I am not mistaken, I was misquoted (a reprise)

George Santos is not the first politician to be caught in a lie. I wrote the following in 2013, before the age of Trump. You can tell as if it was written later, examples of his untruthfulness would be hard not to include.

On our way to school this morning, my son and daughter were arguing over who said what. My son told his sister that she is acting like a politician and uttered, “I am not mistaken, I was misquoted.” I almost ran off the road it was so funny. It reminds me that you cannot hide from your comments in this day and age. They may be taken out of context, but they have been recorded somewhere, so you cannot disown them.

Last year, Charles Barkley, the former basketball player and current sports analyst, got some flack for what appeared in his book. His classic response was he was “misquoted.” To which the reporter replied, “But Charles, it is your autobiography.” Of course, we learned that Charles did not write his autobiography, but he least could have read it first.

Doonesbury is one of my favorite comic strips. In my paper, it sits right above Dilbert another favorite, which is a neat two for one reading. For about a week, Doonesbury was lampooning presidential candidate Mitt Romney for his inability to remember the hazing incident in high school. As the story goes, Romney and other students were offended by an effeminate look on another high school boy. So, they took it upon themselves to hold him down while they cut his locks. To this day, Romney’s co-conspirators are mortified and shamed by their past actions. One actually saw their victim a few years ago and apologized profusely. It goes without saying the victim remembers the incident.

Which leads us to Romney, who cannot recall the incidence and referred to it as high school hijinks. I have written in an earlier post the failure to remember is as bad as the incident, since he is now an adult. At age 53, I can remember all the dumb ass things I did in my life and I feel remorse if I offended someone.  Since I try to do the right thing, I cannot always remember those, as they far outweigh my misdeeds. But, I can make a list of infamy very quickly and tell you how bad I feel even today.

Doonesbury had an appropriate field day with Romney’s lack of memory on this. My favorite remark was when Romney was lampooned for not being able to remember a “hate crime.” I would have felt much better about Romney if he owned up to his mistake and said this was an occasion where I screwed up in my youth and I feel horrible about it. It would have been even better, if he had reached out to the individual. And, I don’t want to let him off the hook for his hijinks either. While I did dumb things in my youth, I was never part of group that physically tormented one person.

While we are on Doonesbury, I was reminded the other night about their most famous lampooning that of George H.W. Bush, which went on for the rest of his political career and was even applied to his son. I was watching the HBO documentary “Reagan” which is  quite even-handed and, as a result, quite good. The first act of George’s that started us down the path of misquoting is he is caught on video referring to Reagan’s economic plan as “Voodoo Economics” when he was running against Reagan for the GOP nomination. After becoming his Vice President, he was later asked about these comments. He said on video that he never said that. The documentary shows the footage of him doing so.  As a sidebar, he was correct as Reaganomics did not work except for the wealthy.

If that were not enough, later during Reagan’s worst episode, the Iran-Contra affair where Reagan actually did something illegal and could have been impeached, Bush said he was not in certain meetings and did not have anything to do with the affair. The testimony and meeting notes showed that he was. Note, Reagan and Bush survived because Oliver North fell on the sword for his commanders and took the heat. So, Doonesbury started portraying Bush as a disembodied helmet. When he spoke, the words were evoked from underneath the helmet. To this day, if the senior Bush is included in the comic strip, he is referenced in this manner.

One of my favorites, though, are the immortal words of Senator John Kyl when he was caught in an erroneous comment about Planned Parenthood last spring (I believe it was last year). When his incorrect comments were pointed out to him, he said something close to don’t misinterpret what I say as a factual statement. I had to re-read this line three times because he is in essence is saying I am lying.

I know I have hit on several Republicans. I don’t dislike Reagan or the first Bush and I thought they did some good things during their presidencies. I also think Bill Clinton did some great things while he was President, but he uttered one of the most famous statements and then nitpicked it later when it was proven to be false. Bill Clinton will be remembered for two things. He was an effective President. And, he was a philanderer. So, when he stared into the camera and said slowly and emphatically “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” he was lying. When caught in the lie he spent a lot of time nitpicking over the word “is.” To do this day, I still don’t know what he was talking about, but he did have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky in every one else’s book.

Reagan also lied to the American people about the Iran-Contra affair. But, he did come back later and say he was wrong. That won him some Brownie points at least. Clinton never did a full mea culpa at least not to my satisfaction.

Let me close with the recent story about the tragedies going on in Syria. The ambassador for Syria was telling a reporter that the government did not have troops in Homs where a massacre was occurring. The reporter listened and said “But your tanks are rolling in Homs” while the footage was being played on the news. What Assad does not realize fully is we can see and hear what is going on. This is not like when his father did the same thing thirty years ago.

