Is it just semantics, or is ‘political truth’ an oxymoron?

IMAGE: Flickr (premasagar)

RANCHO SANTA FE, Ca., April 7, 2014 – Politically speaking: Whatever happened to the truth? In a country of more than 315 million people, you would think we could find a few good men and women who were familiar with that concept and capable of delivering upon it. Yet, we seem unable to attract a sufficient number of individuals with the character to turn the tide against the more corrupt, “win at all costs” mentality that permeates our political Parties.

Instead, we are forced to choose among candidates who promise the world, then deliver little more than a dirt path that leads to nowhere. It’s all about manipulating the system to maintain and expand the political power of their Parties while paying back the surreptitious individuals and organizations that fund the debacle.

In recent weeks, we’ve once again had the Supreme Court not only condone the influence of money in politics but further enable its abuse. At the same time, we’ve witnessed embarrassingly inept Congressional Committees politicize significant issues that otherwise merit legitimate investigations.

Contrary to what certain Presidential hopefuls may think, it does matter whether the truth was told to the American people with regard to Benghazi or whether the facts were suppressed and distorted to provide political “cover.” More importantly, it matters if security decisions prior to the attack were made to conform to a political agenda (i.e., “Osama Bin Laden is dead, and al-Qaeda is on the run”).

This isn’t to suggest that any of the sinister alternatives were implemented but rather to highlight the importance of determining the answers with a degree of certitude that goes beyond some politician essentially saying “trust me.”

This past week, in reference to who altered the post-Benghazi talking points, we heard testimony that vacillated almost to the degree of saying “it depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is.” It has been more than a year and a half, and we still don’t have a description and timeline of what senior members of the Administration did and when they did it in response to the deadly attack on a United States consulate.

Why do we tolerate this? Don’t we want the truth?

Correspondingly, Congress further humiliated itself in March by taking another step backward in investigating the IRS’s alleged abuse of power with regard to conservative 501(c)4 organizations. Lois Lerner, the former head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, once again exercised her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. This apparently inspired the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to throw what amounted to political tantrums to defend their respective Parties’ biases.

Why do we tolerate this? Don’t we want the truth?

Congress also stubbed its toe on successfully investigating the NSA and its surveillance of private citizens without substantive probable cause. Intelligence Committees in both the House and Senate have been stymied by obfuscation, delay, and outright misrepresentations.

Who can forget the testimony of James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence? On March 12, 2013, the following exchange occurred between Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and the Honorable Mr. Clapper.

Sen. Wyden: “So what I wanted to see is if you could give me a yes or no answer to the question, does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

Dir. Clapper“No, sir.”

Sen. Wyden: “It does not?”

Dir. Clapper“Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly.”

When information to the contrary came to light in June of 2013, Dir. Clapper offered the following explanation in an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell: “I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner, by saying no.”

Is that today’s new standard? Does “most truthful” equate to “least untruthful” in the world in which we live?

In an interview with the National Journal, Dir. Clapper further claimed: “What I said was the NSA does not voyeuristically pore through U.S. citizens’ e-mails. I stand by that.”

Did you catch that nuance in his original answer? Maybe we’re not intelligent enough to understand “intelligence” … at least when were expected to accept misrepresentation to be a form of the truth.

Why do we tolerate this? Don’t we want the truth?

Next: Recall the shell game called “Fast and Furious” in which another American life was lost because of a political faux pas but little has been done to assign blame. The White House denied any knowledge of the operation, but later extended Executive Privilege to Attorney General Eric Holder to protect him from the subpoena power of Congress.

Then, the Department of Justice investigated itself and, not surprisingly, found itself to be guilty of no wrong doing. Lower level supervision was slapped on the wrist and told not to do it again. Meanwhile, U.S. Border Patrol officer Brian Terry remains dead.

Why do we tolerate this? Don’t we want the truth?

Similarly, the Department of Justice also investigated itself to determine whether it trampled upon the First Amendment when it secured the phones records of certain reporters and editors of the Associated Press and categorized Fox News correspondent, James Rosen, as a criminal “co-conspirator” so it could surveil his e-mails as well as seize his phone records.

On May 15, 2013, AG Holder testified to the House Judiciary Committee that, “In regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material — this is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy.” A week later, it was discovered that he had personally approved the search warrant with respect to James Rosen. Not surprisingly, the Department of Justice found itself guilty of no wrong doing.

