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The Times
  • Editorial: When facts don't matter

  • As any old distance runner knows, it's remarkable how much faster you can get as the years pass. A 4:05 mile might become four flat, especially after you've downed a few at a track reunion. But deep inside, no real distance runner ever forgets a time. That's especially true in a marathon, which requires too muc...
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  • As any old distance runner knows, it's remarkable how much faster you can get as the years pass. A 4:05 mile might become four flat, especially after you've downed a few at a track reunion.
    But deep inside, no real distance runner ever forgets a time. That's especially true in a marathon, which requires too much effort not to leave an enduring impression. That's why some are making such a big deal of exercise maniac and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's assertion that he ran his only marathon in "two hour(s) and 50 something," when in fact it took him more than four hours, which is a world of difference.
    For Democrats, of course, this reveals the permanent character flaw of a pathological liar. For Republicans, it's no big deal, merely something misremembered from more than two decades ago.
    From this vantage, it's the silly season. The nation might well be better off electing a team of dedicated distance runners to run Uncle Sam's show, but no, this is not a campaign topic up there with Ryan's Medicare reform. If this is the best Democrats can do to tarnish Ryan, well, in the parlance of the moment, they deserve to get lapped.
    The far bigger issue is a Romney campaign that doesn't even make a pretense of adhering to facts if they don't suit the purpose. "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers," the campaign's pollster, Neil Newhouse, said during a breakfast at the Republican National Convention. The shock isn't so much that someone on the campaign staff believes that, but that someone actually came out and said it. Even some Republicans have recoiled at such nonchalance with the truth. Wow.
    Democrats do not get off the hook here. Politics may not be for sissies, but there have been some real whoppers from both sides in this low-road campaign. If Romney's people took an Obama quote - "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose" - so completely out of context last year that it really did qualify as a lie, Obama's people weren't much better in twisting a Romney comment to suggest he enjoyed firing people. If Republicans have persisted in repeating the falsehood that the White House wants to dump the work requirement for welfare, the Democratic claim that Romney was responsible for the death of a laid-off steelworker's wife was even more over the top. The standard-bearers really are responsible for the tenor of their campaigns. The above examples reflect poorly on both Obama and Romney.
    You'd think that some fidelity to the truth would be a prerequisite for someone running for leader of the free world. Both sides must take the American people for fools. Until voters start making them pay for lying to them, perhaps they are.
    Page 2 of 2 - Journal Star of Peoria, Ill.

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