Not to put too fine a point on the whole “Harry Reid is beyond the pale” meme that’s circulating the beltway these days (because Reid says someone told him Mitt Romney paid $0 in Federal Income Taxes for 10 years, and has both Jon Stewart and Kevin Drum clutching their pearls), but I’m with Charlie Pierce on this one:
I look at this story and I do not think of Joe McCarthy. I look at this story and I think of Vince Foster….
Conspiracy rumors about how and when and why Foster died became a cottage industry among those people who were looking for anything with which to discredit the Democratic president. (Historians will note that the bizarre attacks on Barack Obama were rehearsed by the entire political world between the years 1992 and 2000.) However, and this is the most important however, they did not stay as solely the province of the wingnut-o-sphere. Despite the fact that Foster’s death had been ruled a suicide by the United States Park Police, who had primary jurisdiction in the case, we were treated to two full congressional investigations, one of which was highlighted by the famous episode in which an actual U.S. congressman named Dan Burton shot a melon in his backyard in an attempt to prove that the forensics in Foster’s case had been rigged….
Remember that all of these preposterous exercises were covered extensively by the mainstream media, almost all of whom knew — or damn sure should have known after, say, the second congressional investigation — that they were chasing moonbeams.
Also, Scott Lemieux at LGM points out that no one is in a position to all Harry Reid a liar, either on the substance of the allegation (Mitt Romney didn’t pay Federal income taxes for 10 years), or the surface veracity of his statement (someone who worked at Bain had told him that). This, of course, hasn’t stopped our fact-checking sites from calling Reid a “pants on Fire” liar or giving him four Pinnocchios, depending on who you go to to get your “facts” checked. (Reid clearly doesn’t care, and is now the honeybadger – see above – of U.S. politics.)
I’d note, of course, that in the midst of this kerfuffle, where people are going on about how awful Harry Reid is to say such a scurrilous thing about a Presidential candidate (who could, of course, make Reid look silly by simply abiding by a level of disclosure equal to that of his opponent…or can he?) Mitt Romney, through his campaign, has unleashed a true “pants on fire” lie: that the Obama administration is suing to prevent early voting by veterans in Ohio.
Of course, when you’re fact-checking this campaign, you have to keep in mind that Romney is a scratch liar, and Obama comes in with a 10-fib handicap.