Lincoln Was Wrong
Lincoln had it wrong. You can fool all the people all the time.
The use of old maps, we are told, caused the destruction of China's
embassy in Belgrade.
In 1961, my wife and I watched a German television documentary
about the capabilities of the U.S. Air Force. Among other things,
they showed footage of a parking lot outside Cologne Cathedral,
photographed from the stratosphere through fairly thick clouds.
You could clearly distinguish a Volkswagen Beetle from an Opel or
That was reality as the space program had just gotten under way,
well before all the astonishing breakthroughs of the 1960's, the
1970's, the 1980's, the 1990's.
That was reality before "star wars," satellites, unmanned
flying cameras, laser-guided this-that-and-the-other.
And now they tell us that they are bombing Belgrade using "old
And we believe it.
Actually, we probably don't, but it makes no difference. High officials
of the United States government give us their version day and night
of "what is happening," "why it is happening,"
and how we should feel about it.
I do not recall the last time I heard a statement both credible
Comeuppance can be swift. We are now getting ours for sins committed
very recently. We stood by, our gaze fixed on the Dow Jones, while
the United States Senate declared "it is all right to lie in
In fairness, some officials might just be in an altered mental
state, stuck in a groove not unlike old records, mechanically repeating
the same nonsense about "the heart of Europe," World War
II, or "America's interests and duties."
But many are simply lying. And who can blame all those serving
the president to assume the position: If it's all right for him,
why not for the rest of us?
In fact, it may even be a requirement of high office these days
to do as the boss.
Lying is possible only as long as the rest of us accept it. For
sure, some journalists have tried to challenge the verbiage. But
there is no persistence, no protest, no hunter's lust.
There is no protection for America.
It is almost as if the ever-increasing profusion and brazenness
of the lying has come to paralyze us.
Deer caught in the headlights of a roaring diesel engine?
We have to take stock of whence we came, and where we might be
It began with the 1992 presidential campaign. Before, political
campaigns would exaggerate an opponent's shortcomings and amplify
a candidate's attractiveness. In 1992, a carefully constructed package
of sheer fabrications formed the core of the Clinton-Gore campaign,
and the other side froze. How do you counter a daily avalanche of
What followed was a pattern of flagrant denials any time serious
charges surfaced. There was worse to come. By now, there is simply
no response. Even the original "so what?" has been replaced
with the simple "no comment." Simultaneously, actions
which affect the entire nation and its future are initiated with
not a shred of regard for the law, and in the certain belief that
no one will stand in the way. True, the healthcare scam of 1994
was stopped, but its lessons were quickly assimilated.
We have come to be ruled by a pair that will say or do virtually
anything it pleases.
If we are honest, we must confess that they have no reason to do
When was the last time a legislature, a court, a national preference
prevailed against the first couple's will? When was the last time
- was there ever a time? - when America said to them, "No.
This you cannot sell."
And therein lies the uncertain future.
To a great extent, the process of growing up is a series of lessons
through which we learn the boundaries that are in our best interest
to observe. Touching the stove burns. Eating spoiled food makes
you ill. Cheating gets you in trouble.
The rest is the building of a self-regulating morality and character.
What happens when someone grows up with no lessons imparted, when
nothing gets one in trouble, when cause does not result in effect?
Temptation - that's what happens. Temptation to believe there are
no boundaries. Temptation so great as to render the subject impervious
to the limitations of mortals. And history is full of mortals who
thought themselves impervious.
Why would someone who, in reality, has been consistently encouraged
to disregard the law suddenly develop respect for it? Why would
someone whose power has grown steadily greater throughout an entire
lifetime suddenly give it up, just when it begins to exceed all
Verily, that would require morality and character.
Since neither is available at the top, America needs to engage
in some serious thinking.