Saturday, September 1, 2012


Okay, I admit it. When it comes to politics, I am somewhat naive. I expect even politicians running for the highest office in the land to stick to facts and the truth, not make it up as they go along. When I was a child, just getting interested in politics, I remember Adlai Stevenson and Dwight D. Eisenhower. They had some very strong opposing views, but both had the respect of Americans as decent, honest men who told the truth--even when it wasn't politically convenient. Sixty years later, what a difference.

It isn't so much that they lied a lot at this week's Republican National Convention, but rather that they did it with big smiles on their faces, and with lies that could easily be discovered. It used to be that lying and other indiscretions--like taking money to do things the person giving you the money wants you to do--were frowned upon in American political life. Now they seem to be celebrated.

When the candidate for the second highest office, Paul Ryan, looks America straight in the eye and tells a huge whopper about President Obama promising a GM plant in Ryan's hometown that it would be around for a hundred years, only to have it close the following year, it sounds like a fair-minded counter-argument to Obama's taking credit for saving the auto industry. But even the most basic fact-checking turns up the information that the plant was closed while George W. Bush was still president, so Obama could never have made such a promise. The decision was made, the workers let go, before he was even sworn in. 

How could Paul Ryan, whose very reputation is built on the idea that he tells the hard truth and is a detail guy, make this mistake? The only conclusion is that it is not a mistake at all, but a deliberate effort to convince the American electorate of something that isn't true. In a deeply condescending way, he has to think most of us are idiots who won't even check out what he is saying in this era of instant fact-checking via Google and such organizations as Politifact and  Or maybe he just thinks we don't care. Some have suggested that conservatives hate Obama so much that they will vote for anyone who opposes him no matter what their qualifications or level of integrity. 

I thought Mitt Romney might elevate his discourse, but then he chose Clint Eastwood to take up a quarter of the prime-time hour he got to introduce himself to the American people. 

However, I remain a cockeyed optimist. I believe we may hear truth told at the Democratic convention in Charlotte. So I may still be naive, though also a realist--so I won't be betting on it.

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