"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Friday, February 17, 2006

Candid Dates?

Here is our online weekend quiz, inspired by the liberal polemicists who claim that Bush lies, and Helen Thomas who claims that all Presidents lie. Do our readers agree with my assessment of the personal integrity of Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates since I began voting in 1976?

In a regular business situation, if you had an investment opportunity based on the truthfulness of one of those men and women, would you assume that they are reliable? Here is my impression.

For personal gain....

Jimmy Carter would not lie.
Waler Mondale would not lie.
Gerald Ford would not lie.
Bob Dole would not lie.
Ronald Reagan would not lie.
George H. W. Bush would not lie.
Geraldine Ferraro would lie.
Dan Quayle would not lie.
Mike Dukakis - not sure.
Lloyd Bentsen would not lie.
Bill Clinton would lie.
Al Gore would lie.
Dan Quayle would not lie.
Jack Kemp - not sure.
Joseph Lieberman would not lie.
George W. Bush would not lie.
Dick Cheney would not lie.
John Kerry would lie.
John Edwards would lie.

Please let us know if you agree, and if not, why not?

(By the way, I don't think John B. Anderson, Ross Perot or William Stockdale would lie, and I had no impression of Patrick Lucey, Anderson's running mate. Perot, however, could fantasize in paranoiac directions, so that tendency would bear watching.)

15 comments:

Kathy Hutchins said...

In general I agree with your impressions, with the exception of Lloyd Bentsen, although this may just be because I had friends in grad school who were still sore about the 1970 primary upset over Ralph Yarborough.

Hunter Baker said...

Al Gore is a difficult case. I think he was a pure straight shooter pre-2000 election. Then again, he supposedly played up his Vietnam service as a battle-hardened marine, when he was really some kind of military reporter.

James Elliott said...

I guess the real question is: What criteria are you basing your assessment on? It looks like a pretty party-line assessment on latter-day politicians. Is it a personal, gut-feeling kind of assessment? A gut-check, so to speak? I often call conservatives and Republicans "gut-people." It's not really meant as an insult. I think it's a fundamental difference between Right and Left. The Right goes with a gut feeling, an emotional impression, trusting to a kind of personal intuition. Sometimes it's right on (like your assessment of Jimmy Carter). Sometimes it leads to faulty thinking ("You keep your facts, I've got the truth!" and "My country, wrong or right!").

Honestly just curious. Not looking to open up a can o' smackdown or anything.

James Elliott said...

That said, my impression is as follows. If someone is left out, it means I agree with Jay (oh, the shock!).

Geraldine Ferraro - not sure. She appears to have gotten the short end of the stick quite a bit. But then, my impressions are from research, not the campaign - I was nine.

Al Gore - would not lie. He's an honest, straight-shooting guy and highly concerned with professional ethics.

Lloyd Bentsen - who is this?

Jack Kemp - would lie. Like a cheap Persian rug fallen off the back of a delivery truck.

George W. Bush - would lie. Has lied for political gain. Been caught. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, well, I, uh... can't get fooled again. His favorite book is "Captain Flaming Underpants."

Dick Cheney - would slaughter a puppy and lie about it if he thought it would keep America safe or gain him something. I have the videotape to prove it. Ask Brent Scowcroft ("This Dick Cheney... I don't know him anymore.").

John Kerry - not sure. My gut tells me he's pretty stand-up.

John Edwards - would not lie.

(I got to meet Adm. Stockdale once. He was a really nice, straightforward guy. Of course, I was about thirteen at the time, so the memory's a little rusty.)

Kathy Hutchins said...

The Right goes with a gut feeling, an emotional impression, trusting to a kind of personal intuition

James, this touches on a topic I've been wrestling with for six months now without bringing it to publishing stage. I have an idea that the deep political divide in this country is not right/left or Republican/Democrat, but urban/rural. (Obviously I have a more expansive definition of "rural" than the US Census, or there'd only be about 500,000 people in that camp.) And it does touch on your notion that conservatives pay a lot of attention to the gut check. My theory is that the subconscious criteria we use to evaluate people is framed by whether we were brought up in communities where long standing personal relationships mediated the trust level, or in more fluid, migratory settings where you don't know most of your neighbors' histories and have to evaluate their trustworthiness through rational criteria.

This has more to do with how we view politicians than policies -- I started thinking about it when I realized that not everyone could tell, from ten seconds observation, that Bill Clinton was not just a liar, but that compared to him, every other liar in history was but a shadow in Plato's Cave of Liars.

James Elliott said...

I think you may be on to something interesting, Kathy. Without wanting to cast the matter in a "right vs. wrong" light - because I believe it would be wholly incorrect to do so - the manner of communities and relationships one forms and develops in must play some sort of role, and you are correct to note that there is a wide gap between "rural" - and I agree that the term should be used loosely - and urban communities.

