True Lies: Presidential Style

If I was asked to choose one word which I believe reflects the tenor of the 2012 Presidential Election campaign, I think that I would have to select “Liar“.

I’ve witnessed quite a few presidential elections. I distinctly remember watching the televised Kennedy – Nixon debate in 1960, but I can’t recall any election cycle in which the honesty and veracity of the presidential candidates was so frequently and publicly called into question, as in the current campaign.

Hardly a day goes by in which I fail to stumble upon a news article, a blog post, a television commentator, or an ordinary person in the local grocery store vehemently accusing one, or the other, presidential candidate of lying. This appears to be one of those rare examples of a truly bipartisan effort.

The accusations are not that the candidate in question used carefully worded phrases to sidestep an issue or to paint a particular situation in a better light. You know, the type of wordplay which politicians have been practicing since Hammurabi first ran for office.

No, these accusations are made with such fervor as to strongly imply that the candidate, in a loathsome and calculated manner, set out to intentionally deceive the public; while being fully aware of the impact of his actions.

If true, these allegations reveal a startling level of deceitful behavior on the part of the man who will be our next president; regardless of which candidate wins election.

In the last few years, political fact checking has turned into a cottage industry. It doesn’t take very long for an inquiring mind to discover which of these accusations are true, half true, false, and every shading of legitimacy in between.

What I find most troubling is that, in some cases, even after a particular accusation of lying has been thoroughly researched and found to be false, that same accusation continues to be repeated. It’s “Damn the fact checkers, full speed ahead!

When this occurs, it appears that the accuser isn’t interested in pursuing the truth as much as in engaging in the act of making an accusation or in blindly promulgating half-truths in support of a particular political doctrine. I find either alternative very troubling.

I wonder if this environment of finger pointing is some sort of delayed, knee-jerk reaction to Congressman Joe Wilson’s calling out of President Obama with, “You lie!” during the 2011 State of the Union address.

Or is it just a natural by-product of the highly polarized state of politics in the U.S.? Whatever its origins, I hope it’s something that we can correct, and quickly.

During the remaining three weeks of this campaign season, I’d like to suggest that everyone in the business of pointing accusing fingers would do well to heed the Biblical admonition to ‘remove the plank from your own eye before pointing out the speck in the eye of your brother‘.

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