The letter below was a reply to “The Pathology of Lying,” published on The Nation Online on November 17, 2003.
The Bush thugs had an agenda to go to war; any facts were immaterial and all of it was based on another lie (first lie was the election). American soliders are giving their lives–for what?–for a lie! Shame on you for even considering that a few words would make all of this right.
In the first place, let me begin by agreeing with you that the 2000 election result was a lie.
Further, it is inconceivable to me that the current Democratic hopefuls are not reminding the American public right now of that fact. Whether or not it is expedient on the part of a candidate to refer to it, I agree that it is an unprecedented event that is a departure point for more and more lawless thuggery.
In David Corn’s terrific new book, the various lies of George W. Bush are laid out in compelling detail. And I am not someone to excuse any of this behavior or to see it as other than agenda-driven from the outset.
But if we are to counter it, or to provide better examples of human behavior, we must not resort to distortions or rhetoric ourselves. I was simply pointing out that a moral or ethically driven human being who is caught in a significant lie that undermines his or her integrity would begin by apologizing or being remorseful. I never said or implied that a response would excuse the behavior or let the person off the hook. To see that in my words is to distort them.
Rather, I would maintain that the lack of such a human response by Bush and his crew represent a further example of the manipulations that led us into this mess in the first place. Remorse would be automatic if the President really cared about what he was saying. If he was bringing America to war for what he believed were legitimate reasons but which have since been shown not to be the case–wouldn’t his first response be regret and remorse?
Near the end of Corn’s book, he examines the question of whether Bush knows the extent to which he lies. Corn acknowledges that this is a tough question to answer. He finds evidence that Bush is mendacious, and thinks of lying as part of politics. I also believe that there may be a “holier-than-Thou” aspect to Bush’s moralizing, almost as though we the pawns and the peons aren’t entitled to know the real truth. I find proof of his lack of sincerity in his staged emotions. And one of his coaches forgot to include regret in his list of simulated human responses. Luckily for us, this omission is a glaring one. We shouldn’t overlook the error by finding it tiny in comparison to his crushing worldwide agenda. Nor should we resort to rhetoric or distortions ourselves.