My Opponent's Pants Are, I Believe, Aflame.

My column today is about politicians' lies -- which ones we care about, and which ones we don't. Lucky for me, Linda McMahon gives us a classic of the "He's a liar!" genre (via Dave Weigel:

OK, I'll ask: What else is he lying about? Why don't you tell us? There must be something you suspect. So what is it? Is his position on health care fraudulent? Is he actually a member of some weird cult? What?

I'm not trying to defend Richard Blumenthal. But the point of this ad seems to be that the Vietnam lie (if you want to call it that; Blumenthal would call it a "misstatement") isn't the real problem; instead, the problem is the other, unnamed lies that we should be terrified of.

Politicians do this to each other a lot: say that their opponents' sins aren't so much an issue in and of themselves as they are an indication that some far more awful tendency lurks below them, a little tick suggesting that the opponent may actually be an alien from the planet Gorgoth sent here to enslave us all. We sort of expect that, but reporters, at least, ought to be able to flesh out just what it is we're supposed to be afraid of. But of course, they almost never do.

-- Paul Waldman

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