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BlackBerry Bull Puts Heat on McCain, New Site Launches

An Internet firestorm swiftly engulfed Sen. John McCain on Tuesday, as reporters and bloggers laced into his campaign’s false claim that McCain’s tenure on the Senate Commerce Committee included the creation of the BlackBerry.

While the assertion was newsworthy, since it fits into a pattern of deception by the campaign, it would seem less important — politically and journalistically — than news about the candidates’ responses to the financial crisis.

Yet the story climbed to the top of the Web by Tuesday afternoon, according to the political news aggregator Memorandum, with liberal bloggers suppyling plenty of bandwith. Within hours, in fact, a new site launched, JohnMcCainInventedTheBlackBerry.com.

A Facebook group has also sprung up to mock McCain’s contribution to modern technology. “Thank You John McCain for inventing the BlackBerry!,” hollers the group, which was founded by Bill Fuhry, a Democratic statagist, and includes prominent bloggers like Duncan Black of Eschaton.

Image has not been found. URL: http://www.washingtonindependent.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/picture-32-300x146.pngBerry-gate ruled political news on Tuesday.

The McCain campaign swiftly backed away from the BlackBerry gaffe, and if this were one stray inaccuracy, people might let it go as a dumb comment or joke. But McCain’s aides have announced that they don’t care about the issues or corrections from the press. In addition, they have demonstrated a contempt for honest debate by repeating falsehoods on the campaign trail, in speeches, ads and surrogate appearances. Writing for NYTimes.com today, the Democratic speechwriter Michael Cohen argues that this approach is unusual — and dangerous:

Politicians generally go to great lengths to avoid being seen as acting dishonestly, because the consequences are usually so great…. During the last week, the McCain campaign has unabashedly engaged in the active spreading of mistruths and falsehoods.

Then Cohen fact-checks the recent lies. You can skip over this summary if you know the drill:

It said that Barack Obama supported “comprehensive sex education” for children in kindergarten (“dishonest” and “deceptive” said The Washington Post); that Obama used the colloquial expression “lipstick on a pig” to describe Sarah Palin (GOP Senator Orrin Hatch labeled the charge “ridiculous”); that Palin never accepted earmarks as governor of Alaska; (this is patently false, she actually requested $450 million in earmarks as governor); that Obama will raise taxes on middle-class families (his plan would give a tax cut to 80 percent of Americans); that his health care plan will force families into a government-run health-care plan; (a public health expert quoted in this paper called that “inaccurate and false”); that Palin told Congress “thanks, but no thanks” on the Bridge to Nowhere (she initially supported the bridge and kept the congressional funds earmarked for the project)….

Here’s the kicker:

**Even after the press debunked each of these lies, the McCain campaign has refused to concede the truth. **Though news outlets have consistently shown that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s claim about the “Bridge to Nowhere” is not true, she continues to repeat it to the point where MSNBC’s “Hardball” began to keep a running tally of how often Ms. Palin made the same false assertion on the campaign trail. According to Brian Rogers, a McCain spokesman, “we’re running a campaign to win. And we’re not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it.”

McCain has not earned the benefit of the doubt for his aide’s BlackBerry assertion. Add it to the list of falsehoods that McCain must personally answer for.

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