Bill Clinton was and is a remarkable politician. He could parse the language (depends on the meaning of “is”) like no one else, yet the voters either didn’t care or forgave his prevarication. Virtually no other pol can get away with it to the degree to which he did.
In his interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie chastised President Obama’s attempt to rewrite his false statements that Americans could keep their insurance and their physician: “Don’t be so cute . . . just admit it to people, say you know what, ‘I said it, I was wrong. I’m sorry, and we’re going to try and fix this, and make it better.’ . . . Don’t lawyer it. People don’t like lawyers.” Christie, of course is a lawyer, but insufficient bluntness is not a problem for him.
Ironically, Obama-antagonist Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is having trouble with candor himself. He sorta, kinda apologized for his serial plagiarism in a CNN interview yesterday:
WOLF BLITZER: Look, every politician, they have aides who help write speeches and books and articles. What are you going to do, Senator, to make sure this doesn’t happen again?
PAUL: We’re going to be much more specific and footnote everything as if it were a college paper. I’m working on a speech right now for the Citadel which I’m given portions of it before but we’ve never footnoted my speeches. Ninety-eight percent of my speeches are extemporaneous and have never had footnotes.
We’re now going to footnote everything and make sure it has a reference because I do take this personally, and I don’t want to be accused of misrepresenting myself, and I’ve never intended to do so. But I think we’ve been slopping and we’re going to try to be much more precise in the future.
This is weak. Is he saying he extemporaneously appropriated others’ work, word for word? We are talking about a book and op-ed here. And once again he resorts to a technical evasion about “footnoting.” He could use the Christie warning as well: Don’t be so cute.
The Washington Times, upon learning of the plagiarism, dropped Paul as a columnist, as they should. If, in fact, this was repeated staff error, you wonder why such people remain employed. (Like the White House, perhaps loyalty in Rand World trumps competency.)
Obama’s misrepresentation is much worse and much more important, certainly, than anything Paul has ever said. Obama’s repeated untruthfulness is not likely to be forgotten and American Crossroads is already sending around clips of vulnerable Democratic senators who repeated the falsehood. For Paul, we’ll have to see if other incidents, plagiarism or otherwise, show up. Voters can be brutal when they see a pattern of corner-cutting and dishonesty. The notion that pols don’t hold themselves to the same standards as the rest of us is potent, and ironically the subject of a poorly drafted constitutional amendment by Paul himself. Next to racism, there is no greater sin in politics than hypocrisy.
We know that there are times when pols other than Bill Clinton do get away with misrepresentations and wordsmithing. Generally the press is easier on liberals, and misstatements are easier to tolerate when everything else is going well. But if you’re a conservative and already are suspect in the honesty department, watch out. That will be true for any of the GOP 2016 contenders. They can’t say they weren’t warned.