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 Tribunedeclared:
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/
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 refusing to bare false witness 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."
Cross posted from Steven Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.com