THE BLOG
12/13/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Obama's Win and the Ten Lies The Right Is Spreading About It

During the final weeks of the election, when it became clear Barack Obama was going to win, the far right started a drumbeat of lies to minimize Obama's victory, downplay the viciously ugly campaign that McCain and Palin ran and trick the weak-kneed left into bungling this opportunity. You know something is up when Karl Rove, David Brooks, Sean Hannity and everyone else starts repeating a phrase like the United States is "a center-right country." (A lie knocked down by Robert Borosage.) Now that Obama's historic win is in the books, those lies have become even more pronounced. Here are the top lies of the right and why you shouldn't fall for them.

The Top Ten Right Wing Lies About Obama's Win

1. Obama's win wasn't that big
2. Obama only won because of the black vote and the fringe far left
3. Obama only won because he ran a center-right campaign
4. John McCain couldn't have won
5. Political parties almost never win three terms in a row
6. The US is a center-right country
7. Bush prevented a terrorist attack for seven years and if Obama doesn't prevent an attack for the next seven years then he has failed to protect us
8. John McCain's concession speech was notably gracious
9. Punishing Joe Lieberman would be petty
10. Sarah Palin is the future of the Republican Party

OBAMA'S WIN WASN'T THAT BIG -- Obama only won by six points in the popular vote, they say. Shouldn't it have been much bigger? Sure he won, but it's not like Obama got a rousing endorsement. (This from the party where Bush squeaked out a win in 2004 by one state and 50.7% of the vote but immediately insisted it was a mandate.) Where to begin? The win by Obama and the Democrats was nationwide and significant on many levels. Obama won the biggest percentage of the popular vote for any Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. He's the first to win more than 50% since Carter in 1976. Virtually, the entire country went more Democratic than Republican -- except for the Old Confederacy, where the Republican Party still holds on to a narrow, poor strip. Obama was the first Democrat to win North Carolina since 1976 and the first to win Virginia and Indiana since 1964. The party win was even bigger, especially given this era of redistricting where kicking out an incumbent is tougher than ever. The Republicans lost big two elections in a row. Like Ronald Reagan in 1980, Obama won huge margins of victory from young people. Add in Hispanics and independents and Obama's win may presage a wave of loyal Democratic voters for years to come.

OBAMA ONLY WON BECAUSE OF THE BLACK VOTE AND THE FRINGE FAR LEFT -- This is an attempt to treat Obama's win as simply identity politics (black people voting for a black nominee because it was the first time they could) rather than a broad mandate from the country as a whole that saw Obama as the best candidate. The truth is that Obama did better than John Kerry in virtually every demographic you can name, including white voters. The only two areas where Obama drew fewer votes than Kerry were the over 65 crowd and gays and lesbians. This was not an eked-out victory; it was a broad national success.

OBAMA WON BECAUSE HE RAN A CENTER-RIGHT CAMPAIGN -- That's the jaw-dropper from Karl Rove and others. The guy they were screaming was a socialist ran a "center-right" campaign. That's right, the guy who said he'd raise taxes on the rich and end the war in Iraq was pretending to be Reagan.

JOHN MCCAIN COULDN'T HAVE WON -- In this argument, the forces working to hand Democrats a victory were so overwhelming there was nothing John McCain or any Republican nominee could have done to change that. And when the economy went south, McCain's fate was sealed. It's the economy, stupid (plus the most despised President in 80 years if not ever, plus two wars, etc.) Well, by this logic it was a given that Gore would win in 2000 and there was nothing Bush could do to change THAT, either. It certainly shouldn't have been so close that one state (and a Supreme Court) could change the inevitable. In fact, nothing is inevitable. The simple truth is that McCain was often ahead in the polls for much of the general election season and especially after his convention. It was McCain's floundering that sent his poll numbers tumbling, not some inescapable tide of history. He didn't lose because the economy went south: McCain lost because the economy went south and his reaction was a boondoggle of epic proportions. McCain made three rash, hasty decisions when faced with a major crisis and all of them made voters rethink their attitude towards him. First, he faced a floor fight at the convention if he chose the running mate he wanted, Joe Lieberman. McCain caved and hastly settled on Governor Sarah Palin. She thrilled the base but in a general election you're supposed to reach out to moderates and independents. The more voters saw of Palin, the less they liked. And it was abundantly clear he'd only met her once and chatted with her on the phone briefly before offering her the VP slot. Second, when Russia and Georgia came to blows, McCain bombastically declared "We are all Georgians!" and seemed almost eager for another war. With America bogged down in two wars already, the prospect of a President who looked delighted at the possibility of committing US troops to a third war that didn't involve vital national interests frightened voters. Finally, when the economic meltdown occurred, McCain rashly pretended to "suspend" his campaign and suggested the next Presidential debate might have to wait. Obama simply stated the obvious: that a President needs to be able to do more than one thing at a time. McCain caved and un-suspended his campaign even though no deal had yet been struck and looked even more foolish when he had literally nothing to offer in DC. And all of this ignores Obama, who ran a flawless campaign and had to. McCain didn't need to do anything if Obama made a gaffe, any gaffe, really.

POLITICAL PARTIES RARELY WIN THREE TERMS IN A ROW -- This is a strange one I've heard lately. Its message is simple: if you've held the White House two terms in a row, holding it for a third term almost never happens. It's one more piece of the "McCain couldn't possibly win" argument. Except that it's not even remotely true. For seven elections from 1800 through 1824, the Democratic-Republicans held the White House. Thomas Jefferson won twice, James Madison won twice, James Monroe won twice and John Quincy Adams won once. That was followed by three elections in a row for the Democratic party -- twice with Andrew Jackson and once for Martin Van Buren from 1828 through 1836. Then the Republicans won four Presidential elections in a row from 1868-1880 thanks to Ulysses Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes and James Garfield. The Republicans won four in a row again from 1896 through 1908 with William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Well, maybe the 20th century is different? Not really. The Republicans won three in a row from 1920-1928 with Harding, Coolidge and Hoover. Then the Democrats won five in a row from 1932-1948 with FDR and Truman. And of course Republicans won three in a row with Reagan and Bush in the 80s. (Some Dems would throw in Clinton and Gore as the most recent example, but that's another issue entirely.) It would probably have happened even more except for term limits.

