Mendacity, Ignorance, and Misdirection

Andrew Sullivan alerted me to two recent posts of interests to fans of Orwell and political language.  Each demonstrates how mendacity flourishes in this age of truthiness.  Each may be found at Mr. Sullivan’s “The Daily Dish” on 12 January 2010.

Vignette #1

Jan 12 2010, 10:52 am by Chris Good

McCain: “I Wouldn’t Know” About Palin Vetting Process

John McCain does not want to talk about the 2008 presidential election, or any of the intrigue that’s followed–a fact he made clear in an interview with Matt Lauer this morning on “Today,” in which he said he “wouldn’t know” whether reporting on his vice-presidential vetting efforts was accurate.

Asked by Lauer whether Hark Halperin and John Heileman, authors of the new ’08 campaign book “Game Change,” were accurate in reporting that the vetting of Sarah Palin was woefully inadequate–that no one on the McCain team had talked to her husband or political enemies–McCain said that he wouldn’t know whether that was accurate. Here’s how the exchange went:

Lauer: One [item reported in “Game Change”] is that your vetting process for Governor Palin, before choosing her as your running mate, was wholly inadequate. From page 363, it says, and I’m combining two quotes here, in judging Palin, ‘was relying on vetting so hasty and haphazard it barely merited the name.’ ‘No one had interviewed her husband, no one had spoken to her political enemies, no vetters had descended on Alaska.’ Is it a fair assessment?

McCain: I wouldn’t know. The fact is that I’m proud of Sarah Palin, I’m proud of the campaign we waged, she energized our party, she will be a major factor in American politics in the future, and I’m proud of our campaign–

As the candidate, one would assume McCain was aware of, if not so directly involved in, the vice presidential vetting process; it’s unclear from his comments to Lauer whether he simply delegated the vetting process and took a hands-off approach, or whether he just doesn’t want to talk about the campaign–though, in either case, the latter appears to be true. After a mildly contentious exchange over the importance of revisiting 2008, Lauer asks McCain what he meant by “I wouldn’t know”:

Matt: But your comment that you just said, “I wouldn’t know,” is somewhat surprising to me. You were the presidential candidate.

McCain: Look, I wouldn’t know what the sources are, nor care. I do know–I do know that I’m proud of my campaign, I’m proud of Sarah Palin, I’m proud of the job that we did, and I will always be grateful for having her has my running mate and the support we got from millions of Americans. Okay? I am not gonna spend time looking back over what happened over a year ago when we’ve got two wars to fight, 10 percent unemployment in my state, and things to do. I’m sorry, you’ll have to get others to comment on it.

Confronted with his and his campaign’s recklessness both with the Vice-Presidential nomination and with the truth, McCain professes ignorance and pride.  Indeed, McCain proudly pronounces himself ignorant of the processes by which his own campaign risked a presidency for Sarah Palin.  Having belched his pride in his own ignorance, McCain then repeats talking points about his campaign and direct audiences to Obama’s shortcomings.

Classic 21st century blather!

Vignette #2

Andrew draws more mendacity and ignorance from Margaret Talbot’s recent New Yorker article about Proposition 8 in California.  It appears to be one thing to ask an attorney of reputation to serve up the shibboleths of ignorant, bigoted traditionalists.  It seems to be another to ask him to debase himself in front of a judge.

… one of the arguments that the anti-gay-marriage side has increasingly turned to outside the courtroom is that allowing same-sex marriage would hurt heterosexual marriage. At the pretrial hearing, Judge Walker kept asking Charles Cooper, the lawyer defending Proposition 8, how exactly it did so. “I’m asking you to tell me,” he said at last, “how it would harm opposite-sex marriages.”

“All right,” Cooper said.

“All right,” Walker said. “Let’s play on the same playing field for once.” There was a pause—it seemed like a long one to people in the courtroom, though it was probably only a few seconds. And Cooper said, “Your Honor, my answer is: I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Mr. Cooper understandably decides not to shoot his credibility with the court at an early juncture.  He gets credit with yahoos for repeating their shibboleth in the courtroom.  He retains credit with the judge by declining to attempt a defense of that shibboleth in the courtroom.


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