-By Michael M. Bates
In little more than 200 years, we’ve gone from George Washington, who could not tell a lie, to modern political figures who will never be mistaken for the indispensable man.
Barack Obama is running an ad in Iowa that ballyhoos his “scrupulous honesty.” That bouquet was tossed by Time magazine’s Joe Klein.
The candidate’s scrupulous honesty must have been sorely strained in his dealings with Democratic fat cat and wheeler-dealer Tony Rezko, soon on trial for an assortment of fraud schemes. Rezko was widely known to be under Federal investigation by the time Obama approached him, hoping he’d “develop an interest” in buying some land that just happened to adjoin a parcel owned by the senator.
Mr. Obama’s honesty was brought into question from the moment he announced his candidacy for president. That’s because the day after his 2004 election to the U.S. Senate, he forcefully vowed that he wouldn’t run for president before the end of his full six-year term.
The Chicago Sun-Times carried the story:
“‘I was elected yesterday,’ Obama said. ‘I have never set foot in the U.S. Senate. I’ve never worked in Washington. And the notion that somehow I’m immediately going to start running for higher office just doesn’t make sense.
‘So look, I can unequivocally say I will not be running for national office in four years, and my entire focus is making sure that I’m the best possible senator on behalf of the people of Illinois.”’
He further elaborated: “Look, I’m a state senator who hasn’t even been sworn in yet. My understanding is that I will be ranked 99th in seniority. . . I’m going to be spending the first several months of my career in the U.S. Senate looking for the washroom and trying to figure out how the phones work.”
Responding to unrelenting reporter questions on the matter, he said that he was definite that he wouldn’t run for president in 2008. He even termed the question itself “silly.” So who’s laughing now?
Not Senator Clinton, who’s shown herself grievously honesty-challenged more than a few times over the years. One poll of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers found that Barry beats Mrs. Clinton 2-1 as the more honest and trustworthy candidate.
Between them, and barely edging out Hillary on the honest and trustworthy gauge, was John Edwards. He illustrated how honest in was when he ran for vice president four years ago. You’ll recall he promised that if he and John Kerry were elected, people like quadriplegic Christopher Reeve would set aside their wheelchairs and walk. Despite such a breathtakingly obvious falsehood, Edwards is still considered more honest by Democrats than Mrs. Clinton.
The Republican frontrunners carry much of the same baggage as the Democrats. Mitt Romney’s claim that he’s a lifelong hunter didn’t pan out any more than his assertion that the National Rifle Association had endorsed him when he ran for Massachusetts governor. Now he’s in hot water over whether or not he saw his father march with Martin Luther King. A rough rule of thumb is that when a politician has to cite dictionary definitions of a word, his reputation for honesty is taking a hit. Just ask Mrs. Clinton’s husband.
Recently, Rudy Giuliani has faced more than medical challenges. A rough rule of thumb is that when a politician has to answer questions about providing taxpayer-funded security for his wife and his mistress simultaneously, his reputation for honesty is taking a hit.
Mike Huckabee has developed his own honesty gap. On an issue of critical importance to most conservatives, fiscal restraint, the former Arkansas governor erroneously claims he reduced taxes more than he raised them. The awareness that isn’t true is catching up with him and is part of the reason the bloom’s coming off the Huckaboom.
Politicians have been lying, spinning, twist, exaggerating, embroidering and embellishing for as long as there have been politicians. Ronald Reagan observed that it’s been said that politics is the second oldest profession and that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.
So we expect them to lie. What I object to is the stupidity of it all in our information-saturated age. It’s simply too easy to catch them.
Any dolt willing to spend a few minutes on the Internet can unearth Obama’s promises about staying in the Senate for the full term. Any dolt can learn the truth of Governor Huckabee’s spending record. Any dolt can. . . Come to think of it, maybe it’s not all that easy. No, no, on considered second thought, actually, it absolutely requires a highly skilled investigative researcher with an exceptional ability to ferret out the truth to unearth this information.
Still, there are quite a few of those out there and the pols ought to know their fibs, or worse, will likely be found out.
Former Senator Fred Thompson hasn’t been mentioned in this piece. Partially that’s because he’s not a favorite for his party’s nomination. But it’s also because I think he may have hit a high note in truth telling recently. When the Associated Press asked some candidates what their most prized possession was, most of the answers were conventional: A baseball signed by Ted Williams, a guitar, a car, and running shoes.
Old Fred’s answer, described by the AP as tongue in cheek, was his “trophy wife.” Having seen the fetching Mrs. Thompson in pictures and on TV, this highly skilled investigative researcher with an exceptional ability to ferret out the truth believes Mr. Thompson wasn’t being facetious.
He was telling the truth. For which I salute him.
(This Michael Bates column appeared in the December 27, 2007 Reporter Newspapers.)
Michael M. Bates has written a weekly column of opinion – or nonsense, depending on your viewpoint – since 1985 for the (southwest suburban Chicago) Reporter Newspapers. Additionally, his articles have appeared in the Congressional Record, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Mensa Journal. He has been a guest on Milt Rosenberg’s program on WGN Radio Chicago, the Bruce Elliott show on Baltimore’s WBAL, the Jim Sumpter show on the USA Radio Network and the New Media Journal’s Blog Radio. As a lad, Mike distributed Goldwater campaign literature and since then has steadily moved further to the Right. He is the author of “Right Angles and Other Obstinate Truths.” In 2007, he won an Illinois Press Association award for Original Column.
His presence on the web can be viewed at www.michaelmbates.com And he can be reached at mikembates-at-gmail.com
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