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April 18, 2011

How To Get Obama On His Lies

Even though I said in the last post that it's time to take the kid gloves off, I realized, even as I was writing that, that that wasn't true.

The public tends to steeply discount naked personal attacks.

This subject, in and of itself, will gain little purchase, as I am convinced that the persuadable non-committed public doesn't care about 1) procedure or 2) abstract spats over constitutional powers. This is both.

So the idea is to package this with a series of other Obama lies -- about transparency, about debating health care with television cameras present, and so on -- and tie them all together with the message "What else isn't he telling you?," putting his similar promises about taxing the middle class into question.

That they definitely care about. So if you do it this way, you tie something they probably don't care about with something they do care about, and you also attack Obama's character.

And here's the clever part: You're making an important argument here, in which the attack on his character is incidental rather than central.

I think the public tends to tune out direct attacks on character with a shrug. 'Oh, they all say that about each other," they think, "and besides, they're all liars."

Okay, fine. Well make it an incidental part of a larger point about middle class taxes. That way, they see it as directly relevant, and what might be an otherwise ignored personal attack is now remembered. It's now part of the basket of risks of Obama's reelection.

It'll stick with them better this way. It will seem that the personal attack isn't being made as such, but as part of a policy point. The public loves believing that they don't care about personal attacks, only policy. They're wrong about that -- they care about personal attacks more than they admit and about policy much less than they'd ever admit to themselves -- but playing it this way feeds into that self-illusion they have about themselves.

Sorry to be so cynical. But as the Dan Akroyd character in Tommy Boy said, slightly modified: What the American public doesn't know about itself is what makes it the American public.

The mushy middle will claim, every time you poll them, that by overwhelming margins of 95% to 5% they want to hear about "the issues" and not "personal" or "political" attacks.

But the fact of the matter is that that mushy middle doesn't trouble itself to discover what the issues are or evaluate methods of addressing them in any sort of rigorous, wonky kind of way. They say all they care about was substance, but if they bothered to do their homework and bone up about the substance, we wouldn't even be having these arguments anymore -- they would have decided most crucial broad-stroke issues one way or another, and the most pertinent question would be now how to implement that basic ideological agenda, not which ideological agenda we should pursue.

The mushy, careless middle which doesn't think too hard about these things loves to believe all it cares about is "substance" but in fact they can't be troubled.

The tactic I suggest would, I think, make Obama's lies politically relevant and also let this less-than-rigorous mush vote continue believing their self-illusions about caring greatly about wonkish policy points.

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posted by Ace at 03:05 PM

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