Thank you to TSM contributor Lex Kahn for this diary. VERACITY:
conforming to the truth or fact; accuracy – Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
Lately this seems to be not just a problem for some of our nation’s political figures, but an intentional option. Why bother with facts or the truth if you can just adjust your comments on the fly?
The most blatant example is Senator Jon Kyl (R – AZ), who attacked Planned Parenthood in April. Kyl said on the Senate floor that 90% of Planned Parenthood’s business was providing abortions, an error of 3000%. When he was caught in this lie, he responded through a spokesperson that the comment
was not intended to be a factual statement.
What? He makes a specific claim clearly intended to affect public policy that was never meant to be true? I suppose that we should, somewhat ironically, appreciate his transparency about the comment, but why did he make it? What possible purpose did he have in lying to his colleagues and the American people other than to promote his personal agenda over provable reality?
Sadly, this kind of dodge has grown more artful as the Republican presidential hopefuls have begun their campaigning in earnest. There are many examples, but two stand out, especially since they come from the winner of the Ames Straw Poll (Bachmann) and the current front-runner in the pre-primary polls (Perry).
Michele Bachmann took advantage of natural disasters, displaying her typical crass lack of sympathy with the American people, to maintain that Hurricane Irene and the east coast earthquake were signs of God’s wrath.
I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’
Apparently, God was angry at the size of the U.S. budget deficit (a nice change from His more typical wrath at the gay community à la Pat Robertson). When called out on her gross insensitivity, Bachmann took a Kyl and said that her words were simply a METAPHOR:
a word or phrase that means one thing and is used for referring to another thing in order to emphasize their similar qualities – Macmillan Dictionary Online
Let’s be generous for a moment and assume that Bachmann actually knows what a metaphor is. In that case, she meant to say that lethal devastation was similar to God’s wrath, not the real thing. How does that differ in principle? She’s still saying that innocent people should suffer because the Congress of which she is a member can’t balance a budget. Culpability, insult, and ignorance all in one backpedal, that’s pretty amazing. Of course, we could skip the metaphor excuse and go with her other, contradictory explanation, that she was simply being HUMOROUS:
full of or characterized by humor; funny – Macmillan Dictionary Online
Which is it, Michele? A bad analogy or a tasteless joke? Do you know the difference?
Just when the separation of truth and state seemed to reach its peak, enter Rick Perry. Perry has famously maintained that Social Security is unconstitutional, not just in speeches but in his book, Fed Up. During his first debate performance, he referred to this vital program as a “Ponzi scheme” and a “monstrous lie.” When (surprise, surprise) such comments polled very badly with most Americans, Perry took a Kyl as well.
Suddenly, he issued statements maintaining that anyone currently on Social Security should not fear for its viability, nor should anyone about to enter eligibility. What does that mean, Rick? That those people should be comfortable living a monstrous lie? That your presidency would do nothing to end an unconstitutional practice? That you support bankrupting future generations with a scheme you loathe just to get a few more votes?
Mitt Romney is famous for his flip-flops, trying to hide from his past by reinventing his positions. As venal and manipulative as he may be, Bachmann and Perry have lowered the game to a whole new level. What a travesty when Romney rises to the top of the ethical heap.
Americans must pay attention. In this cynical age, most people have come to expect their political leaders to delivery carefully crafted messages to each demographic, to make promises that garner votes regardless of their political viability. What an horrific shift if we let people vying for our highest office simply retract or recast their statements. Candidates, stand by your policies and we will vote accordingly. You’re only human, you’re allowed to make mistakes; when you do, say “I was wrong.” If that doesn’t happen very often you’ll gain credibility and we’ll know where you stand. Own your words. That’s
the quality of behaving according to the rules and standards of your job or profession – Macmillan Dictionary Online
INTEGRITY: a principle of leadership.