Sunday brought an overload of New York Times columnists, including former reporters, calling the previous week's Republican National Convention a celebration of lies and extremism on abortion and gay marriage.
Times columnist and former White House correspondent Maureen Dowd was given more room than usual to rant about Paul Ryan and the Republicans in her Sunday column, "Cruel Conservatives Throw a Masquerade Ball." After calling the Republican Convention "a colossal hoax," she said of Paul Ryan's speech, "the altar boy altered reality, conjuring up a world so compassionate, so full of love-thy-neighbor kindness and small-town goodness, that you had to pinch yourself to remember it was a shimmering mirage, a beckoning pool of big, juicy lies...." Dowd concluded that "....Ryan’s lies and Romney’s shape-shifting are so easy to refute that they must have decided a Hail Mary pass of artifice was better than their authentic ruthless worldview.
Former White House correspondent Frank Bruni's Sunday column, "Excluded from Inclusion," was all about how he and his fellow gays didn't see themselves in Tampa:
What the Republicans painstakingly constructed here was meant to look like the biggest of tents. And still they couldn’t spare so much as a sleeping bag’s worth of space for the likes of me....you certainly didn’t see anyone openly gay on the stage in Tampa. More to the point, you didn’t hear mention of gays and lesbians. Scratch that: Mike Huckabee, who has completed a ratings-minded transformation from genial pol to dyspeptic pundit, made a derisive reference to President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage. We were thus allowed a fleeting moment inside the tent, only to be flogged and sent back out into the cold.
Keeping to the Times' theme of Republican extremism on social conservative issues, Nicholas Kristof's Sunday column found only one party extreme on abortion: "Scaring the Voters in the Middle." The text box: "Amid Republicans extremism on abortion, where does Romney stand?"
All this boggles the mind. Republican leaders in 2012 have a natural winning issue -- the limping economy -- but they seem determined to scare away centrist voters with extremist positions on everything from abortion to sex education.
Most Americans do not fit perfectly into “pro-choice” or “pro-life” camps. Polls show that about one-fifth want abortion to be legal in all situations, and another one-fifth want abortion to be illegal always. The majority fall somewhere between, and these voters are the ones who decide elections
Bill Clinton won their support with his pragmatic formula that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.” Then social conservatives won ground with a shrewd strategic decision to focus the abortion debate where they had the edge
Speaking of extremism, Kristof didn't mention the Democratic platform deleted the word "rare" in 2008.
Columnist Charles Blow was up a day earlier, in Saturday's edition, and the first word off his keyboard was "lying": "The G.O.P. Fact Vacuum."
Lying is certainly nothing new in politics. One could even argue that it’s fundamental to politics. Saying incredible things in a credible way is the art; using math of vapors to sell dreams of smoke is the craft.
But Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech on Wednesday took things up a notch.
If the news media has to pour so much energy into fact-checking, which is noble and necessary, I worry that the big picture gets short shrift. The convention itself was shockingly low on vision and high on venom.
Yet the candidates are virtually tied in most polls. What does this portend for the republic? I worry deeply about this, not simply because I work at a newspaper, but because I am an American.
If we allow our leaders to completely abandon any semblance of honesty, what do we have left? When rancid disinformation stands in the space where actual information should be, what will grow?
And how can a party that incessantly repeats the mantra that our rights were granted by God repeatedly violate a basic tenet of almost every religion: truth-telling? What does it mean when a party that trafficks in American greatness trades in human horridness?
-- Clay Waters is Editor of the MRC's TimesWatch site