Wednesday, September 10, 2008

When Does the Truth Matter? Does Obama really want to teach sex ed to your 5 year old?

I strive to find out what the data say because I value truth above most else. The Church is supposed to be "the pillar and support of truth" (1 Timothy 3:15).
However, Truth is always the first casualty of war and political campaigns.

McCain and Obama have enough clear differences, so why does one feel the need to lie about the other? Because it's effective. Elections are decided on character rather than issues, so smear the character and win the election.

The problem I have is that many that are putting out the lies these past 2 weeks claim to be evangelical Christians. Those who engage in this kind of misinformation would tell you that "the ends justify the means." That's fine for people who don't answer to a higher authority, but Scripture makes it clear that the ends never justify the means. The means tend to be what matter, the ends are in God's hand.

My position on Truth and fact-checking, sadly, puts me at odds with the majority of my peers.

I started this post a couple days ago, but today liberal Paul Krugman sums up the situation well. When a godless liberal like Krugman accurately calls you out for lying then you've essentially lost your salt.

It's also bad when a godless, perverse man (warning extreme profanity) like Bill O'Reilly is held up by Christians as a hero. Google "Bill O'reilly apologizes" and you'll get a long list of untrue things he's said and later apologized for. Remember Matthew 12:36-37 and 15:11.

Monday, it was the McCain camp demanding an apology for a "disgraceful" remark about Sarah Palin, when Obama wasn't talking about Palin (YouTube clip) and was actually quite complimentary of her. YouTube clip Sean Hannity and FoxNews made a big deal about how "shameful" Obama was. It was all a lie.
McCain said the exact same thing about Hillary Clinton's health care proposals last year... with no apology.

Then, it was McCain's ads resurrecting last year's issue that Obama endorsed legislation that would teach comprehensive sex education to kindergartners in Illinois. The Wall Street Journal echoed the ads. Here is the original bill , which was never passed (click "Full Text").
It's your standard sex education guideline. "Students will be taught about statistics, health issues, abstinence, etc..." It was amended to be from 6 to 12th grades to K through 12th grades, and I assume Obama was instrumental in that amendment. But it specifies "age-appropriate" curriculum.
I remember in 1st grade we had a lesson on inappropriate touching and were told what to do if a stranger or relative ever touched us in a way we didn't like. This bill would provide the same training to kindergartners as 1st graders. Every parent has to sign a permission slip to permit their child to participate.
To say Obama wants to teach comprehensive sex education to kindergartners is pretty asinine. Newsweek agrees the McCain attack is "simply false."

But, it's working.

Worse, from Day 1 of Sarah Palin we've been hearing about how she said "no" to the Bridge to Nowhere, which she didn't, and was one of the top earmark-seeking governors in the U.S. Palin has since dropped it from her speeches. But, the damage is done.

McCain deserves better than what his staffers are giving him and I have to believe he is better than this. *Update*: Maybe he's not. McCain stands by all the above claims on The View today. *sigh*

I got a mass email forwarded to me the other day from an evangelical Christian which included all kinds of misinformation about both candidates' stances on issues and encouraged prayer about who to vote for. Among other things, it claimed Obama would raise taxes on dividends to 39%. As has been pointed out here, Obama is raising the tax to 20%, but only for people whose income is more than $250,000. Odds are sadly better that a McCain presidency will see the Bush tax cuts expire and dividends will then be taxed up to 39% for everyone.

I hate it when Christians forward un-truths to other Christians, whether it's something they heard on Oprah or something they haven't fact-checked themselves.

On cue, 10 minutes ago I got another mass email forwarded to every employee at my university with this YouTube clip whose commentator claims Obama is mocking Scripture. The clip is an ad set to air in key battle ground states. But, here is the full text of the speech. I highly encourage reading it as it's pretty intelligent. Obama is wrestling with the dilemma of James Dobson's conservativism vs. Al Sharpton's black liberation theology and responding to Alan Keyes' claim that "Jesus wouldn't vote for Obama."

McCain can run on his own merits, character, and the strength of his own policy proposals. It sickens me that so many people in the religous right, who shunned McCain for so long, now are trying to further his campaign by spreading lies. It sickens me more that it's probably why McCain is now winning.


