Poor Barack Obama. He displayed stunning naiveté this weekend when talking about Sarah Palin and the infamous Bridge to Nowhere.
"When you've been taking all the earmarks when it's convenient and then suddenly you're the anti-earmark person, that's not change," the senator told a crowd in Indiana on Saturday. "Come on! Words mean something. You can't just make stuff up."
Well, sure you can.
Who gave Pollyanna the Democratic nomination for president?
It is certifiably true, as Obama said, that as a small-town mayor and a candidate for governor, the Sarahcuda was a big booster of earmarks, those tasty thumb bits of pork-barrel spending.
Palin shrewdly observed, and publicly declared, that Alaska needed to work the federal udder while the state's congressional delegation had seniority and clout. She endorsed the Bridge to Nowhere and posed for photographs with a T-shirt that said so. It was only when the bridge became a national symbol of wasteful government spending that Governor Palin decided to spend the money on other projects.
It is sort of like John McCain's claim that Palin "sold" the state governor's jet on eBay. As the Washington Post's Anne Kornblut reported over the weekend, it just didn't happen. Palin put the jet on eBay as a publicity stunt, then sold it in a privately brokered deal, at a loss to the taxpayers.
But as political fibs go, the bridge and the jet fables pale before the most audacious bit of truth-twisting I've seen in 30 years of covering politics: the cloying video tribute to Cindy McCain at the GOP convention.
At one point in the video, the narrator tells the story of how the 20-something blond Cindy met the 40-something pilot McCain at a party in Hawaii and how those two love-struck scamps fibbed to each other about their ages.
Not mentioned in the video was this inconvenient fact: McCain was married at the time.
The video, in other words, was glorifying adultery. And the Republican Party, the party of family values, the sacred defender of marriage, lapped it up.
Imagine the shrieks of outrage from those same social conservatives if the Democrats ran a film that said, "Bill met the fetching Monica in 1995, when the comely intern in the little blue dress was sent out for pizza by the White House staff...."
But hypocrisy is a given in American politics. And it's not the American people's job to protect Obama. The truth is that words don't matter unless—as George W. Bush showed when attacking Al Gore in 2000—you can taint your foe as a pathological, untrustworthy, self-aggrandizing liar.
If Obama—or Joe Biden and other Democratic surrogates—has the grit to do that, he'll get the voters' attention and respect.
Until it becomes a character issue, veracity doesn't much matter at all.