Why do we tolerate this? Don’t we want the truth?

Another favorite pastime is pretending that information doesn’t exist one day (when it appears to be unfavorable) and miraculously announce its existence days later (when it appears to be favorable). In recent weeks, you could probably point to anywhere from 5 million to 7.1 million examples of how this works.

Creatively defining (or not defining) the basis for numbers is also part of the ruse. For example, under the current Administration, you are not “unemployed” even if you do not have a job and want one. You are only unemployed if you still qualify for unemployment benefits. You are also counted as a “newly insured individual” if you enrolled in the ACA even if you previously had insurance and were forced to surrender it because of the ACA.

These are not real world definitions but rather political ones that foster a given Party’s agenda.

Similarly, in the prior Administration, a trillion dollars of debt-spending did not constitute an element of recorded debt as long as it was spent on a war. Speaking of which, “weapons of mass destruction” apparently need not be real; they only need to theoretically exist.

Clearly, the trend of offering misrepresentations as a substitute for the truth is not something new nor is it limited to a particular Party. It’s been a common practice for years and a veritable staple of both Parties. Perhaps the current Administration draws more attention because it brazenly promised to be the most transparent Administration in our Nation’s history. Then again, for all we know, it is.

Why do we tolerate this? Don’t we want the truth?

Let’s not even waste time discussing the blatant lying that takes place with regard to the political misappropriation of funds and sexual dalliances among our elected officials. We’ve simply come to expect it.

Perhaps Aaron Sorkin captured the essence of the corruption and frustration we see today in his brilliant 1992 screenplay about a certain “Code Red.” Although, it’s difficult to determine which metaphor best applies.

Does Tom Cruise’s portrayal of Lt. Daniel Kaffee represent our altruistic quest for the truth or our naiveté and sense of entitlement in his critical exchange with Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan R. Jessep? Correspondingly, does Col. Jessep’s character represent the corruptive influence of power or our frustration with those who pretend to represent our interests.

Here’s the critical dialog. You decide.

Col. Jessep: “You want answers?”

Lt. Kaffee: “I think I’m entitled to them.”

Col. Jessep: “You want answers?”

Lt. Kaffee: “I want the truth!”

Col. Jessep: “You can’t handle the truth!

“Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? … I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.

“We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use ’em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I’d rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to!”

No matter how you interpret the metaphor, in the end, Aaron Sorkin hit upon the solution to our problems. All we need is “A Few Good Men” and women who can handle the truth and deliver it.


A Civil Assessment has been designed to serve as an Op-Ed forum for you. You are invited to offer your opinion and to discuss your position in the Comment Section. Please be sure that your “assessments” remain “civil” so that they may earn the respect of others.


TJ O’Hara provides nonpartisan political commentary every other Tuesday on The Daily Ledger, one of One America News Network’s featured shows (check local cable listings for the channel in your area or watch online at 8:00 and 11:00 PM Eastern / 5:00 and 8:00 PM Pacific

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  • Eric N Keya Erickson

    I think many of us do want the truth, and we’d rather not tolerate it, but feel helpless. We try to get people to be aware, to become informed, and politically active, but most people don’t seem to care. As long as there’s food on their table, a car in the driveway, and a TV in the living room, they’re content. I think my friends are good people and smart, I like to think they wouldn’t be my friends otherwise, but getting them to engage in political dialogue is like trying to remove a tooth by pulling on a toenail.

    We also feel helpless because we don’t control the media, and as long as we’re not willing to sell our souls to the devil, we don’t control either of the Parties. So what do we do? Maybe we organize local political dialogue groups, or share Facebook posts, or other things available to our tiny circle of influence, but to what purpose? Will anything ever change? Part of me says no, part of me is more optimistic. Maybe things will only change after they implode.

    I think there may be three solutions to the problems you address in this article, Mr. O’Hara: First, term limits. I think this would eliminate at least some of the monetary influence on politicians, as they could no longer receive vast sums as campaign contributions; at least for re-election. Second, as someone suggested to you elsewhere in the last week, campaign reform bringing us closer to the British model, where all candidates receive the same amount of money for their campaign, and have limited time to campaign. Third, lower Congressional pay to a level of merely covering costs. Or, in light of cutting military and veteran benefits and complaining about their own pay, elected officials should be kept in barracks, fed in mess halls, and paid military wages.

