Theme song by the Thompson Twins
15 September 2008, 11:39 AM
In Barack Osama's Denver speech, I was struck by the way Sen. Obama enunciated an idea I've had for some years.
But what I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism.
Mark Schmitt wrote about it as a campaign tactic, but I think there's something more going on. Something more important, for me, and I think something more important for Barack Obama as well. And now that the news is focused on the fact that John McCain, Sarah Palin and their campaign are lying, again and again, over simple and clear matters, long after the truth is out, I want to look back on this quote and this idea.
First of all, Your Humble Blogger is aware that politicians lie for political gain, and that they take positions for political purposes. That's never really a surprise. But that doesn't mean it's the norm. We should ask that politicians refrain from outright lies, and we should ask that our legislators and executives don't publicly espouse policies that they privately disdain. And when we discover that our representatives are lying to us, or lying to other representatives, we should bring the political might of our scorn and derision on them. At least.
But how do we go about making a world where that's true? Given that we know that lying has become the norm, that a politician will pander to whoever he's talking to, promising support ethanol or abortion rights, or promising Supreme Court Justices or invasions, and then promise something different to a different audience the next day, given that the Republican campaign can continue to claim that Sarah Palin visited Iraq, told Congress to take back the money for the Bridge to Nowhere, and fought against earmarks, given all that, how do we go about making there be some penalty for lying in politics?
I don't really know the answer, but I think that part of the answer has to be a very public and very formal pretense that one's opposition really means what they say. There has to be a Party (and some allies of that Party in the press) who try to treat every statement that comes out of the opposition as a true representation of their beliefs, and not only pretend to be shocked, shocked by any prevarication but seriously point out the flaws in, for instance, a demand that Georgia be immediately admitted into full membership in NATO.
Of course, such a Party would have to be prepared to be accused of naivete, to be accused of distortion itself, and would undoubtedly be caught out in its own misstatements and misrepresentations. But there's a lot to be gained, as only in a world where there is some sort of penalty for lying can a politician expect his words to be taken seriously.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,