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The New Standard

November 1st, 2007

There are some accepted standards in politics which are pretty reprehensible. One is that politicians accept bribes; we all know it, but we do nothing more than shake our heads and accept it. A somewhat lesser evil is that politicians don’t answer tough questions–they either answer a question other than the one asked, or they don’t accept interviews with reporters that ask tough questions. Both the press and the people have accepted this as well.

But with the Bush presidency, there seems to be a new standard: openly lying. We’ve seen it many times, especially with Dick Cheney. The idea is that even with the truth readily available and solidly known, the administration nevertheless continues to spout the lie. Iraq is the nexus of the war on terror. Global climate change isn’t proven. Drugs from Canada are not trustworthy. Waterboarding is not torture.

This practice is not new, of course. It has also been established by corporations, like the tobacco companies claiming that smoking doesn’t cause cancer; we are already used to corporate America spreading such obvious lies in the face of existing evidence to the contrary.

And certainly we are used to politicians lying. So what’s new?

What’s new is politicians continuing to spread proven lies combined with the element of new press/media paradigm of not calling attention to the lies (else we would be playing into the terrorists’ hands!). With the media safely neutered, politicians feel secure enough in propagating those lies.

Latest example: Rudy Giuliani claimed that socialized medicine is bad, and as proof claimed that he would have been twice as likely to die from prostate cancer under the United Kingdom’s socialized health care system. Well, that claim was shown up as absolutely false. So did Giuliani retract it? Nope. In fact, he’s going to continue saying it:

Asked if Mr. Giuliani would continue to repeat the statistic, and if the advertisement would continue to run, [Giuliani spokeswoman Maria] Comella responded by e-mail: “Yes. We will.”

And the press is not really showing that they care much about it. The New York Times, for example, simply reports that the number is “disputed.” The article does show the actual facts in the case, but never calls what Giuliani said a “lie” or even “untrue.” You come away from it feeling that there is perhaps some uncertainty about whether or not Giuliani’s number is incorrect. And this is not Giuliani’s first lie; he has lied repeatedly over the past several months, often reciting huge whoppers, few if any of which are noted in press coverage. Giuliani remains the Republican front-runner.

This one lie won’t sink the system. But it is an example of the new low standard to which we hold public officials, as well as the press: that a lie can be told, that it can be shown up as a lie, and that it can then continue to be told with virtually no repercussions to the lying party. Such lies got us into the Iraq War, such lies destroyed our surplus and sank us back into disastrous debt. Such lies are helping to dismantle the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

And thus, our system sinks deeper into systemized corruption and failure.

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