“Flat Out Lies, Alex?”: Here We Go Again


A friend in the publishing world sent me this CNN excerpt today, subject line: “It’s like beating your own head with a rock.” The conversation, between Democratic CNN consultant Paul Begala, GOP strategist Alex Castellanos and CNN host John Roberts, concerns what it means that Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin continues to cheerfully repeat in speeches around the country the lie that she told Congress “thanks but no thanks” to the “Bridge to Nowhere” when in fact she originally campaigned for it, and then kept the money after Congress canceled the project.

[CNN HOST JOHN] ROBERTS: That would appear, Paul, to end any argument over whether or not she supported the bridge initially. But why can’t Barack Obama make that point stick?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Because the press won’t do its job, John. I criticized Barack Obama when he hasn’t been tough enough. Barack’s job is to run against John McCain, right. Don’t shoot the monkey when you can shoot for the organ grinder. His job is not to focus on number two but number one. But it is the media’s job when a politician flat out lies like she’s doing on this bridge to nowhere so call her on it. Or this matter of earmarks where she’s attacking Barack Obama for having earmarks, when she was the mayor of little Wasilla, Alaska, 6,000 people, she hired a lobbyist who was connected to Jack Abramoff, who is a criminal and they brought home $27 million in earmarks. She carried so much pork home she got trichinosis. But we in the media are letting her tell lies about her record.

ROBERTS: Hey, OK. We got to let Alex respond to that. Flat out lies, Alex?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Let’s be a little gentle. Look, every elected official in this country works under the system we have, which is you try to get a little bit of your tax money back. You just don’t want to leave it all in Washington. The amazing thing about Sarah Palin is when she became governor she actually stood up and said no. And she made it –

BEGALA: That’s not true.

CASTELLANOS: She took a strong stand. That is rare and that never happened.

ROBERTS: All right.

BEGALA: That’s just not true. You know, John, the facts matter. There’s lots of things that are debatable who is more qualified or less experienced or more this or more passionate, whatever. It is a fact that she campaigned and supported that bridge to nowhere. It is a fact that she hired lobbyists to get earmarks. It is a fact that as governor she lobbies for earmarks. Her state is essentially a welfare state taking money from the federal government.

ROBERTS: We still have 56 days to talk about this back and forth.

BEGALA: This is the problem. We have this false debate when we ought to have at least agreed upon facts.

Notice the CNN host Roberts suggesting that it was Barack Obama’s job to make the media call Palin’s lie a lie (Roberts: “Why can’t Barack Obama make that point stick?”), versus its default, preferred state of treating it as merely a point of he-said, she-said, partisan dispute between Republicans and Democrats. Roberts: “Flat out lies, Alex?” And Roberts further down, “We still have 56 days to talk about this back and forth.” Back and forth? (Which Begala aggressively challenges).

As the publishing friend said: head, meet rock.

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