"Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it."
"It is not truth that matters, but victory."
If there's heaven or a hell or an after-life in another universe, then there's no doubt that Lee Atwater is looking down on the McCain campaign of recent days and smiling.
Atwater was a Republican strategist who perfected a particularly virulent form of dirty politics that he used on behalf of various Republican candidates including George H.W. Bush.
And while Atwater didn't author the above quotes - they were uttered by another politician - he no doubt, knew of them and more than likely adhered to them in principle.
Eleanor Randolph of the New York Times wrote back on Sept. 19 that Atwater knew how to "get inside peoples’ heads." Randolph explains:
One of the cruelest examples of this maneuver involved former State Senator Tom Turnipseed, a South Carolina Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1980. As a youth, Mr. Turnipseed had shock therapy for depression, which he talked about on occasion.Atwater died in 1991, but as we've seen in recent days, the Atwater style of politics is very much alive.
Mr. Atwater, who was working for the Republican, was not sympathetic. He went around the state telling people that the Democratic candidate had once “been hooked up to jumper cables.” No matter how much Mr. Turnipseed talked about education or crime or dirty tricks after that, voters only saw the jumper cables.
For the 1988 campaign to elect then-Vice President Bush, the indelible image that helped defeat Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts was a black man named Willie Horton. Willie Horton committed rape while on furlough from a Massachusetts prison under a program that was actually started by another governor, a Republican.
Despite his public denials that he had anything to do with an anti-Dukakis commercial featuring Mr. Horton, this film has Mr. Atwater encouraging an outside group to spread the word. The tactic worked. Mr. Atwater and friends managed to turn Willie Horton’s face into the only thing some voters could remember about the Democratic nominee.
John McCain and Sarah Palin have trotted out the big lie and smear politics, instigated no doubt, by their campaign advisors who have probably been doing some reading up on Lee Atwater.
Sarah Palin on Oct. 4:
“This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America. We see America as the greatest force for good in this world. If we can be that beacon of light and hope for others who seek freedom and democracy and can live in a country that would allow intolerance in the equal rights that again our military men and women fight for and die for for all of us. Our opponent though, is someone who sees America it seems as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country?”What better way to distract your followers from the real issues and your own shortcomings as a candidate, than by telling a lie and then repeating it over and over again until they start believing it?
And all of this from a woman, who as mayor of her town, wanted to ban books from the library and as governor reportedly set up a Yahoo e-mail account so she could conduct state business without scrutiny. And now in just the past few days we learn that Palin was running the state of Alaska like some backwater town southern sheriff by abusing "the powers of her office by pressuring subordinates to try to get her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired."
Palin's ugly rhetoric and lies became so intense last week, that some of her supporters on Florida's west coast felt obliged to match her hate speech one ugly word for another with threats shouted from the audience against Obama and some members of the media.
And even though McCain and Palin never said some of the more outrageous things that their supporters are screaming at rallies, they planted the seeds of hate and pollinated them when they sprouted.
Some of their followers have even resorted to making up their own lies. One woman actually believes that Obama is "an Arab."
John McCain, to his credit, has finally decided to scale back the attacks: "I have to tell you — he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared" of "as president of the United States."
With less than a month to go before the election, let's see if McCain and Palin can stick to the issues.
Oh, by the way, who uttered those two quotes at the top of this post? Not a Republican, although they could have been.
They were both said by Adolf Hitler.