Charity said...

Ok, so in cases like this, what do we do? I don't know enough to know what the next step is. I read all of the links you posted, and Krugman's article was quite interesting. I mean, so McCain-Palin are telling lies, just as Bush-Cheney did at times, in order to gain votes, so where are the high morals and ethics in that? On the other hand, Obama-Biden speak intelligently, persuasively, and forth-rightly. On some issues, McCain seems to have the best ideas, but on others, Obama.

What in the world should I think? I know I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to all of this... I'm trying harder to understand. What do you believe are the deciding factors? How much consideration should be given to the facts on important issues, like taxes and foreign policy, versus the way campaigns are being run and the moral actions of the candidates, especially if how people act now is a sign of how they will be in the White House?!

Thanks for all your insight, Justin! Maybe I'm showing myself as a fool in writing this... I definitely have a lot to learn. Hope I'm not totally bothering you with my naive remarks.

JTapp said...

Thanks for clicking the links, Charity. :-)

For me, the deciding factor is which candidate has policies that will foster personal freedoms and innovation. Obama's stances on trade and income redistribution vs. McCain's value of freedom to choose are essentially my deciding factor.

For others it might be abortion, church membership, or defense or race, or Palin or simply Democrat vs. Republican.

Obama, however, has many pragmatic things to say that I like and I think he's capable and intelligent and that we might need someone like him on the world stage. Like "let's try to find ways to reduce abortions because I agree that's helpful even though I'm pro-life."
You know the value of growing up in other countries and cultures and Obama has definitely done that.

There are many concerns with McCain, his tax plan balloons the deficit (which means higher future taxes and less wealth) and I fear he might itch for a confrontation with Russia. I also think he'd face an angry Congress unlikely to pass any of his proposals.

How much weight goes to issues vs. methods used while campaigning? That's something I'm trying to decide for myself. Neither side is innocent, so which is more guilty?

We all have to choose what's most important to us and then vote for the candidate that best measures up. That's the best answer I can give.

Keith Walters said...

The Bill O'Reilly clip was funny, not in a truly hilarious sense, but in a sense of the irony concerning the nature of conservativism. The constant lying and slandering and twisting of truth to get your candidate elected reminds me more of a high school popularity contest than the level of sobriety needed to select the leadership of nations.

The Anti-Obama video is also hilarious and I agree with Obama most Americans, including the guy who made the video, have not been reading their Bibles. And on the slim chance that they have I doubt they understand what is in there.

With the whole sex education thing I really don't care. (I don't have kids.) But people are sexual and we live in a hypersexual culture so little 5 year old Timmy is learning about human sexuality whether you like it or not. Honestly, I think our culture may be less sexually charged that the culture in Jesus' day, after all, most parents don't have to worry about their kid walking by the church up the street and seeing an orgy with all the temple prostitutes. How do you counter this? You teach your children a biblical view of sexuality and you teach them early; if not someone else will.

If you do not want to damage their innocence then you would do well to read Psalm 51:5 and realize that they were never innocent. After all sexuality is not to be feared and certainly not for the follower of Christ, because human sexuality was after all created by Him and for His glory.

Keith Walters said...

To clarify my pervious comment I need to add the following addendum. I do care about the sex education issue. However, I do not think that “conservative” lobbying is going to change these issues. I think that rather parents need to think fast and think hard about how they are going to raise children in a hyper sexual culture. The same thing can be said about marriage and several other issues. How are these things going to be presented as viable in a culture that sees them as an unnecessary construct of the past? And how are we going to present them without sounding like ethnocentric?

Todd Burus said...

You know what's funny about that clip? The line that Obama uses right before the "lipstick on a pig" remark is actually lying. I'm not meaning to make a political argument about it, its' actually plagiarism (which is lying). That blurb, which he repeated numerous times in a couple days of stumping, was actually written in a Washington Post cartoon on September 5 ("lipstick" day, September 9). In fact, the Washington Post called Obama and asked him to stop using that line unless he cited its source, which of course you won't find on NBC News. But of course there is no outrage at this, even though plagiarism is a punishable offense at any university and has been a persistent blemish on Dem VP candidate Joe Biden's past.

