Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Well outside of the middle

I'm all in favor of spirited political debate.  I don't even mind if it sometimes becomes a little heated, as long as it remains respectful.  However, I strongly believe that debate should be a discussion of different viewpoints, based upon a common set of facts.  If we can't agree what we're debating, there's little sense in the discussion.

If you've read the book, you know I have no use for "made up facts."  The famous "Death Panels" supposed contained in the massive health care bill remains a classic example of that, and, unfortunately, that discussion still sways some people's opinions about what the bill does or doesn't do.  Sadly not enough Americans bothered to find out the truth.

However, that "make something up that sounds incendiary" mentality remains, and it can still be found amongst those who wish to lead this country.  The shining example today is Mike Huckabee.

In a radio interview with station WOR, New York, he is quoted as saying the following about President Obama:

One thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, (is) very different than the average American.

There are two problems here.  First, it is demonstrably false that the Obama grew up in Kenya.  In fact, he first visited that country in 1987, when he was in his 20's.  The second problem is that Huckabee draws a comparison between the President's view of "Brits" as opposed to the average American's view of them.  I'm willing to bet that he has no documentation to back up either of those positions, let alone actually compare them.

However, that wasn't enough made up facts, so he continued on:

The bust of Winston Churchill, a great insult to the British. But then if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.

The reference to the "bust of Churchill" was also a bit of using selective facts.  Huckabee asserted that Obama removed the bust from the Oval Office and "returned it."  However, the actual facts are that in 2009 he removed the bust from its previous location, replaced it with a bust of Abraham Lincoln, and then located the Churchill bust in White House residence.

Now, if you wish to believe that moving the bust was a big thing, then that's fine with me.  However, taking only a portion of what happened, and then trying to spin it into something bigger, while including an outright lie in the process, isn't.  We deserve better, and we should demand better.  Of course, when the various reporters followed up, Huckabee's spokesperson simply said "he misspoke."

Now, that may be true, but the point remains.  He publicly created untrue "facts" to support his point of view, and anyone listening probably took that as gospel.  He didn't make any effort to tell the same audience he "misspoke."

In some ways I'd be inclined to just skip over this, except for another news story that I think ties in.

According to a Winthrop University poll, Huckabee came in first amongst 15 potential Republican candidates in a poll of "southern" voters.  Now, that's his home territory, having been the governor of Arkansas, but the fact remains that he made up facts to support whatever position he was taking, and then selectively blended the truth to make something seem very different than it was.

I have a real problem with that, and that's why I think we need some real changes in what we call Leadership.


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