| My friend Todd Feinburg is fond of quoting Lyndon Baines Johnson's famous, terse political dictum:
Make the bastard deny it!
The story, according to Hunter S.Thompson (so face it, it may be apocryphal), was that when Johnson spoke these words to his campaign manager he was down ten points with nine days to go in his first Congressional campaign. His opponent was a successful pig farmer and Johnson wanted to issue a claim that his opponent had an ongoing, er, amorous, relationship with his pigs. Johnson had no evidence for this claim. No pigs had come forward. But why not place the ball, however wildly volleyed, into the opponents court?
Naturally, Johnson won his Congressional race going away.
|What, exactly, does it mean to "make the bastard deny it?" The obvious suggestion is that you are telling a great, big lie. You hope that enough voters will hear the lie and either not hear the denial or will not believe it when they do hear it. Pretty simple.
Indeed, if this is really all that Lyndon Johnson was suggesting, it is a pretty shallow thought. "Make the bastard deny it" is merely equivalent to "tell an outlandish lie."
Okay, maybe in some way Johnson is making an insightful observation on how dirty politics can actually succeed. If you don't have a moral compass governing the things that you say (if, for example, you have no trouble claiming that an honorable man who inadvertently misses an FEC filing is no different from Charlie Rangel), Johnson says that you have an edge. It is a particularly useful tactic for (many, not all) liberals, who cannot distinguish between what is good for them and what is, simply, good.
But whether Johnson ever thought of it or not, there is a more powerful, deeper value to the idea of making the bastard deny it - and that is when the thing you want them to deny is true - when your opponent believes something that is anathema to the people and you can clearly present it and convincingly attribute it to him.
And so, in the spirit of making the bastard deny it, with the Presidential debates fast-approaching, here is a suggestion for Governor Romney. When the issue of the Bush tax cuts comes up and when President Obama asserts that America cannot afford to prolong the tax breaks "for the rich," here is how I recommend that Governor Romney respond.
President Obama, you and I both know that raising taxes on the top two percent of wage-earners in America, as you are proposing to do, will have no appreciable impact on the deficit. You and I both know that you can confiscate every dime of those hard-working Americans and it's not going to cover as much as a third of your yearly $4T budget. Mr. President, face it, you don't want to tax those upper income brackets, which include a lot of small business owners, by the way, because it makes any kind of economic sense. You want to tax them because you think that making a lot of money is morally wrong. You believe that those who make a lot of money - by innovating and investing and risking - are making it at the expense of those who make less. Mr. President, we believe - the American people believe - that when someone provides a good or service that results in a profit, then they are creating wealth - and jobs - for all of us. Mr. Obama, you think making money is immoral. We don't.
Make the bastard deny it.