Candidates lie all the time -- get over it


It's odd that some Americans continue to try to draw an actual linear connection between what politicians say when they're running and what they do after we elect them.

We still find ourselves wasting time and energy on these faux controversies about politicians lying to us when they're trying to win our votes.

Campaigning is a road show, a stage show, a cinematic presentation, a narrative adapted from reality and fashioned by the image-makers, the message-masters, the spin doctors and the marketing and advertising specialists. It's all underwritten by rich people.

In political off-years, these people work on projects like making Tiger Woods appear a dedicated family man who drives Buicks. Governing is like, well, real. Stuff happens.

We go with the guy who reads his lines better, like Ronald Reagan, in a film called "Morning in America."

We go with the guy who is younger and more vigorous and better-looking, like Bill Clinton, in a movie called "I Feel Your Pain."

The elder George Bush was not much of a performer, but he had, in Peggy Noonan, a world-class screenwriter. She handed him a script for a movie called "A Thousand Points of Light." She gave him one of those memorable Eastwood-ish lines: "Read my lips. No new taxes."

So we elected him. Then he raised taxes.

We go with the dramatic African-American guy giving us a compelling narrative about a new America in a film called "Yes, We Can," though probably we can't, and spouting a soliloquy about how he's going to turn C-SPAN loose to televise private congressional negotiations.

It happens that, as a compelling candidate portraying a powerful agent of change, Barack Obama spouted several times about how he was going to get health care reform done in the light of day.

He assailed Republicans for all their closed conference committees from which they foisted the lobbyists' agenda on us from our blind side. He wouldn't do that kind of thing. Why, if we elect him, he brayed, we'd bring C-SPAN's cameras into the negotiating sessions.

Actually, we threw our pretense of democracy and openness on health care out the window weeks ago -- because, truth be known, democracy and openness are not basic components of how we get legislating done in this country.

Two Senate committees had, after extensive public sessions wholly for show, passed two starkly conflicting health care reform measures. These were important bills with major differences in how we'd get and pay for medical care.

Confronted with two conflicting bills drawn in public touching on a sixth of our economy, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took them into his office and, after a couple of weeks of disappearance, emerged with a resolution of the two that, in some cases, bore no resemblance to either.

This thing Harry put together was the bill on which a hundred senators would have to vote up or down. That's because the procedure had been wholly scripted along partisan lines.

If we televised these new conference committee negotiations to reconcile the House and Senate bills, here's what would happen: The conferees would read scripts to posture for the cameras. Then, after somebody called "cut" or "that's a wrap," two or three of these conferees would go into a private office and actually decide what would be put into the reconciled bill, and thus into our law on health insurance.

Trying to hold Obama to that campaign promise about C-SPAN is like trying to force George Clooney actually to fly around the country firing people.

By the way: I'm thinking America's next great campaign movie will be the film adaptation of this book called "Going Rogue." It will star Sarah Palin as Tina Fey.

John Brummett is an award-winning columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock and author of "High Wire," a book about Bill Clinton's first year as president. His e-mail address is jbrummett@ arkansasnews.com.

 

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