- Adlai E. Stevenson
We Democrats have always been aware of the Republicans weak grasp on the Truth. (I like to use a capital T in Truth to emphasize that it is an objective reality that cannot be waived away like a useless nuisance.) In the summer of 2002, a senior advisor to George W. Bush lectured reporter Ron Susskind on the GOP point of view. He said that Susskind represented "what we call the reality-based community," people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
This dangerous bit of hubris underscores the "grand" delusion that the "Grand" Old Party is operating under. Everything is a end to be achieved through whatever means necessary.
The examples were legion during the George W. Bush administration. Here are perhaps the two most egregious casualties of Truth during this failed Presidency:
Taxes: The Bush administration was determined to cut the taxes paid by the wealthy, including the trifecta of income taxes, estate taxes, and capital gains taxes. The first ploy was to attack the budget surplus of the Clinton administration that resulted from effective management of government resources and a booming economy. During his first State of the Union address Bush proclaimed that "the people of American have been overcharged and, on their behalf, I am here asking for a refund." When the economy slowed and deficits exploded, Bush shifted his argument and stated that tax cuts were needed to grow the economy. The arguments were 180-degrees different, but the solution was the same ... huge tax cuts for the wealthy and minor cuts for everyone else. The effect on the deficit? Well, as that Master of Disingenuousness Dick Cheney said, "Deficits don't matter."
The War in Iraq: The Bush administration was determined to fight a war in Iraq. This had been a guiding objective of Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and other neocons since the mid 1990's. They sensed an opportunity with the horrific 9/11attack on the World Trade Center, masterminded by terrorists from Saudi Arabia operating through an organization known as Al-Qaeda based in Afghanistan. Why this necessitated a war on the nation of Iraq is anyone's guess ... but that was the argument advanced by the Bush administration. Dick Cheney felt compelled to invent an Al-Qaeda connection with Iraq through a shadowy meeting in Prague, a connection that was thoroughly discredited by the intelligence community but still lives on through Cheney's sociopathic mind. However, this gambit was weak enough that it was decided to use Weapons of Mass Destruction as the pretext for the war; accordingly, Secretary of State Colin Powell, one of the only members of the Bush administration with some modicum of credibility, was dispatched to the United Nations to make the argument. In the role of lead patsy, Powell delivered a lame presentation characterized by misrepresentations and omissions of fact; his performance was just good enough to get some level of concurrence by the international body to go into Iraq. Of course, no WMD's were ever found. The War in Iraq was based on deceit and suffered the fate of most such endeavors ... defeat.
The assault on the Truth is now being led by the right-wing media, most notably Fox "News" and assorted talk radio demagogues such as Rush Limbaugh. There are a handful of A-List talking heads on these shows, all of them white males. They are cut from the same mold: angry, forceful, blunt, judgmental, and quick to battle their perceived opponents, the "liberals." They come armed with the same talking points, generally concocted in the fertile but warped brain of Roger Ailes. But most of all, they have a low regard for the Truth, viewing short-term victory as the ultimate redemption for their deceitful arguments. Their views of international matters are informed by contempt and fear of dark-skinned peoples, and their preferred resolution to most problems involves use of military force. In the domestic arena they evince fears of the same kinds of people (although in this context they're Americans) with problems being resolved through heavy-handed police presence. As for the economy, the Truth is continually manipulated in favor of their wealthy constituency, leading to remarkable flexibility. For instance, the deficits that Dick Cheney had once dismissed are now being raised to the height of importance by these talking heads.
The Federal Government has been remarkably resilient in the face of these attacks on the Truth, especially during the Bush Administration. This is because the Federal Government is staffed with a stable professional workforce that is largely shielded from the vagaries of the politicians on Capitol Hill and the White House. The State Department attempted to educate the Bush Administration about the Middle East prior to the misadventures there, but to no avail. The Central Intelligence Agency attempted to communicate the dangers of Al-Qaeda prior to 9/11, but to no avail.
And the agencies continue their professionalism. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office continues to tell the Truth about budgets despite attempted manipulation by GOP congressmen. The Departments of Commerce and Labor continue to issue accurate Gross Domestic Product and unemployment figures unaffected by political manipulation. The Internal Revenue Service continues to collect taxes and audit suspicious returns despite GOP attempts to stymie agency investigations into their less honest benefactors. Even the Department of Defense strives to professionally run a first-class military despite Congressional interference.
As an educated engineer and scientist, I am especially concerned with the Truth. I realize that it is not within our power to completely comprehend the reality of this world, but we must make the attempt. By constructing our best estimate of the Truth (our 90% version), we have a basis for effectively assessing situations and facts, developing alternative courses of action, making effective decisions, and then implementing the optimum solution. This is Science/Engineering 101.
It is also imperative that Government, politicians, and the mainstream media avoid the temptation to treat the electorate as dummies, people who, in the words of Jack Nicholson, "can't handle the Truth" (A Few Good Men), and therefore must be misled through various forms of obfuscation and propaganda. Conservatives seem to be drawn to the philosophical concept, reputedly taught by Leo Strauss at the University of Chicago, whereby deception of the people is considered necessary to effectively lead them.
Americans are remarkably astute about the Truth and are able to see through various smokescreens, but they do need some basis of reality in the information provided to them. Otherwise, there is little hope of intelligent voting leading to good government and a great country. Needless to say, I believe intelligent voting is synonymous with voting Democratic.
Your comments and insights are welcome.