Robert's first rule of politics goes like this: Given the choice between a compelling, fact-based argument and a compelling, exaggeration-based argument, pols will take the latter.
A bizarre McCain campaign conference call Monday perfectly illustrates that rule.
This from Politico's Ben Smith:
Sen. John McCain's top campaign aides convened a conference call today to complain of being called "liars." They pressed the media to scrutinize specific elements of Sen. Barack Obama's record.But the call was so rife with simple, often inexplicable misstatements of fact that it may have had the opposite effect: to deepen the perception, dangerous to McCain, that he and his aides have little regard for factual accuracy.The errors in McCain strategist Steve Schmidt's charges against Obama and Sen. Joe Biden were particularly notable because they seemed unnecessary. Schmidt repeatedly gilded the lily: He exaggerated the Biden family's already problematic ties to the credit card industry; Obama's embarrassing relationship with a 1960s radical; and an Obama supporter's over-the-top attack on Sarah Palin when—in each case—the truth would have been damaging enough.
Of course, the reason for the conference call is that the McCain campaign has taken routine political exaggerations—see Robert's first rule—to new and startling levels. And that's prompted the press to actually call it on the strategy.