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Damned Lies!

Romney Damages Our Already Hurting Political Dialogue

To be coherent is, in significant ways, to be honest. If it is raining, we are coherent when we say “better take an umbrella for our walk. We are incoherent when we say, “that’s not rain falling from the sky – it’s liquid sunlight.” The difference is important because incoherence tends to breed additional incoherence. In the instance case, it means that a lot of people might get wet, and then angry, and then take their anger out on someone.

Incoherence has a way of spiraling into itself.

In that light, it is discouraging when politicians “spin” the truth. That is itself a dishonest phrase. The truth is not up for a vote – it is what it is. We can try to gussy it up and we can ignore it altogether, but we can’t eliminate it. No matter how the stakes – winning or losing an election, say – when we break faith with the truth, we are behaving incoherently. And the consequences naturally follow – rancor and distrust, rigid partisan line-drawing, curtailed dialogue. And those, in turn, can lead to economic catastrophe and war.

Coherence matters. Telling the truth matters.

That is why it is so discouraging to see Mitt Romney dissembling in such a reckless way. His claim earlier this month that Jeep will be shipping jobs to China has been debunked on so many levels and by so many people – it’s just flat out wrong – and yet he continues to make it.

Obviously, the stakes are as high as they will ever be for Mr. Romney. He has been running for President for many years – and dreaming of it for even longer no doubt. If he loses this campaign, it will be his last. That’s a big deal. We can all appreciate the stress and anxiety that attends him right now. And, of course, he’s in the midst of a presidential campaign which is its own sort of crazy. All in all, the inclination to lie is understandable.

But it is not – repeat, not – forgivable. When we lie, whatever the scale, we obscure what is true. We render it incoherent. We have obligations – to ourselves, our families and friends, our broader communities and even – it’s true – the world – to tell the truth. If the truth is inconvenient, well, that’s part of coherence. What does the bumper sticker say? It is what it is.

It remains to be seen whether Romney’s dissembling will enable him to win Ohio and perhaps the national election. If he does, his victory will be at best an incoherent one. And there is little to suggest that he is interested in healing it. Indeed, the evidence suggests that when Mitt Romney’s back is against the political wall the first casualty is truth. He seems to regard it as infinitely malleable and forever at the surface of his ambition. We deserve better – we really do. Our political dialogue is already injured – all Romney has done is drive the stake a little closer to its heart.

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