Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Should We Demand Truth From Politicians?

If anyone still thinks that the media has no bias (and these people have to be a vanishing breed), there can be little doubt after watching what happened this week. More accurately, it’s about watching what didn’t happen this week that points to the bias.

During the presidential campaign of 1988, George H. W. Bush made a pledge during his nomination acceptance speech – “Read my lips. No new taxes.” He gave it a valiant try, but eventually caved to his Democratically-controlled Congress and broke his pledge. The reaction was swift and intense. He was measured against his commitment by the press and the people who voted for him, and his inability to follow through may have cost him the Presidency the second time around.

During the presidential campaign of 2008, Barack Obama made it clear that he would not raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year. This point was driven home time and time again, with the number moving around a bit. But on Monday of this week, when asked specifically if this pledge was still valid, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs basically said “No”. Here is the video of that moment:

I note with some dismay that the press corps seem to be laughing along with his answer. At least they asked the question in a straightforward manner, and some of them even expressed some surprise that the promise is apparently no longer valid. But I have searched the papers and the online news today, and I can’t find these words mentioned anywhere. It’s as if they didn’t happen. Or that people aren’t really interested in holding politicians to promises.

The fault is threefold. The press has a responsibility to publish what happens in politics, and should be doing it in an unbiased manner. I count 191 days since the inauguration of President Obama, just over an eighth of the way through his term, and the fact that his press representative came out and broke his number-one campaign pledge should get some airtime. But I can’t find it in the media (except, where I first saw this story).

The second fault is in the politicians themselves. They had to know that they were likely to break such a promise when they made it, given all the grandiose government programs that they clearly want to foist upon us. Nationalized health care? Has it really worked anywhere else? Don’t we already have the finest health care in the world – and now we want to go break that? Won’t that cost a lot of money, and where will that money come from? These guys aren’t stupid, and they don’t have stupid advisors. They knew that they would need to raise taxes to pay for their programs. They simply will say anything to get elected, because they lack integrity.

Finally, the fault lies with us if we don’t hold our politicians accountable. The integrity that they require should also be present in us. We should be demanding truth and uprightness from them – not just rolling our eyes and expecting them to lie and cheat. There are certainly times when I feel like giving over to the idea that they are all swindlers and “that is just the way it is”. But this country is worth saving, and it’s our responsibility as citizens to demand the very best from our government. Integrity should be expected, demanded, and rewarded.

I intend to use this as a teaching moment with my kids. “Here is where he made a pledge (the past); here is where is broke that pledge (present); and here is where he paid the penalty (presumably sometime in the future).” We’ll have to stay tuned as to the future and whether or not this story gets told. I don’t want my children to grow up to be politicians, but if they do become leaders of some sort, I want them to be honest ones.

Politicians need to keep their word, and we need to hold them to it. I’m predicting that this event will get more press exposure as time goes on. At every event the President attends, someone should be asking him if he intends to keep his “no new taxes” pledge, or if he is breaking it. Eventually, he is going to answer the question, and seeing him say the words, rather than speaking through a press secretary, will certainly have a greater effect.