You can’t fool them all

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Assessing the muck and mud that passed for Campaign 2010

By Hal Rhodes

“You may fool all of the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”   
That hoary adage originated with Honest Abe and conceivably might offer consolation to some candidates and voters today as we climb out of the muck and mud that passed for Campaign 2010.
But with due respect to our 16th president, I tend to side with the wit and wisdom of the late author and cartoonist James Thurber who maintained that “You can fool too many of the people too much of the time.”
The sorry truth is that some lies told often enough and vigorously enough have ways of taking on the qualities of “truth” in the minds of too many people, too often.
When incumbent Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida repeatedly accused his Republican opponent, Daniel Webster, of refusing “the call to service” during the Vietnam era, it’s quite likely that many voters in their district went to their polling places believing the charge to be true.
Only it wasn’t.
After college, Webster dutifully reported for his physical exam but was found to be medically ineligible for military service.
And who knows how many voters in Nevada, to this very moment, believe the allegations of GOP U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle that her Democratic rival, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, voted 300 times to raise taxes?   
It was broadcast endlessly throughout the campaign in Nevada, but it was a bald-face fib.  
Of the 304 “votes” Angle and her campaign supposedly surveyed in arriving at this dishonest charge, 86 of the votes counted as “for” tax hikes were actually votes against. Another 153 were votes on concurrent budget resolutions that would not have raised taxes.
Such are the findings of FactCheck.org, a component of the respected non-partisan Annenberg Public Policy Center, which checks the factual accuracy of claims made by politicians and political groups in campaign advertisements.
It is amazing how many of the lies bought and sold as TV advertisements during the recent campaigns were demonstrably contrary to the verifiable facts.  
Take the case of a widely circulated campaign spot sponsored by California’s GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman claiming that the “crime rate soared” when her Democratic opponent Jerry Brown was mayor of Oakland.
It’s a lie: Crime in Oakland dropped by 13 percent during Brown’s tenure at city hall.
Nor do we need to look beyond our own state lines for examples of calculated dishonesty in campaign advertisements this year.
In fact, it was in this Enchanted Land that one of the more ludicrous such ads began its run on TV screens late last month.  
“I’m Jon Barela, and I approve this message,” a voice said, Barela being the Republican running against freshman Democratic Congressman Martin Heinrich in District 1.  
What followed were deviously crafted words insinuating that Heinrich was involved in some kind of “cover up,” that suspect money was found in his freezer, and that he had conspired with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to impede an investigation of a corrupt Democratic congressman from Louisiana, William Jefferson.
Potentially sinister stuff here. Only there’s not a shred of truth to it.
Heinrich wasn’t even in Congress when Jefferson was under investigation, so he couldn’t possibly have conspired with Pelosi to suppress anything involving the matter.
Yet Barela acknowledged approving this “message,” leaving one to conclude that he too knows a good many people can be fooled a good deal of the time.
  Is there nothing left of shame?     
Hal Rhodes
NM News Services