I would add a further layer of complexity as well: The difference between urban, suburban, and "gated" communities (which, as my mother's home will attest, can be found even in the fumblebuckiest of towns) are different in fundamentally important ways that add to the mixture.

Kathy Hutchins said...

I guess the real question is: What criteria are you basing your assessment on? It looks like a pretty party-line assessment on latter-day politicians.

Maybe it would help if we named some prominent members of our own parties we think are liars? I vote for John McCain and George Pataki.

James Elliott said...

I vote for John McCain and George Pataki.

Perhaps you could elaborate on John McCain a bit? Like many liberals I know, I find McCain to be a bit of a quandary. I have, until recently, found him to be a stand-up kind of guy. However, his policy stances (with the exception of his commitment to transparent and accountable government) leave me with an ill feeling.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Hunter, you need to do a little reading about Gore's history. Back in 1988, when he was one of the Seven Dwarfs who ran in the Democratic primaries, Richard Ben Cramer wrote a book about that contest. He originally planned to feature all seven but in the end he confined it to six because he found Gore to be such a compulsive liar that he could not tell a straight story about anything.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Your premise, Jay, "for personal gain," is key here.

I dunno if any of us can say we never lied for personal gain. In the least, we might dissemble a bit, which is why the Jim Carrey movie "Liar, Liar," though flawed, scored some points.

---Your honor, I object!
And why is that?
---Because its devastating to my case.
Overruled!
---Good call.

Perhaps I'm flawed enough to be honest about it.

I suppose if we can draw a line between lying and dissembling, that might be considered moral.

On the other hand, if my president won't lie, cheat and steal to save American lives, or at least dissemble, I don't want him as my president, thank you very much.

Exit Jimmy Carter, the morally narcissistic bastard, enter George Dubya and FDR.

(Oooops, did I just have an Ann Coulter moment?)

Hunter Baker said...

On John Kerry, I just don't see how a guy gets so many purple hearts and essentially ends up with no physical damage. Personal gain might figure in there.

Ed Darrell said...

George W. Bush lied when he said Texas hadn't executed any innocent men, after the state had spent millions of dollars over several years to win the right to do exactly that (and did it). I have no reason to think he wouldn't lie again for small stakes -- or be so separated from the facts as to be unable to tell the truth.

Quayle? He's never come clean about those golf weekends with the big-breasted "lobbyists."

Al Gore is a former Boy Scout, and in my personal dealings with him was scruplulously honest. Rather that precipitate a nasty constitutional crisis that he'd been able to win, he conceded the presidency of the U.S. Your classifying him as a potential liar shows a lack of judgment on your part, I think. I think one would be hard put to find any citation of Al Gore claiming to have been anything other than a reporter in Vietnam, although he did volunteer both for the Army and for Vietnam, because he felt it was his obligation as an American.

Same with Kerry -- a former Scout, a guy who didn't have to volunteer for combat, but did.

I think you're missing the key questions, though. One wonders how these guys behave under pressure. To a person, all these people are reliable well beyond the standards most people would use for calling someone "honest."

Am I correct in my impression, Jay, that you were never a Boy Scout, and have never had to take a serious oath for anything?

Matt Huisman said...

Your classifying him as a potential liar shows a lack of judgment on your part, I think.

Funny, I would say your defending him shows a similar lack of judgment. Al's always been full of...you know, potential.

Jay D. Homnick said...

I quoted Richard Ben Cramer, a serious Democrat who wrote a book celebrating six of the seven primary candidates of 1998, who said that he had to leave Gore out because he was lying to him about everything and nothing checked out.

There is also a published photograph of him posing beside his animal (a sheep or a pig, I forget) wearing the 1st Place blue ribbon at one of those country 4-H competitions. It was later proven that his animal had finished well below the top and he had borrowed the ribbon to create that phony shot for a publicity article.

Beyond that, anyone who followed his conduct during the various scandals that affected his office could see that he was lying consistently. When he said that he didn't know that the meeting with the Buddhist nuns was for fundraising, despite its being a $5,000 a person event, everyone in the country knew he was lying through his teeth, including his loyal supporters.

There are many other such stories and I'm not revealing any secrets here that are not widely known.

This is even if we consider his famous whoppers (invented the internet, discovered the toxic problem in Love Canal, was the subject of Love Story) to be the product of mental illness rather than prevarication.

Ed Darrell said...

Of course, Gore never said he invented the internet -- that's a George Bush/Karl Rove lie.

Gore said he saved ARPANET, the precursor to the internet.

And that story is true.

It's a real downer when the facts get in the way of a good rant, ain't it?