With the midterm elections 99 days away, one question applies to every crisis, issue and controversy in the news: What is the truth and who can be believed?
For the best guidance on this, let’s turn to the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whose words still offer us wisdom and insight.
Moynihan, who died at age 76 in 2003, was a Democratic U.S. senator from New York from 1976-2000. Prior to that, he was assistant secretary of labor policy in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, counselor for urban affairs to President Nixon, U.S. ambassador to India and, under President Ford, was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Michael Barone, principal author of The Almanac of American Politics, once described Moynihan as "the nation's best thinker among politicians since Lincoln and its best politician among thinkers since Jefferson."
To bolster that assessment, I offer this quote by Moynihan: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
This pertains to jobs, a top issue for the November elections. President Obama and various members of his administration keep repeating completely false assertions that they present as facts. For example, Christina Romer, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, claims that the $862 billion stimulus “has saved or created between 2.5 and 3.6 million jobs as of the second quarter of 2010.”
Put aside the 1.1 million “margin of error.” As Bloomberg columnist Caroline Baum writes: “These numbers might just as well have been pulled out of a hat. Recall that it was the same model and method the administration used in January 2009 to predict an unemployment rate of 7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 with the enactment of the fiscal stimulus and 8.8 percent without. The unemployment rate now stands at 9.5 percent.”
The unemployment rate on Election Day will influence the number of seats Democrats lose in Congress. Right now, the Democrats’ credibility gap on job creation cannot be filled with enough gullibility from voters.
Moynihan also said, “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”
Whether the subject is culture or politics, the truth you believe connects to your values. You will either be conservative or liberal, supportive of the Obama agenda or against it, depending on your value judgments about what is just and fair, right or wrong. Consider some key election issues.
Your level of trust in government rather than the free market regarding spending, lending and regulation will strongly affect how you vote. How you feel about the importance of choosing your own doctor sways your reaction to Obamacare. Your values about applying the law or bending it in certain circumstances influence your positions on issues ranging from immigration to drug use. If you believe that competition ultimately produces better outcomes, you may favor school choice over pushing students (particularly in inner cities) into failing public schools. Values shape where you stand on abortion and the death penalty. Your “central truth” is formed from values that define your personal and political culture.
Moynihan further observed that, “The liberal left can be as rigid and destructive as any force in American life.”
It’s ironic that for all of the liberal left’s piousness regarding values like tolerance, privacy and conservation, we see many examples of hypocrisy in their views. The liberal left demand tolerance for their free speech and protests, but want their critics suppressed or silenced. Liberal leftists find no problem with privacy invasion if bureaucrats muck around in your medical records or hackers publish Sarah Palin’s private e-mails. Apparently it’s “do as I say, not as I do” when liberal leftists like Al Gore and Barbra Streisand live in energy-hogging mansions and travel the world in fuel-guzzling private jets. Meantime, they lecture conservatives and want them to pay dearly because of their “carbon footprints.”
President Obama is trying to rally his liberal left base to turn out and vote in November. But the rigidity and destructiveness of the liberal left may backfire on the president. Liberal left excesses will motivate Republicans and Independents upset with Obama’s leftist policies to turn out in droves, swamping the number of liberal leftists who actually vote.
Moynihan said that, "Liberalism faltered when it turned out it could not cope with truth."
As that applies on Election Day — and going forward — Daniel Patrick Moynihan may turn out to be more prescient than anyone.
Jon Krausha, a communications consultant, is at www.jonkraushar.net.
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Communications consultant Jon Kraushar is at www.jonkraushar.net. He is a consultant to corporate and political leaders including Steve Forbes.