The big thing about the "lipstick" comment, however, is what everyone is missing. Yes, McCain may have used that euphomism before. Yes, so might have Dick Cheney. But, when used like that, in the proximity and the shadow of Palin's quip during her well watched and well publicized RNC speech, it is disingenuous to be outraged when people take that to be a shot at Palin. And I give little credence to Obama's praising of Palin at an earlier time. That's called giving yourself an out, which Obama seems to be well-rehearsed in at this point after so many other bad things have gone down around him. I can't wait for the day when people aren't buying his excuses any more.

JTapp said...

Keith, I agree with your first comment.

Todd, I pray you don't ignore the substance of the post. Do you "buy the excuses" of the lies being told by the McCain camp this past week?

McCain plagiarized his initial speech on Georgia from Wikipedia without citing his sources, Cindy McCain famously plagiarised recipes from The Food Network, so plagiarism on the campaign trail is nothing new.

But you have to go a long way to make Obama out as saying "Sarah Palin is a pig." His further analogies in the next sentence ("You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It’s still going to stink after eight years.”). How is that about Sarah Palin?

Obama defined the statement in the sentence before he said it (the plagiarized one), clarified it afterward with other analogies and
Several reporters present didn't hear it as anything related to Palin's speech and many news agencies didn't pick up on it until the McCain camp released their statement.

Obama mentioned Palin in the speech and said that he tipped his hat to her because she has 5 children and he has enough difficulties with 2. He clarified on David Letterman that Palin would be the lipstick on the McCain pig.

Andrew's Mommy said...

My apologies.

Todd Burus said...

I certainly agree with you that bad judgment runs amok in politics and I am under no illusion that either campaign has been above it.

My main complaint about Obama is towards his arrogance when these types of issues are brought up. It is not that I believe his remarks were directed at "Palin is a pig," but it's the fact that when people started complaining that he may have misspoke, instead of coming forward in humility and saying, "I can see where people may have got that idea from" (which isn't that far-fetched, don't you agree) he simply came forward and said, "You misunderstood what I was saying."

This is a pattern with him. Whenever someone tries to say he made a mistake he turns it around and says that it was their fault for not getting what he was saying. Nothing is ever his fault. It happened when people said he was calling John McCain a racist, it happened with the pig comment, it happened with his comments about Iran/Israel. He also uses the same argument to protect his surrogates like Rev. Wright and his wife. The guy is teflon and nothing is ever his fault, it's always someone else.

He wants to point blame at Bush and McCain and the Right but he is never willing to own up to his own mistakes. That is the Obama attitude that I am tired of and I wish people would call him on it.

Todd Burus said...

Also, as far as Obama's faith, one thing he's said that really bothered me was a comment he made about the permissibility of homosexuality in the life of a Christian, where he said that he believes that the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount override the words of Paul in some "obscure passage in Romans" (that passage being the latter half of Romans 1. You know, stuff that barely got canonized and is hardly ever read). Of course, like everything else, Obama's decision to distort the Bible to fit his needs goes uncovered by the media (though I do agree with you that that YouTube ad is out of line).

One other point, I know McCain is getting grilled for putting out misleading ads right now, but it seems silly to me this double standard. First, everyone keeps saying that McCain's recent ads have been more misleading than Obama's, which of course means Obama's have also been misleading. Plus, I don't think both campaigns just now started being misleading, so if they weren't attacking McCain before could it possibly be because he was being less misleading then? And also, it is easier for Obama to be less misleading when he has the whole mainstream media being misleading for him (see Charlie Gibson's editing of Palin's remarks). Again, this doesn't give a pass to McCain for mishandling the facts, but in an admittedly smarmy world such as politics I think it is ridiculuous to manufacture such outrage at something one's not above doing theirself.

JTapp said...

Todd, thanks for the clarifications. I've heard the Obama remarks you refer to. However, I am not looking to establish a theocracy with my presidential vote, so my litmus test isn't near as stringent. Many evangelicals (like Dobson) have been outspoken in their doubts about McCain's faith.

