EDITORIAL: As credibility takes a backseat in this election, the message - and its target audience - suffer

Lying - once the refuge of the irretrievably crooked - is now just gamesmanship in the political sphere.

Lying - once the refuge of the irretrievably crooked - is now just gamesmanship in the political sphere.

After each of the recent debates, the media in all forms has issued fact checks on each of the candidate's statements and found many points, spoken with absolute conviction, falling rather short of the truth.

Vice President Dick Cheney never linked Iraq to the 9/11 attacks? Meet the Press transcripts prove otherwise. Vice presidential candidate John Edwards says the war in Iraq has cost America $200 billion? Well, it's actually only $119 billion so far.

Many more examples of exaggeration and obfuscation exist, including those from the presidential debate and from statements generated constantly by both sides of the campaign. But credibility, or lack thereof, is apparently not a problem for candidates in this election, other than, perhaps, the big question of what prompted the invasion of Iraq.

The days when President Bill Clinton was roundly condemned for his finger-shaking denial of "sexual relations with that woman" seem a long time ago now. And remember just four years ago, when Al Gore was thought to have torpedoed his White House bid with the so-called "lies and sighs" debate? Critics accused him of exaggeration and of inflating his experience, and many believed that he squandered an easy advantage he had over opponent George W. Bush.

Much of the post-debate coverage centered on the so-called "spin rooms," where campaign consultants would offer themselves to reporters in order to amplify - or alter - their candidates' messages. But with a core of credibility sadly lacking in both camps, and a media that seems to cheerfully accept it as the status quo, the foundation of that messaging is rather shaky.

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