    Transparency would be included in my list if I thought there was a chance of it, but alas, I do not.

    • Thank you for your comment, Mr. Erickson.

      While your solutions all merit discussion, they all would require an unbiased vote by our elected officials and one that is focused on the best interests of the People rather than the best interests of the officials or their political Parties. The odds are not in our favor.

      I do believe there may be another answer that is intertwined with your comment about the media. The Internet and social media have the potential to become “game changers.”

      If enough concerned citizens would take the time to do something constructive with the time they otherwise spend on social media, they may have the ability to overcome the traditional media barriers the Parties have successfully erected. There are two prime directives that could make a difference.

      First: If people organized to create a viral message demanding change, the movement toward change would become “newsworthy” once it reached critical mass. Then, traditional media would have to report it as “news.” Once the proverbial cat was “let out of the bag,” there is little the Parties or the traditional media could do to contain the momentum.

      Second: Traditional media is driven by profit, and profit is driven by audience share and advertising dollars. If people were to make their demands for equal coverage known and orchestrate effective boycotts to force the issue, traditional media would have to respond.

      Think about how many media personnel have lost their jobs in recent years for an inappropriate comment that led to the boycotting of sponsors and a loss of audience share. Why not exert that same type of pressure to demand more balance broadcasting?

      Of course, beyond shifting the focus of traditional media, we could always replace our elected officials with new ones who might focus on the best interest of the People. However, we would have to create a more informed electorate that had the courage to cast an informed vote. The shorter path may be through pressuring the media to respect the responsibility that is inherently tied to the freedom of the press it they enjoy.

      Thank you for your comment.

      • Eric N Keya Erickson

        I think your media idea is great. Let’s get started. What’s the first step?

  • Ken Marshall

    I was not present when Diogenes went about looking for a truthful man. If he were still alive he would still be looking. Millions of others who live life on the dole really do not seem to care so long as the dole remains. The current controlling occupants of the pig sty that is DC do not want a change in the system so long as the swill (votes) come their way when they are up for reelection. The other side is just as bad.

    Having said that let us try to move towards solutions. The suggestion of term limits is a concept whose time has come. That will never pass muster with the current disciples in DC. The squeals from the curly-tailed denizens in DC will be able to be heard all the way to Hawaii, Alaska, Florida to Maine and all states in between. Thomas Jefferson espoused the concept of his time that holds that public service is not to be considered a lifetime profession.

    Secondly, the suggestion that all candidates be limited to a certain amount of campaign funds on an equal basis, and no more, is not going to be a popular one as it would allow for more diverse parties to compete. If a candidate is found to violate those limits the rules should be that he/she be disqualified and fined heavily.

    The mechanism to accomplish this major feat of destroying DC Gridlock is to have a call for the states to amend the Constitution for these purposes. That call is currently underway, and stands at 34 if the reports are accurate. That meets the necessary 2/3rds requirement needed for this historic event.

    Whoever squeals the loudest against this will be coming out into the sunshine to be exposed as the self-interested leeches that they really are. The concept of “Party Over Country” will be dashed until Liberalism raises its’ ugly head some far off time in the future.

    • Thank you for your comment, Mr. Marshall. Your call for a States Convention is an interesting addition to Mr. Erickson’s comments above.

      There is actually a movement afoot in that regard, with the 34th State just added. Of course, States that have declared themselves to be in favor of such a convention will have to be reconfirmed as years have passed in some cases. However, the possibility is fascinating to consider.

      One of the challenges that proponents will find is that the Constitution, while providing for the alternative, is relatively lacking with respect to the logistics. It could be years before the States agree upon the form the convention would take and the rules that would be applied.

      This is not to denigrate the importance of the effort but rather to acknowledge the challenges associated with advancing the concept from the theoretical realm to the practical.

      Thank you again for your comment.

      • Eric N Keya Erickson

        Maybe it could be done the old fashioned, founding fathers way. Somebody decides on a date, reserves a large room, and sends out invites to all the states for representatives. As an homage to history, they could even call it the Continental Congress. :o)

  • Shamuz Alonzo

    Over the long term, all forms of collectivism depend upon plunder and require certain people to decide who gets what, when, how, and in what quantities.

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