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Lying Down on the Job

Does anyone even care about the truth in politics?

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Since all politicians are liars, does the truth matter? I was thinking about lying politicos after watching Sen. "Snarlin' Arlen" Specter debate Rep. Joe "rhymes with duffel" Hoeffel. ("Duffel" as in duffel bag. As in this race is already in the bag for the Snarlinator.)

Arlen took offense that Joe said Arlen lied about a vote in the Senate. The vote was on an amendment by Sen. Barbara Boxer to the 2005 budget. Joe said the amendment, had it passed, would have ended tax breaks which encourage companies to outsource jobs overseas. Did Arlen vote against it? I asked Arlen at a post-debate news conference. He said that Joe "called me a liar." Did you vote against the Boxer amendment, I queried? "No and I haven't stopped beating my wife ... I never started," he said, as if mine was a trick question.

Then he said he "did not vote to permit outsourcing." Fine, I thought, I have my answer. Later I realized I didn't. I called the senator in D.C. where he owned up to voting against the amendment, but said it also contained a horrible tax increase. So is he a liar? Did he misspeak? Is he nuanced? A flip-flopper, perhaps? Whether he's a liar or not, Hoeffel shouldn't call him one, he said. "If he expects to function in the Senate of the United States, which is a collegial body, he'd better stop calling people liars," Specter said. "It's just not done in professional circles."

Well la-de-freakin'-da. If everybody's buddy-buddy while lying to themselves or other senators or us, is that a good thing?

At the news conference I asked reporters for the Post-Gazette and the Trib what they would report about the alleged lie. They didn't seem to care. First I thought: That's why people hate the media, there's no real search for the truth. Then I understood. Here was a possible lie that no one would care about, so why beat your head against the wall trying to figure out who lied, especially when they're all liars?

Here's a bigger lie that Hoeffel says he was told by National Security Adviser Condi Rice and former CIA director George "Slam Dunk" Tenet. He says they told him they knew with certainty that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction including, with specificity, where they were. "I'm now convinced I was lied to," said Hoeffel. Hoeffel was willing to call Condi and Tenet liars, but not Dubya. (One press report said Hoeffel had called Dubya a liar, but it didn't contain quotation marks around the word "liar.") Perhaps Condi and Tenet misled Dubya and lied to Hoeffel. Or not. I'm getting dizzy.

Specter later complained that Hoeffel helped get a right-wing third-party candidate on the ballot to try to take votes away from Specter. Hoeffel said he didn't, but his volunteers may have. If Hoeffel knew what was going on and didn't stop it, did he just lie?

By the way, since Republicans have been helping Ralph Nader get on state ballots, is it hypocritical of Specter to criticize Hoeffel for similar reasons? Is it OK to be a hypocrite but not a liar?

Hoeffel acknowledged that he had said Specter lied about the Boxer vote, but would not go so far as to call Specter a liar. Specter thought the distinction was ludicrous. John Kerry constantly says the Bushies "misled" us into war, but he won't call any Bushies a liar.

I have to admit, the more I looked into it, the less I cared about whether Specter had lied. The Bushies' lies leading us into Iraq bother me, but that doesn't seem to bother half the country.

You wanna know the lie that pisses me off the most? It's when Dick Cheney said he'd never met John Edwards before the V.P. debate. It wasn't one of those fudging-the-facts-stretching-the-truth lies. It was a premeditated, out-and-out LIE. It was also a stupid lie, since there is C-SPAN video of Cheney and Edwards sitting together at a prayer breakfast. It means Cheney isn't just a typical fact-bending pol: DICK CHENEY IS A LIAR. But then to some of us that's not breaking news.

Will this country one day spawn a generation of politician truth-tellers? As Saturday Night Live's pathological liar Tommy Flanagan used to say, "Yeah, that's the ticket."

I just wonder if Specter will wait until after the election to start beating his wife.

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