We are a world of imperfect people. We do and say dumb things. I am not saying that everyone should tell everyone their dirty laundry, but when it gets out in the open, take your medicine and say “yes, I screwed up.” I am big on context as you may have gleaned from earlier posts. When someone is quoted out of context, they should say “yes, I said that, but here is the context of why I said that.” It is like Newt Gingrich saying he was misquoted when he appeared with Nancy Pelosi on the global warming commercial noting he was wrong about denying global warming. When running for President, he said he really did not mean it when he denounced what he earlier believed. In other words, he double downed on denouncing. So, like double negatives, two denounces make a positive.

So, politicians and leaders, let’s practice our new statements for future use. You will need them.

– “I was wrong and feel terrible about it.”

– “I did say that and hear is why I said that.”

– “I screwed up. I will fix what I have done and will try to do better.”

– “I used to believe that way, but after doing more research and with the benefit of experience, I have changed my position.”

I will like you more if you do. I am sure others will as well.

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These things should matter folks

As an old fart who tries to do the right thing, there are things occurring in the land of politics that should not sit well with any of us, regardless of party or country. I am writing this as some constituents of the resume padding Representative-elect George Santos from New York are not too troubled by his overt lying.

In short, they should be bothered. If he lied about his resume, he will lie about anything. Plus, when you lie about your credentials, you expose yourself to blackmail to coerce action on the behalf of the extortionist. Santos should be at the very least censured by the Congressional ethics committee. Yet, since he lied to get in, I would not seat him and ask the district to hold another vote. It matters not whether he is a member of the Republican, Democrat, Green, Blue of Chartreuse party. We deserve better.

It reminds me of retired Senator John Kyl, who when caught by a reporter in another lie, he said something like it is your fault for taking what I said as the truth. In other words, it is your fault I am lying. As my non-cursing, pious administrative assistant used to say when she was really upset, “Bad word, bad word.”

We deserve the truth. It was not always this way. Representative Charles Rangel, a long time Democrat politician was censured by the House in 2010 for some financial games playing. Even Senator and future presidential candidate, John McCain was censured by the Senate for getting too involved with shady Savings and Loan executive who was part of the S&L crisis in the late 1980s. Both Rangel and McCain deserved the censures, but it should be added that both had long and productive careers in the Capitol, overcoming the censures.

And, in one of the most brazen failures of trust, former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, once one of the country’s most powerful politicians and at the time a lobbyist, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for a financial crime related to sexual abuse of high school wrestlers he coached decades ago.

Nowadays, politics is so tribal, fellow members of the tribe rally around the accused shouting a slew of “what-about” retorts. This is the only way to explain the continuous support of the one of most prolific untruthful people ever to serve in the White House. As I was reading yesterday about people having been sentenced, being sentenced, scheduled to be sentenced and likely to be charged for their role in the insurrection, it reminded me that these folks believed the Big Lie spoon fed by the former president about his bogus election fraud claims. But, if they looked at history, they would have seen a trail of people who harmed their reputations chasing a fool’s errand off of one of Trump’s lies.

Richard Nixon lied to us on multiple occasions, not just with Watergate, which was his Waterloo. He and three preceding presidents, LBJ, JFK and Dwight Eisenhower, misled Americans about the war in Vietnam, knowing full well it was not winnable. They each continued the war and more Americans and Vietnamese had to die to save face. This is what the Supreme Court case about the Pentagon Papers was all about. Sadly, none were ever punished for this as the first three were dead by the time it was revealed in the press. Nixon would go onto lie about running a burglary ring from the White House and resigning before he was removed from office. The Watergate Hearings were American governance at its finest, holding a president accountable for his crimes.

Let me repeat, the truth matters. If a politician cannot tell the truth, they need to rethink the oath they swore allegiance to. And, if they still cannot tell the truth, they need to resign. Governing is hard enough with facts and truth, but nigh impossible without it. And, as noted with the Pentagon Papers, sometimes people die because of not telling the truth. Or, as with following Nixon or Trump, some people may end up in jail.

Tuesday’s gone with the wind – a few wisps to consider

One of my favorite Lynyrd Skynrd’s songs is the ballad “Tuesday’s gone with the wind.” Using that as a theme for a potpourri of topics, let me toss of few of them into the breeze and see where they might blow.

– One of the more provocative movie lines was uttered by a very young Lauren Bacall to her future real husband Humphrey Bogart in “To have and have not.” She said “Steve, you know how to whistle don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow.”

– Chicago is known as the “Windy City,” but that is not due to the cold wind that blows in from Lake Michigan. It is due to blowhard politicians. Right now, we have the windiest of people in the White House. If I could say one thing to him that might have a chance of being heard, it would be “Mr. president, if you can’t add any value, please stop talking.”

