Tuesday, July 22, 2003

GOP Morality: 16 Words=Bush Not Lying About WMD

In recent weeks, the fallout from the ‘Iraq attempted nuclear weapons purchase thingie’ has hurt the President’s popularity. In an attempt to limit the damage, our people have been pointing out that the President’s charge was against Saddam was one itty-bitty statement made in one State of the Union speech, which hardly anyone probably saw (and was probably beaten in the ratings that night by re-runs of Alf, anyway).

And it is argued that the false nuclear weapons charge against Iraq, made in order to move our nation one step closer to war with that nation, consisted of only sixteen words. ‘So what’s the big deal,’ the argument goes, ‘Sixteen words out of a whole speech, he makes one mistake, you want to make a federal case out of it? Duh!’

This particular defense of the President seems to have been the one that has been adopted by the Republican media. It has been successfully disseminated among our core audience--who, as we know, will greedily absorb any facts and arguments we present to them just as if their brains were made out of sponges. Thus wherever you hear the matter discussed you are likely to hear one of our party parrots defending the White House, and squawking about a mere ‘sixteen words.’

And this, I fear, is where we are going wrong. Do we really want to propose a new moral standard for lying, based on length alone? Should we really be suggesting that if a person used only sixteen words to tell a lie, he is not (technically) lying?

I think not. While I remain a fervent supporter of the President and his policies, I cannot support the adoption of this new method for differentiating between truth and lies. For one thing, it would let too many liberals off the hook. Clinton, for one. His famous ‘finger-wagging’ denial: “I did not have sex with that woman!” That’s only eight words; under the new Bush standard, it would be well within the margin for truth.

It must be admitted that the ‘sixteen words or less, and it’s not a lie’ standard would be of some use to some conservatives. Dr. Laura’s original defense--that’s not me in those pictures!—would be excused under the new lying test, if she had limited her attempted deceit to just those six words.

But William Bennett is a notoriously prolix individual, and his statements about his whereabouts during his out-of-town jaunts over the past eight years would probably run into volumes, if collected. Any false explanation he provided in the past, about his ‘wild winner’ casino weekends and about the loosest slots in town and how he almost always wins and gets lots of comps, could probably not be limited to sixteen words. It would be a shame to lose Bennett under the new ‘sixteen word’ standard, since he is our chief moralist.

Just about the only person who would be held accountable under the new standard would be former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair, who seems to have turned in volumes of phony stories over the years.

So adopting the President’s new ‘sixteen words or less’ standard for acceptable lying would be just another case of the white man keeping the black man down. And that I cannot support.


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