How do they keep getting away with it? The president and the people who serve or represent him continually misrepresent facts and situations as they try to put their version of things over on the press corps and the American people. And they aren’t the only ones. Republican front runners promise to walk in the footsteps of a president whose vision is shallow and his scope limited but whose legacy will play out in the devastating consequences of his policies for the country and the world.
At his most recent press conference Mr. Bush scoffed at the notion that President Clinton and his father would travel together to promote a more positive image of the United States. He was probably right that such a coupling and mission would never occur, but his assertion that he, as president, has been spreading good will and promoting peace initiatives around the world was so outrageous one has to marvel that it wasn’t greeted by loud and sustained laughter by the press corps. And why does the president continue to say “nukuler” instead of nuclear as he stands before all those cameras and mikes? Perhaps his continued mispronunciation after all this time is revelatory of his leadership style – – a disturbing mixture of stubbornness and ignorance.
And when he and his minions refuse to talk about “ongoing investigations” no-one calls them on the fact that when such investigations have been completed the cases are said to be settled old news not worthy of comment. With respect to Scooter Libby the administration refused to talk about his pending case, refused to discuss it after Libby was convicted for lying and obstruction of justice while his appeal was pending. But now that his appeal has been withdrawn and the excuses have run their course there has been no further word from the White House. And of course the president had already decided the Libby sentence was too extreme and commuted it; he will no doubt issue a pardon when he leaves office. Where are the follow-up questions and where’s the outrage?
On the campaign trail Republican candidates make statements that range from totally misleading to factual misrepresentations to ‘I’ll just say anything that sounds good and hope nobody notices the lack of accuracy.’ Rudy Giuliani has produced some whoppers regarding statistics about his cancer recovery here and what he might have expected in England for example; he has inflated his mayoral record and downplayed his ‘bad judgment in the case of Bernie Kerik, a man he had known and employed for many years.
Mitt Romney claimed to be a lifelong hunter to encourage the support of the NRA only to admit later that he had hunted only small varmints from time to time and had never been endorsed at the national level by the NRA. And when he “saw” his father marching with Martin Luther King, something George Romney never did, he developed a diversionary explanation of what the meaning of ‘saw’ was.
Mike Huckabee has tried to convince people that the appearance of a white cross in his Christmas commercial was simply the incidental inclusion of a bookshelf behind him. How absurd he has said that anyone would suggest otherwise. But whether one cares or not about how Mr. Huckabee and his staff chose to film his message, the fact is the camera deliberately panned left as he spoke, bringing into the frame a bookshelf with lighting that clearly suggested the image of a cross. The denial is the absurdity.
As for Senator McCain who claims never to have associated with lobbyists or influence peddlers he isn’t completely devoid of past, let’s call them mistakes in judgment. When Arizona’s Lincoln Savings and Loan debacle unfolded, McCain’s association with its owner, Charles H. Keating, Jr., brought him unwelcome attention and scrutiny regarding his ethics. Although never directly implicated in the Keating manipulations Martin Mayer in his book, The Greatest-Ever Bank Robbery, says that “McCain concealed for months the fact that he had accepted free rides on Keating’s jets for himself, his family and their baby-sitter and had taken vacations at Keating’s Bahamian paradise.” One is free to assume there were no strings attached to such amenities.
Voters will continue to have a hard time deriving a sense of how truthful candidates are and how sound their judgment is because there is far too little fact-checking and incisive policy analysis in our public forums and far too much emphasis on superficial personality traits and religious views. ‘They’ get away with it because the press is often lazy and because the public continues to give them the benefit of the doubt.