Lies Of Every Size

April 9th, 2007at 06:32pm Posted by Eli

Krugman thinks the Republicans are going back to “little lies”:

Four years into a war fought to eliminate a nonexistent threat, we all have renewed appreciation for the power of the Big Lie: people tend to believe false official claims about big issues, because they can’t picture their leaders being dishonest about such things.

But there’s another political lesson I don’t think has sunk in: the power of the Little Lie — the small accusation invented out of thin air, followed by another, and another, and another. Little Lies aren’t meant to have staying power. Instead, they create a sort of background hum, a sense that the person facing all these accusations must have done something wrong.

For a long time, basically from 9/11 until the last remnants of President Bush’s credibility drowned in New Orleans, the Bush administration was able to go big on its deceptions. Most people found it inconceivable that an American president would, for example, assert without evidence that Saddam and Al Qaeda were allies. Mr. Bush won the 2004 election because a quorum of voters still couldn’t believe he would grossly mislead them on matters of national security.

(…)

The Clinton years were a parade of fake scandals: Whitewater, Troopergate, Travelgate, Filegate, Christmas-card-gate. At the end, there were false claims that Clinton staff members trashed the White House on their way out.

Each pseudoscandal got headlines, air time and finger-wagging from the talking heads. The eventual discovery in each case that there was no there there, if reported at all, received far less attention. The effect was to make an administration that was, in fact, pretty honest and well run — especially compared with its successor — seem mired in scandal.

(…)

This is the context in which you need to see the wild swings Republicans have been taking at Nancy Pelosi.

First, there were claims that the speaker of the House had demanded a lavish plane for her trips back to California. One Republican leader denounced her “arrogance of extravagance” — then, when it became clear that the whole story was bogus, admitted that he had never had any evidence.

Now there’s Ms. Pelosi’s fact-finding trip to Syria, which Dick Cheney denounced as “bad behavior” — unlike the visit to Syria by three Republican congressmen a few days earlier, or Newt Gingrich’s trip to China when he was speaker.

(…)

Fox News, which is a partisan operation in all but name, plays a crucial role in the Little Lie strategy — which is why there is growing pressure on Democratic politicians not to do anything, like participating in Fox-hosted debates, that helps Fox impersonate a legitimate news organization.

But Fox has had plenty of help. Even Time’s Joe Klein, a media insider if anyone is, wrote of the Pelosi trip that “the media coverage of this on CNN and elsewhere has been abysmal.” For example, CNN ran a segment about Ms. Pelosi’s trip titled “Talking to Terrorists.”

The G.O.P.’s reversion to the Little Lie technique is a symptom of political weakness, of a party reduced to trivial smears because it has nothing else to offer. But the technique will remain effective — and the U.S. political scene will remain ugly — as long as many people in the news media keep playing along.

Krugman also discusses David Iglesias being fired for refusing to pursue bogus voter fraud investigations, and the Wisconsin US Attorney’s “beyond thin” case against a Democratic state procurement official, which was used as a club by the Democratic governor’s election opponent. The governor won re-election, thankfully, but what if he hadn’t? What legal redress is there for losing an election due to prosecutorial malfeasance? Or any other kind of malfeasance, for that matter?

The Republicans really don’t distinguish between “Little Lies” and “Big Lies” – that would imply a selectiveness and restraint they don’t have. They simply lie about everything. I haven’t been following politics for all that long in the grand scheme of things, but has there ever been an administration or party as fundamentally dishonest as the Bushies and their pet Republicans? I really can’t think of any, except maybe Nixon, and even then there was at least some honesty in the GOP.

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,Politics,Republicans,Rove


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