Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

Is The Ninth Commandment* A Lesser One?

Several conservatives have been willing to criticize McCain for his dishonest campaign ads. Rod Dreher said the McCain lipstick ad was “totally unfair, and a distortion.” Senator Orrin Hatch agreed that Obama wasn’t calling Palin a pig: “I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way.” Fox News challenged McCain’s tax claims, and Steve Chapman, a conservative/libertarian columnist for the Chicago Tribune declared:

We all expect a certain amount of deceit from people running for office, in the form of fudging, distortion, exaggeration and omission. But the McCain campaign’s approach, as [the “lipstick on a pig”] episode illustrates, is of an entirely different scale and character. It is to normal political attacks what Hurricane Ike is to a drive-through carwash. […]
He has charged repeatedly that his opponent is willing to lose a war to win an election. What’s McCain willing to lose to become president? Nothing so consequential as a war. Just his soul


(For those who haven’t been keeping up, here’s the documentation that McCain has lied about: Obama and sex education, Obama and taxes, supposed attacks on Palin Obama’s Messianic complex, the Bridge to Nowhere, Palin’s record on earmarks , and her position on global warming.)
The McCain campaign is virtually admitting it. “We’re running a campaign to win. And we’re not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it.” The “media filter” — that would be is dismissive name for fact-check articles.
John Feehery, a Republican strategist, practically bragged about the irrelevance of these fact-checking pieces. “The more the New York Times and The Washington Post go after Sarah Palin, the better off she is, because there’s a bigger truth out there and the bigger truths are she’s new, she’s popular in Alaska and she is an insurgent. As long as those are out there, these little facts don’t really matter.”
The “little facts” (whether they were lying about their record or Obama’s) were less important than the “bigger truths” that she’s “new,” “popular” and “an insurgent.”
This is the moment of Conservative Moral Relativism. Hey, who’s to say what’s really true or false anyway? That’s such a Euro-centric, patriarchical concept.
What’s striking, though, is that while some conservative writers have called McCain on this, conservative religious leaders have not — despite the words of the Ten Commandments and the widespread teaching that being honest is a critical part of being a good Christian. I’m not saying they should suddenly abandon McCain but isn’t it part of their responsibility as moral leaders to call him on this? (Have I missed some Christian leader denunciations? If so, please link to them in the comment box below)
It looks like conservative religious leaders have embraced politics as a team sport. The Good Team has a vice presidential candidate who’s a serious Christian. The Good Team will curtail abortions, so almost any tactic that can be used to save those babies is justified. Those are the bigger truths, so big, in fact, that they outweigh the Decalogue.
If the silence continues, I do at least hope that they’ll stop trying to put the Ten Commandments in the courthouse and shift to something more appropriate, like a large chunk of granite engraved with, “The Ends Justify the Means.”
*In Catholic and Lutheran traditions, bearing false witness is the 8th Commandment

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posted September 15, 2008 at 6:57 pm

The lipstick on a pig comment was a deliberate double entendre. It seems the only one who didn’t get it is liberal bloggers. Obama’s audience certainly got it.

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Lyn Kelly

posted September 15, 2008 at 11:08 pm

I’m becoming so tired of politics and can’t wait until this all over. I really was hoping we would not have another candidate that believes that Jesus Christ is coming back in their life time. Or that because of the spelling another candidate last name and the fact that this candidate has exposure more just the US, he’s a “Muslim”. BTW why would that be a sin in this so-called country that has freedom of religion to have someone as president who is a Muslim?

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posted September 16, 2008 at 2:35 am

Thank you for writing a much needed article! Maybe the writers at GetReligion will read it.
Without truth Christianity is meaningless.
Obama has stretched some fact; however, McCain/Palin false statements are unbelievable. McCain surrogates go TV and aggressively push lies despite others exposing the falsity of what they are saying. A few media have started getting more aggressive with the blatant lies.

