Bullshit Alert! Pre-Debate Primer

With exactly four weeks to go in the 2008 Presidential race, and less than three hours before round 2 of McCain vs. Obama, I offer this pre-date primer. The Media Matters Action Network emailed me a memorandum of lies viewers should be expected to hear tonight and with the McCain campaign signaling that the gloves are off, do expect the whiff of bullshit you’ll be smelling to be extremely petulant.

While the economy is in shambles, the Republican ticket, ever focused on the important issues, is telling you to get to know the “real” Obama. One day they may even reveal to you that he is Black!! In the meantime, what this really means is the continuance of the tired out tactic of guilt by association. We have seen that most recently as Palin peddled out the bullshit notion that Obama pals around with terrorists. To deter such nonsense, Media Matters offers the following:

CLAIM: Obama has a close and meaningful “association” with former ‘60s radical William Ayers.

FACTS: Ayers is neither a close friend nor an adviser of Barack Obama’s. He has no involvement in Obama’s campaign.

The “association” of Obama and Ayers, as has been extensively documented, consists of (1) a 1995 meeting of Chicago political figures at which Obama appeared, which took place in Ayers’ home; (2) the fact that the two served together on the board of the Woods Fund, a charitable organization; and (3) the fact that the two attended six meetings of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a program funded by the late Walter Annenberg, a longtime Republican donor and Richard Nixon’s ambassador to Great Britain. Obama chaired the group’s board, and Ayers attended the meetings to brief the board on education issues. But as The New York Times reported on October 4, “the two men [Obama and Ayers] do not appear to have been close. Nor has Mr. Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers, whom he has called ‘somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.’ ” Indeed, Obama was not in any way involved in Ayers’ actions in the late ’60s and early ’70s; Obama was between 8 and 11 years old at the time of the bombings in which Ayers said he participated as part of the Weather Underground.

Another whiff of bullshit you may unfortunately be on the receiving end of tonight is on the issue of Afghanistan:

CLAIM: Obama said that our troops in Afghanistan are “just air-raiding villages and killing civilians.”

FACTS: Obama’s statement was not a characterization of the entirety of U.S. operations in Afghanistan, but rather an observation about the consequences of a troop shortage and subsequent reliance on airstrikes.

In an August 13, 2007, town hall meeting, Obama was asked whether he would withdraw troops from Iraq to fight terrorism elsewhere. He responded: “We’ve got to get the job done there [Afghanistan], and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there.” Obama’s acknowledgment that U.S. reliance on airstrikes has resulted in civilian casualties, which harms the war effort, has been echoed by, among others, the commander of troops Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan. In fact, U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan — and accounts of resulting civilian casualties — have been widely reported and have provoked criticism from Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Further, Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently apologized for deaths resulting from coalition airstrikes, saying in a September 17 statement: “I offer all Afghans my sincere condolences and personal regrets for the recent loss of innocent life as a result of coalition airstrikes. While no military has ever done more to prevent civilian casualties, it is clear that we have to work even harder. I have asked for a detailed briefing this afternoon about our close air support as well as our intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations.”

As an ending note, you will surely see the members of the U.S. military used as a political prop in a game of whose yellow ribbon is bigger! McCain is likely to suggest once more that Obama is a troop hating bastard and did the unthinkable of voting to cut off funding to them! *Gasp!*

CLAIM: Obama voted to cut off funding for our troops in Iraq.

FACTS: While Obama voted against a war-funding bill in May 2007 because it lacked a timeline for withdrawing troops from Iraq, the month before, Obama voted for a war-funding bill that included such a timeline, and, in fact, Obama has voted 10 times for war-funding bills.

As FactCheck.org noted, “McCain (who was absent for the vote) urged the president to veto that funding measure, because of the withdrawal language. President Bush did veto it, and McCain applauded Bush’s veto. Based on those facts, it would be literally true to say that ‘McCain urged a veto of funding for our troops.’ ”

Moreover, by McCain’s standard, he too voted to cut off funding for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. McCain voted against the Senate version of a March 2007 bill that would have funded the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and would have provided more than $1 billion in additional funds to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

A responsible media of talking heads would sift through this nonsense with great ease. Don’t expect them to, for example, point out that the U.S. and NATO forces have killed at least twice as many civilians as the reconstituted Taliban forces. That’s not how things work and the people of the U.S. are worse for it. As the McCain campaign’s strategy of desperation is appearing more and more to be like a internet bulletin board baiter who obfuscates real issues orientated debates into sidetracking attacks, it is important to remember that unfortunately, this strategy is indeed fruitful. I still hope, in the end, that there is still a reason to appeal to reason.

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