THE UNITED STATES IS A CENTER-RIGHT COUNTRY -- Robert Borosage does a great breakdown of demogaphics to show how people who call themselves moderates (which is a bigger chunk than liberals or conservatives) lean left on major issues of the day. But don't get bogged down in exit polls and stats. Here's one fact: 39% of registered voters are Democrats, 32% are Republicans and 27% are independents. It's more likely that independents will pass Republicans in the next decade than Republicans catch up with the Democrats. Here's another simple reality check: the Democrats control a majority of state Houses, a majority of the Governor mansions, a majority of the House, a majority of the Senate and the Presidency. And they increased their dominance in every category. In what fantasy world are a significant majority of the voters registered Democrats and the Democrats control every level of government from the local to the national level and yet someone can argue with a straight face that the US is a "center-right country?"

BUSH PREVENTED A TERRORIST ATTACK FOR SEVEN YEARS AND IF THERE'S A TERRORIST ATTACK IN THE NEXT SEVEN YEARS OBAMA WILL HAVE FAILED TO PROTECT US -- That's a new doozy that does some pretty clever juggling of history. Bush prevented a terrorist attack for seven years on our soil? Um, except for when he didn't protect us and we suffered the worst terrorist attack on US soil in history. The Democrats took 9-11 as a sign to rally around a President whose election victory was suspect at best and give him their full support. The Republicans are already signaling that the moment any disaster might strike they're going to attack Obama as "weak" on defense and the good of the country be damned. By the standards of Bush, Obama gets a free pass for at least one terrorist attack. But this moronic "calendar" approach ignores the real test we should make. No leader can prevent bad things from happening. It's like hiring a fire chief and then blaming him because fires still occur. The test of a leader is not the impossible one of magically preventing bad things from ever happening again. It's how they respond to a crisis. Bush froze on 9-11 and then launched an unnecessary war that left tens of thousands of US soldiers dead or wounded, drained our national treasury to more than $1 trillion and counting, failed to catch or kill the people responsible and has left Al Quaeda stronger than ever by every measurement. That's the failure of Bush, not the fact that 9-11 occured in the first place.

JOHN MCCAIN'S CONCESSION SPEECH WAS NOTABLY GRACIOUS -- Every loser in a Presidential election is expected to say they fought a tough campaign, but the other guy won and now everyone should rally around the President-elect. That's not gracious; that's the LEAST anyone should do. John McCain did that and he did it fine. But it wasn't noble or remarkable or exceptional. Nonetheless everyone from Elizabeth Hasselback of The View to historian Doris Kearns-Goodwin raved about McCain and how gracious he was. Barbara Walters cooed that his concession speech was "elegant." As others have pointed out, this is in some ways an attempt to pretend that McCain's campaign was just "tough" and "hard fought," just like every other campaign. Jon Meacham of Newsweek insisted "McCain ran a noble campaign; it could have been far worse." Short of having people at his rallies lynch Obama in effigy, it's hard to see how McCain and Palin's campaign could have been any less noble or more nasty. McCain and Palin ran the nastiest, most divisive general election campaign since George Bush (who I supported) in 1988. Palin regularly impugned Obama's patriotism, McCain rallies featured people calling Obama a terrorist and demanding his death and McCain's ads were so laughably and transparently lies that the traditional media felt almost obliged to denounce them in every possible way. And McCain didn't just sell his soul during the general election. He sold it four years ago when he hitched his wagon to Bush because McCain cynically decided to support a guy he despised and abandon his principles as the only way he'd ever win his party's nomination.

STRIPPING JOE LIEBERMAN OF HIS CHAIRMANSHIP WOULD BE PETTY -- This, too, is a rather strange debate and John Aravosis of Americablog weighs in on on why it's so disastrous for the Democrats to go soft on Joe. Lieberman was ready to run as VP for the Republican Party. When he didn't get it, he endorsed his old friend John McCain but promised Democrats he would support McCain without attacking the Democratic nominee. Then he broke his promise and went on the campaign trail and spoke at the Republican convention, impugning Obama's patriotism at every turn. And this wasn't the first time Lieberman aligned with Republicans at the expense of Dems. It's one thing to support Bush's disastrous policy in Iraq. It's quite another to give Bush political cover by attacking any Democrat who questions Bush's policy as underming the troops, as he did repeatedly. Why would anyone think they could malign and smear members of their own party and the Democratic presidential nominee and then turn around and expect lots of treats? Joe Lieberman could have easily and nobly supported McCain without attacking the Democrats. But he didn't. Only Democrats would debate whether a rogue Senator consistently undermining their party deserves every perk they can give him. Stripping Lieberman of his chairmanship isn't petty; it's common sense. I would never suggest using Karl Rove as a model for ethics or decency or just about anything. But he must be laughing right now. It is instructive to imagine if the roles were reversed and Lieberman were a Republican and to imagine what Rove and Hannity and Limbaugh would be saying about what should be done to him. I think their only debate would be over tar and feathering versus a good thrashing.

SARAH PALIN IS THE FUTURE OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY -- Actually, she represents the past. But if you're a Democrat, you should certainly hope the Republicans think so.

So what lies about the campaign and Obama's victory have you spotted?