News flash: Humphrey Bogart never said, "play it again, Sam," Captain Kirk never uttered, "Beam me up, Scotty" -- and John McCain never promised a hundred year war!
... The danger, of course, is that everybody thinks Bogie and Kirk said those now famous lines. And if we're not careful, the public may also mistakenly believe McCain said he wanted a hundred year war. As Churchill may, or may not have said: "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."
Of course, this lie isn't just spreading itself. The fact that Barack Obama and Howard Dean continue to intentionally mischaracterize John McCain's statements -- and mislead the public -- obviously creates a level of difficulty that may other misquoted victims haven't had to confront (the obvious exception is Al Gore -- the man who "invented" the internet).
This type of negative politics might be expected of Howard Dean, but Barack Obama claims to offer a new type of politics. Yet he's playing the same old partisan games of mischaracterization. (Will "hundred yearing" somebody replace "swiftboating" as jargon used by the media to describe an unfair or untrue attack? It's doubtful).
John McCain is actually the one who has run a new type of campaign. And my hope is that McCain's reputation as a "straight-talker" -- and an honest broker -- will help inoculate him from these tawdry attacks. I also hope that the emergence of YouTube, as well as a more informed public, will serve to set the record straight in a way that wasn't possible in the past.
Still, I fear this could stick. It's easy to say McCain wants to stay in Iraq for 100 years. That fits on a bumper sticker. But explaining the truth takes at least a paragraph. As P.T. Barnum may have said, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people."