Here's how it works:
- Say something truthful and juicy to your supporters (i.e., Obama knows Bill Ayres)
- Get positive feedback from your supporters that this is both a great line of thinking and that there's more to the story
- Step it up a notch, using a bit more explicit rhetoric (i.e., Obama had a serious relationship with Bill Ayres)
- Repeat until you say something absurd (i.e., Obama "pals around with terrorists"). At this point, you haveofficially Jumped The Shark.
Take this most recent example. McCain and Palin have been hammering Obama on his tax plan (and he's been hammering right back). That's mostly good news. Then Obama mentions spreading the wealth around and Palin had her opening to hint that Obama is suggesting socialism. Then, the next day, she outright calls his policies socialist:
"Senator Obama said he wants to quote 'spread the wealth.' What that means is he wants government to take your money and dole it out however a politician sees fit," Palin said, drawing boos from the crowd of several thousand.
Friends, now is no time to experiment with socialism.
A couple days later, Palin officially jumps the shark on this issue with this gem from a speech yesterday:
"See, under a big government, more tax agenda, what you thought was yours would really start belonging to somebody else, to everybody else. If you thought your income, your property, your inventory, your investments were, were yours, they would really collectively belong to everybody. Obama, Barack Obama has an ideological commitment to higher taxes, and I say this based on his record... Higher taxes, more government, misusing the power to tax leads to government moving into the role of some believing that government then has to take care of us. And government kind of moving into the role as the other half of our family, making decisions for us. Now, they do this in other countries where the people are not free. Let us fight for what is right. John McCain and I, we will put our trust in you."
Somehow we've gone from Obama wants to raise your taxes when the economy is bad to Obama wants to create a brutal communist state, where you aren't free.
I think it's pretty clear that there's a feedback looping going on here between Palin and her closest supporters. I think for any political, heck any leader, this is really dangerous.
Two reasons come to mind why this is such a mistake: (a) at some point, you're simply no longer telling the truth, and we'd pretty much like our leaders not to lie to us. (b) When you start spewing out this crazy talk, your closest supporters will love it, but what about the rest of the world? Heck, what about your thinking supporters? How can you not look silly going to such extremes.