This week’s news brings to mind Jack Nicholson’s famous rant in “A Few Good Men”. We see the truth staring us in the face, and we can’t handle it.
Mitt Romney’s aide Eric Fehrnstrom repeated Richard Nixon’s advice to run hard to the right in the primaries and steer back to the center for the general election. The Republican conservatives and the news media acted as if this was some sort of apostasy. Fehrnstrom’s one mistake was using a metaphor which could be visualized:the Etch-A-Sketch.
My sense is that Romney is already starting his pivot to the center because he realizes that the Tea Party is a spent force. America is not a Right Wing country despite Rush Limbaugh’s protestations. The business wing of the Republican Party see an epic defeat in their future, borne on the wings of all the talk about returning women’s rights to the 1950’s, invading Iran and impeaching moderate and liberal judges.
And then there is all the handwringing over Sergeant Robert Bales, who is accused of murdering 16 Afghans last week. The Army and the news media tried to spin this as a good soldier who just snapped because he saw a friend die from an IED. But now the truth emerges that Bales joined the Army to escape from a criminal prosecution for securities fraud.
A former victim called Gary Liebschner described Bales as a smooth-talking conman who had caused him to lose $1.2million in savings. Working as a stockbroker, he had sold AT&T shares on Liebschner’s behalf, but disappeared with the proceeds. “He robbed me of my life savings,” Mr Liebschner told ABC News. “We didn’t know where he was. We heard the Bahamas, and all kinds of places.”
The real truth is that Bales was just a cog in a senseless war. Whatever his motives for joining the Army, he was probably asking the same questions as the young Marine Rep. Walter Jones visited last week in Bethesda.
He said he had recently visited Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital to see wounded troops: “I had a young Marine lance corporal who lost one leg,” in a room with his mother.
“My question is,” the Marine asked him, “Why are we still there?”
Jones also read an e-mail from a military big shot whom he described as a former boss of General Allen’s, giving the congressman this unvarnished assessment: “Attempting to find a true military and political answer to the problems in Afghanistan would take decades. Would drain our nation of precious resources, with the most precious being our sons and daughters. Simply put, the United States cannot solve the Afghan problem, no matter how brave and determined our troops are.”
Bales’ crime may be the My Lai Massacre of the Afghanistan War, but we will still ignore the larger truth that we have been killing women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan for years. We just call it “collateral damage”.
And finally there is the very public NFL rebuke of New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton for sanctioning a bounty program for his defense to injure opposing players. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s statement that he was “profoundly troubled” by the bounty program reminds me of Claude Rain’s famous line in Casablanca, “I am shocked, shocked to find gambling going on here.” The truth is that NFL defensive players are paid to do damage to their opponents. That’s the way they keep score.
I don’t really have an answer as to why the news media feels it has to constantly peddle these half truths. Does anyone really still believe that politicians mean what they say, that war is honorable or football is just a sport?