On the Palin interview, I found it remarkable/disturbing that it took up 1/2 of the news broadcast, and then was re-aired as a 20/20 episode, and again on Nightline. I assume the demand for watching the interview was that high. For a VP candidate, I think that's just nuts. And I think it means McCain will win the popular vote.

So, yeah, the shortened version was edited but everyone got to see its entirety later.

Aside: As others have pointed out, the "Bush Doctrine" question was illegitimate. I felt like Gibson was being tough on her because he would have been accused of pandering if he hadn't been. I think he came across as a bad interviewer, she came across as nervous. I'm pretty sure I don't want her to be my president.

Charity said...

So, I watched pretty much every airing of the Charles Gibson interviews with Palin... I'm quite convinced that she would not be able to stand as the President of the US. Should this affect our decisions to go with McCain, since there is always the chance with her ending up as our Pres?

Todd Burus said...

You know, I was wondering, do you guys recall how much foreign policy experience George Bush had when he was elected? Basically none. But the difference maker was the people he surrounded himself with, namely Dick Cheney (remember all those people who said "Oh, Dick Cheney is really the one in charge"?). I think we act as if Palin would be all alone if she became President. I feel comfortable with her credentials in what she's done and where she's focused and I think it is kind interesting that people are keying in on inexperience only now.

Let's be real, in what ways does community organizing prepare someone for an executive position in government? Unfortunately the McCain camp has allowed that point be made into an accusal that they disrespect voluteer forces, but I think that it is a legitimate argument. If a community organizer messes up, who gets hurt? It's not the same as being mayor, governor, or president at all.

JTapp said...

Charity, I'd say yes.

I gotta agree with Al Mohler on this one-- I'm deeply concerned about a mother of small children (with a newborn) becoming president.

Todd, Dick Cheney has been the most powerful VP in history, overstepping Constitutional bounds on many occasions. This is because he (and Rumsfeld) have been in the strings of power since Nixon. He has run many White House operations, and it's scarily similar to the SNL skits. (I recommend watching PBS' documentary The Dark Side [free online] or reading Ron Suskind's The One Percent Doctrine).

If Sarah Palin is similar to this--a weak executive whose subordinates make the decisions--then I'd rather pass.

McCain originally wanted Joe Lieberman--someone with who would actually help him govern and get legislation passed. Palin won't help him do that, especially in light of how angry Congress will be if he wins.

What makes me really upset are that some in the Right almost seem to WANT McCain to die so that Palin can be President, solely because she's pro-life. The ridiculousness of this really bothers me. You can read more of my thoughts on abortion here on someone else's blog, but that's a rabbit.

I guess I should add that I don't like Joe Biden as a liberal. He would be capable of governing, and will help Obama do so, but he's not someone I'd personally vote for. Actually, his likely strong role in an Obama administration concerns me.

Keith Walters said...

Thabiti Anyabwile is proud of you for calling them out on the lies:


Anonymous said...

Justin, I've enjoyed reading some of your econ analysis posts over the last week or so. And please don't take this as a personal attack, but how about if you stick with what you know?

Because putting up a Krugman (?!) article (or Newsweek, or the NYT, or whatever) as evidence for McCain's "lies", or ignoring the crowd's reaction to Obama's "lipstick" comment (they knew what he was saying, even if we turn all ostrichy in our blind rush to be "objective") is about as convincing as, well, Dobson's holy writ on McCain's faith.

So Dobson doubts McCain's faith. Luke 18, anyone? The Pharisee makes a public show of his sanctimoniousness while calling out the supposed errors of the tax collector. While the tax collector, in private, says, "God be merciful to me, a sinner" in true contrition.

It seems Dobson has put himself in God's place, forgetting "judge not, that you be not judged." But whatever. Now I'm judging, too, albeit on the basis of public comments, not my interpretation of someone's private relationship with God.

JTapp said...

I appreciate the criticism.

I posted the Krugman article because he summed up what I was thinking, and did so better than many conservative writers who are becoming increasingly embarrassed with the tone of the McCain messages.
And also to show the danger that the Christian right becoming so suddenly lockstep in their support, and supporting many of the lies (like the stuff forwarded to my inbox), tells non-believers that Christians don't mind lying to get their candidates elected.
We need to be about supporting the truth, even if it hurts.