Truth Hurts 

But, Jack Nicholson notwithstanding, we can handle it -- so long as we get it.

Why should John Kerry apologize for telling an undeniable truth? As the good senator said some weeks back, the Republican administration is a lying, crooked bunch, and there's just no getting around that basic fact. They lie about their past, they lie about the economy, they lie about how much their programs cost, they lie about national security, and they lie about their wars. Can there be any doubt they would lie about where their withered genitals have and have not been, should the opportunity present itself?

Kerry did something dumb. He allowed a private comment to go public. It's sort of like when President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, unaware that their mics were hot, called a certain reporter an "asshole ... oh yeah, big time." There are, of course, two important distinctions. Kerry is a Democrat, and therefore he's actually held accountable for his words in ways Republicans clearly are not. Second, Bush and Cheney stated an opinion, whereas Kerry's statement, objectively considered, is difficult to refute.

Let's forget that the actual cost of Bush's new Medicare package was deliberately suppressed to make it more palatable not to Democrats but to the few remaining Republican legislators who actually prize fiscal responsibility. Let's put aside everything we know about what Bush said his tax cuts for the rich would do for the working class. Let's ignore his job-creation numbers and federal budgets and just focus on the sheer volume of misleading statements leading up to the war in Iraq.

Rep. Henry Waxman of California has compiled a database of the administration's lies concerning Iraq: http://www.house.gov/reform/min/features/iraq_on_the_record/.

The site is generous to Bush and Cheney. It does not include any statement which could be deemed false or misleading given the benefit of hindsight. Instead, the site only collects false and misleading statements which appear to be deliberate and in conflict with information available to the White House at the time they were made. In spite of Waxman's extraordinary generosity, the number of misleading statements, not to mention the outright lies, is positively shocking.

Waxman's database collects 55 misleading statements made by Bush in 27 separate appearances between September 12, 2002, and July 17, 2003. Cheney is charged with 51 misleading public statements between March 2002 and January 2004. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld chalked up 52 misleading statements between May 2002 and November 2003. Secretary of State Colin Powell's misstatements between April 2002 and October 2003 number 50.

And then there's Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, finally scheduled for a tell-all this week before the 9/11 Commisison. She only told 29 whoppers over the course of 16 previous public appearances. She was the least-visible member of the crew during the run-up to war, but she was also the most dishonest, with eight statements that were categorically false. Nobody in the White House knew the American intelligence community had doubts about Iraq's alleged attempt to import uranium from Niger? That's what Rice told the American people in no uncertain terms.

For those who were counting, that's 237 willful attempts to con not only America but the world, in order to engage in a war against Iraq that had been in the planning stages from the earliest days of the Bush administration. That's 237 whoppers about only one thing: Iraq. And as mentioned earlier, there are many, many areas where this secrecy-obsessed administration has been less than truthful.

In the climactic scene of A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson rails, "The TRUTH? The TRUTH? You can't HANDLE THE TRUTH!" By this point, of course, we all know his character is so steeped in a culture of mendacity that he has forgotten what that five-letter word he's shouting really means. It's fairly easy to see why the Bushies might want Kerry to apologize for his harsh but accurate words.

Like the New Testament Pharisees who pray loudly in the temple but play dirty in private to preserve the power they so enjoy, the Bush administration has built its very foundation on a mountain of deceit and treachery. They have forgotten what truth is. And they have forgotten that it hurts.

Chris Davis' column, "Barnstorming," regularly appears on the Flyer's Web site, MemphisFlyer.com.

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