By Al Kamen
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — Once upon a time, politicians knew how to call out a baldfaced lie.
Teddy Roosevelt once accused an opponent of “atrociously” and wickedly” lying, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin pointed out on Tuesday’s “Morning Joe.” And Abraham Lincoln famously slapped Stephen Douglas with this insult: “I don’t know what to call you except you are a liar.”
“We’ve gotten a little more wimpy today about what is an attack,” Goodwin concluded.
Indeed, not once were the words “lie” or “liar” uttered during Monday night’s presidential debate (at least audibly; we can’t vouch for what the candidates may have muttered under their breath).
Instead, President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney attacked each for various sins of prevarication in a more gentlemanly way.
Despite the euphemisms, the message was clear. Here are snippets in which each candidate strongly suggested that his opponent was playing most fast and loose with the facts.
“I don’t concur with what the president said about my own record and the things that I’ve said. They don’t happen to be accurate.”
“You got that fact wrong.”
“Nothing could be further from the truth.”
“You’re wrong . . . “
“The math doesn’t work, but he continues to claim that he’s going to do it.”
“This has been probably the biggest whopper that’s been told during the course of this campaign. And every fact checker and every reporter who’s looked at it, Governor, has said this is not true.”
“And the fact is . . . “
“Governor Romney, that’s not what you said . . . “
“Let’s check the record.”
“The fact of the matter is . . . “
“I think anybody out there can check the record. Governor Romney, you keep on trying to, you know, airbrush history here. . . . That wasn’t true.”
“No, I am not wrong. I am not wrong.”