Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What Words Kill, Here and Abroad

Two years ago on 9/11, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney tried to dissuade Florida minister Terry Jones from burning Korans to mark the anniversary.

Now he is back (with unhinged Jewish allies), fomenting riots in Egypt and Libya that result in the death of a U.S. diplomat, and the Republican Chairman tweets: "Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic."

What’s truly pathetic is how trapped Americans today are in a web of lies on all sides and, short of causing deaths, devalue truth (pace Paul Ryan) to a secondary commodity on the exchange for political power.

Before the day is out, the Romney campaign will no doubt find ways to rationalize past and present Mitts, but those who treasure the First Amendment will be left with pangs over believing that truth, as Supreme Court Justice Learned Hand put it, will “emerge from a multitude of tongues.”

In the final weeks of the presidential campaign, both sides are taking extraordinary measures to control journalists, with the hitherto unacceptable provision of “quote approval” in return for access to the candidates.

(Once after interviewing him and taking my own notes, JFK asked how I wanted the White House transcript. “Raw,” I said. He smiled.)

What emerges will not be truth in the traditional American sense but a varnished version of what politicians want us to know.

It won’t kill people, just the mundane truth, but it’s not quite what the Founding Fathers, or even past-century politicians like JFK, had in mind.

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