Blazing trousers

Am I the only one feeling assaulted by the attack ads candidates are spending such obscene amounts of money putting on the air lately? And is the volume not jacked up when they come on, blasting us from whatever state we’d been lulled into by the regular programming? And what about how the fine print flashes by so fast there’s no way for a normal person to read it? And if we did catch a piece of it, does not a trip down a chute of no return await as locating sources of funding becomes a game of hide-and-seek, the money laundered and streamed through so many culverts as to make original benefactors unidentifiable?
If even half of what spews out is true, how could we in good conscience vote for any of these advertised people? Opponents’ pictures of one another show complexions of prison pallor and expressions that convey guilt, hypocrisy, denial, unconscionable self-indulgence, blissful cluelessness, viciousness, bile and deceit.
Never mind what’s true and not true in the copy. The quickness of the flash of dense white print about who paid for the yelp at the bottom of the screen when the commercials come mercifully to an end — all in capital letters, by the way, adding to the arduousness of trying to read it — is deceptive in itself. During the ads, the tags revealing the unimpeachable sourcing for the various claims peel by like the smoking tires of a dragster. Poof, it’s gone before you know it. Did one pop up that actually cited a state budget document from 30 years ago, or do I just read too slowly?
How does a candidate’s having a nose like Pinocchio’s help us make an educated choice at the polls? We are sliding in the lava of a volcano of hot gases otherwise known as name-calling and distortion. I guess the exercise for us is to figure out who’s telling the whitest of white lies.
The commercials are such that they are not true and also not not true. This exercise of the guiding principle of campaign advertising propels us into a netherland where up is down, black is white and right is wrong.
A lot of journalists have done a lot of digging to sort out just a fraction of fact from the torrent of fiction that spirals up to create this tower of political Babel. When we’re looking to justify our rampant skepticism if not outright disbelief, we could check them out. (Anyone with any ideas, by the way, about how these millions for commercials could be better spent?)
My favorite is Politifact.com, from the St. Petersburg Times in Florida, especially because the “truth-o-meter” there went off the scale, all the way to “pants on fire,” for both our candidates for U.S. Senate, incumbent Barbara Boxer, a Democrat, and her GOP foe, Carly Fiorina.
Here’s what comes up: In August, the San Francisco Chronicle asked Boxer about her 2007 comment to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about Rice not paying a “personal price” in the Iraq War because no immediate members of the secretary’s family served in the military (even though Rice has no children). Boxer told the paper no, wait, she’d asked Rice how many Americans had died in Iraq and was criticizing the secretary for not knowing the answer. “Absolutely I was.”
A video of the event at which the exchange took place, though, a hearing by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, turns up the uncomfortable fact, for Boxer anyhow, that she never, ever asked such a question.
As for Fiorina, one of her TV ads shows a clip of Boxer noting that “one of the very important national security issues frankly is climate change.” Then, pow, the Republican comes on screen to say, “Terrorism kills, and Barbara Boxer’s worried about the weather.”
Here’s Politifact’s take: The Pentagon and the CIA both promote the idea of climate change threatening national security; wondering about whether to carry an umbrella on a cloudy day is vastly different from, say, the potential perils of global warming; and, finally, the public record lists a score of anti-terrorism measures that Boxer supported.
Fiorina’s pounce, Politifact suggests, trivializes the matter at hand and twists, distorts and misleads so much as to constitute deceit.
Grab the extinguisher. There are two pairs of pants now ablaze.
It looks as if our politicians and their handlers find there’s an advantage to be gained by shading the truth or, for that matter, lying outright. Since a candidate this November only needs one more vote than the other guy to get elected, heck, let it be cast by a citizen who in a weak moment thought he detected a note of harmony amid the din of noise.

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