The state of political discourse in the U.S. was not exactly robust as the Age of Bush dawned, but the downward spiral of the last eight years has been something to behold. And I don't believe that we have reached bottom yet.
That would be when and if John McCain and Sarah Palin are elected not on the basis of a substantive discussion of the problems that are wracking America and how to solve them (because they know they are toast if they take the high road), but because of a campaign pickled in the brine of cynicism, fear mongering and lies.
As we hurtle downward, it is worth pausing to focus on an astonishing way station: Apologists for McCain and Palin are grasping at anything that might be a semblance of a defense for the kind of campaign they are running, including these beauts:
Everyone does it, so what's the big deal?
And it's stepchild: Life's unfair, so get used to it.
The big deal is that everybody does not do it, and while life indeed can be unfair, we look to our leaders to try to level the playing field, not defecate on it.
While Barack Obama and Joe Biden, like many a politician, occasionally have taken liberties with the truth to fit their political needs, they have not lied outright and made outright lying -- as well as repeating lies over and over and over again -- a pillar of their candidacy.
McCain and Palin have plenty of helpmates in their endeavor.
First, a news media that remains substantially in their thrall despite some calling out over The Bridge To Nowhere and Obama Would Raise Middle-Class Taxes lies, as well as other obfuscations. Second, a society in which lying has become so commonplace that today there is the perverse consequence of the victims of lies getting blamed for them, something that the McCain-Palin apologists are in effect also doing.
Palin herself is a manifestation of the national pandemic of lying.
The blink-free governor and her sugar daddy are willfully misrepresenting her record. Palin's cover stories for the multiple controversies that she has provoked -- from firing her political enemies to banning public library books -- have not withstood scrutiny, and not even her boast of traveling to Iraq is true.
McCain was asked a couple of years ago if he was bending his principles to get an endorsement from Jerry Fallwell in order to curry the favor of the right-wing reverend and his flock.
"I don't want it that badly," McCain replied. "I will continue to do what is right. . . . If that means I can't get the Republican nomination, fine. I've had a happy life. The worst thing I can do is sell my soul to the devil."
It is sad enough that McCain has done precisely that. It is sad enough that the media pushback, while growing, is still puny.
But what is really sad is that the McCain-Palin apologists' lust for victory is so great that they have no problem with the once honorable McCain running the dirtiest, most lyingest campaign in memory, as well as selecting as a running mate an empty skirt who has had a lifelong disinterest in national and international affairs.
What is tragic is that their own ethical compasses have go so awry that the hoary concept of holding politicians to a higher standard is, well . . . like so quaint.
I can only assume that the apologists will judge future Republican presidential candidates not by whether they can speak with candor and honesty and run on the issues, but like George Bush and now John McCain, how much they can get away with.
Image: "Liar's Chair" by Alex Wucherer