– Speaking of wind, former Arizona Senator John Kyl was caught in a lie by a reporter. His response, “It is your fault for mistaking my words as the truth.” Again, that is yet another reason not to believe a word the president says.

– Peter, Paul and Mary do justice to Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the wind.” They sang it in on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial when Martin Luther King uttered his famous “I have a dream” speech. Dylan’s words echo with his important chorus as he searches for solutions to obvious pain and suffering. “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

– Speaking of that famous MLK speech. The marvelous gospel singer Mahalia Jackson is the reason he gave it that day. She had heard him give it before, but MLK had not planned to give that speech. Sensing early on that the words MLK began with were falling flat, she shouted from behind MLK to “tell them about the dream, Martin.” MLK then went off script to say his resounding words.

– Lincoln’s name speaks loudly these days for more than obvious reasons. The Emancipation Proclamation and constitutional amendment to free the slaves are well known. Yet, he is also remembered for putting enemies of his on his cabinet. Think about that. He wanted to keep them close, but he also wanted to hear from them on dissenting views. I think of that as we have a president who has filled and refilled his cabinet with people whose loyalty is more important than competency. To me, this is a key reason a group of Republicans who favor the defeat of Donald Trump have called themselves “The Lincoln Project.”

Invoking “Blowin’ in the wind” one more time. We have many challenges facing our country and planet. Yet, one of the answers is being advocated by The Lincoln Project. That answer blowin’ in the wind is the defeat of Donald Trump in November.

Sometimes a quote says it all

Quotes can sometimes be painfully pertinent. Yesterday, I read the following quote from a Chinese source as the country develops a response to US tariffs. China’s official Xinhua news agency added: “The wise man builds bridges, the fool builds walls. With economic globalisation there are no secluded and isolated islands.” I think their point is about more than tariffs.

Politicians unfortunately have a hard time with the truth, some moreso than others. One of my favorite quotes is from former Senator John Kyl of Arizona when caught in a lie. “You mistook what I was saying as the truth.” In other words, it is your fault I am lying,

This is an excellent segue to a current politician who is on record as lying more than he does not. Congressman Trey Gowdy said the following about such man. “If the President is innocent, it would help if he started acting that way.”

On a more humorous note, actor Abe Vigoda from the movie “The Godfather” and television show “Barney Miller,” was reported to have passed away. Upon reading of his death in the newspaper, Vigoda sent a press release that said “The reports of my demise have been overly exaggerated.” This was in keeping with his deadpan comic delivery.

Getting back to politics, a famous quote used often by President Richard Nixon was “I am not a crook.” The fact that he felt the need to use it again and again begged the question, who are you trying to convince? After over twenty convictions of his co-conspirators, Nixon only escaped  criminal judgment because of President Gerald Ford’s pardon. Mr. Nixon, you were a crook.

Let me close with one of the finest quotes in American history. It was so crucial it helped lead to the eventual downfall of Senator Joe McCarthy, of Communist witchhunt infamy. After John Welch, General Counsel of the US Army had given testimony over several hours, he said to McCarthy, “Do you have no sense of decency, sir?”

I close with these two examples as they remind me of our current fearmongering President. “Decency” is not a word I would use to define the man.

 

 

 

They said that?

One of the mysteries of politics is how politicians so easily forget a key point. Most of what they say is recorded. So, when they change a position, it can be shown they are at odds with their earlier views.

One of my personal favorites is both former Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are on video saying climate change is real and man-influenced and we need to do something about it. It should be noted that McConnell recently signed a letter with 22 senators saying we should withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Accord.

While on climate change, we should not forget the double flip-flop of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. He first said it was a hoax. Then, he did a national TV commercial with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying he was wrong about climate change and we need to do something about it. Then he ran for President and said he was wrong to say he was wrong.

The sad part about the above is it did not do much harm to the three politicians. Others have not been as lucky. President George HW Bush was punished in a subsequent election after he promised “Read my lips, no new taxes,” and then later raised taxes. President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House for his lying under oath that “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

President Ronald Reagan was almost impeached when he lied on TV that he was not aware of weapons being sold to Iran to fund the Contras in Central America. He later went on TV and said he had misled America. And, President Barack Obama oversold the ACA saying that if you want to keep your doctor you could, without recognizing networks don’t work that way.

Yet, our current President has set a new standard for untruths and misstatements. They are rampant, occurring daily and sometimes hourly. When he recently said he would testify under oath, his attorney probably had a stroke. The attorney likely recalls how Trump testified under oath a few years ago and was forced to admit he lied 30 times.

Yet, let me conclude with a priceless quote from former Senator John Kyl which is indicative. When a reporter caught him in a lie, Kyl responded that “your problem is confusing what I said with the truth.” Yes, it is our fault for believing what you say.