Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Lost Art of Honesty

Since the attempted bombing of the airliner over Detroit, MI on Christmas day, a number of Republicans have risked muscle pulls running to every talk show and/or the nearest keyboard to comment to every blog and news page. What have they been saying? That's where it gets psychedelic. Most have seemed to parrot the same lines over and over, as if (insert sarcasm here) they were using the same boilerplate strategy. These luminaries, and I use the term lightheartedly in most cases, include former VP Cheney, Senator DeMint (SC), Congressman Hoekstra (MI), Congressman Peter King (NY) and Republican National Committee Chairman Steele among others.

I'll avoid another in depth examination of the hypocrisy and the truly unprofessional way Cheney has repeatedly attacked President Obama from the beginning of his term. But Cheney and the rest of these oh so vocal Republicans have found a new low. Considering the history of some of these guys, that's an accomplishment. The manner and substance of their comments are something even their most avid supporters should be up in arms about. They have regurgitated a collection of lies and hair-pin opinion reversals of staggering proportions. We're talking about verifiable lies and verifiable reversals of opinion on a nearly identical incident that occurred eight years ago.

First, according to every one of these guys, President Obama doesn't talk about terrorism enough. They seem to feel that merely speaking the word 'terrorism' acts as a sacred chant to ward off evil. They claim Obama doesn't even seem to want to use the word 'terrorism'. Uh-huh. I see. Ok, let's take a couple minutes of quick research to confirm, shall we? I'll even be fair and ignore the post Christmas day remarks.

- December 10th speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. Terrorism, was mentioned directly twice. And this was for the Peace prize.
- December 7th remarks with Turkish Prime Minister in Oval Office. The word 'Terror' or 'Terrorist' used twelve times.
- December 1st remarks at West Point on the Afghanistan strategy. Six times.
- November 24th remarks with Indian Prime Minister in the East Room. Seven times.

Basically, anytime the President has spoken about foreign policy he has mentioned terrorism. Keep in mind that I spent less than five minutes researching this and all I did was got to the White House web site and do word searches through the President's posted speeches! It hardly takes Woodward and Bernstein to dig up this info.  And I didn't even check all of the posted transcripts for the preceding month. So this accusation is an outright lie. Obama has not stopped talking about terrorism. What he has done is stop talking in abstract terms like 'War on Terror'. This phrase, like the 'War on Drugs,' is a great slogan, but is a lousy basis for foreign policy. It's much more accurate to focus on Al-Qaida and other specific organizations. The 'War on Terror' is, like the one on drugs, unwinnable. It's a practical impossibility to catch or kill all terrorists or even all those who just want to attack America. Obama is quite correct in concentrating on the most important and achievable goal of fighting and destroying Al-Qaida and other groups like it rather than some vague, ill defined concept.

Then Obama was chided by several of these individuals for waiting so long to respond to the Christmas day attempted bombing when he didn't make a formal statement for three days following the incident. Also he was ripped for intending to prosecute Abdulmutalib in Federal Court. This is obviously a case of amnesia brought on by acute 'InTheMinoritus'. Let me refresh their memories. On December 22, 2001, Richard Reid was apprehended on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami when he attempted to set off an explosive hidden in the hollowed out bottoms of his shoes. He was arrested, tried and convicted in Federal court. He is now serving three consecutive life sentences without parole in a Federal SuperMax prison in Colorado. As you'll note from the date, this happened at the end of the first year of President Bush's first term. Reid used the same explosive that Abdulmutalib attempted to use and like the 'underwear bomber' was unable to actually get the explosive to detonate.  Explain to me why Federal court worked fine in Reid's case and faced no objections under the Bush/Cheney Administration, yet it's now considered outrageous to use it in the current and nearly identical situation? And, as to Obama's three day reaction time? Well if you want to get into that level of minutia, Bush actually waited six days to make a formal statement after the 'shoe bomber' was arrested. Does any of this make sense to anyone? The hypocrisy is so thick as to be almost a solid mass.

It's fair to question how Abdulmutalib should be treated, as it is a bit of a gray area if you look at the 'enemy combatant' definition. But to look straight faced into the camera and act shocked when eight years ago you had no problems with an almost identical situation is beginning to strain my surprise muscle. These individuals are so shameless it makes me ill. I swear that if Obama had decreed that the 'underwear bomber' be sent to Gitmo for interrogation, they would have demanded he be tried in Federal court! How do they even keep things straight with so much spin?

And in a continuation of this despicable trend we have people like Rudi Giuliani. Last Friday we had this nugget from the self styled 'terrorism expert'. "We had no domestic attacks under Bush," Giuliani said. "We've had one under Obama." Really, Rudi? Are you sure? Later, on CNN, he backpedaled. "I usually say we had no domestic attacks, no major domestic attack under President Bush since Sept. 11,  . . . I did omit the words 'since Sept. 11.' I apologize for that." Well, that's better, but you'll notice the careful use of 'domestic', then quickly narrowed even further with 'major domestic'. The reason he had to do that is because there are a whole string of incidents during Bush's tenure that were defined as terrorism, the above mentioned 'shoe bomber' being the first to come to mind. But we also have the multiple deaths from the anthrax mailings, the Muslim man who plowed his SUV into students on the UNC campus and others that all had a terrorist tone to them. Of course by pulling back so far from his original statement he has pretty much invalidated his entire point. And what's with "I usually say..."? Usually? Has he really gotten to the point where this is some scripted talking point? But Gulliani is not the first or the only one to come out with verifiable lies such as this. Back in November, former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino passionately proclaimed that "we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term in office." She even said it twice during the broadcast! Without any seeming thought to the fact that 9/11 happened on . . . September 11th, 2001, over eight months into Bush's first year in office. This sort of blinkered nostalgia that is being slathered all over the media is astonishing. It's as if the Bush years were a time of milk and honey rather than a time of sharply rising tensions, the beginning of two long and costly wars and a significant number of terrorist related incidents. Either Perino is stupid or just lacking the ability or desire to be ethical.

As I've said many times, we can differ on policies. We can argue over nuances. We can scream at each other about the correct course of action. But to actually lie and blatantly warp the facts like this is embarrassing and shows a complete lack of even the most basic ethical standards. I'm not naive. I realize that the majority of the politicians in Washington are guilty of at least some corruption and unethical behavior. What is hard to understand is this kind of transparent crap. It's especially insulting, or should be, for all the die-hard supporters of any of these men. Their supporters should be outraged to be lied to, blatantly manipulated and just generally treated like stupid lemmings who will follow wherever their 'leaders' take them. And Americans in general should not stand for it either. Sadly, I expect politicians to bend the truth, but if these guys are reduced to bold face lying they really must be out of legitimate things to rail against. My suggestion? They should just shut up unless they have something constructive to say. I suspect that would result in a long and satisfying silence.

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