There has been, and will be, a torrent of post-election analysis washing over the nation. Politicians and pundits will continue to sort out the complexities of last Tuesday’s results for us nimrods who were smart enough to produce the results but not smart enough to understand them. What I’d like to know is, why should we listen to them?
The track record of the media prognosticators is suspect to say the least. Since almost all of the players were predicting their preferences rather than their objective picks, their accuracy can just as easily be predicted by which side they were on. In other words, those on the left scored higher than those on the right. In still other words, history is written by the winners.
What I don’t see in all of this projectile punditry is any analysis of the media itself. The stenographic pod people that have taken over the body of the press are all too willing to consume whatever they are fed by their subjects. In two of the more startling admissions by public figures I’ve ever heard, we have been alerted that they are simply not to be believed.
The Politician, George W. Bush: “…my answer was, they’re going to stay on. And the reason why is I didn’t want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign. And so the only way to answer that question and to get you on to another question was to give you that answer.”
The Pundit, Rush Limbaugh: “I feel liberated, and I’m just going to tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don’t think deserve having their water carried.”
In both of these comments, we are told forthrightly that lying for the purpose of manipulating the outcome of an election is not out of bounds. Now, anyone who follows politics, and has a pulse, should already know this. What drops the jaw is that they feel free to be so nakedly honest about their dishonesty. Neither one of them seemed cowed or reluctant to disclose their deceit. To the contrary, they both appeared to be proud of their tactical cunning. And why shouldn’t they be? The press eats it up and asks for more.
In the same press conference where he admitted lying about the fate of Don Rumsfeld, Bush was later asked about the fate of Dick Cheney. It doesn’t really matter what the answer was. What matters is why should we believe what he says about Cheney after he just admitting having lied about Rumsfeld? Bush expects us to accept his lies and move on as if nothing happened.
Limbaugh has the same problem. After confessing that his cheerleading for Republicans did not represent his actual views, how should we digest any of the opinions he unleashes from here on out? Rush wants us to believe that, although he was lying before, his liberation will free him from doing so in the future.
Both Bush and Limbaugh argue that the enormity of the stakes in this election justified their lies. The implication being that, with the election over, they can now return to that old standby, the truth. The problem with that alibi is that elections are never over. The race for the White House in 2008 started on November 8th. Already, three candidates have announced the formation of exploratory committees. If the stakes for this midterm campaign were so profound as to justify such brazen dishonesty, certainly the stakes for a presidential election would be considered at least as consequential, therefore justifying even more lies or worse. Why not employ fraud, intimidation, violence? After all the stakes are so high.
Unfortunately, the press seems to have accepted these arguments. This is typical of a press corps that is grateful for access and fearful of boat-rocking. The President and his water carrier are symptomatic of a much broader problem that infects so many others in their dirty shoes. There is little in the way of blowback for having lied through their teeth to the media. That will surely provide encouragement for doing more of it. In the coming weeks and months there will be press conferences and interviews with reporters asking questions of admitted liars and then publishing the responses without providing any context.
Now, I don’t want to be accused of complaining without contributing any constructive solutions. So I would like to propose the following:
For the next two years…
- all published comments by the President be appended with the qualifier, “…said the admitted liar.”
- the only follow up to any question asked to a politician or partisan pundit should be, “Are you lying today?”
That should resolve the veracity gap. Unless, of course, they don’t answer that question truthfully, but why wouldn’t they?