Friday, March 17, 2006

The politics of lying

A long time ago, in a high school far, far away I read a book on scams called "The Vulnerable Americans" by Curt Gentry (1966).

As best I recall, there was a chapter on a school bus service in Greensboro or High Point, NC that had a run of breakdowns in its fleet of new GM buses. Despite repeated complaints, the owner kept getting the runaround from the area rep, who claimed that no other customers had had similar problems (a lie). The breakdowns must have been caused by the service's drivers.

The money quote went something like this:
"He was lying to me. I knew he was lying to me. He knew I knew he was lying to me. But he lied anyway, not because he had anything to gain from the lies, but because it was company policy."
I thought about that when Scott McClellan reponded to Sen. Russ Feingold's call for censuring the president over warrantless wiretapping:
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Monday that the move by Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin “has more to do with 2008 politics than anything else.” Feingold is usually mentioned in lists of potential candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

“I think it does raise the question, how do you fight and win the war on terrorism?” McClellan said. “And if Democrats want to argue that we shouldn't be listening to al-Qaeda communications, it's their right and we welcome the debate.”
Except no Democrats are arguing that. McClellan knows that. The White House knows that. So unless the straight-talking foes of moral relativism have redefined knowingly speaking falsehoods as "spin" or "advocacy," McClellan's characterization of Democrats would be a ... lie.

Company policy.

Note: post delayed on account of Blogger maintenance

UPDATE: Just picked up a copy of Gentry's book, and the story is not in there. I must have picked that story up elsewhere.

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