it’s not guaranteed, it’s very possible that an emerging cable news storyline this week will be the fact that John McCain is simply lying about Barack Obama’s proposals.

But I’m not holding my breath.