Take your pick

The Law of the Excluded Middle strikes again: either McCain really doesn’t know what’s in his ads, in which case he’s not fit to be President, or he really does know what’s in his ads, in which case … he’s not fit to be President.

Here are the choices:

1. John McCain is a doddering, out-of-touch old fool easily manipulated by a bunch of nasty campaign operatives. (That’s Jim Rutenberg’s version.) Then obviously he’s unfit to be President; we’ve already tried two terms of that sort of “leadership.”

2. John McCain knows exactly what he’s doing, and all that bile his campaign is spewing reflects the real McCain. The cossacks work for the czar. The buck stops here. When his voice says “I’m John McCain, and I approve of this message” after twenty-five seconds of vicious lies, we ought to take him at his word. (That’s Kevin Drum’s version.) Again, obviously unfit to be President.

Can you think of a third choice? I can’t.

Footnote Note Rutenberg’s weasel-words: McCain’s completely baseless claim that Obama didn’t want to visit wounded troops if he couldn’t bring cameras along &#8212 contradicted by the easily established fact that he did visit wounded troops on the very same trip without either bringing cameras along or even putting the visit on his daily calendar &#8212 isn’t a lie, it’s merely “denied by the Obama campaign and undercut by the accounts of reporters.” The campaign isn’t full of easily refuted false claims, it “has included some assertions from the McCain campaign that have been widely dismissed as misleading.” (Don’t you love the passive voice?) The convention is that whether an ad is politically effective is a fact, while whether it is true is mere opinion.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com