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Politicians and Duplicity

By       Message Seymour Patterson       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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You will agree with me that the typical politician must have been cut from a special bolt. Normal folks have an implicit moral compass codified by "Thou shalt not bear false witness." This commandment ought to stand in the way politicians practicing the art of duplicity. It doesn't! Events of recent history offer an abundance of evidence for what I have boldly asserted. I offer a few examples of political duplicity below.


Speaker Boehner, while on the stump for a Republican candidate in Iowa, declared that if Bush were president Pres. Putin would not have dared to invade Ukraine: Bush would have punched Putin in the nose. (see: CNN.com) For the words of bravado, Boehner received the ruckus plaudits of a consenting audience. What Speaker Boehner willfully chose to forget (or ignore) was the fact that Pres. Putin invaded Georgia under Pres. Bush's watch in 2008. (see: Mail) The invasion of Georgia transpired after Pres. Bush had stated, he looked into Putin's eyes and saw his soul and he's a good man. A good man--the former head of the KGB! In a bizarre and perplexing sort of way, republicans have fallen head-over-heels for Putin, fawning for "a good man." They find his biceps titillating; and his bare-chested, horseback riding, gun toting displays, breathtaking; and his dip in the icy cold waters of Lough Enre resort in Northern Ireland for the G8 summit in June 2013 irresistible. (see: Canada.com, and BBC.com) This public expression of admiration has been so overwhelming that some admirers even wish he were president of the United States: a former KGB head! Astonishing! The response of the punditry to the Georgia invasion was essentially accommodating since no one saw it coming; there is nothing we can do about it, and Bush warns Putin. But the response to the Ukraine invasion produced a vitriol of condemnations and charges of alleged weakness of Pres. Obama. Perhaps, we can excuse Boehner for omitting Georgia as part of the rough and tumble of adversarial politics.


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Fast-and-Furious was an effort supposedly initiated by the Bush administration--under the moniker Wide Receiver--purportedly to track U.S. arms (guns) going into Mexico, for the drug cartel. The program was continued during the Obama administration--but Attorney General Eric Holder discontinued the program when he learned about it. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) lost track of the weapons, and on December 14, 2010, U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry was killed. Rightly, this tragedy generated calls for an investigation. The result of the investigation, according to Angie Drobnic Holand and Army Sherman, was "U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, and Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued their own 211-page investigative report this summer. The investigations led House Republicans to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt for failing to satisfy their requests for documents. House Democrats walked out on the criminal contempt vote, which passed 255-67." Fine. Then there were allegations Obama started Fast and Furious to get Americans killed to justify gun control. Yet, there appears to be no convincing evidence of this according to Paul Mirengoff. However, what you believe might depend on which side of the political fault line you find yourself. Maybe, this is more rough and tumble of opposition politics.


Sometimes it is very difficult to ferret out the truth in the political discourse. With respect to the IRS sandal, Tea Party friendly groups maintain that they were unfairly targeted by the IRS for review of their applications for tax exemption status. Liberal groups were targeted by the IRS, too, and according to Daily Kos despite the pandemonium caused by the Tea Party groups, only the liberal group had its tax-exempt application denied. The IRS was doing the job mandated by Congress: "Congress requires the IRS to review every application for tax-exempt status to weed out organizations that are partisan, political, or that generate private gain. Congress has imposed this requirement on the IRS, and its predecessor agencies, since 1913." Why then did this become a scandal?

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The assault on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012 led to the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. However, instead of railings the militia group that murdered the ambassador, the president's critics attacked Secretary Clinton, Ambassador Susan Rice, and cast suspicion of the president's commitment to apprehend and bring the perpetrator to justice: the opposition opted to go after the president--even arguing for impeachment. The nomination of Ambassador Susan Rice to Secretary of State would have been dead on arrival--Senator McCain (and Senator Lindsey Graham) announced he would block her confirmation because she was lying, and covering up what really happened in Benghazi asserting without a shred of evidence that an anti-Muslim video, Innocence of Muslims, had nothing to do with it. Darrell Issa has had a plethora of hearings that have come up empty; 60 minutes did a quixotic Benghazi report that got Lara Logan fired. (see: CBSNews.com) "Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the suspect captured by U.S. special forces on Tuesday for his role in the 2012 Benghazi attack, reportedly said he was motivated in part by the anti-Islam online video made in America . . ." wrote TPM Caitlin Macneal. The capture of militia leader Ahmed Abu Khatallah earned little kudos for the president, although a few republicans posted compliments that were quickly taken down. Senator McCain did not apologize to Ambassador Rice for altering her political career path, based on conjecture: "I don't trust her." Perhaps, we can also attribute this to the adversarial nature of politics.


Ebola is not an epidemic in the U.S. although some governors, notably Chris Christie, quarantined nurse Kaci Hickox, according to Kelly O'Donnell who was returning from an Ebola infected country in West Africa. But she was asymptomatic and able to infect anyone. Ebola killed Thomas Eric Duncan. However, Dallas nurse Nina Pham, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Whitebol have recovered from Ebola, thanks to an experimental vaccine. So having recovered, they are now immune to Ebola.

Our response to Ebola seems out of proportion to the harm it represents to Americans. Our medical infrastructure, and the sheer number of doctors we have to treat the disease increases the survival chances of a person infected with the Ebola virus. Unless the person is symptomatic transfer occurs appears unlikely. Ironically, as I type this paragraph, many Americans will die from gunshot wounds, car accidents; we can also expect a disproportionate number of deaths to occur among the demographic of Americans who are young (children) and old (seniors). There is no clamor to quarantine these Americans, though. So we are irrationally comfortable with restricting flights originating from West Africa, because of a fear magnified by the news media and politicians in a country of more than 300 million, and a death count from Ebola of one. Perhaps, one explanation for this overblown reaction is an attempt to gain political advantage in the November 2014 mid-term elections.


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During his first presidential campaign, Obama promised to close Guantanamo. He tried and failed because Congress passed legislation prohibiting the use of funds for the closure. Congress has been successful in its efforts to stymie the president, but his failure to follow through on the closure of Gitmo, some people had insisted that the president lied. (see: National Journal) Perhaps, the president should have gone after the closure with more vim and vigor in reaction to Congressional obstructions, appreciating the obvious--conservatives made a blood oath oppose everything he tries to do. But that failure does not make the president a liar. Here again, the rancid stench of oppositional politics is inescapable.

Multiplicity of Duplicity

The state of duplicity extends to the improving jobless numbers. A jobless rate of 8.1 percent was denounced as bad for the economy and led to charges that Obama is incompetent. Then the jobless rate falls to 5.9 percent, so Obama is "cooking" the numbers, according to Jack Welch and Rush Limbaugh. The same bewildering statements are made about gas prices: High gas prices are bad for the economy, plus Obama wants high gas prices to push green technology; then when gas price falls below $3/gal., somehow, this is bad for the economy. The stock market tops 17,000 on the Dow, and many people's 401Ks recovered their values from the Great Recession of 2008, but the Obama administration gets no credit. Under an M. Romney administration, lower gas prices and rising stock values might have been touted as evidence of a superior management skill.

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Seymour Patterson received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Oklahoma in 1980. He has taught courses and done research in international economics and economic development. He has been the recipient of two Fulbright awards--the first in (more...)

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