Someone smarter than me on www.FactCheck.Org said it first: “If there’s anything the health care debate has made clear it is that the public is starving for the truth.”
I am tempted to say, by way of a humorous aside, “Ain’t it the truth?”
I watched President Obama’s address to Congress on Wednesday, September 9th along with the rest of the nation and applauded when he said, “I am not the first president to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.” There were other stirring lines which I could repeat here, but the Big Debate to come out of the night concerns the outburst of Representative Joe Wilson (R, South Carolina) who blurted out “You lie!” when Obama said that the health care bill would not cover illegal aliens.
Truth is in short supply now; perhaps it has been ever thus.
This episode during Obama’s Congressional speech came on the heels of several lies I, personally, experienced recently.
First, I was lied to, in print (I have the e-mail of Aug. 25th), by a Pulitzer Prize winning writer (who shall remain nameless). Ironically, this very same well-known writer (I heard his latest book has risen as high as Number 4 on the New York Times list) then proceeded to give an address in which he delivered a message to the effect that he “could not live in a world without truth.” My advice to this guy: try telling the truth, yourself, then, for a change! I’d like to be more specific about this writer’s identity, since it was obvious he was working behind-the-scenes hammer-and-tongs to pull a fast one, but was lying about it in writing. And that same nonfiction writer, Mr. Pulitzer, then lied to me to my face. What have we cone to, as a nation, if you can’t even trust those we elevate to pedestals? Whatever happened to George Washington and the cherry tree story, apocryphal though it may have been?
Second, I listened to a speech given by one of my favorite writing conference speakers, James Strauss, who has been or is a writer for “Deadwood,” “John from Cincinnati,” “House” and other television shows. Now writing novels (The Boy), Jim—who lives in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin because (among other reasons) he cannot abide the incessant stream of untruths that emanate from Hollywood types—told a story about Hollywood wheeler-dealers in which he quoted Hollywood PTB as saying, “We lie, and we tell you that we lie.”
From there, Strauss went on to relate a story of how David Morrell of “Rambo” fame had commiserated with him at a writing conference about the rights to all subsequent “Rambo” films being stolen from him by a famous Hollywood producer “after the first one.” I have heard Morrell speak (“Love Is Murder”) about how having a savvy lawyer when dealing with Hollywood is absolutely essential. I remember, while interviewing Morrell by phone, he was waiting for his agent to call with news of the plans to make yet another “Rambo” movie (the last one), something the author of the piece had learned about only secondhand. Sad.
Thirdly, I received an e-mail from an ex-collaborator claiming he had been responsible for a Joe Hill interview. I wrote the entire introduction for the interview (and more than half of the questions), and also set it up, in person, solo, with Joe’s agent, Seale Ballenger and Joe, himself, at a BEA Conference in New York City. Yet, in O.J.-like fashion, this individual (who did not even know that Joe Hill was Stephen King’s son until I clued him in) has somehow convinced himself that he alone did the real work on the interview. He also sent me forth to do the lion’s share of the work under false pretenses, telling me that he had sold the interview to “Cemetery Dance” magazine. I set up the details of the interview under this assumption. Once again, I had been lied to. The interview had not been sold to “Cemetery Dance” at all, but to a far less respectable magazine, one so lurid you really don’t want to have copies of it lying about in your house where someone might see it. So, I was lied to about the journal where the interview was going to appear. Therefore, unintentionally, I misrepresented the journal that would be publishing the piece to Joe Hill and his agent. [I wish to apologize to Joe and Seale with the explanation rendered here.]
So, we’ve established that lies and lying liars abound in the land. It’s not confined to low-lifes if Senators and Pulitzer prizewinners are equally guilty. The recent hearings that went on around the country, where organized groups shouted down their elected representatives as those representatives tried to explain the proposed health care bill was a particularly egregious example of lies and lying liars. Senator Chuck Grassley (R, IA) and his “pulling the plug on Grandma” comments to constituents made the news. (I noticed that the camera did not find Senator Grassley during Obama’s history-making address to Congress, only the fifteenth time since 1952 that such a joint address to Congress by a sitting president has taken place.)
I watched the Obama speech with appreciation of its tone and the statements made. I also listened to Charlie Rose and a panel dissect it, later, and declare, “the weakest part was the cost section.” Joe Scarborough said (on Charlie Rose), “The speech went well. I thought it was a great speech,” but all on the panel agreed “It is going to be a very messy process for the next 7 weeks.” As good as the speech was, when there are Representatives in the crowd who don’t understand that civility in the face of disagreement is still necessary, the final result is going to be a Joe Wilson who came up with what Senator John McCain (R, AZ) declared was a “totally disrespectful” example of what the majority party is up against.
For the record, Joe Wilson’s apology went something like this: “This evening, I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President’s remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the President’s statements, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility.”
First of all, www.FactCheck.org on September 10th, 2009 determined that the president was not lying. “Obama was correct when he said his plan wouldn’t insure illegal immigrants. The House Bill expressly forbids giving subsidies to those who are in the country illegally.” The specific section of the bill is Section 246, where it says, “Nothing in the subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.” Of course, the Republican organ www.Newsmax.com interviewed Steven Camarota, Director of Research for the Center for Immigration Studies, who said, “Wilson’s comment is correct in that the normal enforcement mechanism was excluded from the bill. I think that’s the fundamental question.”
Not me. I think the fundamental question is lying as a national pastime. If you can’t trust your Pulitzer prize-winning journalists and your Senators, and people you are trying to collaborate with while doing 90% of the real work and, of course, some of our presidents (yellow uranium cake ore, anyone?), who can you trust any more?