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posted September 16, 2008 at 7:30 am

I guess thou shalt not kill is not on your list of commandments since Obama voted against helping children of botched abortions live. No matter where you stand on the “when life begins debate” when a baby sucks in air it’s alive and human. If you let that child die that is murder. Obama voted four times against letting those children live. No my kind of person.

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Bryan Morton

posted September 16, 2008 at 7:43 am

The Republocrat candidates must keep up the circus in order to distract us from the real problems they’ve caused over the last 100 years – Inflation, caused by the Federal Reserve’s printing of fiat currency, which had devalued the dollar by 95% since its inception in 1917, an enormous national debt, $9 trillion to which they admit, and over $45 trillion when you include the unfunded liabilities of Socialist Security and Medicare, the building of an empire which costs billions of dollars and American lives as well as the destruction of lives and wealth overseas, an expensive drug war which by all standards has failed miserably as prohibition always does, an erosion of rights including the right to freedom of association in the market place, the suspension of Habeas Corpus, no knock searches, and theft by Eminent Domain.
It is said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. The Republocrats have been violating our trust and driving this country to ruin since before any of us were born, and yet we continue to go to the polls and vote for them thinking this time, yeah, this time it’ll be different. Yeah, this guy won’t be like the others. We have no one to blame but ourselves if we continue to let them rule us to death. It REALLY is time for change. This time around, please, for the sake of this country and the future and our kids, please don’t vote Republocrat. Write in Mickey Mouse if you must, but don’t vote Republocrat.

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posted September 16, 2008 at 3:55 pm

You are wrong about “Obama voted against helping children of botched abortions live.” It is a lie being spread by the McCain campaign.
Does Obama Support the Killing of Infants? (Kmiec on the Born Alive Bill)

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posted September 17, 2008 at 12:29 am

It’s a sad thing to see, but there was a article in Slate that stated that McCain is gaining in the polls simply because he’s lying, and Obama needs to lie more. It went on to say -since there’s no penalty for lying , the problem is that Obama simply needs to lie enough to catch up, which would take a lot of doing.
This is what it’s come to. During the Clinton years, smearing him was an industry, and a busy one. He was accused of murder, molesting his daughter, and pretty much anything anybody could make up. And it had a decided effect. Then Bush came in , and soon the press was being told ‘you’d better watch what you say.’
And the McCain campaign has just carried on in this tradition. Lying to the press, and bullying the press, has become the game. They have carried lying farther than any campaign in living memory.
The bearing of false witness is not a sin to many people now. More like a job description. The Republicans have carried this as far as they can go, and it’s sickening to watch them do this and then talk about the culture of life and what Christians they are.
Do Democrats lie? Yes, they do , but to compare the two is like the difference between doing 75 mph on the freeway, and doing 130. The Republicans are simply going all out , with no restraint at all. They act like the person who knows the police won’t pull them over no matter what they do.

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Ann T.

posted September 17, 2008 at 6:40 am

Mr. Waldman, yours is the first article I have found on this. And I wonder why? I am a Christian too, but not a “joiner”. I do however believe the Bible is the word of God. It amazes me that the Religious Right has no conscience problem about bearing false witness – not even the “leaders” (I use the term loosely). While parading their religion, they have none. They are frauds. The Bible says, “by their fuits you will know them”. Intentional, systematic, continual strategic liars can not be Christian. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. They also don’t seem to notice, that whatever faults others may have, they are not setting themselves up as the arbiters and enforcers of morality. Abortion is something no one likes, but no one intentionally, continually has them – the way these liars lie. They should pull the beam out of their own eye. Secular Americans see right through this lying-fraud, and then it’s wondered why they’re not interested in hearing about being saved? I’m quite sure God is not mocked either. They are the prostituted hybrid of political power and the church. They should be ashamed. Instead, they’re arrogant. But we were told of this 2,500 years ago, and described perfectly. “Come out from among her my people… ”

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